Australia's Historical Places · Ghosts & The Paranormal

Ghost Tour of a Haunted House.

Recently, I re-visited Monte Cristo, Australia’s Most Haunted House and went on a ghost tour. I had visited some years before, but this was the first time I had visited during the evening.

Over dinner, we listened to some history about the house and stories of ghostly encounters by the current owners. Afterwards, we then watched a short film. By this time, it was now completely dark, and we commenced our tour of the house.

We were in a group of around twenty, so there were times when it became a bit cramped and within the first two rooms we visited, it had been uneventful. As we began to progress further throughout the house, some of us began to feel a sudden shift.

Whilst standing in the breakfast room, as our host was speaking there came a loud noise from the room above us, as if someone had dropped something heavy. I looked over at my husband and pointed to the ceiling and he nodded to indicate that he had also heard it. I’m uncertain if anyone else did, as our host was talking at the time and before we left the room, we asked him if he had heard it, which he did not. Remember, we were the only people in the house during this time and we were all standing within the same room.

We were told that some people experience feeling heavy in the legs upon the stairs, and it certainly did feel that way to me. I was having a struggle walking up them and with each step I could feel they were getting heavier, even when we entered what is known as ‘the boy’s room’. This was the room that the original owner, Mr. Crawley, was said to have died in. This room is also the room in which our guide, the current owner’s son, slept in between the ages of five and thirteen. These days he doesn’t like to enter that room and refuses to sleep in the house.

A couple of women later stated that within this room, they felt someone pulling at them, one stating that she felt the bag over her shoulder was being pulled. There was definitely a heavy atmosphere within that room.

The following day, before opening to the public, we were allowed to go through the house and grounds again. Some people had stayed the night and had not experienced anything, but my husband and I slept elsewhere, and we returned early the following morning.

At one point, my husband and I were alone in the house, as the other guests had gone to breakfast. It was at this time, upon entering ‘the boy’s room’, where Mr. Crawley had died, I began to feel something. The heaviness that I had felt the night before came over me again and I sat upon the edge of the bed. The feeling began to climb up my body and around my stomach, almost to the point of feeling nauseous. I felt as if I were being drained. When I stood up, I felt my legs begin to collapse from underneath me and I had to quickly hold on to the bed post for support. During this time, my husband, the skeptic, remained standing nearby with no effect.

About half an hour later, I went in to see the owner’s son and told him what had happened. I informed him the feeling felt as if someone was trying to pull me down into the bed. This he found interesting because he then stated that when some people lie on the bed, they get the feeling that someone is above them, trying to push them down.

Apart from feeling some coolness and smelling cigar smoke in Mrs. Crawley’s chapel room (she used to smoke cigars), this was the strangest thing that had occurred to me during my visit this time to Monte Cristo.

While that feeling came over me when in ‘the boy’s room’, my husband told me that I might be a ‘sensitive’ or ‘empath’. This was something I had considered after our visit to Quarantine Station in Manly. Perhaps now might be a good time to look further into it before venturing on my next ghost tour. 😉

Have you ever visited or lived in a haunted house? Have you experienced something you can not explain? Have you been on a ghost tour? I’d love to hear your stories!

Main image courtesy Pixabay

The Ghost at Willow Creek · The Story Behind the Story

Turning a Poem into a Short Story.

Some years ago, despite not being a big fan of poetry, I tried my hand at writing a few; even going so far as to get a couple of them published in a small publication. I even wrote a bush poem. This bush poem would ultimately go on to become my first published short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek.

Some years ago, while visiting relations on their property, I encountered an old grave of a six-year-old boy. Apparently, he had drowned in a nearby creek during a flood. This child was no relation of ours, but my cousins had planned on doing up the grave and taking care of it. Straight away all sorts of questions came into my head. The writer within me thought of the many hardships encountered by our pioneering women and no sooner had I returned home, but I was jotting down ideas.

The loss of a child had attracted me, for having two children of my own (neither one of them easy births), I became empathetic to the parents of this unknown child, especially the mother. The history and the landscape drew me in, and as it would always seem, my fascination with death and the afterlife. I have always had an interest in graves and cemeteries, often finding inspiration amongst them.

Wednesday Addams at Red Riding Hood’s grave.

As luck would have it, a writing competition soon came up and I thought of writing a bush poem inspired by this piece of history. Before entering, I had even sought the advice of a local poet. After reading my piece, she had suggested that the poem could become a short story. In the back of my mind, I had to agree with this idea because I felt there was more to this story than what could be relayed in a bush poem. In that respect, I was grateful that my poem ultimately, was unsuccessful.

As I wrote The Ghost at Willow Creek, it was not only the death of a young child that got to me, but the effects such a tragic loss would have upon the parents and their marriage. Being a wife and mother, I was following the old writing advice of ‘write what you know’.

The Ghost at Willow Creek is ultimately a story of love, loss and things that go bump in the night. A story my husband labelled my best yet, so I’m pretty happy with that! 😉

Have you ever turned a poem into a story? Do you experiment with different writing styles? Where do you get some of your writing inspiration from?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

The Ghost at Willow Creek

Release Day – The Ghost at Willow Creek.

