Please give a warm welcome to author, Susanna Kearsley!
|The House that I rented in Wales|
One of my great-grandmothers was a Spiritualist. A formidable woman, she attended the Spiritualist Church and séances when both these things were popular. I never met her, but I wish I had, because I’ll bet she had some stories about ghosts she could have shared.
I have three, myself, though I’ll admit they’re pretty tame. No moving furniture, no warning apparitions, nothing overly dramatic—and in fact, all three could be put down to my imagination. After all, we writers frequently imagine things. It’s what we do. But still, I like my ghost stories. I like the thought that maybe there’s a little more to this world than we’re able to explain.
When I was young, my mother owned a bookshop in our town. She and my father bought a little, old white house, right on the main street, and made the two front rooms the bookshop, while the back remained a private office area. A set of musty cellar steps led down from the back kitchen to the basement, with its bare bulb and its whitewashed old stone walls. And in that basement was a Cold Spot, like a draught. Except it moved. I’d walk right through it, and then turn around again to find it gone, only to walk through it a moment later, someplace else. I never liked that basement. I could sprint up those old stairs in record time, not looking back, for fear the ghost (for I’d decided that it had to be a ghost that made the Cold Spot) might be behind me. And although I missed the books, I have to say I wasn’t all that sorry when we sold the bookshop.
In the winter I turned 31, I had a rented house in Wales—the house I set Named of the Dragon in, the book that I was writing at the time. It was an ancient farmhouse, in a row of three, with a half-ruined castle tower only steps from my front door. I loved that house. There were three bedrooms upstairs, but I found that I could only sleep in one. And I had the sensation there was Something in the house with me. At night, I sometimes heard what I felt sure were footsteps walking down the corridor, and past my bedroom door, as if someone were making sure that house was all secure, the way my father always did when I was little. It might have only been the wind. The wind on the Welsh coast is something wicked. But on nights when I heard those patrolling footsteps, I stayed quiet in my room, and turned my back towards the door, just to be safe.
The final, and most recent brush I’ve had with something unexplained happened, again, at an old house, where I was staying with a group of other writers for the weekend. I was working at my laptop, with my back towards the room, when without any warning every hair rose on the back of my neck, just the way a cat’s does. I was startled, but because the room was empty when I looked around I put it down to my imagination and went back to work. Not fifteen minutes later, all my hackles rose again, this time so sharply that it rattled me enough to turn around and tell the empty air behind me, ‘Cut it OUT.’
I ended up switching my room with a friend who was actually hoping it might be a ghost, because she’d always wanted to see one. She didn’t. We both had good sleeps, in our switched-around rooms, but a few of the other guests had strange encounters with things that went bump in the night, and next morning our hosts said that things had been known to “happen” quite frequently in the room under the one I’d first had. They’d had ghost-busters out, at one point. Good to know.
One great thing about being a writer is that none of what we experience is ever wasted. The cold spot that moved in our old bookshop basement went into The Shadowy Horses, and made a good scene. And my ghostly patrolman in Wales helped create the right sort of an atmosphere while I was reading the proofs of The Shadowy Horses there, putting the finishing touches on my ghostly Sentinel. As for the…well, the whatever-it-was at the weekend retreat, I’m quite sure it will work its way into a story, as well, given time.
But I’d still like to hear my great-grandmother’s tales. Hers would probably put mine to shame. Do you have any shivery ghost stories in your own family?
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