Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Ghosts, Graves & Guides for Gadabouts

A gripping read—and no doubt a thoroughly gratifying experience should you fancy a trip to Venice—is a small pocket book entitled Venetian Legends and Ghost Stories: A Guide to Places of Mystery in Venice. Written by Alberto Toso Fei (published 2004 by Elzeviro), this delightful book offers four tours to guide you through the spooky streets and canals of Venice. Each stopping point gives details of well-known, and some lesser known, sights alongside a collection of ghostly tales. From the haunted area around the great Gothic Church of Santi Giovanni e Paulo—a place of burial for a number of Venetian doges—to the wanderings of one of the last bell ringers of San Marco, this book will give you goosebumps and steal you away from the standard tourist fare of gondolas and gelato!

A beautifully garlanded guide, it includes maps, illustrations and a showcase of the black and white photography of Vito Vecellio. It is divided into four tours: ‘The Flight of the Witch’, ‘The Sad Song of the Mermaid’, ‘The Sigh of the Severed Head’, and ‘The Luminous Shadow of the Devil’. Within each section are a number of ghostly tales set around various points of interest. To name but a few, there is the haunting of the miserly old money-lender of the fourteenth century who was too busy saving his belongings to help neighbouring children during a fire; the tale of the piece of music Vivaldi never wrote but his soul now whispers on the water; the sightings of fades (fairies) during the night that are said to be spirits of women who died in childbirth; and there is the story of ‘The Terrible Revenge of the Skull’ which teaches you to never kick a skull into a canal!

Whether read from the safety of your armchair or while actually gadding about Venice, Venetian Legends and Ghost Stories: A Guide to Places of Mystery in Venice is sure to inspire and delight.

The description on the book’s cover:
‘Four itineraries to discover the darkest and most fascinating side of Venice. Find your way through its streets, squares and hidden labyrinths, which in a sometimes not-so-distant past were witness to the goriest crimes, the most terrible curses, the bloodiest revenge and many mysterious apparitions.
An unusual guide, which offers a new and compelling way to visit this city, masterfully presented in a narrative where ghost, demons, treacherous witches, benevolent fairies, evil beings and monstrous creatures come to life, where reality and imagination come together in the history of Venice, retold in the language of myth.’

London, of course, has no shortage of ghostly tours and guides on offer. From grim gaols to ghastly gallows, the history of the city has it all. A quick Google search is all that is needed to reveal a vast choice of ghostly gads about town! Perhaps take lunch in a haunted pub (The Viaduct Tavern, Holborn) or picnic in Green Park, site of leper burials and plague pits. You can ghost hunt by foot, bus or even tube—if you find yourself on the Bakerloo line, watch out for the ghostly commuter who can only be seen in reflection! (A good link for haunting tube tales: Ghosts of the London Underground.) If a spooky stroll away from the crowd appeals then the seven great cemeteries of London (informally known as the Magnificent Seven) promise a good day out. They include Kensal Green, West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, Brompton and Tower Hamlets. These graveyards were established in the nineteenth century in order to move interments away from the overcrowded parish burial grounds of London to the suburbs.

For further ideas of where to ghost hunt and find inspiration, consider Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catharine Arnold (Pocket Books, 2007) which reveals the city ‘as one giant grave’!


This blog post was written in the spirit of the April 2014 A-Z Challenge whereby a post is written every day during the month of April (with the exception of Sunday). The theme of each post is meant to correspond with a letter of the alphabet in sequential order. Monday's post will be on H. For details and to visit the A-Z Challenge website, click here.


  1. Will definitely be seeking this out! Venice feels like my spiritual home - next visit next year.... been too long!
    Looks like some other interesting #atoz posts you have - will have to catch up!

  2. Hello James, Thanks for stopping by! Venice is indeed an amazing city, definitely one of my favourites, especially at Rendentore. You may be interested to note (I see you are a chef) that there is a restaurant in outskirts of San Marco that boasts a medieval menu. Interesting and very atmospheric. Although there's no shortage of fantastic places to eat in Venice,as I'm sure you're well aware!