Between the grief-stricken wars after WW1 and the Spanish Flu, poltergeists were very busy all over Britain. They were very active tormenting families in quiet neighbourly suburbs with their noisy rumblings, feats of furniture movement, smashing cups, saucers, anything that wasn’t pinned down, apparently.

Seances were very fashionable, and efforts to document hauntings by ghosts or poltergeists, to find solid evidence for their existence or not, were serious and intense.

Nandor Fodor, chief ghost hunter at the International Institute for Psychical Research, investigated the haunting of Alma Fielding, a 34 year old housewife from Thornton Heath whose life was being made miserable by uncontrollable and inexplicable events.

So were poltergeists real, or were they actually a reflection of Alma Fielding’s own traumatic past?

The latest work by British author Martin Amis, Inside Story: How to Write, takes the death of his closest friend, Christopher Hitchens, as the starting point for this book. Along the way we meet other vibrant characters who have helped define Martin Amis – from his father Kingsley Amis, to his hero Saul Bellow, from Philip Larkin to his stepmother Elizabeth Jane Howard. Were it not for his stepmother he might never have taken up writing.

But ultimately he covers the hardest questions, such as how to live, how to grieve and how to die.

First broadcast 1st October 2020

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