I kept thinking Cornelia Funke had made it up, but the long list of facts at the end of Ghost Knight suggests she simply took reality and made it into a story. She visited Salisbury, and was so charmed by what she saw, that she has now written her own ghost story about the long dead people buried in the Cathedral, featuring the pupils at the nearby, very real, Salisbury Cathedral School, as the modern day detectives.
11-year-old Jon is packed off to board at his father’s old school. He feels it’s because his stepfather has taken over his mother’s affections, and he is very angry. That’s until he meets some ghosts in the middle of the night. They appear to have it in for him, saying they will kill all Hartgills (his mother’s maiden name).
He can’t tell people that he really saw ghosts, but one girl, Ella, seems to believe him without him saying anything. Together they find someone to protect Jon, and they work out ways to defeat the would-be ghostly killers. It all proves to be more effective than any history lesson could possibly be.
And there are a few surprises in the midst of their adventure, too. Don’t judge people too hastily.
It has just the right amount of spooky not to be too frightening, but is a little scary, nevertheless.
The one thing it doesn’t manage is the Englishness of the setting. There is no sense of the (unavoidable) class system in such a grand public school. I’m not sure the plot would have worked if there had been. Andrea Offermann’s illustrations are fantastic, but that is no English Cathedral Close. And those are not the uniforms you’d expect.
But I can see how thousands of children will want to flock to Salisbury to look at its dead knights, and some of them will probably want to go to boarding school, too. I know I would have.