WALES is “the most haunted country in the world” - that is the claim that inspired South Wales author Mark Rees to explore dozens of the most well-known supposedly haunted locations across the country.

Ranging from tourist landmarks to more secluded beauty spots, the Port Talbot-based journalist has documented tales from across the country, and ventured into Gwent for his new book, Paranormal Wales.

South Wales Argus:

“If restless spirits really do roam this ancient land, I wanted to know where, when and why - from the lofty peaks of Snowdonia, to the dark depths of the mines,” said Mr Rees (above).

“Some of the more famous locations include The Skirrid Inn, at Llanfihangel Crucorney, near Abergavenny, which, if the stories are to be believed, is not only Wales’ oldest pub, but is where more than 180 people are claimed to have been sentenced to death by hanging.

“Then, there’s the ghostly monks and knights in shining armour protecting Tintern Abbey who, it would appear, are there to ensure nobody desecrates the holy site.

“Some of these stories might be familiar, others less so, but they all have one thing in common - they will make you think twice about turning off the light at night.”

South Wales Argus:

The Skirrid Inn, near Abergavenny. Picture: Sandra Evans

In writing his book, his research was sourced from a wide range of places, from scouring dusty old books to rolling up his sleeves and spending long sleepless nights in some of Wales’ ‘most haunted’ places.

For the historical accounts he turned to some writers who trode a similar path centuries before him, such as the Victorian pioneer Wirt Sikes who deemed the traditional folk tales of Wales worthy of preserving.

More recent accounts were gathered from news articles, many of which he wrote himself during his time working for the press, and by doing some good old-fashioned journalism, which involved chatting with the locals and interviewing those involved.

“I’ve had an interest in the paranormal for as long as I can remember,” said Mr Rees.

“It’s not something I can pinpoint exactly, but there are moments in my childhood that I think might have played a part.

“For example, I can fondly remember watching Ghostbusters in the cinema in 1984 or reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time.

“In later life, my career path as a journalist allowed me to write about these things in a professional capacity, which would later result in being commissioned to write full-length books on the subject.

“That was something of a dream come true - getting paid for doing what had been up until then a hobby.

Mr Rees said most books about ghosts can be divided into two categories.

“There are those that look at the old legends about knights in shining armour clanking around Gothic mansions, which are great stories but, if you’re looking for hard evidence of life after death, are a bit hard to take seriously.

“Then there are more contemporary ways of looking for ghosts, such as the modern style which has been popularised on paranormal TV shows.

“These stories are not as fantastical as the old accounts, but the evidence gathered this way is considered to be more reliable – although that is also debatable.

“With this book I wanted to bridge the gap and look at both approaches side-by-side, to compare and contrast them. I hope to the result is a unique way of writing about an age-old subject.

“I think it is important to keep an open mind about all things in life, not just the paranormal. Some of the more outlandish ghost stories I’ve heard are still far more believable than some of the rubbish I’ve seen people sharing on social media.

“The most important thing for me is the stories themselves, not scrutinising every detail for believability.

“Is Tintern Abbey really haunted by spectral monks?

“I have no idea, but it certainly makes walking about there a bit more magical to think so.”

South Wales Argus:

Tintern Abbey

Mr Rees also launched a new podcast all about Welsh ghosts and folklore earlier this year, called – imaginatively - Ghosts and Folklore of Wales with Mark Rees.

A new story features every Thursday, and the entire month of October is dedicated to the history of Nos Calan Gaeaf, the Welsh Hallowe’en.

“It’s something I’d been planning for years, and the first lockdown back in March finally gave me the time needed to launch it.

“It’s available from all the usual podcast places - Spotify/ Apple/ Google etc., and the most pleasing thing about it is the community which has sprung up around it.

“People from all over the world are listening – roughly half of my audience is in North America - and after each episode they get together on social media to discuss the issues raised.

“It would be great if some of the readers wanted to join in.”

Along with Paranormal Wales, his other “spooky” books, which are also perfect for Hallowe’en, are Ghosts of Wales: Accounts from the Victorian Archives and The A-Z of Curious Wales.

Paranormal Wales is available from local bookshops priced £14.99.

It’s also available from all the usual big online places and signed copies are also available from the Comix Shoppe via Facebook, who are based in Swansea but will post anywhere in Wales.