New Daily Grail post: Alton Towers’ Wicker Man and Ye Olde English Theme Parks of Doom

The Wicker Man and The Beornen

Today (January 8th, 2018) UK theme park Alton Towers has made a somewhat unexpected announcement. Spring 2018 will see the opening of a new attraction at the Staffordshire based park: Wicker Man.

Wicker Man is the UK’s first new wooden rollercoaster experience in 21 years and comes with a globally unique twist – bringing together wood and fire for the very first time. A Wicker Man structure standing at 57.57ft (17.55m) tall – the height of a six-storey building – will dominate the very centre of Alton Towers Resort, appearing to burst into flames as the wooden track races three separate times through the structure.

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New article on Daily Grail: How to Make a Homunculus

Originally published on back in September, my piece on the modern YouTube phenomena of Homunculus videos us up now at

Spring Heeled Jack Visits Liverpool, from Fortean Times #238

Today Dr. Karl Bell has posted an very interesting article entitled Spring-heeled Jack: The Terror of Victorian England over on the #FolkloreThursday website.

This reminded me of my own small Spring Heeled Jack piece, originally from my book 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool, later published in Fortean Times #238 in 2008. I thought I may as well post it here for Folklore Thursday interest.

I should say that Jack’s visit to Liverpool was investigated by none other than the Great Detective himself, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, in our 2012/2013 Dynamite Entertainment series The Liverpool Demon.

The entity we now call Spring Heeled Jack first made its self known late in the summer of 1837 when a curious shape changing creature – reported variously as an imp, a white bull, a ghost, an armour clad man and a bear – terrorised the satellite villages of the capital. By January 1838, these reports had grown so numerous that the then Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Cowan, convinced that pranksters where to blame, vowed that those responsible would be caught and punished. London was in the grip of a sort of mass hysteria with the thing – now christened Spring Heeled Jack because of the immense leaps it seemed capable of – being sighted all over the city, yet somehow always evading capture.

It was at the height of this panic, on the evening of the 20th of February 1838 that an eighteen year old girl by the name of Jane Alsop was startled by a furious knocking at the door of her family home in the district of Bow. Jane answered the door to an excited gentleman who claimed to be a police officer. He breathlessly informed the young lady that he believed he had successfully apprehended non-other than Spring Heeled Jack himself and implored her to fetch a lamp. When Ms. Alsop returned however, the lamp’s light revealed the caller’s peculiar attire “he was wearing a kind of helmet, and a tight fitting white costume like an oilskin. His face was hideous; his eyes were like balls of fire. His hands had claws of some metallic substance”.i The man attacked Jane, tearing at her clothes with his talon-like hands but vanished into the night when, alerted by her screams of terror, members of her family came to her assistance. In a statement given to the Lambeth police Jane swore that the caller had “vomited blue and white flames” during the assault. Only five days later another eighteen year old girl, this time named Lucy Scales was walking with her sister on their way home from visiting their brother. As the women travelled along the thoroughfare known as Green Dragon Alley a figure sprang from the shadows and attacked Lucy, apparently breathing fire into her face. The assailant then strolled calmly away as Lucy’s sister tried desperately to tend to her sibling, calling out for help from anyone who might hear. Lucy was rendered insensible by the attack and fell into violent spasms which lasted several hours.

These reports and others like them cemented Jack’s reputation as a kind of fiendish cultural icon for the new Victorian age, a position which he held up until his more vicious namesake Jack the Ripper began his reign of terror. Penny Dreadfuls, the day’s version of pulp fiction magazines, telling of the phantom’s exploits were published and plays bearing his name were staged in many of the city’s fleapit theatres. Soon however, the attacks became less frequent and slowly but surely Spring Heeled Jack faded from real life terror to urban myth. Over the next few decades periodic sightings of the entity came from as far afield as Sheffield, Northampton and Lincolnshire. On one occasion he was even shot by a soldier when he appeared at an army barracks in Aldershot, the bullets apparently having no adverse effect.

It was in 1888 that Jack made his first appearance in Liverpool; members of Everton’s Saint Francis Xavier’s Boys’ Guild were passing an evening playing games in the school room when a frightened lad rushed in and announced that the creature had been sighted on nearby Shaw Street. The boys rushed outside in search of old Jack but found nothing although, it is alleged that a crowd of people had gathered outside Saint Francis Xavier’s church, claiming that the thing was clinging to its steepleii.

Some sixteen years after his first visit, it seems that Spring Heeled Jack decided to drop in on the citizens of Everton for a second time. Or did he? On the 21st of September 1904 an article ran in the Liverpool Echo under the heading An Everton Ghost Story.

