Ghosts & The Paranormal · Research

Contacting the Dead: The Ouija Board.

Ouija Board. Two words that can send some people to recoil in horror. Realistically, they appear harmless enough, after all it is just a piece of wood containing letters and numbers, but they have been used in numerous horror movies over the years that they can sometimes be seen as instruments of the devil.

Is there any truth in the Ouija Board being an instrument of contacting the dead? In an article on The Weird and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board, the answer to that question remains elusive.

Designed as a parlour game in the late 1890s, the ouija board is now owned by Hasbro, who still market it as such and have even recently put out a Stranger Things edition.

During childhood, my sisters and I once made our own with paper and a glass for a bit of fun, but I don’t think I’d be doing that these days. After watching so many horror movies and television shows regarding the paranormal, I now err on the side of caution. Perhaps it’s warranted, perhaps not. Over the years, the ouija board has managed to have a stigma attached to them.

Sometimes I think about trying one out for the sake of research, other times I think of the bad juju surrounding it and chicken out. Either way, it is certainly an object that has aroused curiosity. 😉

Do you think Ouija Boards can help communicate with the dead or is it just a load of rubbish? Have you ever used a Ouija Board?

Main image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Research · Writing

What’s The Coolest Thing You Ever Had to Research?

When it comes to research there are some things that I would call cool, while others would consider weird. For example, I’m currently doing a plot outline for my next WIP, which involves research into such things as talamaurs and The Hellfire Club. Because I write both paranormal and suspense, well, anything goes I guess!

My stories are usually set some time in the past and as some of them are set during the 1980s, I believe this to be the coolest thing I’ve had to research (so far). In some ways, the rough draft of my first novel goes by the rule of ‘write what you know’, as I spent my teenage years growing up during the 1980s. Naturally, I thought that era was pretty cool. 😉

It’s been fun remembering things like music (some of it not so much), the fashion (again, some of that was pretty horrendous) as well as the progress in technologies, gaming, movies, television and world events. Of-course, things were happening during that time that I had no knowledge of (hey, I was young!), and from doing the research it really helped me remember things I may well have forgotten – especially when it came to a particular year.

One of the reasons why researching the 1980s has been cool is that it has involved my entire family one way or another. It’s been fun for my husband to talk and play games of that time period with the kids. My husband and I have been playing our taste in music (which can cause some debates), as well as watching movies and television shows together. Doing these kinds of things and visiting museums and exhibitions, can make research all the more enjoyable. Whoever said research is boring?

What’s the coolest/weirdest thing you ever had to research for your story? How do you make research fun? Have you included your family in your research projects?

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Image courtesy of Unsplash

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Inspiration · Research

Time Travel: Would You Go Backwards or Forwards in Time?

back-in-time-rose-1706449_1280If I could travel through time, I wouldn’t hesitate in going back in time; reliving my carefree days as a kid or even venturing to a different time period altogether, just for a day. Personally, I wouldn’t care for travelling forwards in time. Having two kids, I naturally worry for their future and I don’t like the way this planet is heading. Besides, travelling to the future takes all the mystery out of it, and I guess I’ll get there eventually. 😉

I’ve always been a sucker for the past. I guess from an early age I continuously romanticised it. Whenever visiting old towns and houses in and around Sydney as a child, I liked to imagine what life was like back then. My childhood fantasies fired my imagination and elicited a life-long interest in history. From the ancients and medieval times to the Victorian era and the 1950s, there were very few periods in history that I didn’t wish to find out more about. I absorbed what the teachers taught us throughout school and I had no hesitation in choosing history subjects at University level as my electives. To travel back in time I hold no illusions though; the days of early medicine before anaesthetics and just being a woman in general was a tough life, but the past fascinates me and we can learn so much from it – there have even been reality television shows based on this very premise.

As a writer, the past has always been an endless source of inspiration for me. Travelling back in time and really living the experience would make the best possible research material for our stories, don’t you think?

If you could travel in time, would you go to the future or the past? Why? Is there a period in history that you like best?

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 Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Postcards from Australia · Research

The Three Sisters & Their Legend.

The setting for some of my stories is based within the Blue Mountains, a National Park, west of Sydney.  I lived there for a number of years with my young family before moving to our current location in the country.  The Australian bush is vast and home to many mysteries, making it an ideal setting for stories.

The Three Sisters are a favourite tourist destination within the Blue Mountains, a unique rock formation, at Echo Point, Katoomba.  People have been known to climb them, but due to their cultural significance to Aborigines, some restrictions have taken place.  Women would give birth in a cave near Echo Point while men would watch the third sister for a sign that the birth had occurred.  It is believed that this third sister is sacred.

When I was a child, I loved reading the story of The Three Sisters.  My copy was a Little Golden Book, which I still have to this day.  This week, I thought I’d share with you this legend.  It is a story of family, love, loss, magic and monsters.

Once, a wise medicine man named Tyawan, was good at imitating the lyre bird and it was rumoured that he could change himself into one if he wanted by using his magic shin-bone.  He had three daughters, named Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo.

One day as he left the girls alone while he hunted, a rock fell over a cliff, waking a bunyip from his 100 year sleep.   Seeing the girls, the bunyip went after them.  Tyawan arrived back in time to point his magic shin-bone at the girls and turned them into stone.  The bunyip chased Tyawan, who turned himself into a lyre-bird, but in his efforts to get away, his magic shin-bone became lost.

The bunyip returned to his cave, but to this day, Tyawan continues to search for his magic shin-bone to turn himself and his three daughters into human form once again.

What was your favourite book to read when you were a child? Do you have a favourite legend? Have you ever visited a place that you only ever read about?

