Tag: Ghost

Ghost

The Heebie Jeebies

  ‘Tis the season for ghoulies  and ghosties and long-legged beasties. In the spirit of Halloween, I asked my fellow Missdemeanors to talk about the spookiest place they’ve ever been. Me, the spookiest place I’ve ever been was the Market Square Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson rented a room in the tavern while he studied law with George Wythe. The building’s been restored since then and it operates as a hotel. Rumor has it, Jefferson’s ghost haunts the halls. I didn’t see the late President when I stayed there several years ago but I did have an odd experience. There’s a small front room with chairs and tables and bookcases; a place to gather for conversation with your fellow travelers or to relax with a book. My second night at the tavern, I decided to explore. I headed for the front room but stopped in the hallway just outside, overwhelmed by the sensation that something was in there. No other hotel guests were around and I couldn’t see or hear anyone. I just knew something was in there and that I didn’t want to meet whatever it was. I prefer my spirits in a glass and ghosts on the page, not up close. I hesitated in the hall, telling myself I was being silly, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. In fact, it grew stronger. I turned around and rushed back to my room, glancing behind me to make sure nothing followed me. I locked my door and stayed in for the rest of the night. I went back in the morning but the weird sensation was gone. The front room was just a room. Alison: Oh, good question, Alexia! The first time I remember having actual chills was in a torture chamber in the bowels of some castle in Luxembourg. I was probably about twelve. I’d been to other torture chambers before and hadn’t been particularly moved. What made this chamber different was that someone had painted pictures of both the victim and the torturer along side each device. The torturers all had twinkles in their eyes. I don’t know if they were actually smiling, but it was clear to me they were enjoying themselves. The idea that someone could torture another human being and enjoy it haunted me then and still does today.  Cate: I avoid spooky places because I believe in all that stuff. The scariest place that I’ve ever been was in a park near Amish country, Pennsylvania. My friend and I got lost in the woods. After hiking for five hours and getting more and more lost, we ended up on the highway in bathing suits, at twilight, encircled by a biker gang that didn’t realize we were both twelve years old. We made it back though, thanks to some sheepishly provided directions after we tearfully explained to said biker gang that we were lost kids that just wanted their moms.  My parents had thought we were still at the park watering hole while they packed up with the younger siblings. They didn’t realize that we’d tried to come back six hours earlier. Ahhh… the old days of parenting pre cell phones. My kids have GPS-enabled watches that make calls and can be tracked by my phone. I’m KITT to their Michael. #knightrider. #helicoptermom #technologyrocks  Tracee: Like Cate, I avoid scary places so I don’t have a long list to cull through to find the scariest one. (I absolutely avoid any Haunted House or similarly ‘fake’ scary place!) The scariest experience by far in my life wasn’t about the place per se but what happened. I (still to this day) swear I saw the devil in my childhood bedroom. I was college age at the time and despite my mature viewpoint (ha!) it took me a long time to recover, if that is what you could call it. I won’t bore everyone with the details but it was genuinely terrorizing and I remember each detail with absolute clarity these many decades later. In terms of a scary place… nothing has come close although I have visited quite a few dungeons. There was one in Germany (can’t remember where) that was particularly frightening. They must have had an excellent display of torture equipment! VERY realistic. Robin: I’d say the spookiest place I’ve been was multiple places visited during a “Sinister London” tour I took, led by a drama student. He took us driving and walking through neighborhoods and locations of some seriously creepy historical relevance. One of the spookiest spots was a cell beneath a pub used as a “pauper’s prison.” Between the actor’s dramatic telling of what happened in there, the chill of the night air from a grate in the ceiling that opened to the sidewalk, and an unexplained moaning sound in an empty corner of the cell that the tour leader insisted had nothing to do with him or the tour, our group of 9 quickly diminished as 4 people bailed, too scared to go on. By the time the tour completed it was down to me, my partner and the tour leader. Susan: Generally I try to avoid spooky places, unless I’m on a ghost tour with my fellow Miss Demeanor. But I remember some years ago wandering around the Antietam Battlefield and walking through a creek among the cornfields, if I’m remembering right, and I could almost feel the presence of all the soldiers who’d died there that day. It was a very heavy feeling. Paula: Like Susan, I avoid spooky places, having once been carried screaming out of a haunted house when I was small, and again in my 40s. I kid you not. I was raised in a military family and we moved all the time. There were several times when I walked into a house for the first time   and felt as if I’d lived there before. Or could feel the presence of other spirits. Mostly they were friendly, and didn’t bother me. It was like a sort of déjà vu homecoming. The only place that’s really ever haunted me is Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. We visited that sacred space when I was 10 years old, and I never forgot it. Thinking about it now I still get goosebumps. And say a prayer. Michele: The spookiest place I have ever been is alone in a ten by ten room with no windows in a maximum security reception and diagnostic center, otherwise known as a prison for very bad boys, interviewing a man accused of killing his wife with a shotgun while his toddler watched. I had been appointed by the court to investigate, represent, and make recommendations regarding the best interests of this child. Because I had been a pediatric nurse, I often was appointed in cases regarding children, but this one stands out in my memory, not because of the tragic circumstances. Unfortunately, there are too many cases where children are the secondary victims of their parents’ crimes and misconduct. And I had been around plenty of men and women who had “gone wrong.” But this man made my skin crawl as he laughed at the ridiculous thought he would ever kill his wife, especially when his kid would have full view. I could smell evil and knew he had done just that, and had enjoyed it. Think Clarice interviewing Hannibal Lector. I would rather sleep deep in a dark remote forest alone than be in a room with that man again, even with armed guards two feet away. What’s the spookiest place you’ve ever been? 

