My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall, The Stranger Within

‘The Stranger Within’ Available for Pre-Order.

Image courtesy pixel2013 on Pixabay.

This is just a short note to let you know that The Stranger Within, the second novella in the Marsden Hall series, is available for pre-order.

This is a series of stand-alone novellas with a common link and is currently available as e-books.

The Stranger Within will be released on 17 December, but you can order your copy NOW on Amazon for only $1.50AU.

Dreams don’t always come true.

Young governess, Louisa Campbell, yearns for love and dreams of a better life. She wants nothing more than a happy ever after. When the man she loves denies her that dream and tries to discredit her, she faces an uncertain future.

Meanwhile, the ghosts of Marsden Hall begin to stir, and a restless spirit traps Louisa in its wake. For Marsden Hall has secrets of its own.

Will those secrets destroy her chance of happiness?

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

The Ghost of Ascot House.

Rumours of a ghost at Ascot House in Queensland, Australia, have been circulating as far back as the 1890s. It wasn’t until some one-hundred years later, that the ghost could finally be put to rest.

Ascot House was built for wealthy businessman and politician, Frederick Holberton, in 1876, and was originally named ‘Tor’. Situated in Newtown, a suburb of Toowoomba, it once stood on 13ha (32 acres) of land. It eventually changed hands, and the new owner renamed it Ascot House, and undertook numerous renovations. Ascot House contained a gothic tower, sweeping staircase and large high-ceilinged rooms.

Many years later, the house would fall into a state of disrepair. During the 1940s, flats had been added, which housed people looking for cheap accommodation. It was not until the 1980s that the house was sold to a successful renovator, who proceeded to bring the house back to its former glory.

Artist impression of Ascot House. Artist unknown.

No sooner had the new owner moved into Ascot House, that she would hear footsteps walking down the hallway at night but seeing no-one. Once, during the early hours of the morning she felt fingertips brush her shoulders. One warm evening, she leaned against a wall where the surface was icy cold. The cold patch lasted for months and defied explanation.

There have been numerous eye-witness accounts, including one man who saw the apparition of a young woman that looked as if her neck was broken. It had been rumoured that a young servant girl had hung herself within the house.

After many years of searching, the owner identified the young woman as Maggie Hume, who had worked at Ascot House as a housemaid under the employ of the original owner, Frederick Holberton. At 23 years of age, she committed suicide, not by hanging, but by taking strychnine. According to the police reports, it was believed she suicided after learning she was pregnant. At the inquest, a couple of male staff members confessed to having ‘connections’ with her.

As a single woman committing suicide, Maggie was buried in an unmarked grave. Now, a headstone has been placed at the site, giving her the sympathy she never received in life.

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Australia's Historical Places, Australian Folklore, Ghosts & The Paranormal, Spooky Stories

The Ghost of The Blue Mountains.

Australia’s colonial history has a bloodied past, with some of these stories handed down into folklore. The story of a ghost at Mount Victoria Pass is no exception and had been popularised in Australian literature during the 1890s.

The ghost is believed to be that of a young woman by the name of Caroline Collits. She married her husband, William, in 1840. He came from a respectable family but was generally regarded as a person of ‘weak mind’ and a bit of a spendthrift.

Their marriage was not a happy one, and eventually, Caroline left him and moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, John Walsh. Caroline’s new housing arrangements caused rumours that she was having an affair with her brother-in-law and was regarded as a woman of ‘loose character.’

There was talk of a reconciliation with her husband, and together with her brother-in-law, met William in a local tavern. After leaving the tavern, John Walsh attacked William Collits. Caroline intervened, allowing her husband to escape and called after him to run for his life. This was the last time she was seen alive.

The ghost at Mount Victoria is Australia’s own ‘woman in black’.

Caroline’s battered body was found the following morning near the road on Victoria Pass. Her skull had been smashed in with a large stone, which had been found nearby, covered in her blood and hair. Despite his pleas of innocence, John Walsh was arrested for her murder. He was later convicted and hanged.

