Saturday, 31 October 2015

Share a Scare - Spooky tales - Halloween Blog Hop 2015 + Trick-or-Treat Blog Hop

Welcome to Share a Scare - the Halloween Blog Hop 2015. Today I am here to share with you a scary story.

So to my scary story. This is a fictionalised account of something that happened to my husband, Rob, while on a business trip. His family have a habit of coming across the supernatural. I have changed the names of people and places 'to protect the innocent' :).

Late Rooms
by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Rich rubbed the spot between his eyes after he slowed and turned into the driveway, pushing his glasses back up his nose and looking up at the huge stately home. It was impressive even in his ready to fall asleep state. This place had been a real find when hurrying to book a last minute place to stay. It looked like it should be on a biscuit tin, not offering £40 a night rooms to travellers who had waited until the last moment to book.

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Or maybe that should have been on the cover of an M.R. James novel as he drove round a curve in the sweeping drive to catch a glimpse of a side of the building that was not lit up with flood lights. It had 'atmospheric' down to a tee.

It was a beautiful building, but Rich was far too tired to worry about aesthetics. The drive up had been long and the traffic a nightmare and all he wanted to do was fall into bed and get some well needed sleep. He did, however, manage to raise a smile as he found a parking space right next to the entrance to the big old building. Occasionally it actually paid to be arriving after everything that could possibly be happening at a hotel was over for the night.

Turning off the engine, Rich yawned, rubbed his face and then dragged his aching body out of the car. It felt like he had been sat for a week, not five hours. Next time he was going to stop halfway for dinner, he promised himself.

It was only an overnight stay so he grabbed his laptop bag from the boot. It had everything he needed for the night stuffed into it, as well as the only valuable thing in the car. The hotel didn't look like the kind of place people habitually tried to break into cars at night, but you never could tell. Throwing the bag over his right shoulder he trudged towards the main door, gravel crunching under his feet with every step.

The air was misting in front of his face as he breathed out; there was going to be frost overnight he was sure. Down south it was still in the in between stage that didn't really know if it was Autumn or Winter, but this much further north it had already decided and there was a chill in the air. He regretted not putting his coat on before getting out of the car. With the cold waking him up a little, he put on a burst of speed to make it inside.

Thankfully, as he walked through the large oak doors with their glass panels and big brass handles a lovely wave of heat hit him. There was a large radiator just inside the entrance and an over door heater pushing down a warm curtain of air.

For a moment he stood there, just getting his bearings. It was good to see that the hotel looked as nice on the inside as it did on the outside. Everything had a very Gothic feel to it, but it was clear the whole place had been renovated in the not too distant past. Not that he really cared about the décor as long as the bed was comfortable.

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There was no one at reception when Rich walked up to it, but then he hadn't really expected there to be. Instead there was a nicely carved sign in front of a well disguised electronic bell that said: "Please ring for the night porter."

Rich did as asked and waited.

A few moments later a smartly dressed young woman appeared from one of the back rooms.

"Good evening," she said, "how may I help you?"

"I have a room booked," Rich said, "under the name Duggan."

The young woman tapped on a touch screen that Rich couldn't see properly and smiled again.

"Yes, of course, Mr Duggan," she said, "everything is ready for you. I hope your journey up was pleasant."

"It was awful," he replied, smiling to take the bite out of his words, "but I am very glad to be here."

"If you would just sign here," she offered him a piece of paper, which he duly scribbled his name on.

Rich just wanted to get to his room as quickly as possible. The young woman, put the paper away, typed something in the computer and then picked up a key-card that must have been pre-programmed, before coming out from behind the desk.

"If you'll follow me I'll show you to your room," she said. "The corridors are a little maze like if you haven't been here before and I'm afraid we have a little walk. Do you have any more luggage?"

"Nope, this is it, thanks," he replied and they set off.

It was indeed something of a maze as they went up some stairs, round several corners, then up a major staircase, along another corridor, through some hallway fire doors, down two more short flights of stairs in quick succession and finally made it to his room.

"This is it," she said, slipping the card into the lock and pushing the door open for him. "Breakfast is served from seven thirty in the Lancing Suite, which is back the way we came to the main staircase, then on along that corridor; you can't miss it."

