Imagine the scene: it’s 1972 and two young boys, playing in their back-garden in the old northern England town of Hexham, unearth a pair of creepy-looking stone heads. Believed by some to have ancient Celtic origins, the heads seemingly provoke a wide and unsettling range of paranormal phenomena, including the manifestation of a bizarre beast in the area. Then, when an expert in Celtic history gets involved in the saga, a monstrous werewolf-like creature materializes in her home in the dead of night. Over time, the heads provoke yet more mystery and mayhem, finally vanishing under strange circumstances, but never forgotten by those obsessed with, and intrigued by, such terrible things.
In his new 260-page book on the subject – Quest for the Hexham Heads, published by CFZ Press – Paul, who has had a deep interest in the affair since the 1970s, sets off determined to finally lay the matter to rest, once and for all. And, I have to say, he does a damned fine job!
It’s important to note that as well as being a Fortean (and the author of one of the funniest books I have ever read, Mars Bar and Mushy Peas), Paul is also a journalist of many years. Decades, actually. And, he applies every journalistic tactic and trick of the trade to get the answers he seeks. Written with clarity and wit, and soaked in eerie, macabre atmosphere, Quest for the Hexham Heads is somewhat of a road-trip (for both Paul and us, the readers) that takes us back to the dawn of British culture, and right up to the modern day. And not forgetting numerous places, and times, in between, particularly the early-to-mid 1970s.
And in doing so, Paul crafts what is, for me anyway, the best Fortean-themed book of 2012. It’s one that should not only be considered required reading for anyone with an interest in the supernatural mysteries of our world and what makes people tick, but on a par with John Keel’s classic, The Mothman Prophecies – also, of course, a book focusing on deeply strange events and a memorable cast of characters in a small town.
We’re introduced to the two lads who found the heads (one of who, now in his early 50s, agrees to an extensive interview, which makes for fascinating and eye-opening reading); we’re treated to the story of how the media got involved in covering the story, which, as a result escalated and altered; and we’re exposed to the way in which even the neighbors began to suffer from what many believe to have been the paranormal influence of the terrible heads. And that’s just the beginning.