The ghostly figure of a woman dressed in white and sightings of a man on Reigate Heath are among the spooky revelations featured in a new book about Surrey's haunted towns.

Haunted Places of Surrey, published to coincide with Hallowe'en, examines the many ghostly stories attached to the county's towns and villages.

It includes sightings of a woman wearing a white dress, possibly a wedding dress, walking along a footpath outside St Mary's Church in Reigate.

According to the book two women were walking past the church one evening in 1975 when they suddenly heard the sound of a choir singing inside.

Not unusual, you would think, except that it was not choir practice that evening and the church was empty, securely locked and in darkness at the time.

A couple of days later one of the women was walking along Chart Lane adjacent to the church when she saw someone making their way along the path towards the building.

As the woman drew nearer she could she see the figure was that of a woman wearing a white dress. As she got to within a few feet of the figure it faded away.

Another tale featured in the book recounts a story told by an anonymous chronicler in the 1820s of the apparition of a man at a stile on Reigate Heath, which was known as Mad Meads Stile.

The storyteller said the figure of a man was frequently seen by the stile at night and early in the morning by a labourer on his way to and from work.

The labourer told his friends about the ghostly man and they advised him to try and speak to the figure when it next appeared.

Once more the labourer went to the stile and saw the apparition. He bravely asked the ghost why he haunted that spot and the figure replied that he was murdered there by a tinker who was plying his trade in Devon.

The story goes that the tinker thought he would be safe so far away but he was found and brought back to Reigate where he was tried before a Judge Thurland. He confessed, was tried for murder and hung on Reigate Heath. After that the ghost was never seen again.

A search of the records has shown there was a Judge Thurland who lived at a house called Great Doods in the 1660s and was a justice in Reigate. The records do not reveal if a man was tried for murder and executed.

The book's author John Janaway was the senior local studies librarian for Surrey for many years and is author of several local history books.

He believes the stories contained within his book could challenge even the hardest of sceptics.

In the book's foreword he says: "I have come to the conclusion that Surrey must be the most haunted county in England. Over many years my research into the county's history has involved the interpretation of facts revealed through old documents and through memories recalled.

"However, such investigations are really about the lives of those who have peopled the past and, wherever the local historian goes in the present, those people are never far away. Perhaps, they are closer than we think and, as Marconi claimed, they still exist in a parallel world from where occasionally they cross to touch our lives. Whether he was right or not, I leave the reader to decide."

l Haunted Places of Surrey is published by Countryside Books and comes out tomorrow (Thursday) priced £7.99, ISBN number 1 85306 932-9.