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Things that Go Bump in the Night

  I held a book signing last night to celebrate Death in D Minor’s official release day on July 11. Ghosts play important roles in my novels but none showed up for the party. Their loss. The shrimp and grits and the brisket were to die for. In honor of my second book’s entry into the world, I posed a paranormal question to my fellow MissDemeanors. What’s your favorite ghost/scary story?(Alternate question for those who don’t like spooky stuff: Why don’t you like spooky stuff?) Cate Holahan:First off, I will admit that I believe in spirits.  My mom is Jamaican, a culture in which the belief in “duppies,” aka ghosts, is pretty prevalent. As a result, I don’t feel that strange about it. According to family lore, I could see them as a kid (though I might simply have enjoyed telling stories, even then). Plus, I was raised Catholic and believe people have souls that pass on to another plane of existence, so why wouldn’t one or two occasionally drop in?  All that said, I LOVE a good ghost story. I read R.L Stein’s Goosebumps religiously growing up and in a Dark Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz. The one that freaked me out the most was definitely the girl with the ribbon around her neck… let’s just say I wish she didn’t untie that ribbon.  As for present day, my new favorite ghost stories would have to be yours Alexia. I like to think that if any ghost talked to me today, I’d handle it with as much aplomb as Gethsemane.(AG: I didn’t put her up to saying that) Susan Breen:My favorite ghost story is “Afterward” by Edith Wharton. I love that story so much that for years I had my students read it, though I have to confess no one liked it as much as I did, except for one woman, who became a dear friend. I’ve never seen a ghost myself, but I can believe that a person torn away from this life suddenly might leave a part of himself behind. Often I’ve put some sort of supernatural thing in my writing. Michele Dorsey:Generally, I don’t like spooky stuff. Years ago, I read ghost stories to my daughter’s overnight camp companions and scared myself more than them. Then I had the unfortunate experience of reading a very good book while I was bedridden with the flu and was pleasantly distracted by good writing and a great plot. Until I reached the last few pages and the hero walked through a door. I mean through a door. And then some weird twisted ending took place as I threw (and this time I do mean “threw”) the book across the room. I felt cheated by the author who gave no warning of this dimension of the story and it has had me creeped out about fantasy, etc. ever since. But if fairly warned, I’m okay with ghostly stories, and yours, Alexia are gems.       I admit I have had a few “spiritual” moments where I’ve felt the presence of someone no longer with us. Interestingly, the two times I have traveled to Ireland I have felt a presence when I am near ancient stone formations. Another time was during shivasana  (the corpse pose) when I was on my yoga mat. Paula Munier:I admit that ghost stories scare me. But I like them anyway. I had an idea for writing my own ghost story once–long forgotten now–and so I read several. I remember the ones that scared me the most were Stephen King’s Bag of Bones and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. So much so that I abandoned ghost stories altogether until I read Alexia’s work. Now I’m hooked on ghost stories again!(AG: I didn’t put her up to it, either) Tracee de Hahn:I’ve never liked scary stories but that may be because my early grade school baby sitter used to watch the Friday night horror movie with me. I apparently didn’t have nightmares (although there was the unfortunate one about the bodies buried under the house and the ghost looked EXACTLY like my mother. When she came in that night to check on me I was frozen with fear. I never told her since I didn’t want to get my sitter in trouble for letting me stay up late and watch TV).  Growing up I didn’t believe in the paranormal but I also didn’t object to people believing in it/them. That changed when, during a visit home from college, I saw an apparition in my childhood home and it scared me literally stiff for hours. Since then I won’t discount anything. Your Gethsemane books may convert me to being a ghost story reader…. can’t wait to dive into book two this week! Robin Stuart:I love ghost stories, reading them and writing/telling them. The Shining by Stephen King is one of my all-time favorites. I read it in one sitting when I was 12 or 13, much to my parents’ dismay – I stayed up all night to finish it, too scared to sleep. That made a huge impression on me. I wanted to be able to do that, to evoke such strong reactions from my words alone. Hunting for ghosts in machines is one of the things that drew me to cyber forensics. It often feels like a real-life episode of Scooby Doo, an early ghost story influence, where my team and I unmask villains pretending to be something or someone they’re not. What’s your favorite scary story?   

