Welcome to Halloween week! There will be six guest posts this week, scary stories both real and fictional, so I hope you enjoy.
Real Life Ghost Stories
‘It’s a ghost story,’ I say when people ask about ‘Frost Hollow Hall’, chuffed I can explain my book in under five words. Everyone ‘gets’ what a ghost story is, don’t they?: The Woman in Black, A Christmas Carol, The Lovely Bones, I could go on. We expect graveyards, old houses, locked rooms at the end of corridors, cobwebs, candles, unread letters. And of course, we want to be scared.
Ghost stories are part of our story-telling tradition. Many cultures are rich in tales of the undead, some oral, some written down over time. Traditional ghost stories like The Woman in Black draw on folklore by using identifiable tropes. Other ghost stories are more psychological, focusing not on the apparition but the effect it has on the victim. The Red Room by HG Wells is a great example of this.
As a child, one supposedly ‘real life’ ghost story fascinated me, that of Borley Rectory. The house was built in Essex in 1863 on the site of a 12th century monastery, and was reputed to be ‘the most haunted house in England.’ Legend has it that a monk from the monastery fell in love with a nun from the local convent. The two planned to elope together but were caught. The monk was hanged, the nun bricked up alive in the cellars.
Centuries later, the nun was said to haunt the gardens. She walked along one side of the house and stared in at the windows. There were so many sightings of her the path was re-named ‘Nun’s Walk.’ Inside the house, doorbells reportedly rang non-stop, objects moved by themselves and writing appeared on walls.
By 1937, the poltergeist activity became so intense ghost hunter Harry Price took over the lease of the house to investigate its paranormal activity. Yet all he witnessed was the sound of footsteps. Borley Rectory was destroyed by fire in 1939.
Though I’m old enough to know better nowadays, I still love a good ghost story- what Edith Wharton called ‘the fun of the shudder.’ And I’ve had couple of ghostly experiences of my own. Nine years ago I was seriously ill. A work colleague had just died from a similar disease and one night he visited me in a dream. He sat on my bed, patted my hand and told me I’d be all right.
Another occurrence happens when we visit a certain holiday cottage in Cornwall. The cottage is very old and very lovely; we’ve had brilliant times there. But there’s one upstairs bedroom that completely spooks me out. I won’t sleep in it, just going into it makes the hairs lift on my arms, and at night I can’t walk past it if the door’s open. All I can say is something bad happened in that room, and I’ve no idea what.
In an interview recently, I was asked if I believed in ghosts. I’d say probably. The fact that no-one really knows is part of their appeal, and I for one hope it stays that way.
When I’m not writing books, I work part-time as an English teacher at a secondary school in Devon. It means I’m never far from books or words or writing, which is perfect! As a child, I wrote stories about ponies and pop stars, though not together. Nowadays it’s called fan-fiction; back then it was just weird. After school, I worked as a reporter on a local newspaper. From there I went to university to study English Literature. After backpacking around the Middle East, South America, Australia, I did a PGCE in English and became a teacher.
Many years later, I bought myself a lovely big notebook and some new pens. I enrolled on the MA Writing For Young People at Bath Spa University, and got writing again. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ was started on the MA course. It is my first novel, and took two years and many cups of tea to write.
I live in the Somerset hills with my husband and two Jack Russell terriers.
So do you believe in ghosts?