"Thank you," he replied as she handed him the key-card.

"Sleep well," she said and walked back the way she had come, her step a lot faster than the way they had arrived.

It almost looked like she was hurrying, but Rich shook his head and decided he really needed some sleep.

His eye caught sight of a panel on the door as he started to walk in, it said "Alice's Room". He turned to ask the young woman who Alice was, but when he looked she was already disappearing through the next set of fire doors.

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Wondering if they had an Alice in Wonderland theme or something to help remember room numbers he pushed his way into the room and, when he set eyes on it, all he really cared about was the large bed right in the centre of the room. It was tempting just to dump everything, strip his clothes off and sleep, but he knew he'd regret it in the morning. He went with the dumping most things, including his jacket and most of his clothes, then grabbed his toothbrush and used the facilities as quickly as he possibly could.

The bed felt amazing as he climbed in and used his feet to kick up the duvet at the end. He never understood why hotels insisted on tucking in duvets under the mattress; it made no sense. There was a reason they weren't sheets.

The air in the room was not modern hotel room warm, it had dark oak beams and plaster walls which did not a cosy room make, but he always overheated in those type of places anyway. The duvet was thick and he snuggled under it quickly. It was just how he liked it. At which point he promptly fell asleep.

It felt like no time at all when something woke him.

He climbed from a weird dream about cats to reality over the course of a few seconds until his brain realised he was awake. However, he did not open his eyes.

At first he wasn't sure why, but a feeling of unease stopped him looking around.

He was still mostly under the covers, with the duvet up over his nose, but his forehead felt really cold, as if the heating had failed completely. Normally he would have turned over, buried himself further under the covers and been done with it, but he stayed very still. It was totally irrational, but he felt as if he was being watched.

The idea that if he moved something would reach out and grab him, or worse yet, make him open his eyes, settled in his brain for no reason he could fathom. It was ridiculous, but it kept him motionless. Keeping his eyes firmly shut, he strained his ears, listening for any possible sound in the room. There was the gurgle of a pipe, the low buzz of a light bulb in the corridor that needed changing, the gentle breath of the heater under the window, that didn't seem to be touching the cold around his head. Nothing unusual about the sounds and yet they only went to increase his anxiety.

For a few moments he considered reaching over and turning on the light. Light always made things better. Unfortunately that would mean sticking his arm out of the safe cocoon of the duvet into the cold unknown. What if he touched something? Even worse, what if he turned on the light and actually saw something?

He knew very well that most people would have laughed at him, but he was almost positive there was something there. He couldn't say he had ever seen a ghost himself, but he'd felt them and heard them and his family had a nasty habit of finding them in places where they lived. The fear was irrational since he'd also never heard of anyone he knew being hurt by a phantom, but he couldn't help it. He definitely did not want to meet a former occupant of the room.

When a breath of icy air brushed over his forehead he had had enough. It seemed even at thirty seven he could hide under the duvet like he was nine.

The moment he stopped moving he strained to hear anything. Given how hard he was breathing, even though he had done very little to cause it, he really couldn't hear anything except that. It was isolating and made him want to curl up in a little ball. He did manage to stop himself doing that, however.

For long minutes he just lay there, listening, feeling ridiculous, but totally unable to stop himself. There was no way he could go back to sleep and all he could do was stare into the safe darkness under the duvet.

It seemed to take forever, but gradually the feeling of fear began to ebb. His heart rate evened out, his breathing slowed and, bit by bit he calmed until he was lying there feeling like a right prat.

Very carefully he put his fingers up over the edge of the covers. The air was back to its usual temperature. Even so, he pulled the duvet down millimetre by millimetre until he could peer into the room. It was dark, but there was a little light through the curtains and under the main door and all he could see was a perfectly ordinary hotel room.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned over and tried to go back to sleep. He wasn't stupid though, he tucked the duvet right up over his nose again, just in case his visitor decided to come back.

It was definitely not the most restful night's sleep Rich had ever had. In fact by five he was wide awake and up and dressed and using his phone. He looked up the history of the hotel and the first thing he found was the hotel on a Haunted Hotels website. Apparently Alice's Room was the place to stay if you wanted a close encounter.

