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?

Ghosts & The Paranormal, Movies/Television

Paranormal Investigation: Most Haunted.

Because of my fascination for all things paranormal, it is my habit of watching paranormal investigation shows. I come with an open mind; I am interested in the techniques used and what proof, if any, is found. After having experienced some ghostly encounters of my own, I am even more curious as to how such things are portrayed on television.

Recently, I binged watched some Netflix, including three seasons of Most Haunted. I have never seen this particular show before, so for those of you who have, bear with me. There are quite a few I haven’t seen and only Seasons 14-16 were available. Performing séances was probably as technical as it got during Season 14, however, the other two seasons they began using EVPs.

There was one episode in particular that really caught my attention. It was during the investigation of Annison’s Haunted Funeral Palour in Hull, England (you can read more about it here). During a séance, they believed they had picked up the spirit of a murdered girl who told them the name of her murderer. Not only did they pick up her spirit, but that of her murderer as well. When they mentioned the name, Fredrick Bailey Deeming, I was somewhat baffled as serial killers are of a particular interest of mine. Deeming murdered his first wife and four children in the U.K and is suspected of being Jack the Ripper. He murdered his second wife in Melbourne, burying her in one of the fireplaces in their home. He was convicted and executed for the crime and his bust is on display in Old Melbourne Gaol. How the spirit of a man who died here in Australia could travel back over to the U.K to haunt a building was beyond my comprehension. Maybe it’s just me, but I have to say I have never heard of that one before!

The last episode I saw was a two-part episode, which involved the investigators spending the night in a haunted suburban house. This particular house and its haunting was the basis for the movie When the Lights Went Out. The house was lauded as having the most ‘evil ghost in the world’. One was led to believe therefore that something really bad was going to happen. Sure a few things may have ‘happened’, but nothing quite as dramatic as one might have expected from such an evil entity. As the spirit is believed to be a priest, then why did he turn so bad? This was never explained and therefore made no sense to me. There is also a demonologist amongst the crew and if this house is supposed to have a real bad spirit there, I couldn’t help but wonder why he was not part of this particular investigation.

No actual spirits were caught on camera (although in a more recent episode, the team apparently filmed one, so I’ll let you be the judge of that) however some objects were shown to have moved. This can easily be explained away by trick photography. Objects were also thrown, but were usually done off camera. At one point, I thought it interesting that when an object fell from the ceiling, the cameraman did not point the camera in that direction – anywhere else but there it would seem.

All this this then begs the question that if these are actual haunted locations then where are the ghosts? Wouldn’t they have caught at least some real evidence while they were there? And if they did, would they be taken seriously? Yes, I do believe in the paranormal, but I also like to think rationally. I had previously watched a few seasons of Great British Ghosts, and I am therefore aware there have been reported incidents and sightings from people at some of these locations. I guess we may never know.

Yes, Most Haunted is not to be taken seriously and if given the chance, I probably would watch more of them, however, when it comes to more serious investigations though, I think I’ll look elsewhere.

Do you watch paranormal television shows? Do you keep an open mind when it comes to the paranormal or are you a sceptic? Do you find a lack of research jarring? Do you watch certain television shows for research purposes?

Australia's Historical Places, Ghosts & The Paranormal

More Ghostly Encounters at Quarantine Station.

Last week, I wrote about some of my ghostly encounters at Quarantine Station. Due to the long post, I have broken it up into two parts and this week covers both the Caretakers Cottage and the first class shower block. Both these buildings left me with a rather uneasy feeling and I was quite surprised that in one of them at least, my sceptical husband has been left wondering that there’s ‘something not quite right about that place’.

Further along our walk away from the morgue, we approached what the tour guide referred to as the Caretakers Cottage. As we approached, I thought it looked like a nice old house and I imagine it would look rather ordinary during the day. Our tour guide informed us that we were going to go inside, but told us very little about it. Some of the records regarding the Quarantine Station had burned in a fire and there was very little information to go by regarding the house, other than it had been used as a staff quarters. We were to go through the house in the dark and see for ourselves if we could pick anything up. Once again, my husband and I were the last ones to enter.

As we walked through the first few rooms, our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and found there was nothing out of the ordinary. The house was quite warm and stuffy after being locked up all day and with twenty odd people walking through the house, things got a little bit cramped. At the back of the house were a sunroom, bathroom and laundry, which was north facing. The tour guide began calling everyone together into the lounge room at the front of the house, but my husband and I had not finished our viewing. My husband decided to go to the laundry, while I go to the bathroom and then swap before heading back towards the group.

