Testimony by Mark Chadbourn

January 17, 2015

Strange faces appear on the floor of a house in a remote village in southern Spain. A ghost plane rises from the depths of Ladybower Reservoir on the Derbyshire Moors. The mummified hand of an English martyr is used to raise a Benedictine monk from a coma on the edge of death.

Odd stories. Perhaps unbelievable stories. Yet all of them were reported in British newspapers in the first half of 1995. They are just a tiny drop in the tidal wave of weirdness that sweeps over us every day of the year, all over the globe. Somehow, though, we persist in maintaining the illusion that in this age of high technology there can be no such thing as the supernatural. At least that is the view presented by much of the media.

The ultimate proof of life after death, or the most terrifying true story ever told? When Bill and Liz Rich move into an isolated house, their dreams of a new life quickly turn sour. The first signs are mild. An inexplicable but vast drain of electricity that even the power company can’t explain. A sense of being watched. But then, one night, they are visited…and their ordeal really begins, one that defies all explanation.

Occasionally, just to keep things interesting, I like to throw a bit of non-fiction into my reading mix. As far as horror fiction is concerned haunted house stories have always been a bit of a favourite of mine so the thought of reading non-fiction that details a genuine haunting seemed like a good fit.

Testimony tracks the unexplained events that plagued a family living in an isolated farm in Wales. From the day they moved into Heol Fanog, Bill and Liz suffered a host of inexplicable phenomena. This account details what happened and the people who they meet as they tried to get to the bottom of the issues that surround the house.    

One of the most striking things about reading Testimony is the moment you realise that the Riches are just normal people. They have their share of ups and downs in life, but then doesn’t everybody? They are just trying to live their lives the best way that they can, yet something is causing them constant grief. The effects of the events they experience build into quite a harrowing account. Reading about all the things that happened to them did make me wonder if I would have been able to cope in their place. I suspect the answer would have been a resounding no.

After reading Testimony, do I believe that Riches experienced a haunting? I still honestly don’t know. The sceptical part of my brain falls firmly into the camp that just because there isn’t a scientific explanation we shouldn’t automatically afford events a supernatural explanation. But there is still also that niggling shadow of doubt. Do I believe that The Riches believe they experienced a haunting? Absolutely. I’ve tried to remain open-minded about supernatural events and it strikes me that in documenting this account Mark Chadbourn does too. The details of Bill, Liz and their shared experiences are presented without embellishment. I never felt that as a reader I was being pushed in any particular direction regarding what I should think or feel about what was going on. I’d be genuinely surprised if anyone finished this and discovered all their questions had been answered. This is the sort of book that is going to leave you thinking.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of reading non-fiction by one of my favourite fiction authors, is picking up on the themes that have informed his more recent work. There is a definite journalistic tone to the book and that’s hardly a massive surprise as Mark Chadbourn was a journalist at one point. I also spotted that some of the concepts and theories touched upon in this investigation have obviously left their mark, as they appear in his later fiction novels. It’s enthralling to see glimpses of the various ideas that I know will appear, and are further explored, in this writer’s creative future. Taking this opportunity to read some of his earliest writing I feel like I have gained a far greater insight into Mark Chadbourn’s work.

Should you read this book? If you have an interest in the supernatural, or are a Mark Chadbourn fan, then I would heartily recommend Testimony.

Testimony is published by Emerald Eye and is available now.

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