Considerable commotion was caused yesterday in William Henry-street, Everton, on a rumour that a sort of “spring-heel Jack” was pursuing his antics in that neighbourhood. The story, as it was passed from mouth to mouth, reached sensational dimensions. It referred chiefly to the annoyance of the inmates of a certain house by means of various missiles being thrown in a mysterious manner and without any visible agency. The annoyance is said to have been so great that the tenants left the house to-day, but the police have been unable to find any ground for the suggestion that a “ghost” was at work, and believe some foolish person has been playing pranks.

Three days later, the Echo reported the case of a boy who had been arrested for breaking the window of the residence in question.

“[…] the people of the neighbourhood had for some reason voted the house haunted. Several hundreds of the denizens yesterday swarmed about it and the prisoner determined upon the self-imposed task of interviewing the ghost. He climbed the back wall and entered the house, having to break a pane of glass to unfasten the window-catch. Great excitement prevailed among the juveniles in the crowd as to the fate of [Hugh] Morgan, but in the midst of it a constable arrived and arrested him for breaking the window, which proved a humiliating discounting of the youth’s heroism.

Presently, the local press seemed to lose their interest in the curious events of William Henry Street. This was not the case elsewhere in the country however; the spirit of Spring Heeled Jack had been invoked and, in the South of the country, his was still not a name to be spoken lightly. On the 24th of September in a short piece about the incident, the London Star reported that

Lurid stories of the doings of the notorious Spring Heeled Jack who some years ago frightened half the women and children of the city were recalled by present scenes”. The following day, evidently heeding the old adage that the facts should never be allowed to get in the way of a good story, the News of the World printed an article entitled Spring Heel Jack – Ghost With a Weakness for Ladies.

Everton (Liverpool) is scared by the singular antics of a ghost, to whom the name of ‘Spring Heel Jack’ has been given, because of the facility with which he has escaped, by huge springs, all attempts of his would-be captors to arrest him. William Henry-street is the scene of his exploits, and crowds of people assemble nightly to see them, but only a few have done so yet and, ‘Jack’ is evidently shy. He is said to pay particular attention to ladies. So far the police have not arrested him, their sprinting powers being inferior.

This journalistic game of Chinese Whispers has long since clouded the facts concerning the events of September 1904 and many a Fortean folklorist will happily tell stories of the devilish creature bounding up and down William Henry Street as crowds of onlookers watched. In truth, since Spring Heeled Jack’s heyday of the late 1830s, his name had become analogous with the Bogeyman, especially in areas which he was reputed to have visited such as Everton. Children were warned that if they did not behave they would be carried off by the creature. Therefore, it is not surprising that missiles raining down from a rooftop, thrown by unseen hands should soon lead to at least one individual exclaiming “It’s Spring Heeled Jack!” or something similar. In fact, a Liverpool Echo interview with a Mrs A. Pierpoint from the 19th of May 1967 offers another explanation for Jack’s association with the case. Mrs. Pierpoint was of school age in 1904 and remembered the facts surrounding the case quite clearly. When asked about Spring Heeled Jack she replied

He was a local man slightly off balance mentally. He had a form of religious mania and he would climb on to rooftops of houses crying out: ‘My wife is the Devil!’ They usually fetched the police or a fire-engine ladder to get him down. As the police closed in on him, he would leap from one house roof to the next. That’s what gave rise to the ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ rumours.”

Interestingly though, Mrs. Pierpoint was quite emphatic in her interview when questioned about the reality of the haunted house itself.

The poltergeist which haunted the house in Stitt Street was no myth. That existed right enough, as any Everton resident of those days will confirm. The people who lived in that house were awakened night after night by furniture and other things being thrown about the rooms, with no human hand doing the throwing. It got so well-known that people from all over Liverpool used to go and stand outside and look at the place often enough in fear and trembling. Eventually the tenants gave it up and moved out. The windows and doors of the house were boarded up and it was left to its ghost”.