Image of the Three Sisters, Katoomba by Debbie Johansson

Back to the 80s · Research

Horror Movies of the 1980s.

With Halloween just around the corner for my friends in the U.S, thoughts turn towards all things spooky. This month, in order to help celebrate, I’m planning to post accordingly – even with an Australian flavour. I hope you enjoy it!

As I child I grew up watching a lot of movies, rather than curl up with a book (maybe not the best advice for a writer, I know). It was always those that inspired fear that caught my attention the most. The 1980s would have to be one of the best eras when it comes to horror movies. Sure there were some stinkers, yet some have gone on to become classics within the genre. Here is a list of just some of the movies of the 1980s:-

  • Friday the 13th (1980)
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • The Entity (1981)
  • The Howling (1981)
  • Poltergeist (1982)
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  • Aliens (1986) – My personal all-time favourite! 🙂
  • The Fly (1986)
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
  • Predator (1987)
  • Child’s Play (1988)

Of-course, a list of horror movies wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Stephen King. I was introduced to his work during the early 1980s and became hooked. In particular, I was especially drawn towards his short stories. Almost all of his books have been made into movies, demonstrating his talent of coming up with new ideas. Here are some of his books that made it to the big screen back in the 1980s:-

  • The Shining (1980)
  • Christine (1983)
  • Cujo (1983)
  • The Dead Zone (1983)
  • Children of the Corn (1984)
  • Firestarter (1984)
  • Pet Sematary (1989)

What is your favourite horror movie? Do you have a favourite horror movie of the 1980s? What are you doing to prepare yourself for Halloween?

Image of Gremlin by Debbie Johansson.

Research · Up Close & Personal

Communicating with the Dead.

I’ve always had a fascination with death; it was through my father that I learned to appreciate the Egyptian afterlife. Despite a religious upbringing, this was really how I began to question my own mortality and what happens to us after death. It explains my interest in the supernatural, including communicating with the dead.

Some years ago, when I was living with my parents, I encountered something either really weird or something ‘other-worldly’. One day, while I was home alone, the front doorbell rang. I answered the door and nobody was there. I soon forgot about it, until it began to happen during the night. Again nobody was there. It would continue at random, thus waking me up, but it had no effect upon my parents. They would sleep through it all and know nothing about it. Of-course by now I was beginning to think I was going crazy, until one night before we all went to bed the doorbell rang. This time is was persistent, like someone had their finger stuck to the button. Nobody was at the door and nobody up or down the street. On this particular night I was so relieved my parents had heard it as well, finally making my dad pull out the connecting wires. After that event, this never happened again.  Common sense told me there was a fault in the wiring, but I often wondered if it was a message from someone on the other side. Wishful thinking perhaps?

Since that time there have been some other incidences that have made me wonder about the dead communicating with the living. Shortly after the death of my father some years ago, I am convinced I felt his presence one night as I slept.  I did not feel any fear, only surprise and then complete calm, knowing that he had come to say goodbye. My mother-in-law passed away recently during the very early hours of the morning.  Shortly after her passing, my husband was making his breakfast in the kitchen when he could smell smoke. After looking around for the cause he could find nothing, but the smell continued. He believed it was his mother and told himself that she had gone. Shortly thereafter, the smell also disappeared. She had died of a severe case of emphysema caused by smoking.

Within my stories, some of my characters encounter their own experiences with the supernatural.  Here are some of the other ways that the dead can communicate with the living:-

  • Moving objects
  • Flickering lights
  • Through nature
  • Meditation
  • Dreams
  • Visiting a professional medium

Of-course there is also Ouija boards and séances, yet they can invite bad spirits, which is something we don’t want in real life (I think I’ll leave these for my fiction)!

Have you ever communicated with the dead? Did the dead ever try to communicate with you? Have you ever encountered something that you just can’t explain?

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back to the 80s · Research

1985 – The Year that Was.

As writers, we need to undertake a fair amount of research for our stories, although sometimes we can get a bit carried away. The actual writing is delayed either because we’re bogged down in research or because we’re having too much fun.  Fun is certainly where I’ve been at recently!

1985 was a memorable year for me, for a couple of reasons.  It was my last year in High School, where I undertook my exams for my HSC (Higher School Certificate). My future career was based upon those exams, yet I was eager to leave both high school and that particular year behind me (more about that later as it is the inspiration behind one of my YA novels).

The other reason was that towards the end of 1985, I was a bridesmaid at my eldest sister’s wedding (yes, that really is me in the photo at 18 years of age).  I was free of school, free of braces and looked forward to the future!

Here are some of the events that happened around the world during 1985:-

  • Live Aid concerts performed in both London and the U.S to raise money for famine relief.
  • American naturalist Dian Fossey is found murdered in Rwanda.
  • Amadeus wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
  • Back to the Future opens and is the highest grossing film of the year.
  • The Unabomber strikes again, and for the first time causes injury and death.
  • The serial killer known as the Night Stalker is captured.
  • The wreck of the Titanic is found in the North Atlantic.
  • Space shuttle Atlantis takes its first flight.
  • Commodore launches the Amiga personal computer.
  • Nintendo Entertainment System, including Super Mario Bros is released.
  • Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior is bombed and sunk by French agents in Auckland harbour.
  • DNA Fingerprinting is developed in the United Kingdom.

1985 was quite an eventful year and one that began to make some technological breakthroughs.

What do you remember about 1985? Would you like to have been living in the 1980’s? Do you enjoy research? Do you feel so bogged down by research that you don’t get the writing done?

Image by Debbie Johansson.