The haunters and the haunted

Mount mural 001 April 2011

On the weekend of 10-11 May this year, I was staying at the Premier Inn in Liskeard, a recently built ‘motel’ on the outskirts of the town. On the second night, I awoke in the early hours to see what I thought was my partner, T, walking across the room towards the bathroom. The naked figure stopped near my corner of the bed and busied itself doing something (it was too dark to see details). It was at that point that I realised T was still asleep next to me. This is a ghost, then, I thought (not being prone to straightforward hallucinations, but that is another possible explanation), and watched the figure for a minute or two. It stayed in the same place and was still doing whatever-it-was when it faded away.

I’ve had various paranormal experiences during my life, but this was the first time a straightforward ghost/apparition has appeared in front of me. It’s also the first time I’ve been faced with anything like this without being frightened. I felt no malevolence from the figure; it seemed to be doing its own thing, oblivious of me or at the least totally disinterested.

The Inn has no hauntings associated with it as far as I’ve been able to find out and I don’t know what use the land had before the place was built (although it was probably a field, in line with the surrounding area) or the ancient history of it. Old buildings are classically associated with ghosts, but any building or place can, of course, become haunted. Hopefully one day I’ll find out more about what I saw that night; I may well record the incident with the Society for Psychical Research in London and perhaps they’ll have some thoughts on it.

Rebecca Shadow and the Winter House is now in a complete, typed up first draft format. It’s been a long haul to get it to this state and I’m sure there’s plenty of rewriting to do. The title has now been changed to Perihelion; this is the point at which a planet passes closest to the sun on its orbit. It was appropriate, bearing in mind what happens in the story. The ending makes for a darker dark fantasy than I’ve written for a while, although I feel like writing another full-on horror tale, so that’s probably next on the agenda. UPDATE: a story I wrote some time ago, Scar Tissue, was but never quite happy with, is now in the process of being extensively rewritten. I always liked the story, but the angle I was telling it from just wasn’t working. I spent much of last week with my window open, listening to a chaffinch in a tree nearby, which sang constantly every day. Something about the repeating rhythm and pattern put me in the right headspace (similar to listening to various drone/dark ambient recordings), and I think the story – several years in the making – will finally turn out to be just what I wanted it to be.

In late summer I shall be making another trip to Cumbria, to spend a week in the amazing landscape of the north lakes. It means I’ll be able to visit Castlerigg and Long Meg and her Daughters stone circles for the first time and return to Jhonn Balance’s memorial near Bassenthwaite Lake. My 24 hour visit to the area last year left me wanting much more and, of course, having two faulty cameras with me meant that I only got a handful of shots of the entire trip (I had the second film processed recently and it contained a couple of shots taken at Vindolanda museum/Roman army camp – more than I’d been expecting, but still virtually nothing from such a huge trip) – which was a reminder to always be in the present and enjoy an experience, but needless to say I’m very happy to be going back.

Harmonic Sanctuary

Pz Churchyard Headstone Detail

Life in West Cornwall has recently become about planning for storms, hiding from storms and hoping they’ll pass before the windows are blown in or the roof comes off. Like many places, Mounts Bay has taken a battering, with the last two Spring tides and storm force winds combining to smash much of the front between Newlyn and Penzance and hurl huge paving slabs and granite blocks across the Promenade and into the road.

Somehow, no one here has been injured. Many places are faring worse (we still
have power and for that I’m grateful) but it’s a frightening time and some of us are having to adapt our lives somewhat – including the fact that our links with the rest of the UK are now tenuous to say the least. Perhaps one day it will make for some (cathartic) fiction but for now it’s too dreadful to contemplate in that way.

Pz Churchyard Smallpox 2014
Despite all this and the endless disturbed nights hearing the wind thundering
against the building, I’ve been managing to get a fair amount of writing done.
All the stories I wrote last year have been edited and re-written where
necessary and are now with Storylandia. I’ve also massively re-worked Rebecca Shadow and it’s now in a coherent state to continue with, although I suspect it won’t be a quick one to finish, having taken the difficult route and based it in a modern house; atmosphere is far harder to work into this setting rather than a rambling old mansion. Although I’m bearing in mind that one of the more famous alleged poltergeist/hauntings of recent times occurred in a Council house in Enfield, Middlesex, during the 1970s; spirits, malevolent or otherwise, can appear anywhere. I’m enjoying the difficulty, actually, the opportunity to push myself, and the whole point of the story is about how the fantastique can be part of ordinary, even deprived, lives. Seth Lakeman’s new album, Word of Mouth, has provided much of the backdrop to my current work, along with the sounds made by Wind Harps – amazing structures that can be part of a door or window frame or sometimes placed at sacred sites to see what musick they create.

An ossuary, a final resting place for human skeletal remains

Bodmin Gaol

Bodmin Gaol

COLLUSIONS, COLLABORATIONS AND UPDATES: The Urban Occult horror anthology should be published on 25 March 2013. Interest has been stirring amongst horror bloggers about this book and it will be interesting to see how it is received. Pre-release order packages are still available from Anachron Press.

I’ve begun a writing experiment with Lloyd Pettiford, original singer of The Joy of Living and author of texts on Central American politics and football. This is my first joint fiction project and while neither of us have definite plans to get it published – it may well end up as a personal project – the discipline of working with someone else will be a good experience. I have also been back in touch with Andy Martin of London avant-garde/prog outfit Unit, and it’s likely a couple of my stories (Darkworlds and The Falling Man) will be republished on the band’s website in the near future. He also invited me to return to London to do some recording with the band, and had I kept on playing bass guitar I would probably have accepted his kind offer, but I couldn’t now do the band justice.

Meanwhile, Rosanne Rabinowitz, who I shared a stage with at last year’s Penzance Literary Festival, has had her novella (Helen’s Story, from which she read at the festival) published by PS Publishing. She also now has a website up and running.