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It's only for research purposes

 My second novel, Death in D Minor, officially premieres tomorrow, July 11. I’ve been busy revising the third book in the series, A Killing in C Sharp, so I haven’t had time to freak out about release day for my sophomore effort. I resisted the urge to repeat my debut novel swag buying frenzy. With Murder in G Major, I put my book cover on everything—hats, t-shirts, posters, calendars, tote bags, mugs, pens, stickers—you get the idea. For Death in D Minor, I limited myself to pens, postcards, bottle opener key rings, and combination flashlight/laser pointers. I’ve scheduled a book signing on July 13, my first official book signing not associated with a conference panel. Stop by if you’re anywhere near Lake Forest, IL. I’ve also been doing research for future novels. When you write about ghosts, research consists of streaming episodes of Ghost Adventures on Sling TV, listening to paranormal podcasts on Stitcher, and—my favorite—listening to M. R. James’s ghost stories on Audible. Montague Rhodes James, a respected medievalist scholar, college provost (King’s College, Cambridge and Eton), and museum director, wrote the most disturbing ghost story I’ve ever read—”Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” The. Most. Disturbing. Ever. I had issues with bed sheets for months after I first read it. (No spoilers in this blog. You’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.) James possessed a gift for turning the disarmingly bucolic English country village into the scene of your darkest nightmare. Think Jane Austen tossed with Stephen King, seasoned with a dash of razor-edged satire on the English academic establishment. And a sprinkling of golf jokes. James pokes fun of golfers a lot. His biography attracted me to his ghost stories as much as his writing style. I’m looking at a photo of the man as I write this. He looks like you’d expect an antiquarian scholar/college administrator to look: conservative haircut, receding hair line, wire-rimmed glasses, appropriately stern look. The son of Anglican clergy and a naval officer’s daughter, he had what sounds like a well-adjusted childhood, an excellent education, and a satisfactory career. He never married, spent most of his adult life in an academic setting, and won an Order of Merit. No reports of family dysfunction, childhood traumas, scandals, nervous breakdowns, or any of the other drama so often associated with authors of dark fiction. The mind that translated the Apocrypha and, according to Wikipedia, wrote a Latin hagiography of Aethelbert II of East Anglia also penned dozens of tales featuring cursed objects, demonic creatures, and horrible deaths. The normalcy of the man who wrote such paranormal tales makes the stories seem all the creepier. Still waters run deep.  The best thing about James’s stories? He read them aloud as Christmas presents to friends and students. Christmas presents! No socks or puddings from Professor James. Oh no. How about a demonic painting found in an old book in a church library? Field glasses made from human bones? A killer ash tree?This aspect of his stories—their oral presentation—inspired me to take the advice given in the introduction to a volume of his collected works to experience the stories the way they were meant to be experienced and listen to someone read them. I started with You Tube where I found a surprising collection of audiobooks. Then I discovered Audible. With Audible, I could not only listen to James’s stories, I could listen to them read by Derek Jacobi and David Suchet. And never again look at the English countryside—or a sedate college don—the same. (Images public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

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