The World's Most Mysterious Castles Paperback – Sep 1 2005
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Castles are among the most mysterious buildings on earth. Their grimly silent stones are signposts to a past filled with high adventure, grim tragedies, and glorious victories. Ghosts, hauntings, and other paranormal phenomena are frequently reported from castles. Do strange paranormal powers lurk among their ancient ruins?
The World's Most Mysterious Castles takes you on a journey through hidden chambers and subterranean tunnels of castles all over the world. Their walls served the sinister needs of spies, traitors, and assassins. Do the spirits of attackers and defenders who died in long-forgotten sieges still linger where they fell? Screams of unbearable pain and despair were muffled within their deepest, darkest torture dungeons. Do they echo there still?
About the Author
Lionel Fanthorpe taught history at Gamlingay Village College in Cambridgeshire and presented two acclaimed TV series: Talking Stones and Castles of Horror. In addition to his writing, lecturing, and radio and TV work, he is also Director of Media Studies at Cardiff Academy in Wales, UK. Co-author Patricia, a meticulous historical researcher, is Lionel's business partner, agent, manager, PR executive - and wife.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The first chapter was woefully wrongheaded. Fanthorpe goes on about the medieval "dungeons" when there were no such things. Any dictionary will tell you "dungeon" is a corruption of "donjon" (Fr. for the keep). Prisoners worth keeping were housed in towers and ransomed rather than tortured in dark, torch-lit subterranean chambers. Underground rooms were for storage. It was only in the Renaissance and afterwards, when castles were largely abandoned, that they were used for prisoners by local law enforcement (such as it was). Fanthorpe also seems to think "witch trials" were medieval when they were largely post-Renaissance. And, just as pre-modern writers inflate numbers in armies, they undoubtedly did the same for the impossible numbers of witches they give as tried and/or burned.
Looking Fanthorpe up, I found he is and was a prodigious and prolific writer, not only of odd books like this but also of sci-fi novels dating back to the fifties. The way he has churned out novels and shorter fiction seems to have left him no time for quality research. Maybe he takes everything tour guides say as so. Some places fix up nice little underground torture chambers with racks and so forth with wax dummies, to play into the common misconception.
Fanthorpe then takes a running tour through the Americas, in Canada and far-flung Machu Picchu. Since I know less about these places I don't know how accurate his research is. And he does that good old American castle -- the Alamo? Maybe he's looking for the basement.
Eventually he winds his way back to Europe and does a nice job listing (and this is what I wanted) haunted castles in England, and brief explanations of what they are haunted by and why. He touches on nothing in depth, and (a common complaint I've seen on Amazon about Fanthorpe's books) he seems to write stream of consciousness, making lateral jumps from this one thing to another at breakneck speed.
The illustrations are a mixed bags. Some of them are actually quite good photographs of castles; others are hand-drawn, almost Cubist, depictions of people -- drawn in profile, showing both eyes. Shades of Picasso!
Overall, much of the history in areas I am familiar with is baloney, which makes me dubious about the rest. But the stuff I actually wanted to read about, i.e., the haunted European castles, made for interesting reading and gave me possible pointers for further research. This book is like Wikipedia. It's a good way to grasp the gist of a matter and to use as a springboard for further reading, but it's extremely dangerous to rely on as a sole source of information.
I have not yet read any of the sci-fi Fanthorpe wrote under his wide variety of pseudonyms, but, given the rigorousness of his research, I'm sure his talents lie more toward fiction.