Australia's Historical Places, Australian Folklore, Ghosts & The Paranormal, Inspiration, Spooky Stories, The Story Behind the Story

The Ghosts of Bungarribee.

I love a good ghost story and I consume as many books on the subject as I can get my hands on. A couple of years ago, while perusing one of our local second-hand book shops, I found another book to add to my collection. It contained a few Australian ghost stories I had never heard of before. One of them, about a haunted house that was once located in Sydney’s western suburbs, would become the inspiration behind my novella The Curse of Marsden Hall.

In 1821, Major John Campbell arrived in Australia with his family, soon buying land around Eastern Creek. At the time, it was believed the site was where a battle between two warring Aboriginal tribes took place, some believing it was a sacred site. These have since been disproven and ‘Bungarribee’ means ‘creek with cockatoos’ or ‘creek with campsite’.

In 1822, the house was convict-built, with some convicts dying during the construction. It is believed that one was murdered there. As the house was nearing completion in 1826, John Campbell’s wife died. The last section of the house, a round drawing-room and tower, began the following year. It was during construction that John Campbell, himself, died less than twelve months later. After his death, the house would change hands many times. Rumours began to spread that the house was cursed, or even haunted; the first reference dating back to 1838.

Legend has it that the next death after the Campbell’s was that of an army officer. It is believed he lost a duel and shot himself in one of the tower rooms, his body in a pool of blood. Another army officer was later found at Bungarribee, his body discovered on the grounds. Apparently seeking refuge and escaping creditors, it is believed the words ‘died of hunger’, were written beside his body.

Bugarribee Homestead during better days.

A number of strange events seem to focus on the circular drawing room and its tower. In the room where the officer shot himself, bloodstains appeared on the floor. Despite the best efforts of housemaids, they would reappear the next day. Muffled sounds, scratching, and scraping would be heard in the tower, as well as the clanking of chains at night. While sleeping in one of the tower rooms, people would wake up feeling cold hands around their necks or be touched.

There have been reported sightings of a young woman, dressed in white, crying outside the circular drawing-room. Sometimes she would be seen clawing at the glass as if trying to gain entry into the room. There are also reported sightings of convict ghosts, lights in the tower rooms (when not occupied at the time), and animals, such as horses, refusing to go near the house.

By 1910, Bungarribee began to deteriorate with age and neglect, and the land was subdivided. By the early 1950s, despite some attempts at restoration, the house was a complete ruin. The Government bought what remained in 1956, and the house was demolished a year later.

Today, the site where the homestead once stood is a public reserve called Heritage Park. The ghost stories of Bungarribee continue to be handed down into folklore.

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First Christmas, Ghosts & The Paranormal, My Books, The Story Behind the Story

‘First Christmas’ is Coming.

Yay, my next book is coming!

Normally, I don’t write anything with a particular theme in mind, but this one has a bit of history behind it. And let’s face it, 2020 has been a pretty crappy year.

Before Christmas, 2019, as part of the Romance Writers of Australia, the aspiring group held a competition. We were given prompts in which to write a 1,500-word short story, which was to be judged and awarded prizes. My short story did not get a prize and I didn’t have a problem with it, as I was stepping out of my comfort zone. I was, however, encouraged by the judge’s feedback: –

‘Such a beautiful, evocative story. An emotion-filled tale that would appeal to many readers who like historical novels too.’

After this, I decided with some hesitation, to enter my first RWA ‘Sweet Treats’ competition. There are three judges to this competition and ‘the third judge’ is well known for being not only the deciding factor, but brutal. I called them ‘the hanging judge’ and the feedback I received was indeed harsh. As a result, I can honestly say that: –

  1. It took me a few months before I could look at my story again, as well as read the feedback with a critical eye, and
  2. I won’t be entering any RWA competitions in a hurry. 😉

I, therefore, chose to focus on the positive feedback from the other two judges, which basically said that it showed promise.

‘Plot and characterisation great! The reader wants the MC to be happy after so much sorrow, and that matters. Tightening up the story will let these lovely characters shine.’

Like my first story, I believed in this one too. I didn’t wish to be put off by one judge’s opinion. I wanted readers to decide.

If I worked on it and did a bit of tweaking, I could put them both into a book and publish it in time for Christmas. The end result is First Christmas.

These stories are a bit different to what I usually write, but 2020 hasn’t been the best of years, and I wanted to write something with a bit of hope. Both short stories have a paranormal bent but are romantic in nature.