Today is release day for my first short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek! It is also my first foray into the world of indie publishing!

A child’s death. A grieving mother. Noises in the middle of the night that only she can hear.

Australia, 1886.

Eleanor Mitchell can’t move on after her young son’s death and begins to question her sanity due to noises in the middle of the night of a child at play that only she can hear.

Has Eleanor lost her grip on reality or does she really hear the ghost of her dead son?

‘A beautiful story. Loved it!’ – Annie Seaton

The Ghost at Willow Creek is available as an eBook on Amazon for $2.90AUD, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

If you purchase a copy The Ghost at Willow Creek, please visit me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know so I can thank you personally. Please don’t forget to leave a review.

I hope you enjoy it!

Debbie Johansson xx

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

IWSG · This Writer's Life

IWSG: Becoming an Indie Author.

This month, for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, my insecurity is on high alert. No, let’s be realistic. Make that extreme! My insecurity this month is on an all-time high because this month I become an indie author.

It’s going to take some time to get used to calling myself that. Despite blogging and being on other forms of social media, I’ve become used to being a writer with no real deadlines to meet or any form of expectations from others. Pressing that ‘publish’ button now changes things, taking it to a whole new level. Now that I’ve committed, I’m in it for the long haul.

And it’s being committed for the long haul that I know is something I can do. Pursuing a writing career has been my goal since I was ten and I’ve done everything I can to get to this point in time. It’s just the perfectionist in me that is having a bit of a struggle. 😉

When I take a step back and really give the situation some thought, what frightens me the most is what other people will think of my writing. Will they like it or not? This then evokes imposter syndrome. Having spent a lifetime surrounded by negativity, this is what I seem to be struggling with the most. Realistically, I know that what I write is not going to be to everyone’s taste and that’s okay; these people are not my ‘tribe’. The trouble is, I am worrying about something that is out of my control. When I stop thinking about that, everything seems fine.

Of-course I’ve thought about the marketing aspect of indie-publishing, but for now, I’ll be sticking with the ‘soft launch’. During this early stage, I’m still learning and there will be some trial and error while I continue to work on my current projects. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different social networks and have now come to stick with the ones I feel the most comfortable with. And this is what I’ve decided I need to do. Do what I feel comfortable doing and take things one day at a time.

My daughter has now finished school, so that marks the end of our school lives. Our household is now entering a new phase. It’s therefore, the perfect time to make the leap into indie-publishing. I’m experiencing a lot of different emotions – nervous anxiety mixed with excitement and relief. I guess I could be feeling like this for some time yet! 😉

There comes a time when one must bite the bullet and say enough is enough. That time for me has finally arrived.

Okay, when I’m not stressing, this is me!

My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek, will be available soon as an eBook through Amazon. I will be posting shortly with further details.

If you are indie published, how did you work through your insecurities? When it comes to writing, do you worry about things out of your control? Do you tend to stick with what you are comfortable with?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy of Unsplash

Australia's Historical Places · Ghosts & The Paranormal

The Ghosts of Monte Cristo.

Some years back, I visited Monte Cristo, Australia’s most haunted house. I visited with my husband and children for the day and even then, managed to have some unusual experiences and may have even caught a spirit on camera.

Next month, as part of my birthday present, I will be returning to Monte Cristo. This time, however, will be for a ghost tour. I’m so excited, I can’t wait! 😊

So, what is it about Monte Cristo that has given it the label of the country’s most haunted house?

Built in 1884, it was the home of rich pastoralist Christopher Crawley and his wife Elizabeth. After his death in 1910, Elizabeth Crawley continued to live in the house until her own death some twenty-three years later. The house eventually became unoccupied for a long period of time, so that thieves, vandals, and the elements almost destroyed it.

The house has a terrible history, including that of a young girl falling from the balcony. It is uncertain whether she committed suicide or was pushed. Another young girl died due to a fall down the stairs. The nanny who was holding the child at the time stated she was pushed from an unseen force. A young stable worker who complained of being too ill to work was burnt to death when his boss set alight the straw mattress on which he lay.

Mr & Mrs Crawley, the original owners of Monte Cristo.

It wasn’t until 1963, when the house was bought by Reg and Olive Ryan, that it came back to life. Only days after moving in, they returned one evening to find lights on in every window in the house. The electricity had not been put on yet and there was one unlit kerosene lamp.

Animals would refuse to enter the house, some dying mysteriously. The sound of a piano being played in the sitting room at night when the room was dark, and empty has been heard. In the drawing-room, objects have been known to have been moved. Visitors have reported encountering figures visiting their bedrooms at night, some being touched or pulled at while they slept. Despite the activity within the house, mediums and sensitives agree that the feeling of evil is strongest at the stables and the dairy.

