BOOK REVIEW: THE PARANORMAL DIARIES CLOPHILL / AUTHOR: KEVIN GATES / PUBLISHER: OFFWORLD FILMS AND BLEEDING EDGE FILMS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
In March 1963, the tiny village of Clophill, nestled away in the English countryside between Luton and Bedford in the Flit Valley, achieved a peculiar notoriety in the wake of revelations of what appeared to be Black Magic rituals carried out in the crumbling remains of Old St Mary’s Church which overlook the village. The public’s imagination was fired by lurid press reports of desecrated graves, animal remains and, most macabrely, an exhumed skull impaled on a spike. This was to be only the beginning for Clophill and the surrounding areas, which were to be plagued by reports and sightings of strange rituals and apparitions for decades to come. But what’s the history of the sinister-sounding Clophill – the name alone conjurs up visions of some satanic horned beast stalking the countryside at dead of night – and what is it about Old St Mary’s Church that attracts the attention of practitioners of the Dark Arts and ghost-hunters alike?
In 2010, Kevin Gates, fascinated by Clophill and its ruined church since childhood, directed the superior ‘found footage’ style British horror film The Paranormal Diaries - Clophill (released on DVD in 2013, its making is detailed in a chapter towards the end of the book). Now he’s published an extraordinary and fascinating account of Clophill and Old St. Mary’s and tried to rationalise and make sense of the admittedly bizarre attention it’s received since the first recorded ‘defilement’ on the tumbledown church in 1963. The book is wonderfully thorough and commendably chronological, taking the reader back to the origins of the village in the time of the Saxons and Danes, the troubled history of ‘the church on the hill’, a brief history of witchcraft and Black Magic in mainland Britain, and finally to the core of the book which details the events of March 1963 and their lingering and eventful aftermath. And it’s not all about Clophill. There are terrifying tales of goings-on in other remote neighbouring woodland areas and stories of eerie encounters in and around an unwelcoming ‘dark tunnel’ under the M1 in Bedfordshire. Colourful characters abound too, especially Clophill’s Reverand Lewis Barker who found little or no peace once the village became virtually a public attraction in the wake of the 1963 incident.
Whether you’re a believer in paranormal activity and ghostly goings-on (the book is more concerned with Black Magic activity than occasional and rather fanciful supernatural sightings) or just think it’s all a load of old hooey, there’s no doubt that Kevin Gates has written an absorbing page-turner, dripping with history and atmosphere. The book beautifully evokes a very English world of dark ritual, violated graveyards and mysterious midnight masses laced through with a sinister undercurrent of the unearthly and of things best left undisturbed and unexplored. Definitely one for a dark, rainy winter’s night but possibly not for those of a tender and nervous disposition. Or anyone living near a ruined church...
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