Certainly, the original account of “various missiles being thrown in a mysterious manner and without any visible agency” does sound altogether more like the modus operandi of a poltergeist rather than the old flame belching, flesh scratching terror of London town. Sadly, Stitt Street no longer exists having been demolished sometime during the 1970s or 80s; perhaps the other residents had grown tired of the nuisance caused by the neighbourhood poltergeist (which does, after all, translate from German as “noisy ghost”) and simply left. The other locations involved in the incidents – William Henry Street, Saint Frances Xavier’s collage and church – are all still very much in existence however. As for Jack himself, he still crops up now and again; most recently in South Herefordshire during the late 1980s when a Mr. Marshall was slapped by a strange, jumping figure that bounded away across open fields cackling after the attackiii. Some one hundred and seventy years since Spring Heeled Jack’s first appearance it seems we are no closer to solving the mystery of whom or what it actually is. The creature’s appeal endures however and, in recent years Jack has made a return to the Penny Dreadful, now reborn as the comic book, in David Hitchcock’s highly acclaimed Springheeled Jack series (see David’s website for more information). In Hitchcock’s tale, Jack is portrayed as an inhuman, parasitic, insectoid creature but, as far fetched as such ideas might seem, I would remind you that, according to some at least, the real life terror of old London town began his career as a bear!

*Thanks to Mike Dash for all his help with this piece. Mike has written extensively about Spring Heeled Jack and many other peculiar subjects, details of which can be found at


ii “Liverpool Colonnade” by Richard Whittington–Egan, 1955, Manchester.


From Spirits of Place: The Palace Built Over a Hellmouth by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

Fresh for #FolkloreThursday, Greg Taylor has posted Maria J. Pérez Cuervo’s Spirits of Place essay “The Palace Built Over a Hellmouth“, about El Escorial on the southern slopes of Mount Abantos, over on the Daily Grail website.

Only a king or a queen has the power to move the capital of their kingdom to their preferred location. For King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598), this place was at the very centre of the Iberian Peninsula, not far from the city of Madrid, in an area called El Escorial on the southern slopes of Mount Abantos. Here he vowed to build his life’s plan: a royal residence that would also be a pantheon, a monastery, a library, a museum and a centre of studies. To bring it to life, he hired a group of architects, experienced masons and theologists, who evaluated the terrain positively but, given the monarch’s interest in esotericism and alchemy, probably warned him of an ancient legend: that the Devil himself had lived in a cave at the foot of the mountain, after he was expelled from Heaven and before he opened up seven doors to enter his new abode in the Underworld. The location of one of these doors was El Escorial.

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Free Articles from Darklore Volume 9


If you haven’t yet managed to get your hands on a copy of the newly released anthology Darklore Volume 9, you can now read three articles from it completely free over on the Darklore website.

We are pleased to offer three sample articles from Darklore Volume 9, as examples of the quality writing and layout inside the book – simply click on each graphic to download the PDF file. The first is “The History and Practice of English Magic”, in which John Reppion explores the real history and lore behind a fantasy fiction bestseller. The second sample article, “The Most Important Man on the Planet”, offers Adam Gorightly’s insights on the amazing life of Kerry Thornley, co-founder of Discordianism and one-time JFK assassination suspect. And lastly we have Greg Taylor’s article “Rocks in Your Head”, in which he surveys the strange phenomenon of ‘electrophonic meteors’ and suggests that they offer a lesson to us on the value of listening to eye-witness reports of UFOs.

The sample articles offer just a taste of what you’ll find in the print issue of Darklore Volume 9, so pick yourself up a copy to see the rest (links below). It takes much time and money to create the Darklore series (and maintain and run – all contributors are paid for their articles – so those who take time to buy the books and/or support on Patreon are helping to keep the weird dream alive.

Hope you enjoy the articles!

Darklore Volume 9 Paperback

Darklore Volume 9 Limited Edition Hardcover


Darklore Volume 9 out now


The latest volume of Darklore is out, featuring my collected Strange & Norrell inspired articles (amongst lots of other wonderful stuff).


Limited Edition Hardcover


The latest release has themes of magic and mysticism running through it, with essays from regulars including Mike Jay and Robert Schoch, as well as a conspicuous newcomer to our pages: the great Alan Moore!

We have a theme of magic and mysticism running through Darklore 9: Blair MacKenzie Blake surveys and reinterprets the infamous grimoires of centuries past; Alan Moore asks if magic is in any way relevant to the modern world, advocating a scorched earth approach and new beginnings; John Reppion uses a fictional work to illustrate the origins and practice of various magical traditions; and Cat Vincent looks at the origins and practice of various magical traditions and shows how many of them come from fictional works.

No Darklore release focuses on just one topic though. And so, along with the magical core of Volume 9, we have a number of fascinating articles on other topics of interest: Mike Jay reviews the ‘hidden history’ of the 19th century Club des Hachischins; Adam Gorightly looks at the amazing, controversial life of Kerry Thornley, co-creator of Discordianism and one-time JFK assassination suspect; Robert Schoch takes us beyond the Hollywood version of the werewolf to better understand the origins of this archetypal monster; Paul Devereux introduces us to the shamanic plants of the Americas; and Greg Taylor finds that the history of research into meteorites offers a valuable lesson to science on the value of listening to eye-witness reports.

