How a popular Lewes ghost tour has now become a book

A fondly-remembered Lewes ghost walk has now been recreated as a book.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 2:00 pm
Co-author Jane Hasler
Co-author Jane Hasler

Legends of Lamplit Lewes comes subtitled A Lewes Ghost Walk and Tales of Other Strange Things.

Co-author Jane Hasler, aged 58, explains: “The book is an adaptation of the script for a ghost walk around Lewes developed by my late friend Nick Cole and myself in the mid to late 1990s. With a few willing helpers, we guided folk around the walk after dark a number of times, including once in the Lewes Festival. Nick and I were suitably attired in cloaks and lanterns, relating historic and macabre tales of the town to our audience en route.

“We had both been on ghost walk tours in other places and noticed these were becoming popular events/attractions at that time. Each of us had a deep love of Lewes as a unique historic town and its wealth of history and character.

“We agreed that a Legends of Lamplit Lewes walk/tour was crying out to be created. Nick originally entitled it Lurid Legends of Lamplit Lewes (he loved alliteration). However, in recreating it in book format, it felt like it was just one ‘L’ word too many! We worked together to plan the walk, decide which stories would be in it, try out the route and develop and refine the script for it.

“In 2002 I had to leave Sussex to support family back in Scotland. Nick and I always meant to meet up again in Lewes to stage the walk, even if just a couple of times a year, but distance, time and responsibilities got in the way.

“Sadly, Nick passed away suddenly in 2011. Now I have adapted our script into a book so that our labours on it are not completely lost and other interested folk may continue to take the tour.

“I wanted to leave something permanent to map the original walk and to compile the stories for posterity. I hope that the book serves as a memorial to Nick, who did much of the writing of the original script draft for the walk and to the enjoyment and good times we two friends had creating and performing it together.

“It was something we did fundamentally for fun and entertainment for us and those who were interested in taking the tour. Adapting it in book format at this time feels like a next natural step for it and something that has been on my mind to complete.

“Many people seem to love spooky or strange tales and haunting investigations have become more main-stream probably due to the increasing number of TV programmes devoted to the subject. There are now many highly popular TV programmes and films full of magic, mystery and spooky things.

“Lewes is a town tailor made for interested locals and visitors alike to discover the Legends of Lamplit Lewes tour for themselves. The book is devised in such a way that the reader can do just that, reading the stories in the book as they take the walk at their leisure.

“It took me to parts of the town I hadn’t previously seen or known about and hopefully the spooky and strange tales will add that wee bit of intrigue and mystery which folk will find both enjoyable and educational. With the dark nights and Halloween on the way now seemed an appropriate time to launch it.”

“Though we only guided the walk a handful of times, we always received very positive feedback from our audiences so I’m optimistic there may be interest in the book. Nick was a keen creative writer and was a member of a writers’ group. He had written several short stories and was working on a novel.

“His writers group compiled these together in an unpublished anthology not long after he passed as a tribute to him. He had always hoped to publish a book. I am glad to be able to finally fulfil that wish with Legends of Lamplit Lewes.”

Jane added: “Nick had lived in Lewes and then Eastbourne. I lived just outside Brighton. He and I were colleagues. I guess we had a shared curiosity in spooky and strange stories.

“Mine probably started as a child as my Dad often told me stories of witches, ghosts and strange creatures. In addition to his love of creative writing, Nick wasn’t shy in speaking to audiences and I had done a fair bit of amateur dramatics in my time.

“Nick had a collection of clippings and articles about a wide range of spooky, weird, dramatic or macabre events in the history in Lewes. We met to consider which stories could be complied easily into a walk around the town centre. We also went into Lewes on some’ research missions to visit some of the sites featured in the walk, trial routes and collect any more information we could incorporate.

“We gained one or two more stories about ghosts from talking to staff in some premises and added them in. As it developed, the script became a bit more than a ghost walk featuring saints, murders, hangings, fairies, hermits and quite a bit more.

“Hopefully the book therefore has a bit of a different unique selling point than a book/walk just about ghosts alone (hence the ‘and tales of other strange things’ in the title) but there are still a fair few apparitions featuring for avid ghost walk fans. We initially trialled the walk and stories out with some friends and colleagues as a pilot walk/tour and took their feedback on board, editing the script and varying the route accordingly.

“It was originally written as a performance piece aimed at adults (16+), visitors and locals alike who were interested in ghostly and strange goings on and walking tours. It was not written for a younger audience. We addressed/performed it to people gathered listening to the stories.

“In redeveloping it into a book I have changed some of narrative style away from speaking and directing a group audience as it originally was written, so it reads more naturally for a single reader. Historical facts have been checked where possible and additional information/context has been added to some stories with some editing down of the original content where required.

“I didn’t have the original sources of clippings and articles therefore I did a bit of desktop research to locate as many references as I could find which related to the stories in the text or wider related books for any reader’s interest however, these are not necessarily the original articles and books Nick had referred to.

“Also, I wrote to all the premises which featured in the original script to share their story with them in advance of preparing for publication. While not all responded, I was very heartened that some replied confirming the story was as it was recounted and, at least one, wrote back to say strange events were still occurring which has been subsequently confirmed on my recent visit both by staff in the building and the one next door!”

Published by Country Books /Ashbridge Press in association with Spiral Publishing Ltd, it is available at £8.50 from http://www.countrybooks.biz and www.amazon.co.uk; also at the Lewes Information Centre and at Emporium Antiques.

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