Scare Mongering

An Illustrated History of Ghosts

Adam Allsuch Boardman, published by NoBrow

Cover of An Illustrated History of Ghosts
An Illustrated History of Ghosts

There are no shortage of ghosts and ghost stories where I live. Edinburgh has more haints and apparitions than it has festival visitors. Well, nearly. Indeed a whole cottage industry has sprung up around the subject, offering ghost tours complete with someone ready to jump out and shout boo.

You can also tour famously haunted vaults and cellars of the Old Town. One friend of mine who worked there loves to tell creepy stories about the things that occurred over the years. Like the little girl who wanted to go back in to play with the other little girl in the corner in the old fashioned clothes. But then, ghosts and greenbacks have always gone together.

Image from An Illustrated History of Ghosts - three mediums dressed in theatrical costumes.
An Illustrated History of Ghosts – three mediums dressed in theatrical costumes.

If, like me, you have been reading the brilliant The Department of Truth then you might find that you have a newfound interest in collective belief, superstition and the point where myth and legend meet scams and conspiracy theories. If so, Adam Allsuch Boardman’s An Illustrated History of Ghosts will help you scratch that itch.

An Illustrated History of Ghosts - a haunted lighthouse.
To the (haunted) lighthouse.

From the very basics about ghosts we go on a historical and geographical survey of the spirit realms. What types of ghosts are there? What ghosts exist in different cultures and mythologies? We take a tour through the eras of hauntings. A particularly interesting section looks at spiritualism. I had no idea that Yeats was a spiritualist nor that the movement had links to progressive causes like women’s suffrage. The spirit world became a realm that those marginalised in the material world could find agency and hope.

We learn about famous hauntings and fictional ghosts and ghost hunters. The Scooby Gang are not omitted, you will be pleased to hear. Phantom tube trains and time travelling buses all pay us a visit.

An Illustrated History of Ghosts - a bus from 1967 which travelled in time.
All Aboard the time-travelling bus

This is an illustrated book, rather than a graphic novel or comic. Adam Allsuch Boardman has a very sharp and clear style, with the strongly inked outlines seen in the ligne claire style  but backgrounds that are more geometrical and diagrammatic than realistic. Colours are purposely bold and flat and figures are reminiscent of pixel art or video game avatars.

As usual from NoBrow this is a beautifully produced hardback book which will appeal to both adults and older children. This is the kind of textbook you wished your teachers had given you. Break on through to the other side.

An Illustrated History of Ghosts will be published in September by NoBrow.

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