According to the site, Alice had been a daughter of the family who had built the house originally. She had killed herself by jumping from an attic window after being spurned by her lover for another woman. The description said she liked to visit male quests and stare at them, and sometimes she would treat female guests to hair pulling or cover stealing. Rich was very glad he was a man.

If he ever came this way again, he was not stopping in Alice's Room for love or money.


Today my sister and I are also participating in this hop over at Wittegen Press, where there is a free spooky book for all our visitors to download. From tomorrow (1st Nov) it will be for sale, but if you want it FREE - go GET IT NOW :). Wittegen Press - Share a Scare - Free Fiction - Halloween Blog Hop 2015

Share a Scare participants:

Today we are also part of The Trick-or-Treat Blog Hop - where the idea is to give away books instead of candy to those who comment.
Trick or Treat Blog Hop
  The Trick-or-Treat Blog Hop

These are the book I have on offer - I can send either a Smashwords code (means you will be able to redownload the file if you ever lose it - ePub, Kindle, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt) or the book file directly (Kindle, ePub, PDF). Please let me know what you would like when you comment as well as the book title you are requesting (click the book image to visit the full book listing). I will also need an email address for sending books files directly. (If you don't want to leave your email addie in the comments you can always use the contact form in the left side menu col).
Face of the Dead The Beginning Book of Darkness Cursed
In the Event
of Death
When Darkness

Trick-or-Treat participants:

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Fangs and Claws and Spooks - Oh My! - #WriterlyWednesdays 13

I suppose it is very fitting that Writerly Wednesdays 13 is the Wednesday before Halloween :). Today I have decided to talk about a selection of my favourite horror/paranormal novels.

Fangs and Claws and Spooks - Oh My!

So I have been reading horror and paranormal fiction since I was a teenager and it is has produced some of my favourite books. These are the books I go back to and read over and over again and I would like to share them with you today.

Let's start with vampires, because we all know they are my favourite.

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Lestat, ultimate vampire bad boy, has become a rock star and his music has woken Akasha, the original vampire. Now she is killing vampires and humans alike and she wants Lestat for her prince.

I love this book for its complexity. I really enjoy the tale of the twins and the explanation of the origin of vampires along with all the modern day adventures. Where Interview with the Vampire is a rather depressed book, Queen of the Damned is very much not and is an exciting read. It is my favourite of the Vampire Chronicles.

Salem's Lot by Stephen King

Salem's Lot is a small New England town, not really very remarkable until people start hiding away in the dark, emptying the streets during the day.

I've mentioned this book before and my copy of it is so old and battered you can't even read the cover any more. I love the insidious nature of the vampires in this book. They are not suave, sophisticated infiltrators, they are monsters that slowly take over the whole town. They are a disease that spreads from one person to the next until there are barely any people left to confront them.
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter by Laurell K. Hamilton

Vampires call Anita Blake the Executioner, but now vampires have equal rights she has to do everything via the law. She's seen the victims.

In book 1 a serial killer is targeting vampires and Anita finds herself on the other side of the game as Jean-Claude asks her to find out who it doing it.

I love that the first book is called Guilty Pleasures, because this series is just that for me. The first few books are much more paranormal crime books, but Anita's personal life soon becomes far more important to the series and there is a lot of sex going on with lots of different people. There is a whole preternatural community in these books with shifters, vampires and other monsters. That's the part I love - the complexity of their interactions.

Talking of shifters, my next favourite is all about werewolves.

The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon

Michael Gallatin is an agent for the British Secret Service during World War II. Originally from Russia his parents were killed by Bolsheviks and he escaped when he was adopted into a pack of werewolves. Now he has to unravel a mysterious German plan called Iron Fist that threatens the D-Day landings.

This is easily my favourite werewolf book. I am reading it again now, actually. I mentioned it back in my werewolf post, but I have no qualms mentioning it again because it is that good :). It is exciting, the characters are engaging and I love the werewolf lore.
Now we're moving on the ghosts, because who doesn't love a good ghost story?

