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Ten Cathedral Ghosts by Nicholas Orme

25 November 2022

Cathedral apparitions make for a relaxing read, writes Kevin Scully

THIS book is perfect for the Christmas holiday break: gentle, easy to read, and full of the atmosphere of ye olde church life. It could also serve well as a stocking filler for that person who lolls in a chair after a big meal.

Nicholas Orme has penned a series of short stories that capture, if only fleetingly, ghosts, imps, and presences seen in and around the fictional Acester Cathedral.

He draws on his knowledge of ecclesiastical life — clergy, staff of archives, virgers, committees, tea rooms, and residents of the Close — to sketch various encounters with appearances and mysteries. Not all of them are completely resolved, but none is ever left dangerously threatening.

One enchanting aspect is, having inserted himself as a character into the narratives, Orme draws on real and imagined characters, books, and chronicles, in a mixture of the factual and fictional. At times, he, as historian, is looking into authoritative texts as a research tool into his fictional world. The reader gets an insight into the working methods of Orme as a respected authority who has written some significant works on medieval life.

It should be noted again that none of these ghosts is overly disturbing. They are more encounters and apparitions that, more often than not, reveal something about the history of the fictional city and its cathedral.

The presences range from the most threatening to a cathedral canon, when he is inexplicably on his own in the Close over Christmas; a voice heard during a theatrical performance; a chorister in the cloister; and a romantic woman in a mirror.

Perhaps the only complex figure is an imp, whose image is put back together from fragments of stained glass to frame the Dean’s ambitions to draw more visitors — but even this little devil is dealt with, to allow cloister life to revert to normality.

There are the regrets of clergy past, encounters with quotidian life present, and consideration of the ghostly future.

It is an easy and relaxing read.

The Revd Kevin Scully is a poet and retired priest.


Ten Cathedral Ghosts
Nicholas Orme
Brown Dog Books £8.95
Church Times Bookshop £8.05

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