The steps down to the warf at Quarantine Station, Manly.

Once I stood at the doorway of the bathroom, I was rather hesitant to enter as I had a bad feeling about it. Even though there was no light and my eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness, somehow, the bathroom was darker than the other rooms. Despite my hesitancy, I entered the room and on my left was the bath which had a window over it. As I approached the bath, the temperature dropped and I put out my hands towards it. I could feel a breeze circulating around my hands and it was then that my husband came up behind me. I asked him if he could feel anything and once again he said no. I told him I had to get out of there as I didn’t like the feel of it. I went straight towards the laundry, which turned out to be the coldest room in the house. It felt like walking into one of those walk in freezers. I didn’t waste any time in leaving the room and together my husband and I joined the group in the lounge room.

Being the last of the group, we stood in the doorway facing the lounge room with our backs to the back of the house. No sooner had we arrived, I felt something touch my back and from that moment, I stood side on with my back against the doorframe. At this point, I noticed my husband had done the same. From such a position, I could see into the lounge room as well as keep a constant vigil towards the back of the house.

The tour guide explained certain things about the house, including the belief from various psychics that someone had been murdered in the bathroom (in the bath) and that there was a bad spirit named Samuel. Some tour guides refuse to enter the house or take tour groups inside. During his talk, the EMF meters were said to have been going off the whole time and one of the group members asked to leave the building and was the only one to do so before the rest of us left. My husband later told me he was one of the other sceptics.

Standing in the doorway, I had the feeling that someone was watching and they weren’t very nice. I felt they were angry and wanted us to leave. I felt most uncomfortable and kept looking towards that back room, where at one point I heard something drop upon the wooden floor. I said nothing about it; the tour guide did not notice it either, but it wasn’t until talking it over with my husband a few days later that I discovered he had heard it too. I left the house shivering with cold, with goose bumps upon both arms. As we walked away, I couldn’t help look over my shoulder towards the house, but I could not see anyone in the windows watching us leave (which has been reported to have happened once).

The last building on the tour was the first class shower block. When people came off the ships they were required to have a shower, which were supervised and each shower cubicle had tiny holes placed in each one to make sure the people showered properly.

Once again, we were to wander this building in the dark and foolishly, I was the first one after our tour guide in which to enter. It was only after taking a few steps inside that I didn’t like the feel of it and I was overwhelmed by the strong smell of urine (the tour guide later told me this was the chemical, carbolic acid, that was used on the patients). We were to stop midway and after we were all assembled, I saw a dark figure coming towards me. I instinctively moved back and the figure continued coming towards me, only to discover that it was our tour guide. He then proceeded to inform us about the various spirits within the building, including a ‘Gollum- like’ creature that if you walked into it, feels as if you have walked through cobwebs.

Given its history, I was not at all surprised to feel like I was being watched in here and I felt exposed and vulnerable. This was why I needed my husband with me and he took my hand as we walked in single file around the showers. He walked in front of me and I told him to slow down as I looked in at the shower cubicles. Down one in particular, I caught a quick glimpse of some dark shape that didn’t look completely human.

A ‘Gollum like creature’ is said to inhabit the First Class Shower Block.

Before leaving the building, one couple believed they saw something white in one of them. I went with them to help them try to find it, but could see nothing. I heard the tour guide tell them once we were outside that a woman has been spotted in there. One other couple said they had also seen something, but it was different to what this other couple had seen.

‘I saw something too’, I replied. ‘I’m not sure what it was. It didn’t look human’.

‘That sounds like what we saw’.

‘It was a small, dark, shadowy figure. Broad shoulders and it was hunched over, like this’, I replied as I demonstrated (it was very much like the image of Gollum in his cave in the picture above).

‘That’s it!’ the woman exclaimed. ‘That’s what we saw’.

‘Oh good’, I said. ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw it and not going mad’. I had asked my husband if he had seen it and he had not.

It was with that final note that our tour had ended. Of-course in the light of day, I began questioning what I had seen and experienced. Did that really happen? Did I really see what I thought I saw? From the experience I learnt something about myself that I had suspected from childhood and am interested in finding out more.

When we arrived home, my husband looked up the Caretaker’s Cottage on the internet to see if it had been investigated, but it had not. It had certainly piked his curiosity.

‘So’, I said. ‘That was a good start. When are we going back?’

Did you ever experience a ‘bad vibe’ about a particular building or place? What was the scariest place you have visited and would you go back? Have you ever experienced something you can’t explain?

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Australia's Historical Places, Ghosts & The Paranormal

Ghostly Encounters at Quarantine Station.