 The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Arthur Kipps is sent to wrap up the estate of Mrs Alice Drablow at Eel Marsh House. Little does he know that his presence will arouse the ghost of The Woman in Black.

This is a brilliant, brilliant ghost story in the traditional vein. It is truly creepy and every version of the story, book, play, tv, film end differently. If you want a book that will leave you sitting with the light on, this is it.
The Fog by Dennis Etchinson

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Antonio Bay is about to celebrate it's 100th aniversary. However, the town was built with blood money and those killed for it are coming back to seek their revenge. They are in the fog.

Now this one is actually the novelisation of the movie, The Fog, but it is so well written. I spent ages trying to find it, because, as far as I can tell it's out of print. When a paperback version is £20 you know its not a common book. I actually managed to get my copy for £2 :).

I love the story of The Fog - it is so very, very creepy. Things lurking in thick fog to skewer people with hooks gets me every time. The book is a great read and does justice to the film.

I admit I am a picky reader, many books do not grab me, so when I find some that do I treasure them. These are a few of my favourites. If you haven't read them, I heartily recommend them. If you have, do drop me a comment to tell me what you thought of the ones you have read.

What are your favourite horror/paranormal titles and why?

The Share a Scare Halloween Blog Hop will run on the 31st October as you would expect, and there is still time to sign up.

Have something a little bit scary to share? All bloggers, authors and artists welcome. Just click the link to see all the details:

Authors might also be interested in this blog hop. The Trick-or-Treat blog hop is run by the lovely Patricia Lynne and the idea is to give away free books to trick-or-treaters visiting your blog.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Listen to Your Body - It Knows Best - #TipsTuesdays 10

Welcome to Tips Tuesdays, where each week I impart some wisdom I have picked up over the years, or maybe just yesterday when I read an interesting article online :) Today I wish to talk about listening to what your body it telling you.

Listen to Your Body - It Knows Best

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The human body is an amazing thing - it has early warning signals for so many occasions. Unfortunately the human brain is able to override these signals or ignore them completely and sometimes that is a very bad idea. The first section of my post today is about something that happened to me recently which launched this topic in my head, and the second section is more general things that it is always good to look out for, especially for we computer users.

The Wall

So I had a new experience on Saturday during my session with my personal trainer Steve. For the last few days I have been suffering with an inner ear imbalance. Unfortunately it happens sometimes when I get a mild cold it doesn't come out as sniffles, it goes to my sinuses and my ears and sets off my balance. Every time I change aspect from vertical to horizontal or vice versa the world spins - lovely!

I thought I was fine apart from that and went ahead with my session anyway. My warm up felt a lot harder than usual, but I thought it was just because I was having to be careful with my ear.

Steve was incredibly good after I told him, he made sure to pick exercises where if my balance went it wouldn't be a problem and kept making sure I was okay and taking it easier than usual. He passed on the immortal words "Remember it's your body, no one else can tell you if you're okay to keep going".

I should have listened to my body.

There was this one exercise in the new circuit which is a compound exercise. These are exercises that use lots of different muscle groups and are very good for keeping the heart rate up during a circuit. The only snag is I couldn't do the easier one Steve wanted me to try first because it required balance and ankles that work better than mine. We tried adapting it, but it was no go. So the only one I could do is really hard: 1 push-up and then stand up and then down and back into another push-up. This is difficult because it sends blood flow all over the place and makes the heart work hard.

The first go through I managed 12, but I had to sit down afterwards for quite a while. I should have known then it was time to stop, but I pushed on.

On the second go through of the circuit I did 1 of those (Steve had told me I didn't have to do any if I couldn't manage, but I was trying to be stubborn) and when I stood up I was suddenly very short of breath. This was not because I was winded, it was because I was suddenly trying not to cry. You know when you want to sob and you're trying to stop yourself and you get all short of breath - it was that. I burst into tears for no reason my brain could fathom. I wasn't sad or anything, but I went from normal to a shaking, blubbering wreck in the space of a few seconds. It was thoroughly bizarre.

It seems I had pushed myself too far and maybe the virus setting my ear off was affecting me more than I suspected. I didn't listen to the warning signs and my body finally went 'NOPE!'