I’m working on having First Christmas released in November, so watch this space. 😊

Have you received negative feedback in a writing competition? Do you write with particular themes in mind? Given the current COVID-19 situation, have you written something different than usual this year?

Image courtesy Unsplash

IWSG, Legacy & Other Short Stories, The Story Behind the Story

IWSG: Have You Put Family Traditions into Your Stories?

Before the end of 2019, I entered a competition, where I managed to write my first Christmas short story, but I have also written a short story that included a more family tradition. The story is an account of a fictional event that happened at a seaside location.

When I was younger, my family and I would regularly spend our holidays at the same caravan park on the south coast of New South Wales. First, we camped and then had a caravan down there and would go down at least three or four times a year. Most often, our visits would be during the Christmas school holiday period, a usual Aussie summer.

We would spend our days on the beach, in the water, bushwalking, fishing or exploring rock pools. Lazy days!

On one part of the beach was a lagoon, which was an ideal spot for younger children. Hanging on the branch of a large gum tree in a corner of the lagoon, was a Tarzan rope, where older kids would swing over the lagoon and fall off into the water. My family and I never did that, nor did we know anyone who did, but I always watched the older kids as they took up the challenge. All these years later, this scenario became the idea behind my short story ‘The Lagoon’. It is included in my short story collection, which I published late 2019.

My ‘tradition’ is more a location than anything else, but nevertheless, one that evokes fond memories to this day.

Other than obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs into your stories?

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 Pixabay

The Ghost at Willow Creek, The Story Behind the Story

Poetic Inspiration & Book News.

After the release of my first short story The Ghost at Willow Creek, I wrote a post about the influence behind it. It had started life in the form of my first bush poem, which I had entered into a competition. I felt compelled and was encouraged, to turn it into a story.

Here, then, is an excerpt of the poem: –

A Mother’s Love

Magpies sang their mournful song as she stood and waved goodbye,
The blistering sun bore down upon her back amongst a clear blue sky.
She did not smile, or yell, or weep as she saw him ride away,
For she knew he would return to do it all again one day.

She watched him disappear into the distance, this stoic drover’s wife,
‘Alone; always alone!’ she cursed this God-forsaken life.
‘If only I were a man with freedom where to roam,
I would sooner go back to England, than call this country home’.

And so, she walked back towards the homestead with its walls of wood and stone;
A haven full of spiders with holes for vermin free to roam.
The furniture covered in dust; the floorboards of red soil,
No amount of cleaning could save her of its toil.

She stopped when she entered the cleanest room of all,
Her eyes took in every item ‘til she saw the picture upon the wall.
Her husband’s face in miniature, full of boyhood charms,
She felt her heart race once again of holding his dead body in her arms.

© Debbie Johansson

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a bush poem. As a teaser, it gives you some background into my first published short story.

Having said that,The Ghost at Willow Creek is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 3-7 February, 2020 in Australia, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Australia, 1886.

Eleanor Mitchell can’t move on after the death of her young son. She 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

* * * * *

Many thanks to fellow blogger and author, Priscilla Bettis, for her review on Amazon. It’s very much appreciated! xx

Main image courtesy of 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 Story Behind the Story, Writing

Stalkers: The Unseen Fear.

This week as I battle my way through National Novel Writing Month (better known as NaNoWriMo), I thought I’d share with you the inspiration behind my current work in progress.

During my late teens and into my early twenties, I had the feeling that someone was watching me.  Either my imagination was getting the better of me or I was completely paranoid.

To get to work, I used to park my car at the nearby station car park and catch the train into Sydney.  Coming home from work one afternoon, I discovered a note on my windscreen.  Thinking it was a flyer, I grabbed it and went to sit in my car.  Upon reading it, I soon discovered that it was a note addressed to me from a complete stranger.

Someone was indeed watching me.  The fear was real.  The situation wasn’t helped that during this time my parents would go away on trips, leaving me alone for weeks on end.  I dreaded those nights alone in a big house, with one elderly neighbour my only call for backup.  On the other side of our house was a large park, dimly lit.  It was no wonder I made a habit of looking out the windows regularly and investigated every noise the house ever made.

My reality has since become perfect fodder for a novel.

Do you ever get the feeling that you are being watched or perhaps even followed? Do you like being home alone at night? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Do you write what you know?

Free image by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net