In the years that followed, rumours of ghostly encounters surfaced as travellers used the road on cold, windy nights. One such encounter involved a couple of young men whose horse became so spooked, it refused to go any further. As they moved closer to the bridge, the figure of a woman appeared, dressed in black. She did not move or utter a word. One of the young men described her eyes as if ‘there were sparks of fire in ‘em.’ She then went on to raise both her arms and open her mouth, making a noise which ‘sounded like no ‘uman or animal I ever ‘eard.’ The horse bolted, taking his male companions down the road with him.

This story would influence the poet, Henry Lawson, some years later when he came to live in nearby Mount Victoria. One of the verses described the incident as follows: –

Its look appeared to plead for aid
(As far as I could see),
Its hands were on the tailboard laid,
Its eyes were fixed on me.
The face, it cannot be denied
Was white, a dull dead white,
The great black eyes were opened wide
And glistened in the light.

‘The Ghost at the Second Bridge.’ Henry Lawson (1867-1922).

These days, the road is part of a busy highway, where the old bridges are barely visible. It would then come as no surprise that sighting of Caroline’s ghost in the area have not occurred for quite some time.

She may yet wander the road alone, her mournful cries unheard, but her story continues to live on.

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Australia's Historical Places, Australian Folklore, Ghosts & The Paranormal, Inspiration, Spooky Stories, The Curse of Marsden Hall, 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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Movies/Television, My Books

The Romance of ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ (1947).

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir has always been one of my favourite movies. A romance with a ghost— what’s not to love? And with Valentine’s Day upon us, February is the perfect time to watch it.

If you’re unaware of the plot, the story involves Mrs. Lucy Muir, a widow with a young daughter. She decides to move into a seaside cottage, despite being told that it has a ghost. In fact, she rather relishes the idea! She encounters the ghost of a former sea captain, Daniel Gregg, and soon become friends.

One of the things I’ve always liked about this film is the banter between the two main characters, which demonstrates their growing relationship. Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) even has a special name for Lucy Muir, which I think is rather sweet. Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney are perfectly suited in the roles, and it would have to be my favourite film of Rex Harrison’s. Seeing George Sanders in the role of Miles Fairly (children’s author ‘Uncle Neddy’) always felt appropriate to me. He played the role of Jack Favell in Rebecca (1940), so he plays a charming rake very well. It’s great to see a young Natalie Wood as Anna, and I enjoy her performance, although her American accent does stand out amongst the English setting.

The music and lighting help adds to the atmosphere and gives it a sense of place. The special effects are deftly done, blending in well, and do not detract from the story. Although sometimes, I can’t help but look at the seagulls outside the bedroom window!

My favourite romantic ghost story, I had to get my own copy.

I really like the sets, especially ‘Gull Cottage’, where the story mainly takes place. It makes me wistful for a seaside cottage of my own. I also like the set of the lavishly appointed home of Miles Fairly and wish there were more scenes shot here (yes, I’m a hopeless romantic and a sticky-beak 😉).

The most heart-breaking scene of the film is where Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) leaves, saying goodbye to Lucy as she sleeps. It’s such a touching scene and beautifully done.

The ending, although sad, is to be expected, but it is also a happy ending, of sorts.

If you’re looking for a romantic movie with a difference this Valentine’s Day (or any day, for that matter), I highly recommend this film.

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Movies/Television

A Ghostly Love Story: Revisiting ‘Ghost’.

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us (just let that sink in), I thought it was a suitable time to revisit the movie Ghost. And if you’ve never seen it, this comes with a spoiler alert!

What might start off as a romantic movie soon turns to tragedy when Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is shot and killed. Finding himself between worlds, his only hope is ‘medium’ Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).

Spirits are said to inhabit our world if they have some unfinished business to attend to, and following this assumption, Sam wants to see justice done. By doing so, he also wishes to ensure the safety of his girlfriend, Molly (Demi Moore).

Watching the scene of them both working on a slab of clay will never be the same again, I think, after all the humourous send-ups that have been done to it over the years.

Who could forget this version?

The movie gets a bit weird when Sam inhabits Oda Mae Brown’s body in order to touch Molly again, but the audience gets it – it’s Sam’s last and only chance of physically being with Molly.