Don't worry, I was fine after a warm shower and a nice cup of tea, but I have to say that was one of the strangest experiences ever. It's really weird to be crying your eyes out for no reason you can fathom.

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I must stress, none of it was Steve's fault. He kept asking me if I was okay all the way through the session and encouraged me to rest when I needed it, I was just determined and my body wasn't up to it.

From now on I will listen to what my body is telling me. I knew all the way through my session that something was up; it wasn't the normal 'oh this is hard, but I'm actually enjoying it' - every exercise was dragging me down. I should have paid attention.

Some More General Indicators to Look Out For In Other Situations

So it isn't just exercise that causes reactions in us that we often choose to ignore.
  • Are your shoulders tense? Have you been sitting in front of the computer too long?
    Get up, walk around a bit, shake the tension out of your shoulders, your nerves will thank you for it.
  • Is your wrist aching when you use your mouse?
    You might need an ergonomic mouse of some kind which puts a lot less stress on the wrists and fingers. Normal mice cause the wrist to twist, ergonomic mice do not.
  • Do your fingers and hands ache?
    This could be early signs of tendinitis or carpal tunnel - when my husband had this problem our doctor told him to get a large ball - basket ball or soccer ball - and then toss it around a bit every time his hands started to ache. Because the ball is large it causes the hands to stretch and keeps the tendons mobile. This youtube vid gives some more exercises that help:
  • Are your eyes tired or do you have a very mild headache? Have you looked up from the computer in the last hour?
    Your eyes need to rest and looking long distance helps - just stare out the window for a few minutes. Do this every twenty minutes or so to give your eyes a break. If you are getting prolonged headaches when doing computer work it is probably a good idea to have your eyes checked - you may need (new) glasses.
  • Are you feeling hungry?
    Try having a drink of water or a nice cup of tea - sometimes the body confuses thirst with hunger and you could be slightly dehydrated. If you are still feeling hungry, congratulations, you actually are, so go eat something - preferably something good for you. Remember as well to eat slowly - the body knows when it's full, but it takes time for the signals to get through to the brain, if you eat slower you will eat less.
The human body is pretty brilliant, but I think, sometimes we forget to listen to it.

Do you have any tips on listening to bodily warning signs? Have you ever had an incident like I did?

Still pimping out the Share a Scare Halloween Blog Hop. It will run on the 31st October as you would expect, but now is the time to sign up.

Have something a little bit scary to share? All bloggers, authors and artists welcome. Just click the link to see all the details:

And here's another wonderful blog hop all you authors might be interested in. The Trick-or-Treat blog hop is run by the lovely Patricia Lynne and the idea is to give away free books to trick-or-treaters visiting your blog.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Dracula - The Prince of D̶a̶r̶k̶n̶e̶s̶s̶ Halloween #MonsterMondays 23

Welcome to this week's Monster Monday - for the run up to Halloween I am doing classic monsters and today I have chosen the suavest monster on the block - of course, Dracula.
Monster Mondays posts may be fiction, film reviews, book reviews or me waxing lyrical about a particular monster. Monsters can be paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy or even simply human. So basically, anything monster goes. I also invite anyone who would like to, to join in with their own post. (See end for details).
Dracula - The Prince of Darkness Halloween
Christopher Lee in Hammer's Dracula (1958)
Dracula is possibly the most famous vampire there is and he has been filmed in so many incarnations and been used in so many books that it's hard to remember what the original story actually is. No, really, I have seen so many film adaptations of Dracula and it's so long ago that I read the book, that I honestly can't remember what is book canon a la Stoker and what is from all the movies.
Bela Lugosi in Universal's Dracula (1931)
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It is Bela Lugosi we have to thank for cementing the idea that Dracula wears a tuxedo and cape into the minds of the populous, but it was actually started in the play, adapted by Hamilton Deane, for the London stage and played by Raymond Huntley (source Smithsonian,com). In the book he is said to wear black and when he de-ages he is not the beautiful man we often see on screen these days.

The story of Dracula is very much full of repressed sexuality and the vampire's ability to bring it out. It is easy to see, since he is the most famous vampire, why vampires have become associated with sex. In many vampire legends, vampires are unclean, decaying dead things that return to suck the life from the living, but Dracula makes becoming undead seem so much more palatable.

