Phantoms at the Phil
Phantoms at the Phil is a now-traditional event originally organised by Chaz Brenchley, an opportunity to hear new ghost stories read by their authors in the atmospheric surroundings of Newcastle's extraordinary private library, the Literary and Philosophical Society. From December 2004 until Twelfth Night 2012, Chaz Brenchley, Gail-Nina Anderson and Sean O'Brien appeared, alone and with others, summer and winter, in person, in print and even in audio recordings.
But on Twelfth Night, Friday January 6th 2012, Chaz manifested for the last time. The classic period has ended, leaving behind three elegant volumes of ghost stories, and a new beginning, as Gail-Nina Anderson and Sean O'Brien introduce fresh blood to the scene with a series of invited guests. The first of these, David Almond, appeared at the midsummer reading in June 2012, to great applause and promised of more to come.
The Proceedings to Date
Click the links to go direct to further details.
The First Proceedings * The Second Proceedings * The Midsummer Proceedings * The Third Proceedings * The Second Summer Proceedings * The Fourth Proceedings * Summer Phantoms 2008 * The Fifth Proceedings * Summer 2009 * Winter 2010: Phantoms in the Snow * Summer 2010 * Seventh Sensational Year * His Last Bow * Midsummer 2012
The First Proceedings
Phantoms at the Phil was launched on Monday 13th December 2004, with a repeat performance on Wednesday 15th. Arts Council funding made it possible for the planned mix of ghostly stories, literary setting and seasonal refreshments to be further enriched with atmospheric music, and then recorded for posterity on a CD included in the book of the event.
Once again, 2005's Phantoms at the Phil consisted of two sold-out readings, but with a difference. On Monday 19th December the contributors were, as last year, Sean O'Brien, Gail-Nina Anderson and Chaz Brenchley - "the Old Contemptibles", in Chaz'z words. They were followed on Wednesday 21st December by "the Young Pretenders": Ann Cleeves, Simon Morden and Carol McGuigan. The result was not just three, but six varied and entertaining new ghost stories -which can be read (or indeed listened to) in the Second Proceedings collection, still available in limited numbers only (see above).
The stories are:
- It Follows Therefore by Sean O'Brien
- The Chapel of St Thomas by Gail-Nina Anderson
- The Deadly Space Between by Chaz Brenchley
- The Midwife's Assistant by Ann Cleeves
- Seeing Things by Simon Morden
- The Dead Reckoning by Carol McGuigan
The Midsummer Proceedings
The Summer Solstice, June 21st 2006, marked an innovation in the now-traditional ghost story events at Newcastle's Lit & Phil: Midsummer Phantoms. The classic line-up of Sean O'Brien, Gail-Nina Anderson and Chaz Brenchley read three new stories -
- The Cricket Match at Green Lock by Sean O'Brien
- The Parasol by Gail-Nina Anderson
- Summer's Lease by Chaz Brenchley
Chaz writes about the event in his Journal
The Third Proceedings
At the third annual Christmas edition of Phantoms at the Phil, on Monday 18th and Wednesday 20th December, 2006, the three founder members read again, providing four new stories, since Sean O'Brien read different stories at the two events.
The canonical listing, however, is:
- In the Silence Room by Sean O'Brien
- A Garland with Gloves by Gail-Nina Anderson
- The House of Mechanical Pain by Chaz Brenchley
The Second Summer Proceedings
The Second Summer Proceedings were held on Thursday 2nd August 2007; the company assembled, as is traditional, in the library of the Lit & Phil, and, having partaken of refreshments, were led by a guide through the library of the adjoining Mining Institute and down into that institution's lecture theatre. (Read Chaz'z account of the event in his LiveJournal).
The new stories written for, and read on, this occasion were:
- Features of the Text by Sean O'Brien
- Summer Shadows by Gail-Nina Anderson
- The Summer House by Chaz Brenchley
The Fourth Proceedings
In December 2007, Phantoms at the Phil returned to Newcastle's Lit & Phil (Literary & Philosophical Society), for a fourth triumphant year. The company gathered in the Lit & Phil Library for mulled wine and mince pies, then proceeded into the Mining Institute to hear readings of three brand new ghost stories from Chaz, Gail-Nina Anderson and Sean O'Brien (pictured, right, signing the book of the Third Proceedings).
The stories were:
- Not in Gateshead Any More by Sean O'Brien
- The Manor Ghost by Gail-Nina Anderson
- and Walking Wounded by Chaz Brenchley.
In addition to the traditional Lit & Phil sessions on 17th and 19th December, there was an additional event on the shortest night of the year, December 21st at Alnwick's Barter Books: Chaz and Gail-Nina Anderson were joined by Simon Morden (who previously manifested at the Second Proceedings) to tell ghost stories in the Old Waiting Room, Barter Books, Alnwick.
