In My Life – An interview with John West, author and presenter
What is your full name?John Leslie West. I was named after my grandfather.
Where we you born?
In a hospital, I hope! I was born in Edmonton, North London. I’m from the smoke, as we say in London.What’s your height, weight and colouring?
I’m 5’9, weigh just over 10 stone and have green eyes and brown hair. I’m white. Well, I was the last time I looked in the shower!Do you have any brothers and sisters?
One. Gary is his name. He lives in Hertfordshire. He’s nine years older than me.What was your very first ambition?
I wanted to be an astronaut or John Noakes! John Noakes was a presenter on Blue Peter. He used to do all the stunts like climbing Nelson’s Column or falling out of planes! I did apply to Blue Peter but got turned down. Sob!Where do you live?
In a building. It’s better than living under a hedge!
Do you enjoy sports?
I hate all sports. Boring, boring, boring! I never even watched the Olympics. I had some paint that I needed to watch dry.
What would you do if you won a million?
Faint. Then I’d wake up and faint all over again!What was the biggest thrill of your life?
Oh, I don’t know. Two probably! Getting my first book published and then co-presenting a BBC Radio documentary based on the same book. Fab!What was the book about?
Roman Lincoln, a guide to the Roman remains of the city. I did others on Oliver Cromwell and Victorian murders. I've also done a few articles on ghosts and history.How did you get involved in writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and I decided to have a go at getting something published. I picked Lincoln because I lived near there. The Romans had always fascinated me and so I chose them for my first attempt! I wrote the guide and then approached a publisher with the completed manuscript. They said yes! I then quickly followed it up with guides to Oliver Cromwell, Roman York and a study of Victorian murders.Victorian Murders?
Yes, I’ve always been interested in true crime, especially unsolved crimes like Jack the Ripper. Blame my mum! She had books on the subject and I used to read them.So who do you think was Jack the Ripper?
Queen Victoria’s pet poodle! No, only joking! I really haven’t a clue. Too many suspects, too many theories!Who are your closest friends?
Me and a big spider that lives in my bedroom. No, that’s wrong - I hope! Jim Corrigan. Known him for years.Who do you admire the most?
Oliver Cromwell. Great leader, great soldier. And he kicked out all those corrupt politicians. So good for him!How do you relax?
I watch TV, listen to music, read, go for walks, all the usual boring stuff!
You’re a DJ. How did you get involved in that?
I never intended to become one, honest! It was never my ambition at school. I used to listen to the radio, my favourite DJ’s were Noel Edmonds and Kenny Everett. I never imagined that I’d follow in their footsteps and end up broadcasting to the Ze World. Ja!I saw an advert in Ipswich about free radio presenting courses. Ipswich Radio was the name. I went along and ended up presenting two breakfast shows. One was with Terry Mackley, a musician and a very funny fellow! We interviewed loads of interesting people. Neil Innes of Monty Python fame and Helen Shapiro, 60’s pop star were my two personal fav guests. The only downside was getting there for 7am!
I did a year with ICR and then I left to join Radio Castle, a new station based in Framlingham, Suffolk. I do two shows with them twice a week - Sunday and Tuesday at 9am. Terry also does the odd show for them too.
What music do you play?
50’s, 60’s, 70’s and largely 80’s stuff. I do a bit of comedy on there. I also do the odd interview too. People say they like it, so that’s good!Who are your favourite bands?
The Beatles and the Monkees.
What are your favourite TV shows?New ones would be Mr Selfridge, Foyles’s War and Midsomer Murders. Old ones would be Space 1999 Series One. The Prisoner, Star Trek, the Monkees, Man About the House, On the Buses. Loads more! Too many to list!
Favourite actors?Charlton Heston and Errol Flynn. Love em!
Favourite authors?Colin Wilson, Elliot O’Donnell, H.V. Morton, Conan Doyle and W.H. Hudson. A mixture of ghost hunters, travel writers, philosophers and novelists. Look em up!
Tell us about the ghost hunts you do? How did that happen?A long story! I’ve been interested in ghosts since I was a child. I was about nine, I think. Blame my mum again! She had loads of books on the subject and I used to read them. One of my favourite ghost hunters was this chap called Elliot O’Donnell. He published loads of books on the subject back in the 20’s and 30’s. I read them and thought, I’d like to do that myself!
Anyway, I joined ICR and I ended up as a guest on a show called ‘Eternal Spirit’. I went on there to talk about my interest in ghosts and my books. It was presented by someone called Paul Salmon, a psychic medium. No tuna jokes please! During the show, I asked if he’d like to get involved in ghost hunting. He said no! I felt a bit disappointed but he later changed his mind. So off we went to Felixstowe TV and I plugged my idea to them. They said yes and we did several shows for the station. The format was a simple one – I picked a location, did all the research. Paul was not told where we would be going. We’d take him to the supposed haunted location and then see what he picked up!
Leiston Abbey, Landguard Fort, Potsford Wood, Castle Inn, Woolpack. All in Suffolk and all in daylight!
Did you experience anything at these locations?
I had a funny experience at Landguard Fort in Felixstowe. I was walking on the ramparts and suddenly experienced a terrible pain in the head. It turned out that at that very spot a soldier had been killed during an attack on the fort in the 17th Century. He’d been shot in the head!
Why daylight? Aren’t ghosts only supposed to appear at night?Nope! That’s a myth. Many ghost sightings have been made during the day. You can blame certain TV shows for giving the false impression that ghosts and spirits only appear at night!
But aren’t ghosts and spirits the same thing?Nope again! Ghosts are recordings, like a video tape really. They keep repeating the same actions, just as they did in life. They are not conscious entities. It would like expecting Clint Eastwood to be aware that you are watching him on TV! Spirits are different. They are conscious of their surroundings and can interact with living people. Souls if you like.
What are orbs?Balls of light, usually captured on digital cameras. Many paranormal investigators believe that they are the spirits of the dead. Others believe that they are just dust particles, water droplets or insects caught in the flash of a camera. Others could be down to lens flares or even damage to the camera. I would say that at least 80% of orbs can be explained away as the latter. The other 20%? Who knows!
Orbs in Framlingham Churchyard
Do you only do ghost hunts?
No, I have also presented a show called ‘Joining John’ on FTV. It’s an interview show. I once interviewed Richard Felix of Most Haunted fame.
With Richard Felix
I plan to carry on presenting radio shows. I’ve also filmed three pilot shows on ghosts for a company called East Media. I’m now chatting to a TV company about turning them into a series. So all my fingers and toes are crossed for that one! And I’d love to work with Peter Underwood, author and ghost hunter. He’s been ghost hunting for decades. Imagine what I could learn from him!
One last question – what haunted location would you love to investigate above all others?The Tower of London. It’s full of ghosts and spirits. Think of all that history. Executions, ghostly bears, unearthly groans and phantom ladies. What more could a ghost hunter ask for!