Recently, as part of my birthday celebrations, my husband and I visited Quarantine Station in Sydney. Quarantine Station was established in the 1830s for migrants arriving in Australia who might have had infectious diseases, such as Spanish influenza, tuberculosis and bubonic plague. It ceased operating as a quarantine station in the 1980s. Q Station is now used as a hotel and conference centre. It also has a restaurant and caters for both weddings and ghost tours.

Of-course being on a ghost tour was the main attraction for me. After having had some experiences at Monte Cristo, I was curious when it came to Q Station, after hearing it is regarded as one of the most haunted places in the country.

My husband and I were in a group of about twenty people and the first building we came to was the Inhalation Chamber, situated near the Boiler House. Patients were placed here every day to undergo special treatments, using steam infused with zinc sulphate to protect them from such cases as Spanish influenza. Basically, they looked like two cement sheds joined together and our group was broken up into two halves and spent some time within each one of them in the dark. Unfortunately, we weren’t inside for very long before having to change rooms. Once finished, the tour guide spoke to us outside and gave us some information regarding this building. Some people in previous tours, he said had been known to experience smells. It was then I looked at my husband.

By the warf at Q Station, Manly, waiting for the ghost tour to begin.

‘Yeah, I smelt something’, I said to him. ‘Didn’t you smell something?’

‘No’.

‘The moment I walked into that first one, there was a really strong, sweet smell. I couldn’t smell anything in the second one, but definitely the first’.

My husband simply shook his head. It was at this point, that I interrupted the tour guide and asked the people in the group if they had smelt anything. Their responses were the same as my husbands. Okay, this is weird. The tour guide looked at me and told me that I had passed the smell test. Trust me to be the weirdo amongst the group, I thought! Since my visit to Monte Cristo and being the only member of my family to have experienced something, I had become increasingly suspicious of a long held belief (since childhood) that I may be a ‘sensitive’. As we walked our way towards the hospital, my husband told me he believed that may well be the case.

Within the hospital we were told of some interesting stories experienced by other people during the tours and some of the spirits that occupy the hospital, including a couple of nurses and the matron. As I sat on one of the beds, I felt something prick my hand and looking down I thought it may have been a mosquito, but saw no evidence of one. The tour guide informed us some people have felt the same, as if being pricked by a needle. My husband, the eternal sceptic, who stood nearby said he felt something cold brush up against him.

The Hospital, Boiler House and Wharf at Quarantine Station. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Later, my husband and I were amongst the last to enter the morgue, which was a small building, so it was difficult to find a place to stand. People stood against the wall and in the middle of the room was the mortuary table. This was the only available spot for me to stand and it was here that I could smell the horrible stench of rotten meat. It was so bad I had to cover my nose and mouth with both hands, but I could not see anybody else picking up on the smell. The mortician, nicknamed Mr Slimy by the staff is believed to frequent the place. Eventually it went away and when the time came to leave the room, I was frightfully cold. I know it sounds cliché, but there were literally goose bumps on both my arms and I had to rub them in order to keep warm.

Our tour then continued within the Caretakers Cottage and the first class shower block, so rather than make this an extremely long blog post, I’ve decided to break this up into two parts.

Read the rest of my tour in the post titled More Ghostly Encounters at Quarantine Station.

Have you ever been on a ghost tour? Did you ever encounter anything unusual? Are you a sensitive? If you’re a sceptic, have you experienced anything that made you question your beliefs?

Australia's Historical Places, Ghosts & The Paranormal, History

Do Ghosts Move with Dwellings?

During a visit to Sydney, I took a tour of The Australian Pioneer Village. Opened in 1970, it was established in an effort to preserve some of the history of the Hawkesbury area, about an hour outside of the city. An enormous undertaking; about two dozen dwellings were relocated and their buildings kept structurally intact. Apart from dwellings, shops were also relocated, along with a bank, post office, school, church and police station. By day, it’s a journey into the country’s colonial past, however at night; it could be the most haunted street in the country.

On an episode of Haunting Australia, the team visited the Pioneer Village to find any evidence that ghosts moved with buildings. Both visitors and workers alike have experienced unexplained phenomena at the village and ghost tours are regularly conducted. A young stable boy has been sighted outside the sulky shed, the ghost of a horse has even been sighted and numerous orbs have been caught on film.

Marsden Park Public School, Mitchell Cottage, Case Cottage and Perry House are among some of the better known buildings for paranormal activity. Case Cottage is a centre of spirit activity and a male and female presence has been known to reside in the tiny space of Mitchell Cottage. Perry House is known to have had a checkered past, which includes a saddlery, grocery store and a ‘house of Shady Ladies’. As a result, it is said there is much activity here.