I have two favourite adaptations of Dracula:

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula (1992)
I remember when this film came out and I loved it from the moment I first saw it in the cinema. It's incredibly beautiful to begin with and I love the choices Francis Ford Coppola made for the plot and the direction of the characters. Yes, Keanu Reeves is one of the most wooden Jonathan Harkers ever (not one of his finest roles in MHO), but I still love him in it and Gary Oldman is simply wonderful.

There is no denying that this one's all about sex as well as blood. I love Lucy especially and the way her death scene is filmed it utterly magnificent. There are a few points in the movie where I do laugh for the wrong reasons, but it's so beautiful I can forgive it those.

Dracula (1979)
Frank Langella as Dracula (1979)
I love this film, even though I do want to brain some of the characters repeatedly. This is the first version of Dracula I remember seeing and the one I didn't get to see the end of for a very long time. I'm sure some of you will have heard me mention the whole screaming incident. When we first tried to watch this it was on TV and Soph and I could not have been more than 9 or 10 and when Dracula comes down the outside of the house and flicks at the lead in the window with his fingers, Soph started screaming and refused to stop until it was turned off. It was years later I finally got to see it.

The story in this one has been messed around with a lot, but I think it still works. It's Lucy who is seduced and taken over, rather than Mina, who takes Lucy's role from the book, succumbing to the curse of the vampire after she dies. Mina's vampire form is possibly the most horrific thing in the entire movie.
Jan Francis as Mina Harker, Dracula (1979)
That image of her has stuck with me ever since I finally managed to reach that point in the film.

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Trevor Eve is the most annoying Jonathan Harker ever and I spend most of the movie wanting to brain him with something heavy, but Sir Laurence Olivier is fantastic as Abraham Van Helsing and Kate Helligan gives a great performance as independent Lucy Westenra.

I finally upgraded my copy of this to blu-ray, so I can see all the lovely details.

Other honourable mentions go to Dracula 2000 and Dracula Untold, both of which I also love and of course to the great Christopher Lee in all the Hammer films. How one man can dominate a film mostly by just standing there is amazing.

The fact that one character can have so many incarnations and spark so many spin-off ideas is brilliant. From The Drak Pack to Jonathan Rhys Myers in the 2013 series of Dracula there are so many version of this iconic character. This has to say something for the legend. Good luck to all you wearers of fake fangs and satin cloaks this Halloween, I hope you have a great time.

Which is your favourite version of Dracula?

The Share a Scare Halloween Blog Hop will run on the 31st October as you would expect, and there is still time to sign up.

Have something a little bit scary to share? All bloggers, authors and artists welcome. Just click the link to see all the details:

Authors might also be interested in this blog hop. The Trick-or-Treat blog hop is run by the lovely Patricia Lynne and the idea is to give away free books to trick-or-treaters visiting your blog.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Do You Believe in Ghosts? #ThinkyThursdays 7

Having seen Crimson Peak this week (Crimson Peak review is here) what I am mostly thinking about is Tom Hiddleston's lovely bottom, but also ghosts, hence today's topic ;).

Do You Believe in Ghosts?
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
Ghosts are often something of a dividing topic. There are those who firmly believe, those who aren't sure and those who definitely do not believe. I am in the first camp, but I totally respect those of other views because, lets face it, the evidence is all very hand wavy.

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I am of the opinion that ghosts exist because I have had ghostly experiences. For example, until very recently our house was haunted by the ghost of the previous occupant (I shall not mention names). I'm not sure if she's moved on now or if she is just not interacting with us, but there have been no signs for a while. What are these encounters I hear you ask.

First off, I will say we have never seen her, but we have heard her and she has done things.

The Lights

When we first had the attic converted we put the light switch at the bottom of the stairs in what used to originally be the kitchen where there had once been a light switch before the electrics had been redone. We would turn the upstairs light off every night and sometimes, in the morning it would be back on.

I know, you think we just forgot, but it's very hard to forget that in our house because we keep the door to the bedroom open and light from upstairs would make it into our room. Hence we would always know we had forgotten to turn off the light.

