Merseyside has been my inspiration for more than fifty years. Actual sites have produced ghosts and worse for me to tell the world about. In the fifties and indeed up to the late seventies whole inner city areas were derelict, ruined by the blitz, and these figure crucially in tales such as “Baby” and “The Brood”, novels like The Doll Who Ate His Mother and The Face That Must Die, and most recently The Searching Dead, the first volume of my Brichester Mythos trilogy. A series of cellars under Rumford Place in the city centre led to my first Liverpool tale, “The Cellars”, which presents a snapshot of the city centre in the mid-sixties. My ultimate Liverpool story may be Creatures of the Pool, which revives legends and strange histories of the place, mainly the original seven streets based around Liverpool Castle. I researched it over a period of more than fifteen years, writing notes based on books about Liverpool, the older the better. Because the process was so prolonged, I can’t now separate some of my inventions from actual incidents and traditions I read about. I admit I’m delighted that even I can’t tell what’s fiction in this uncanny history of Liverpool.
Further out I’ve found many Merseyside places to haunt. In the suburban Newsham Park I saw footprints in the concrete surround of a boating lake and misread graffiti reading MACK TOSH WILLY in the adjacent shelter – the result was my tale “Mackintosh Willy” and its spectral occupant of the shelter. The pedestrian subway under nearby West Derby Road was peopled with “The Man in the Underpass”, and the railway bridge over a parallel road became the lair of “Midnight Hobo”. Across the city, the landfill site at Otterspool (later reclaimed as the Festival Gardens) became somewhere to avoid at night, not just since something inhuman was at large there in The Parasite but also because Clive Barker visited his creature Mama Pus on it in Weaveworld.
Up the coast in Crosby, the sculptor Anthony Gormley multiplied himself on the beach, and the site became a symbol and a setting in The Seven Days of Cain. Across the river the Wirral peninsula (where we live) continues to inspire me. A serial killer became a victim on Bidston Hill in Secret Story, and the ghost train in a rotting fairground at New Brighton was the lair of “The Companion”. Arthur Pendemon’s house from Thieving Fear still lurks beneath the cliff at Thurstaston, while I celebrated the uncanniness of Parkgate in “The Ferries”, and young Rowan walks the length of the peninsula to find it variously haunted in The Influence. You know, I think Merseyside may have as many occult secrets as the region around Brichester.