A question I am frequently asked is, “Why have you set
When I first moved to this hidden jewel of the North West, tucked away to the side of the M6, I was but a mere university undergraduate. Living on the campus a few miles south of the city, I rarely ventured into town. However, when I did, it was normally at night time to frequent the pubs and clubs. I was soon drawn into a world the like of which I had never experienced before. Having grown up in a small market town which had undergone numerous rejuvenations, I had only ever heard of these mystical little routes between buildings known as alleysand had never actually seen them up close.
Lancaster was (and still is) full of them.
The city's heyday was in Georgian times when the majority of the hoi polloiwandered around on foot. Only the rich had access to carriages and, as a result, most of the main roads were narrow and the small footpaths that connected them were even more of a squeeze. Wandering around as a bright-eyed fresher, I could not help but be attracted to these tiny veins and arteries of my new home. As I passed one in the middle of the night, I could easily imagine what creatures might lurk down its shadowy depths and I would automatically cross to a lighter side of the high street to avoid being dragged away for some nocturnal creature's midnight snack.
Time and familiarity tend to eradicate childish fears. So it was that, in my twenties, I started to see these little footpaths as less a potential lair for the undead and more a quick shortcut home from work. They lost their edge and became just like everything else in my early working years, part of the norm. I would stroll down them without giving a thought to ghosties or beasties that might have dwelt along their cobbled paths.
Then, when I stumbled rather bemusedly into my thirties, I began to hear tell of stories regarding Lancaster's past. Tales that portrayed the city as less of a sparkling diamond, but more of a mysterious dark orb. There were ghosts that wandered the dressing rooms of the Grand Theatre. There was the screaming head that rolled down Castle Hill.
And who, in Lancashire, has not heard about the fate of the Pendle Witches? Members of two families whose feud boiled over into allegations of Satanism and witchcraft, leading them to be incarcerated at Lancaster Castle before gruesome deaths and executions.
So it was that I started to reevaluate my sanitised view of my city and began to once more regard its shadowy alleys with a dose of caution and a certain amount of trepidation. These were footways that had known history, and not just the peaceful type where everyday folk merrily went about their business. There were murders, deaths and destruction that had bled their way into the very cobblestones upon which I walked.
So, when I get asked the aforementioned question, I tell those who enquire to come to Lancaster. Visit this place steeped in blood-stained history and walk down its alleyways at night. Then they will see how it might just be possible that there is a werewolf roaming Williamson Park, that a vampire might happen to run a local comic shop or that maybe, just maybe, the crazy woman singing on the street corner could very well be descended from the Pendle Witches.
Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.