Also, when we moved the light switch it stopped happening.

Our Ghost Says Hello

One day when Rob was outside doing something out front, the son of the lady who used to live in our house stopped while he was going by to say hello. Rob spent quite a lot of time talking to him. This seemed to get our ghost very excited because she said hello to both Rob and I at different times.

There have been other things as well with other people, but I shalln't go in to them. They can comment and add their own if they see this.
1919 picture of an RAF squadron from WWI
Freddy Jackson (the man in the circle) had
been killed two days before the photo.
I also had ghostly experiences as a child at the Rectory in Wittersham. We lived there for around 8 years from when Soph and I were four to when we were nearly twelve. It's not even a very old Rectory because the original one was sold off and the new one bought, but it was still haunted.

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It was quite a large house with four bedrooms, one of them being very large (Soph and I shared this one most of the time) and a bathroom and toilet right up one end next to the smallest bedroom. Of course it was this room that was haunted, so a trip to the loo in the middle of the night was very rare :).

My parents never mentioned this when we were living there because they didn't want to spook Soph and I, but we always knew there was something up. Neither of us would ever go upstairs alone unless we absolutely had to and we'd prefer to be outside rather than stay in the house on our own for more than a minute or two.

I tried to have that room as a bedroom once when Soph and I were going through a 'we want our own room' phase. Yep - that didn't last long! It was never anything overt for me, just this feeling that I really, really, really did not like.

My mother said she sometimes heard coughing when there was no one to make the noise.

One of the previous occupants had died of lung cancer and while he didn't actually die in the room, he had spent his final months there before the end came. I don't think he had left yet.

The Doors Have a Mind of Their Own
The most interesting event is something my parents told me about after we had left and occurred in the kitchen. Now the house was very interestingly designed in that there were at least two door to every room downstairs - the kitchen had three, one from the hall, one from the dining room and one out into the small corridor that joined the backdoor, the side door and the garage.

One evening my parents were sitting around the table with a couple of friends having a drink (I assume Soph and I were safely tucked up in bed) when first the door from the hall opened and closed, then, a few seconds later, the door to the small corridor opened and closed. These we not easily opened doors. Mummy always says the face of one of their friends was priceless :).
ghost caught on CCTV opening doors at Hampton Court Palace

I think there is too much evidence for things out there that we do not understand. I'm not sure if they are all the same phenomenon or different things in different places, but I do believe that things survive after death. After all we are all made of energy and energy cannot be made or destroyed, just changed in form. Maybe ghosts are simply life in a different form, or echoes of where people and things once were.

So are you a believer? Have you seen a ghost, heard a ghost, or just had a weird experience?

The Share a Scare Halloween Blog Hop will run on the 31st October as you would expect, but now is the time to sign up.

Have something a little bit scary to share? All bloggers, authors and artists welcome. Just click the link to see all the details:

Authors might also be interested in this blog hop. The Trick-or-Treat blog hop is run by the lovely Patricia Lynne and the idea is to give away free books to trick-or-treaters visiting your blog.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Review - Crimson Peak - Cinematic Brilliance

I should really wait for Friday to do this review, since it's a fandom kind of thing, but I can't - Crimson Peak was so good I have to tell everyone right now :). This review is going to as spoiler free as I can make it.

Crimson Peak - Cinematic Brilliance

Title: Crimson Peak
UK Rating: 15
Mia Wasikowska ... Edith Cushing
Jessica Chastain ... Lucille Sharpe
Tom Hiddleston ... Thomas Sharpe
Charlie Hunnam ... Dr. Alan McMichael
Jim Beaver ... Carter Cushing
Edith, an aspiring author and independent young woman, with the ability to see ghosts, meets Sir Thomas Sharpe, Baronet, an English gentleman somewhat down on his luck, when he attempts to raise funds for his latest invention with her father. They fall in love and Sharpe takes her back to his home in England, a dilapidated mansion where he lives with his sister, the Lady Lucille. Ghosts and worse await Edith in the old building.

Wittegen Press
$2.99 | £1.99
Amazon | Other
This is an utterly brilliant film. Words cannot begin to express how much I enjoyed it, and for once our little party of cinema goers was unanimous, my husband, my sister and my mother all loved it too (my father refused to come see it - not his type of film :)).