The movie introduced to a whole new audience at the time (myself included) Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers. Released in 1965, even listening to the song today, it has stood the test of time. As for the movie, itself, it was released in 1990, so the special effects have become a bit dated over the years as has, of course, the computers and the fashion. It’s times like these when I really start to feel my age! 😉

I have nothing against the other actors, and I really miss Patrick Swayze, but personally, I believe that Whoopi really steals the show in this one. Her comedic skills helped lighten the subject matter and it looked like she and Patrick had fun working together.

If not for Oda Mae Brown, Sam would be stuck between worlds and Molly could have ended up with the guy who betrayed Sam (eek). Thank heavens for Whoopi!

Do you have a special Valentine’s Day movie? Is there a ‘ghostly’ romance that you recommend? Do you think Whoopi stole the show in Ghost?

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, the loud noise in the room above us 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

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. Even then, I managed to have some unusual experiences, and may have caught a spirit on camera.

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?

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: What Is Your Favourite Genre to Write In?

I’ve always followed the old writing advice that in order to write, you need to read – a lot. Over the years I’ve read so many genres, that when it came to actually writing, I could never decide where I actually fit. It wasn’t until recently when I had my short stories professionally edited that I may have realised what was staring me in the face. I was told I had a ‘knack’ for horror.

Growing up, I watched a lot of television and movies. Watching the Gothic horror and mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock at the cinema (yes, showing my age now), fascinated me and I leaned heavily toward lots of horror movies, including anything from Alfred Hitchcock. I fell in love with The Addams Family and anything Gothic. I was about ten when I accidentally discovered the Gothic Romance novel Dragonwyck and I was hooked. From there I went on to devour any book from Stephen King that I could get my hands on. And the 1980s was very big for horror! 😉

I guess horror was a natural fit as I was always fascinated by the paranormal, especially ghosts. In more recent years I have visited some haunted places and have come away with experiencing something.

It’s the thrill of being scared; an adrenalin rush. Like being on a roller coaster – it’s a high! Monsters can be scary, but also fascinating. It’s the unknown that makes one curious and question our existence. It’s not just monsters either as horror can also take the form of mankind, leaving us to wonder what we are truly capable of. Horror can also lurk within the natural environment too.

Horror is surrounded by suspense and mystery; you’re too frightened to know what lurks beyond, but at the same time you’re curious to find out. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for building suspense, which is a handy skill to know when it comes to writing. We really want our readers to keep turning the pages and not put our stories down until they get the answers they seek.

My writing may be a mix of genres, but so too is horror. And besides, I think it’s a fun genre to write in and shouldn’t we be writing what we enjoy? 😉

Do you enjoy horror? Are you fascinated by the paranormal? What is your favourite genre to write in and why?

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 Pixabay

Movies/Television

Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.

Recently, I watched the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I admit that as the show was inspired by the book by Shirley Jackson, I had my reservations. This wasn’t helped by the fact that by the end of the second episode, I really began to wonder if I would continue watching. This is because the series has a bit of a slow build, however, it didn’t pick up for me until the third episode, where I felt things were starting to get interesting. After that episode, I binged the next three. What a turn-around!

So, what happened?

The first six episodes focuses on one family member, telling their side to the story about the events that happened at Hill House and how it had affected their lives. It was Theo’s story in episode three that intrigued me and as the show progressed, it soon became apparent that it was the characters themselves that draws the viewer in, so that by the time we see Nell’s story, the viewer is seeing a horror show that makes you sad as well as scared.

The camera work in episode six is brilliantly done – apparently a seventeen-minute-long unbroken single shot and this episode demonstrates that it’s a family drama as much as it is a horror story. There were a couple of times where I actually jumped in my seat (which is rare for me these days), noticeably one of the car scenes.

This show tends to be more of a psychological horror series, than straight out horror, although it did have some truly scary moments. I’ve read that some people have even wanted to watch it again, so they could count how many ghosts there actually are!

The Haunting of Hill House is a terrific piece of television that weaves past and present narratives together with characters you soon become attached to. I mean, I couldn’t resist young Nell and Luke – they’re so cute! 🙂

Have you watched The Haunting of Hill House and what are your thoughts? Did you find the show had a bit of a slow build? Which characters did you like the most?