It has been a hectic couple of days for my friend David Milner and myself, as we have been clambering around in the window of the Muswell Hill Bookshop on Fortis Green Road, preparing what we think is a rather stunning window display! As far as I know there is no competition this year for the best Gesiterfest window, but if there was I think the bookshop would certainly be near the top!
Obviously the purpose of this gothic extravaganza was to let local people with an interest in the ‘ghosts of N6’ (and N10!) know that my new book Haunted Highgate is now available. Signed copies are available at the bookshop in the local history section, and everyone at the shop has been ever so supportive and encouraging, so thanks guys (and gals). Terrifying passers by is merely a pleasant side effect, and I must admit that standing by the Odeon watching the reactions as people stop and notice the display is pretty amusing! Anyway, I just dragged my long-suffering husband David (Farrant not Milner!) up to the bookshop to get some pics. He finally agreed to accompany me as long as he was allowed to pop into Sainsbury’s afterwards for a bottle of Whyte and Mackay to warm up with afterwards. When Mr. Milner sends me over some better photos than my limited abilities extend to (did I mention that he is also an accomplished photographer?) I will upload them asap.
We all know that the ‘tall dark figure’ which haunts Swains Lane has a tendency to go for a wander now and then, and has been sighted as far north as The Gatehouse, the Hillcrest Estate, and Highgate Woods. But I think this is the first time that he has been spotted lurking in Muswell Hill! Yes, Haunted Highgate is a serious, academic study of hauntings in the Highgate area, but Hallowe’en is (partly at least) meant to be about having fun, and I think Dave did a great job with recreating Highgate’s most notorious ‘ghost’, and also in creating his 3D miniature Egyptian Avenue. The photos which also feature in the display were all taken by Dave Milner, Lorcan Maguire, David Farrant and myself.
Whilst basically camping out in the bookshop for two days, I was fortunate enough to find out about a local haunting which I had never heard of before, despite it being practically on my doorstep! It seems that for many years staff at the Muswell Hill Bookshop have been experiencing possible spooky goings on in the staff quarters, which include a small kitchen where one member of staff has felt a heavy hand place itself unexpectedly on her right shoulder. Despite the presence of another member of staff who was too far away to have touched her for a joke, no one else was visible. At least two members of staff over the years have also heard loud rappings on the closed door leading back to the bookshop. These occurred when the shop was empty of customers and about to close for the evening, although strangely none of the counter staff heard the sounds. Nor were they aware of the ghost stories, until they were shocked by the remonstrations of their visibly shaken colleague that they must have been playing a trick on her. None of the present staff profess to believe in ghosts, but they also have no logical explanations for the repeated manifestations of this phenomena.
Interestingly, this windowless corridor is always colder than any other part of the warm, bustling bookshop, and no staff claim supernatural experiences at the western end of the premises. Today the shop occupies the entire ground floor of what were once two separate shops, built in 1900 by architect James Edmondson of Highbury, as part of the development along Fortis Green Road which he named St James’ Parade, after the nearby church. Further research into the previous occupants of the eastern section of the now knocked through shop is certainly merited, but that will have to wait until Hallowe’en is over! So watch this space …