Some people who visit the house feel the need to leave shortly after they have arrived, others complain of severe headaches. One man said when he arrived, he felt something had attached itself to his chest, and clutched tightly. After the tour of the house, he felt very ill and for several weeks the condition persisted. He eventually saw a doctor who found nothing physically wrong with him and suggested an exorcism. Suddenly one night the pain ceased and whatever it was had left him, yet he could see a faint indistinct form on the other side of the room.

There are many stories of unexplained events, too numerous to mention here, giving Monte Cristo a sinister reputation. It is a popular tourist destination and has been lovingly restored to its former glory by the Ryan family.

Experiencing anything at Monte Cristo that defies explanation is part of its appeal.

Have you visited Monte Cristo? Did you encounter anything unusual? Have you visited a haunted house or ever lived in one?

Books · Gothic Fiction

What Book Made You a Reader?

During my childhood, I would spend most of my time playing out of doors and watching television of an evening, so I never really spent much time reading. It was not until I discovered one book, in particular, that happened to change all of that.

That book was Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. This book would lead me to read within the Gothic genre, as well as horror from Stephen King and mysteries, such as Sherlock Holmes. Combined with my film and television viewing, where my interest was with horror and suspense movies and police dramas, it was inevitable my choice of reading material would be in the same vein.

When I discovered Dragonwyck, I was not looking for that book, let alone a book to read. Before that time, I cannot recall even reading an adult book. I came across this book merely by chance.

Frequently we would holiday down the south coast and it was when I was about ten years old that my parents eventually bought a caravan while we were down there. The previous owners had cleaned the caravan out, however, when perusing the cupboards, I stumbled upon a book lying in one of them. I don’t know if they left it behind intentionally or by accident, but the book title and description caught my interest. I began reading and I was hooked.

I enjoyed the romantic aspects as well as its dark themes, such as family curses, hauntings, and murder. Dragonwyck introduced me to the Gothic genre, and it was also through this book that I became familiar with Edgar Allen Poe.

I knew that Nicholas Van Ryn was a dark and menacing character, but as a child I was unaware of some of these darker topics until I grew up. When I saw him again through adult eyes, I was even more horrified, which only heightened the terror of the novel.

Some years after reading this book for the first time, I happened to come across the film version on television. The film stars Gene Tierney of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir fame, and one of my old favourites, Vincent Price. I only saw it the once, but I do remember the ending of the film version was somewhat different from that of the book, which disappointed me. At the time I was also disappointed with Vincent Price being in the lead male role, but all these years later when I think of it, it seemed appropriate. Now whenever I read the book, I can’t help but hear his voice in the role of Nicholas. Chillling! 😉

There are a number of things I owe to this book, for not only did Dragonwyck make me a reader and introduced me to the Gothic genre, but it cemented my decision at the age of ten, that I wanted to be a writer. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

What book made you a reader? What is your favourite genre to read? Have you ever read Dragonwyck? If you’ve seen the film version starring Vincent Price, what did you think?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Movies/Television

The Horror of Marianne.

Recently, I watched the Netflix horror series Marianne. It has proven to be a much talked-about series on the internet, as well as garnering good reviews.

Famous French horror writer, Emma Larsimon, has decided to put an end to her series with her character Marianne. However, she is soon forced to return to her hometown after an absence of fifteen years. Here, she is confronted with the knowledge that the nightmares from her stories are coming to life.

I like the fact that in this series, the main character of Emma, is a writer. Yes, it has been done in horror before, but part of this attraction comes from the character herself. When we first meet Emma, she comes across as an obnoxious, rude and at times, childish character. However, we do get to see another side to her, so that we start to feel for her.

Like Emma, the rest of the cast of characters is compelling and well-developed. Emma gets to meet her old school friends and we become engaged in their secrets and histories and we get to care about them. There are some dark and disturbing moments throughout this series, which can at times be hard to watch, and it’s because of these relationships between the characters that we remain invested.

Located on a coastal town, the scares are maintained throughout the entire series. There were moments when even I was gripped and wondered what to expect next, but such tension is released with humour. This series even met with Stephen King’s seal of approval (and yes, I’m one of those sickos 😉 )

The cinematography and imagery are wonderful to look at and there is also a great musical score. During one scene, the music reminded me of Halloween and in another scene, the imagery reminded me of It, so there is homage to the classics of the horror genre. And yet, it does have its own unique style. The narrator has a suitably eerie voice and I really like the use of flipped pages of a book to illustrate flashbacks, for example.

Of-course, there is one character above all that really stands out and that is Madame Daugeron, the mother of one of Emma’s schoolfriends. This woman is seriously creepy and is played so well by Mireille Herbstmyer; her facial expressions, combined with the dubbed voice and laugh create some scary scenes. Yes, this show is dubbed in English, although I have heard some people have managed to watch it in original French. I would have loved to have seen that version. Not only do I love the French language, but it would help to get another feel for the series.

The twist ending may come as a surprise however, the narrator does hint at what’s to come. Such an ending means that there is scope for a second season. Given the positive reception, one can hope that we shall see that soon.

Have you watched Marianne? Did you find it scary or did it not grab your attention? What have you been watching recently?