The first thing I have to say is that Guillermo del Toro really is a genius when it comes to creating atmosphere, setting and space. This is an amazing looking film as well as having a great plot. Allerdale Hall, home of the Sharpes is creepy, decaying and yet, somehow grand all at the same time. You can almost feel the chill in your bones as Edith surveys the old, dilapidated building which is now her home. Parts of the building are huge and airy, others as small and vaguely claustrophobic, all specifically to ignite a reaction in the audience.

The costumes are simply wonderful, especially Edith and Lucille. Everything is so beautifully gothic in feel and style and Edith, especially, has the most amazing clothes.

The ghosts are horrid and scary and very, very creepy. The special effects are superb and every ghost is unique and spine tingling in their own way. I think the scariest is right at the beginning when Edith is explaining the first ghost she ever saw; it made me reach for my husband's hand. I have to admit I did spend most of the film with our hand intertwined. This is not an all out horror movie, but it definitely has it's moments of icy fingers fear. Definitely a film in the traditional gothic horror sense, not the modern one of a scare a minute.

Wittegen Press
$1.99 | £1.49
Amazon | Other
Then we have the plot, and it's not exactly difficult to figure out what's going on, but it doesn't matter in the slightest. In fact, because the audience can see what's coming it makes it all the more exciting. The trope is a familiar one and yet del Toro subverts it. If this were a Hammer horror of the 60s then the two men would be the main focus and would do all the hard work, this, however, is a film about two women. Edith and Lucille are by far the driving characters of the story. They are the forces behind it and they are the beginning and the end when it comes to the plot.

Finally we have the cast, who are all excellent. In Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston, you have three people who can all act their way off the screen with just a look. The script is superb, but half the time the three of them could easily have said everything with just a few twitches of lips and widening of eyes. They are all brilliant. Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver are good too, but they're parts don't really take as much nuance as the main three.

Mia Wasikowska is superb as Edith. She is a smart, independent woman who finds herself flustered by the charisma of Sir Thomas Sharp. She never thought to fall in love, and yet she does. However, she is never the damsel in distress. Mia plays her as strong, intelligent and yet vulnerable and, at times, afraid. There was not one second I didn't believe what she was going through.

Then we have Jessica Chastain as Lucille. From the moment you first see her, you know something is not right. It's not overt, but it's in her eyes and her body language. I'm not going to give away the plot, but the way Jessica plays Lucille, the whole plot is written in her look and her stance from the her first frame to her last. She is brilliant.

Of course I couldn't leave the review without mentioning Tom Hiddleston as Sir Thomas. First of all, let's get the shallow part out of the way - he has a very lovely bottom, which is displayed very nicely for a good few seconds ;). He is also brilliant as always. In Tom we have an actor who always throws himself into the role and, no matter who they are and what they have done, somehow makes you sympathise with them on some level. Sir Thomas Sharpe is not a good man and yet I felt sorry for him, a lot. His final scene in the movie is absolutely amazing and I can't tell you why because of spoilers.

This film could so easily have slipped into melodrama - the plot is certainly ripe for it, but it doesn't. Parts of the story are horrible in the true sense of the word, it is very far from a nice plot, but it is presented in such a beautiful and engaging package. I remember seeing Pan's Labyrinth and being shocked by the stark violence in parts of it and Crimson Peak has the same stark approach to real death. There are no Hollywood fight scenes in this film where you can beat someone to a pulp and they just get up again. The blood looks real and so do the injuries. The violence is sparing, but when it comes, it hits you right in the face, how horror should be. There was one scene that actually made my husband squirm - his choice of word, not mine :).

I've already pre-ordered the blu-ray. This is the kind of film that is a keeper.

The Share a Scare Halloween Blog Hop will run on the 31st October as you would expect, but now is the time to sign up.

Have something a little bit scary to share? All bloggers, authors and artists welcome. Just click the link to see all the details:

Authors might also be interested in this blog hop. The Trick-or-Treat blog hop is run by the lovely Patricia Lynne and the idea is to give away free books to trick-or-treaters visiting your blog.