"WALES is “the most haunted country in the world.”

That’s the claim that has inspired South Wales author, Mark Rees to set off to explore dozens of the most well-known supposedly haunted locations across the country, which ranged 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.

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Mr Rees said: “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.

“Some of the more famous locations include The Skirrid Inn in 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!”

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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 of the writers who treaded a similar path centuries before him, such as the Victorian pioneer Wirt Sikes who deemed the traditional folk tales of Wales worthy of preserving.

The more recent accounts were gathered from news articles, many of which he wrote myself during my 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,” Mr Rees said.

“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.”

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Mr Rees said he thinks people have a natural tendency to assume that all ghost stories are scary, spine-chilling tales of terrifying poltergeists and walls that drip with blood, but that for a lot of people, the paranormal can be a source of comfort and solace, especially those of a religious nature.

He said: “I was told a lovely story at the Prince of Wales inn in Kenfig, where the landlord at the time firmly believed in the ghosts said to inhabit the pub.

“He told me that he had no intention of having any more so-called psychic mediums in there to bother them, because he did not want to upset them.

“In fact, he told me that he doesn’t even call them “ghosts”, he calls them his “friends”, and says goodnight to them before retiring.

“There’s an unfortunate trend in modern-day ghost hunting of trying to antagonise any potential ghosts, because people think that by making them angry it will somehow convince them to perform for them.

“I thought it was so refreshing to meet someone who does the exact opposite and is seemingly rewarded for their actions.

“I think there’s a lesson there for any would-be paranormal investigators.

“Just like in real life, a little politeness goes a long way.”

But even when not in the course of his investigations, Mr Rees had had cause to shudder.

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“My most shocking moment came in Craig-y-Nos Castle, the former home of opera superstar Adelina Patti,” he said.

“I’ve had quite a few eventful days and nights there, but on this particular occasion, I wasn’t even there on ghostly business.

“I was doing some filming for a documentary about Welsh culture, and my co-host and I were beneath the stage of Patti’s custom-built opera house.

“It was very dark there and they had some trouble lighting us for the cameras, and half joking I said to my friend just as they started filming that “you do realise we’re standing in the haunted room right now?”

“As I said that, the light bulbs illuminating us exploded and we jumped out of our skins. We were unable to set the shot back up afterwards and finished the filming outside in the sunshine instead. Was it paranormal? Probably not, but it was certainly perfect timing!

“My number one aim with this book – as with most of my books – is that it will inspire people to go on an adventure of their own,” he added.

“I think by putting these stories back out there, some of which might not have been seen for centuries, we can help to “re-enchant” the land a little bit.

“Reading about a ghost story which takes place in some unnamed castle in some unnamed country is one thing, but when that story takes place in a castle just a 10 minute drive down the road form you, I think it becomes much more magical.

“This book is full of such places and, if people enjoy reading about them, I hope it makes them curious enough to jump in the car and go exploring.

“Who knows what they might find?

“They could end up writing a similar book themselves one day.”

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.