JAMES COWAN: Founder of Cardiff History and Hauntings and tour leader
James set up Cardiff History and Hauntings in 2009 against a background of the sheer love and thrill of introducing people to the place he loves: Wales and its Capital City, Cardiff. This venture followed a long career as a Civil Servant in Wales, and a lifetime telling people wherever he went in the world that they need to visit his country!
His success in frightening people with his accounts of Welsh ghosts, and captivating them with his surprising tales of little known Welsh history, has seen him branching out into TV and radio. In addition to numerous appearances on local TV and radio news and magazine programmes, he presented a specially commissioned two-part feature on ghosts for Channel 5's "Live with Gabby" (2012), was interviewed by NHK (Tokyo) for its 2013 documentary on science and the paranormal, and in 2015 he was the guest guide on the Margam edition of BBC1 Wales's popular series "Weatherman Walking".
Also in 2015 he wrote and presented "Cardiff's Hidden Histories" for Made in Cardiff TV, and in 2016 he wrote and presented another history series "Streets of Cardiff" for the same channel.
So what is James's mission? To find out more, read on....
"I grew up with Cardiff on my doorstep. I have never forgotten the thrill of visiting as a small child - the sight of its sometimes majestic, sometimes downtrodden, and sometimes quirky buildings, the sound of its bustling shopping streets and orange buses, and the smell of hops near Cardiff Central Station! After years of fleeting encounters with this city, as I flirted with cities and countries around the world, Cardiff became my permanent home in 1997 and, since then, discovering its incredible but as yet largely unknown history has been an ever growing and consuming passion!
"They add up to a story waiting to be told! The story of a settlement which has been here for 2000 years, and witnessed cycles of triumph and disaster, rise, fall and rise again. Signs of Cardiff’s changing shape and fortunes over the centuries remain all around the city centre.
"The same is true for Wales: Western Europe's last undiscovered country which flourished in religion, law and learning during what was for the rest of Europe known as "The Dark Ages"; defeated and conquered in Medieval battle but not in spirit, with Europe's oldest living language still spoken every day by over half a million people, and giving England its most colourful Royal Dynasty - The Tudors; in the nineteenth century becoming the world's first industrial nation but still retaining a compact landscape brimming with mysteries, legends and ghost stories!
"As for the ghosts, well, Wales is the most haunted country in the world - or so say countless writers and observers. We are a spiritual, passionate people here in Wales and I grew up with that in my blood: listening to tales of ghosts and hauntings was part of my childhood in Wales, as it has been for so many children for generations. Visits to relatives for Sunday tea always seemed to end with us children sitting both captivated and terrified as the grown ups exchanged their stories of their experiences, or shared stories passed down to them over the generations.
"Such memories have no doubt lingered and left me with a love of storytelling, of legends, and a curiosity about the unknown. I hope you will enjoy some of those stories with Cardiff History and Hauntings. I am delighted that I and my growing team can lead you through the ghostly atmospheres of St Fagans, Cardiff Castle, Llandaff and Margam, with a growing list of ghost walks which have got people from all over the world looking over their shoulders!
"If you already live in Wales, I hope I can help you see this city and country in a new and different light. If you are visiting Wales, I want you to remember your experience with Cardiff History and Hauntings as a highlight of your visit, for the welcome we extend to you, and hopefully for stories that will leave you fascinated, intrigued and wanting more."
John began working with Cardiff History and Hauntings in 2013 as part of our team of guides leading the Junior Ghost Walks at Llandaff. However, his lifelong lifelong intrigue with the idea of the supernatural meant that he could not resist the opportunity to join our team of guides leading the adult ghost tours, both at Llandaff and Cardiff Castle.
He graduated with an honours degree in Drama from Wolverhampton University and returned to Cardiff where, in addition to his day job and his evening roles with Cardiff History and Hauntings, he has secured background roles in hit BBC drama productions such as Merlin, Dr Who, the Sarah Jane Adventures, Casualty and Lark Rise to Candleford.
John brings a number of unique facets to the ghost walks he leads: a genuine belief in the paranormal; an ability to convey the atmosphere and intrigue of the settings and stories with a blend of authority, professionalism and conviction; and a passion for what he does.
Matthew comes from Kenfig Hill, near Port Talbot. By day he is a manager at a local department store, but his evenings have never been the same since he attended a Llandaff Ghost Walk in 2014! His experience of that walk made him passionate to become a member of the team, which he succeeded in doing in 2015.
He has a strong interest in British history, in particular its darker side, including treachery, deceit, murder, plots and conspiracies throughout the ages. Growing up in Kenfig has also left him with a deep interest in the paranormal, given the wealth of ghost stories and legends right on his doorstep. His passion about Welsh culture, history and ghostlore is amply demonstrated as he leads people through St Fagans Museum on the night time ghost walks.
Aside from his ghostly exploits, Matthew has a keen interest in the workings of the mind and psychology. He is currently studying for a diploma in hypnotherapy and has already completed a course in forensic psychology.
SUZIE REES: Bronwen the Barmaid (Family Ghost Walk)
Suzie lives in Caerphilly, with her husband, daughter and two cats. Caerphilly is a place with many of it’s own creepy stories and Suzie has always had an interest in history and stories from the past. As a teenager she joined a group of archaeologists from Cardiff University on digs around Cardiff, including the Roman fort in Cardiff Castle. Suzie is also an actress with a wealth of experience who trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, and since leaving college she has worked consistently in film, television and stage. At one time she was even a Bluecoat for Pontins Holidays and yes, that included running competitions, though never, unfortunately, a knobbly knees one!!! All Suzie’s past experiences stand her in good stead for her portrayal of Bronwen the Bar Maid to ensure that her audiences of all ages feel the stories come to life.
LINDA BAILEY: Morag the Witch (Family Ghost Walk)
Linda Bailey started her career down a more usual route, qualifying as a Short-hand Typist, she did office based jobs, some sales and marketing work, before eventually joining the varied world of showbusiness! Through experience and determination she now finds herself Freelance, fulfilling her passion as a Actress and Supporting Artist. Linda does background work on Casualty, Pobyl Y Cwm, and Stella to name just a few. Linda also was successful in being cast in 3 forthcoming feature Horror films due for release in 2014. As acting work is inconsistent, Linda finds time to be The Tour Guide for the Gavin & Stacey Tours, a Promoter for National Theatre of Wales as well as a Market Researcher. However, Linda was also a very imaginative child and enjoyed scary spooky stories! She confesses that when asked, as a young infant what she wanted to be when she grew up, her first answer was .....'a Fairy'! then she thought again and said.... 'or a Witch ! This question was being asked in a fairground where there was a Talking Black Widow Spider Woman in a Web! Linda has never grown out of her love of witches, ghosts, and dressing up. Little did she realise that her initial ambition would be fulfilled as taking on the guise of our Morag!