We’ll be publishing some sample articles at the Darklore website in the coming weeks.

New Daily Grail Piece: The 5th Young One – Pay no Attention to the Girl Behind the Sofa

VthIn the early hours of Saturday morning, ignoring the blare of children’s television, I muzzily and reflexively poked at the Twitter icon on the battered screen of my knackered phone. Down I scrolled through the dozens and dozens of updates I’d missed during my five or so hours of child-interrupted sleep until I came upon one by comic artist Jamie Smart. It read

Oh my god. There was a fifth housemate in The Young Ones and she was terrifying.

Huh? I blinked, took a big swig of my bitter, luke-warm, instant coffee, and clicked the link Jamie had posted. On Business Insider Australia I read the headline REVEALED: There really was a creepy fifth housemate lurking in cult British TV show The Young Ones. The article had been posted that very morning (18th June, 2016). What the…?

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Double #FolkloreThursday post: Hare’s Eggs for Easter, and Invoking the Spirits of Place

Hare’s Eggs at Easter

As the Easter weekend draws close, children and adults alike anticipating a chocolate egg binge, the internet is alive with articles on the “true” origins of Easter. Yet, could there be any truth in the idea that rabbits – or hares at least – do lay eggs?
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Invoking the Spirits of Placecalderstones-showing-cup-and-ring-f-beattie

South Liverpool, where I was born and live still, is a place full of green-spaces. Its abundance of woodlands, parks, cemeteries, playing fields and golf courses are linked by an intricate network of narrow, bramble-lined public footpaths and overgrown roadside verges. The more romantically inclined might be tempted to call them faerie paths, or corpse roads, and perhaps some once were such; back when an Iron Age fort stood on top of Woolton’s Camp Hill, or perhaps longer still.
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New Daily Grail piece: Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World exhibition

In the recent half term holiday I found myself looking after our nearly-four-year-old twins while our eldest went to the Safari Park. I was a little bit stuck for what to do because there are no (or very few) Stay & Plays/Playgroups open in school holidays. The previous day we’d been to Liverpool Central Library where, for the duration of the half term, there were daily kid friendly things. We (myself and all three kids) had seen a conjurer whose act, if I’m perfectly honest, failed to hold the attention of many of the forty or so kids  assembled there, mine included. Maybe it was this that finally jogged my memory of something I’d been meaning to do since I first read about it.

I’d received an email some weeks earlier via A Ghostly Company which mentioned that, from the 21st of January 2016, the John Rylands Library in Manchester would be displaying some  magical texts and artefacts in an exhibition entitled Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World. That seems like the kind of thing two nearly-four-year-old boys might enjoy, right?

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New Daily Grail piece: The Power of (Passive Aggressive?) Prayer


Last Saturday – the 6th of February, 2016 – Professor Richard Dawkins, world renowned ethologist, evolutionary biologist, creator of the concept of the meme, and champion of Capital A Atheism (or New Atheism), suffered a minor stroke. He is, I am pleased to report, currently recuperating in his home and is expected to make a full, or near full, recovery.

Yesterday, when news of Professor Dawkins illness broke, the Church of England Twitter account posted:

Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family

[followed by a link to a report on his stroke in The Independent newspaper]

At the time of writing, the CofE’s Tweet has received 1.3K retweets and 925 likes.

The tweet has caused some controversy, so much so that a statement entitled #PrayForDawkins has been posted on the Church of England Communications tumblr. Many people, it seems, felt that the CofE was not merely wishing Dawkins a speedy recovery, rather having some kind of dig at him.

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New article on Daily Grail: Oh apple tree, We wassail thee

“Wæs þu hæl” is an Anglo Saxon toast meaning “be thou hale” (“be in good health“). The toast, if not the customs which the term has come to be associated with, is thought to date from the early eleventh or late tenth century, at least.

There are two kinds of Wassailing – the first of which has come to be closely associated with Christmas and carolling. Wassailers call at people’s homes then offer a song and a drink of warmed, spiced ale or cider from a Wassailing bowl (or cup) to the answerer in exchange for money or gifts.

The second originates in the South West of England (“the West Country”), where apple orchards were already providing cider for the thirsty population by the time our Roman invaders arrived.

Continue reading on

British Ash Tree Folklore, from Fortean Times #297

This short Forum piece was originally published in Fortean Times #297, released in January 2013 (dated February 2013 on the cover).

