A Dorset author has written a children’s book based on his experiences of living in a supposedly haunted cottage in the village of Corfe Castle. Laura Hanton reports.

Inspired by the ghosts of Oscar Wilde, Peter Tate, 72, has published his own spooky story set in the house where he lived for 13 years.

Peter resided in the Curatage Cottage in Corfe Castle until 2017, and the house has now become the eerie setting for his children’s book, The Curatage Ghost.

What makes Peter’s book especially unique is that most of its illustrations are by Beth Starmer, the 15-year old girl who now lives in the very same Corfe Castle cottage.

“We shared the same house and we shared the same ghost,” Peter, who now lives in Poundbury, jokes.

Beth has been drawing since she was about six-years-old, and the pair struck up a correspondence after Beth sent Peter and his wife an illustrated card to say thank you for giving them the house. Pleasantly surprised by her artistic flair, Peter asked if Beth would be interested in illustrating his story. She says she had mixed feelings about Peter’s request.

“It was exciting because I’d never really done anything like it before,” she says. “But I was pretty nervous as well. I didn’t know if I’d be able to draw the illustrations like he wanted them.”

Nevertheless, Peter was thrilled with what Beth produced. “I think she’s a real talent and I hope that out of this she develops her artistic abilities,” he said.

Undecided on what she’d like to pursue as a career, Beth says whatever happens, she’ll always carry on drawing for fun.

The Curatage Ghost follows the adventures of four young teenagers as they discover the haunting secrets of their grandparents’ old house. The youthful characters are based on Peter’s own grandchildren, to whom the publication is dedicated, and the blurb promises a story that ‘twists and turns, is happy and sad, wise and stupid, but always exciting.’

Peter was stirred to write the book after his grandchildren, who are scattered around the world in Australia, Croatia and Sicily, came along. He was telling bedtime stories that become more and more embellished each night, until one day his wife suggested he string them together to make a proper tale.

Grandchildren aside, Peter reckons his real inspiration came from the story by an influential Irishman back in the 1880s.

“I suspect I owe a debt to Oscar Wilde,” Peter says. “I think The Canterville Ghost inspired me. That was my favourite story as a child.”

So, is the cottage really home to spirits of the dead?

“When we bought the house, it was always suggested that it was haunted,” Peter says. “I never saw a ghost, but my wife believed there was one and my son certainly did.”

Beth is similarly in two minds.

“I’m not too sure I believe in ghosts,” she said. “But if it was possible for a house to be haunted, it would definitely be this one!”

A lot of the book’s action takes places in the tunnels beneath the house, which Peter reckons could really exist. He recalls a time when building work was going on at the post office in the village, and the family thought they could hear voices coming through the circular opening in the cottage’s cellar. On the back of these suspicions, Peter describes the book as “not entirely fanciful.”

“The history behind the ghost is just about feasible,” he says. “Historically I tried to make it possible.”

Corfe Castle, on the Isle of Purbeck, is a fortification towering above the village of the same name. Now under the care of the National Trust, the area has a rich history.

During the Civil War, the castle was home to the Royalist Bankes family, and become one of the last royalist strongholds in southern England. An act of betrayal led to the castle being seized and in 1645, it was destroyed on Parliament’s orders, becoming the ruin it is today.

Ever since, the ghostly figure of a headless woman – said to be the one who betrayed the Bankes family – has been supposedly haunting the grounds.

Currently, The Curatage Ghost is only being sold in Corfe Castle’s sweet shop.

“I never wrote it to make money,” Peter says. “I was waiting to see if anyone liked the story before doing any promotion.”

Peter worked as a GP in Abingdon for most of his career after qualifying as a doctor in 1968. He co-authored The Doctor’s Communication Handbook in 1994, which is just about to be published in its eighth edition.

Does he think he’ll write any more children’s books?

“Probably, but I’m not sure what about,” he replied. “Perhaps the pirate of Poundbury!”

• The Curatage Ghost is available to buy from The Sweet Shop in The Square at Corfe Castle. It can also be bought from www.amazon.co.uk