Summer Phantoms 2008
Summer Phantoms, having completed its third triumphant year, may now be regarded as an institution in its own right. On June 24th 2008, Sean O'Brien, Gail-Nina Anderson and Chaz Brenchley gathered in the library of the Lit & Phil before processing through the secret passage to the beautiful panelled lecture theatre in the Mining Institute next door to tell their stories:
- Sean O'Brien: Behind the Rain
- Gail-Nina Anderson: Untiltled
- Chaz Brenchley: Between the Woods and the Water
Phantoms for Old Christmas
The Fifth Proceedings of Phantoms at the Phil was held in the Lecture Theatre of Newcastle's Mining Institute (approached, as is traditional, through the Library of the Lit & Phil, on January 6th 2009 - Twelfth Night, and therefore the last night of the festivities of Christmas 2008.
The readers and their stories were:
- Sean O'Brien: Sylvie - a Romance
- Gail-Nina Anderson: The Cauld Lad of Hilton
- Chaz Brenchley: True North
Read an account of the event in the Supernatural Tales blog.
Summer Phantoms 2009
The Phantoms haunted the library in the high summer once more in 2009. On Thursday July 9th, Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society was haunted by (in order of reading):
- Sean O'Brien, who read his story The Sea God
- Gail-Nina Anderson, who read Port in a Storm (which she had co-written with Cardinal Cox) and
- Chaz Brenchley, who read his story Walking at the Speed of Light, More Slowly.
Phantoms in the Snow
The Phantoms of Christmas 2009 manifested once more on Twelfth Night, 6th January 2010. Attendance was restricted by the severe winter, with snow lying deep in the streets and more falling in the course of the evenings.
There was indeed some mockery that one of the readers, Sean O'Brien, had decided not to risk the journey into town from Forest Hall. Despite this, and considering the nasty conditions, there was a surprisingly large (and unsurprisingly appreciative) audience.
Chaz and Gail-Nina Anderson each read an additional story to make up for Sean's absence, and felt that between them they could reasonably claim to equal the missing party. Chaz'z stories were Parting Shots and a new story, The Ferry, the Chain and the Black Black Water.
Chaz reported in his LiveJournal on the Phantoms who manifested on Thursday 24th June 2010: it is in the nature of ghosts that each apparition repeats the last, and yet each is different, subtly new and disquieting. The most spirituous addition to the proceedings was the Spooky Ale, commissioned by our hosts, the Lit & Phil, from the Big Lamp Brewery, which helped to prepare the audience for the experiences of the evening.
As is traditional, Sean O'Brien read first - but his story, A Cold Spot, had an untraditional feature, since it incorporated a performance of one of the witches' scenes from Macbeth, in which the three witches were played (with great brio) by Sean himself, Gail-Nina Anderson and Gerry Wardle.
Gail-Nina then read her own story, The Doll Room, and, after a break for refreshments, Chaz brought the proceedings to a chilling close with Hortus Conclusus.
Seventh Sensational Year
Phantoms at the Phil closed the 2010/2011 festive season, as has become traditional, on Twelfth Night (Thursday 6th January 2011). Chaz introduced the proceedings, unable to conceal his incredulity that this project had now endured for seven years. First reader was Sean O'Brien, defying catarrh-induced deafness to read his story The Railway Halt, a creepy tale of horror in the summer sun. Next came Gail-Nina Anderson, whose continuing obsession with vampire rabbits and other lagomorphs was evident in her story All God's Creatures. Finally, after the break, Chaz read The Cupboard of Cold Things, a story inspired by his inability to remember the word 'refrigerator'.
Summer 2011 assembled the traditional team, rather stunned by their own persistence (unless the summer storms were to blame) on August 4th. Sean O'Brien opened the proceedings with The Good Stuff, a tale of supernatutal goings in in the archives - though for once the library concerned bore no resemblance to the Lit & Phil; Gail-Nina Anderson adopted a clerical persona, her silver choker subliminally suggesting a dog-collar, as she read The Weeping Cupids Fountain; and Chaz Brenchley closed the session with The Boat of Not Belonging - the ultimate in dream homes, a bookshop on a boat.
His Last Bow
On Twelfth Night, Friday January 6th 2012, Chaz manifested for the last time. The proceedings began with Sean O'Brien's Ex Libris, the story of a man haunted not by a ghost but by a nightmare. The audience laughed heartily at this harrowing tale. After the break, Gail-Nina Anderson read Expanding the Business, her story of two old ladies, the wiles of the internet and a possibly haunted nightshirt, and it was then left to Chaz to conclude the evening on the sombre note proper to ghost stories with In the Broken Heart of Glass.