A sad farewell to author Colin Wilson

PROLIFIC WRITER ... Colin Wilson, who died last week.
PROLIFIC WRITER ... Colin Wilson, who died last week.

EXACTLY one week ago, the philosopher, criminologist and author Colin Wilson passed away.

One of the nation’s most prodigious – and prolific – writers, his death has left a gaping vacuum in the field of paranormal research that I suspect will never be filled.

My first acquaintance with Colin came when, to our pleasant surprise, he described a book written by my colleague Darren W Ritson and I as “one of the great, classic works on the poltergeist phenomenon”.

He told Darren that he had purchased two copies of it, and that both were sitting on his bookshelf. We never did find out what the second one was for.

Later, Colin penned the foreword for our book The Haunting of Willington Mill – a notorious haunting that took place in North Shields in the 19th century, and which Colin had shown a significant interest in.

Colin was a man who carved out a legendary niche for himself in the world of investigative journalism, particularly when he found himself delving into the world of the preternatural.

However, he certainly wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. A Leicester lad, Colin left school and immediately began working in a wool warehouse.

He hated the tedium, and progressed through a number of different jobs until he was eventually called up to National Service in the RAF.

Colin couldn’t settle in “the Services”, and managed to get himself ejected from the Royal Air Force so that he could follow his dream of becoming a writer.

It didn’t happen overnight, and for a while, I’ve been told, he ended up sleeping rough in a cardboard box on Hampstead Heath.

Fame came suddenly, however, with the publication of his first book The Outsider (Gollancz, 1956). Although his next work was critically savaged, he shrugged this off and went on to be a huge success.

Colin was a man who always managed to keep his feet on the ground. He was a deep thinker with an incredible ability to analyse critically, but his true genius lay in his ability to reduce the nigh-incomprehensible down to the easily understandable.

Sceptics feared him, for his logic when arguing a point was formidable. I disagreed with Colin for decades on the nature of the poltergeist phenomenon.

Eventually I had to concede that in almost every respect, he had been right.

Some time ago, Darren and I began work on our book Contagion, due to be published in 2014, which takes a look at some peculiar aspects of the poltergeist phenomenon. Colin kindly offered to write the foreword for that tome too, for which we were extremely grateful.

By this time we’d heard rumours that he wasn’t in the best of health, but we didn’t realise how serious things would become. In June 2012 he suffered a stroke which robbed him of his ability to speak.

It seemed horribly ironic that such an icon in the world of communication should be inflicted with this of all symptoms.

Darren has this to say about Colin: “Colin Wilson was a legend in his field and will be sorely missed by all that knew him and corresponded with him.

“His complimentary words and support towards our work, including the South Shields Poltergeist book and case, and indeed in his forewords to The Haunting of Willington Mill, and Contagion, were truly inspirational to both Mike and I, and for this we will always be truly grateful. Rest in peace, Colin.”

Colin could be direct and even pointed in his writing, but I can’t recall a single time when he ever lowered himself to the bovver boy rhetoric employed by some who disagreed with him.

Indeed, his advice was always to rise above it. Colin Wilson was a man who was truly fascinated by the supernatural.

He had the courage to admit that some phenomena were real, but the detachment to disbelieve when such was the right course of action. He was a great support to Darren and I, and we’ll sorely miss him.

* Seen something odd? Tell Mike at wraithscape@mikehallowell.com