Inside Perry House, once a ‘house of Shady Ladies’. Spirit activity has been known to occur here.

During their investigations, the Haunting Australia team encountered a female apparition, a moving curtain, a knock in response and an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). There was even a partial apparition sighted at the school house. Psychics reported sadness and requests for privacy from the spirit world.

With such a positive conclusion, this may warrant further study amongst paranormal investigators. Their findings only strengthen the belief that spirits move with dwellings; after all, people do become so attached to their homes that they may not wish to leave them after death.

Do you believe it’s possible for spirits to move with dwellings? Have you ever experienced any unexplained phenomena? Do you enjoy taking a step back into the past?

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Books, Movies/Television

Ghostly Love Stories: Three of the Best.

Love is such a powerful emotion and can transcend even time itself. There are stories of spirits visiting loved ones on their wedding day; even the ghosts of beloved pets have been known come back to visit their owners.

As February concentrates on the language of love, what better way than to celebrate with three of the best ghostly love stories?

Ghostmovie

Ghost

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 because 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).  The movie gets a bit weird and creepy 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.

If not for Oda Mae Brown, Sam would be stuck between worlds and Molly could have been stuck being with Sam’s murderer.  Thank heavens for Whoopi!

The Ghost and Mrs Muir

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Young widow, Lucy Muir rents a house near the beach only to discover it is haunted by the ghost of Captain Daniel Gregg.  He and Lucy soon strike up a relationship, and he allows her to write up his memoir. The memoir is published and helps Lucy out of her financial difficulties.  She then meets a writer of children’s books, who she then begins dating.  It is during this point that Captain Daniel Gregg sees the futility of his relationship with Lucy.  In a completely selfless act, he tells Lucy as she sleeps that he was nothing but a dream.  He wants Lucy to find happiness with a ‘real’ man, however, this leaves nothing but heartache for Lucy.

Certainly, we need to suspend our disbelief in the idea of falling in love with a ghost, but this story demonstrates that ghosts are not always ‘evil’ spirits.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

I think we all know this story; the passionate love between childhood sweethearts Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff.  At my book club some years ago, it was a unanimous decision that we disliked Catherine for her selfishness and the way she treated Heathcliff.  Together with her brother, her treatment of him helped bring out his dark side.  When she dies, her ghost torments him.  Some critics believe that her ghostly actions were not meant out of love, but of rage.  This is certainly an opinion that is in the minority, as over the years, the idea of Catherine and Heathcliff being eternally in love proves to be the popular choice.

In the book, at her deathbed, Heathcliff asks Catherine if she would like to live with her soul in the grave.  ‘Wild, spirited Cathy’ clearly does not.

What is your favourite ‘ghostly romance’? Could you love a ghost? Do you believe Catherine haunted Heathcliff out of revenge or for love? Do you think Whoopi saved Ghost?

Images copyright Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox & United Artists.

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

Up Close & Personal

A Friendly Ghost?

Although I have never actually seen one, I have always believed in ghosts.  I remember my father telling us a story of his own personal encounter with a ghost while he was growing up in Scotland.  When he was a child he had ‘crossed over’ and came back, having to learn to speak all over again.  I was brought up to believe there are many things that happen in this world that can not be explained.

My father died after a long number of illnesses a few years ago.  I went to visit him in the hospital during his last days.  I knew his time had arrived and I felt worried and afraid.  He would stare at me as I sat in the chair opposite his bed, feeling that there was somebody there next to me.  As I watched him getting wheeled away down the corridor he was tightly wrapped up.  ‘I feel like a mummy’ he said; he did not seem worried as he had died before and was happy to go.

One night after his funeral, as I lay asleep in my bed, I felt something cold upon my hand.  To say it was ‘icy cold’ sounds like a cliche, but it was.  Not only that, but it felt like a breeze passing my hand, which I thought most peculiar.  I instantly opened my eyes, sat upright in the bed and called out to my dad.  I believed it was him saying his final goodbye.

Some time later, when I told my mother this story, she told me of something similar.  Co-incidentally, around the same time, my sister was sitting alone in her house, when she felt the presence of our dad behind her.  Interestingly enough, neither one of us had experienced this situation before or since.  Was this really a ghostly visit from our dead father, saying his final goodbyes, or was it just our imaginations?  Our imaginations that happened to be on a similar wavelength at the same time?  (Now cue the music from The Twilight Zone :))

Do you believe in ghosts?  Have you experienced your own ghostly encounter?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com