Steel City Tales

David Clarke and Rob Wilson. Strange Sheffield, Legends, Folklore and Mysteries of Hallamshire. ASSAP, 1987.
This large, well-researched booklet is an addition to ASSAP 's Project Albion, which is an ambitious attempt to produce a 'Domesday Book of the Paranormal'. Ho far that will progress is open to question, but on its own Strange Sheffield presents a detailed picture of the mysteries that have plagued that city and its surrounding countryside, Hallamshire.

It is interesting to see that David Clarke, like many other British ufologists, regards UFOs as only a small (or modern) part of our interaction with the landscape and the energies emanating from it, which the ancients perceived and marked. Therefore it is not surprising that several leys are discussed at the end of this text. Fortunately, the 'earth energy’ point of view is not overtly pressed in most of the booklet, which deals with such topics as the Dragon of Wantley, the legends of Robin Hood, and the appearances of Spring Heeled Jack.

In the latter case it is noteworthy that this entity, which terrified young women and was associated with a burial ground, gave rise to virtual riots in Sheffield in 1873. Such apparitions have been regarded as the link between latter day ghosts and contemporary UFO entities. When details of such incidents are examined, it is not so much the place which is important but the expectations of the observers, the intervening variable of some kind of earth energy is still problematic, but it does offer a romantic and powerful reason for understanding, preserving and justifying time and effort to look after the landscape and the folklore and legends that have become associated with it.

Despite my niggling doubts, David Clarke and Rob Wilson give a great example of a well-balanced use of field and library research, and unlike some in this field they do not jump to wild assumptions or try to bend the facts to fit elaborate speculative structures.

Nigel Watson.

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