It wasn't, to be honest, the easiest of reads, as the prose style was quite difficult to get into. The thrust of the book was a narrative of how a newly independent Malta had shunned the heritage of ghost stories around the island as belonging to the past, and was facing a ghost-free future. Maltese folklore believed in the 'Hares', spirits that dwelled in the home.
Attard makes much of the fact that people living in the same house would seldom talk of their experiences of the 'Hares', and that it became Malta's unspoken secret.
One enormous piece of evidence for the existence of ghosts in Malta has always been found in the substantial number of beautiful houses that have remained unoccupied throughout the years. Particularly during those following immediately after the end of the last war when Malta was passing through a crisis bought about by a housing shortage. It was a common saying that the unoccupied houses were all haunted. But none would say this in a way that it might reach the landlord's ears for fear of being forced [sic] with a lawsuit for defamation of the building
Due to this cult of secrecy many of the stories in the book are very vague - starting along the lines of 'Once there was a Doctor in a village in the North-East of Malta'. This was a shame for us, because we wanted to visit places that were specifically meant to be haunted. Although I did just take some pictures of random abandoned houses, on the grounds that they must be haunted.
There was one place we visited though that had a story attached to it. When we visited Mdina we walked along past the orange groves that form the focus of a story about Bill McGregor. Mr McGregor took a picture intending to contrast the orange grove with the white of the stone walls surrounding them.
But when the picture began to appear there seemed to be something on it which had definitely not been there when he took the snap. A few more seconds of concentration, and he realised that there had been an intruder in the picture.
Standing in front of the balustrading there was the figure of a headless girl, wearing a bridal gown
Attard goes on to describe the tale of Katerina, who murdered a Knight who had tried to 'take from her what she had solemnly promised only to her would-be spouse'. She stabbed the attacker, but was granted a last wish of being allowed to marry before she was beheaded for the crime. Attard claims that the picture featuring the ghost was published in English newspapers as the "Headless Bride of Mdina". Sadly internet research has not turned up any other reference to this story.
So we didn't get to visit many haunted places, but I did have a very spooky experience when we were staying in Gozo. I mentioned in my account of the day that we found a "secret" staircase in our hostel in Marsalforn. I'd noticed it on the map of fire escapes, and so naturally, was taking a picture of the schematic design of the hostel to post on here and Flickr to illustrate the tale. I managed to make a right mess of it, failing to turn off the flash, then not getting it in focus, then catching a huge reflection from the window striking the map. I was just taking my fourth photograph of the notice on the wall when my exasperated wife called out at me in despair at the way I was faffing around. I turned and started apologising to her, and was met by blank stares from her and J., who had been happily talking amongst themselves and hadn't said anything to me.
It wasn't the first time it had happened in that room. The previous night I had been quite aggravated that as soon as I had headed into the bathroom my wife had called out to me by name. "What?" I called out, only to find that again she had not said anything to me.
The first time the mystery voice that my wife claimed not to have uttered had called me 'Martin', the second time it had called me by my wife's pet name for me....