Reposted here for possible #FolkloreThursday interest


The common ash is the third most widespread tree species in Britain, making up 5.5% of UK woodland with an estimated further twelve million ashes in non woodland areas. 1 2 Although the ash may not have the same iconic status as Ye Olde Oak, it is nevertheless a tree whose roots are firmly embedded in the history and folklore of the UK.

Continue reading “British Ash Tree Folklore, from Fortean Times #297”

New article on Daily Grail: The Old Gods vs. Daesh


The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is a Salafi jihadist militant group that adheres to an Islamic fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. You know who they are. They used to be called ISIS, (sometimes ISIL, sometimes just Islamic State), but now (for reasons Greg Taylor so brilliantly summed up here) we call them Daesh. Isis, the Egyptian Mother of Life, the Crone of Death, the Goddess of Magic, worshipped more than three thousand years before the Prophet Mohammed was born, venerated by the Romans and Ancient Greeks alike (and still worshipped by some today), has had her name taken in vain for long enough.

It was 2014 when Daesh began a systematic campaign of destruction of cultural heritage sites and artefacts. Something the Taliban did before them, making headlines with the dynamiting of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001. Daesh claims that the targets, bulldozed, bombed, and smashed out of existence, are being destroyed because they represent “an erroneous form of creativity, contradicting the basics of sharia”. [1] The videos they make of the destruction are also great propaganda tools, guaranteed to get airplay and media attention across the world. The BBC won’t show a beheading but it will show a temple exploding, a sledgehammer taken to an ancient idol. Even as we all grow numb and weary from the daily onslaught of horror we see on out televisions, computer, and phone screens, those images retain the power to shock.


Apologies and info dumps

Sorry. No really, sorry.

We’ve really not been keeping on top of posting things here for a while now, and we’re sorry.

Leah’s incredibly busy with Electricomics (and the now impending launch thereof ) and has been for what seems like a very long to now. It’s also the school Summer Holidays which means a host of children to constantly feed, placate, and entertain here at Moore-Reppion Towers.

Anyway, yeah, we’re very busy and we haven’t stayed on top of updating the site. So sorry about that.

What have we missed telling you about?

Megazine 362 with it’s amazing Alex Ronald Storm Warning cover and part 2 of the series


Storm Warning // The Relic
(Part: 2)

Brit-Cit, 2137 AD. Much like its Mega-City counterpart, Brit-Cit Justice Department has its various departments, from Tek to plainclothes, Tactical to Psi-Division, and one of its more prickly operatives in the latter is Lillian Storm, a psychically powerful Judge with the ability to talk to the dead. Unfortunately, her abilities are just as much a curse as they are a talent…

People seem to be really enjoying the series (and especially Tom’s artwork) which is lovely to hear/read.

Leah was recently a guest on that lovely, talented man Paul Cornell’s podcast chat show The Cornell Collective

Welcome to the Cornell Collective. Paul’s guests are novelist Chuck Wendig, comics writer Leah Moore and YouTube presenter Christel Dee. Together they discuss people who have made them starstruck, being recognised by strangers, how parenthood affects pop culture consumption and how to bluff your way through not having actually watched Breaking Bad.

Leah’s also had a few new Lifetime articles published recently, and she’s off to Mexico next month (9th to the 13th of September) for the Pixelatl Festival (so if you, or anyone you know, are anywhere near Cuernavaca city next month, please check it out).

I think that’s about it but more than likely I’ve forgotten a couple of things yet again.


Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: V – The Raven King


My fifth and final Strange & Norrell piece for the Daily Grail is now online. It’s called The Raven King.

I’ve really enjoyed writing the S&N pieces (almost as much as I’ve enjoyed the genuinely wonderful TV series) and probably could have gone on and on but thought it best to quit before people got too bored. Thanks for all the lovely things people have been saying about the articles. I hope I can do something similar again in the future.

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: IV – Magic and Madness

jonathan-strangeToday (the 24th of June) is Fairy Day, so what better way to celebrate than with a new Strange & Norrell piece?

My penultimate article of the series, Magic and Madness, is now free to read at

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: III – Away with the Fairies

jonathan-strangeSusanna Clarke’s 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series by Peter Harness, currently airing on BBC One and BBC America.
My third article for the Daily Grail on the history and folklore Strange & Norrell draws upon is entitled Away with the Fairies and is free to read now.

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: II – On Fairies and Witchcraft

jonathan-strangeSusanna Clarke’s 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series currently airing on the BBC (beginning on BBC America June 14th). I’m plucking out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like from the book (and the show) and taking a closer look at them for The Daily Grail.

My second Strange & Norrell piece On Fairies and Witchcraft is free to read online now, and contains no (or only extremely minimal) spoilers.