JAMES COWAN: Founder of Cardiff History and Hauntings and tour leader
I set up Cardiff History and Hauntings in 2009 against a background of the sheer love and thrill of introducing people to the place I love: Wales and its Capital City, Cardiff.
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 Cardiff Castle is now added to Margam and Llandaff in 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 I extend to you, and hopefully for stories that will leave you fascinated, intrigued and wanting more.
CARL JOHN: Leader (Llandaff Ghost Walk and Family Ghost Walk)
Carl John has a long held fascination with the paranormal, and through his travels and studies has gained more than a working knowledge of most aspects of the supernatural, folklore, and belief systems including Celtic spirituality, Occult Magick, Palm, Tarot and Shamanism. In fact Carl has combined a unique combination of interests: while he is fascinated by (and has first hand experience of) the paranormal, as a student of Applied Psychology, he is all too aware of how at times the simple power of storytelling in authentic settings and atmospheres can make even the most hardened sceptics believe they are in the presence of ghostly visitors! Add to this his natural talent as a communicator and professional Magician, and he is a great addition to the Cardiff History and Hauntings team as a ghost walk guide.
Carl is a compelling and engaging leader of the adult ghost walks and, in his altar ego “Dr Lucians Nightshade”, has been making participants on the Family Ghost Walks scream with laughter one moment, and gasp with fear the next! Carl says he could write a book about his experiences if anyone would believe him!
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!
JOHN HUTCH: Brother Jonathan (Family Ghost Walk)
A self confessed Dr Who fanatic, John was born and raised in Wales and has loved acting since childhood. He graduated with an honours degree in Drama from Wolverhampton University and returned to Cardiff - where else! After all it is the only place where there is a rift in the time and space continuum! He is currently devoting every moment he can outside his day job to achieve his first major acting breakthrough. He keeps a regular online blog of his encounters with life, the universe, and everything, and has secured a number of lead roles in student films, as well as background roles in hit BBC drama productions such as Merlin, Dr Who, the Sarah Jane Adventures, Casualty and Lark Rise to Candleford.
John holds a lifelong intrigue with the idea of the supernatural and believes he once met a rather unfriendly ghost which he eventually managed to tell in no uncertain terms to go away! He loves being Brother Jonathan, the peaceful pastoral visitor from 16th Century Llandaff. He describes his experience of leading youngsters and their families on the Family Ghost Walk using his favourite word: Awesome!