Tag Archives: amwriting

The Books That Shaped My Life: Guest Post by JS Collyer

Finding out what makes fellow writers tick is a constant source of fascination. Reading, as writing, is a very solitary process and in its formative years often shares the same innocence, that same lack of conformity and influence.

in this month’s blog – close personal friend and SF author JS Collyer goes completely against what I asked her for and gives a revealing summary of the most important books and authors that shaped her as she grew into word-spitting space creature she is today. (I’m not having a go here, it’s great!)

If you want to learn more about JS Collyer (and by rights you should, she embraces social media with the same enthusiasm that I endure it like an uncomfortable adolescent in a family photograph) her blog is here, her Twitter is here and she also has a Facebook with the highest concentrate of Star Wars memes on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

She also wrote a novel called Zero which has a sequel coming out soon. You can hurl virtual money in exchange for it just here.

Onward…to infinity! (or whatever it is these space-types say)

The Books that Shaped my Life – JS Collyer

I always find it incredibly interesting when writers share the fiction they enjoy as a reader. Translation is one of my favourite aspects of writing fiction: taking that which inspires you or that which you admire and using it to inform your own process. It helps a writer be as engaged to their own work as they are with the fiction they enjoy reading.
Having been a prolific reader all my life, you might think it would be hard for me to narrow down the works that have most impacted on me as both a reader and writer, but far from it. I know very specifically what fiction has left its mark, because it is those books I remember the most and try and consciously emulate in some shape or form whenever I commit words to page.
If we’re going in chronological order, I’d have to say the very first works of fiction that need to be mentioned are the Narnia Chronicles. Whereas, as I’ve grown, I’ve wandered more toward SciFi than fantasy and fairytale, these have to have a mention because they are stories I return to again and again, even know. The magic, the characters and the rich arc of the all the tales continue to stir something childlike in me from a time when I still believed in magic. 200px-ScholasticNarnia
However as a teenager, I discovered Star Wars and a life-long-love was born. (This was before the new prequels I’d like to add) I devoured every novel that was released set in this universe. I knew every character, location and aspect of the political structures of the galaxy. Yes, I was a totally obsessive nerd, but that was because for me the universe was so rich and full of a magic of its own I couldn’t help but be drawn in. Though I’ve grown apart from the novels in recent years, I still love the films and am eagerly anticipating the new one. And even with the distance of time, my love of those books is the yard stick by which I now measure my interest in things. I’m always on the lookout for something that grabs me so tight that I can’t get away and just have to find out more, like they did.
The loved the sheer scale of the story, as well as the well-realised settings and intriguing characters. It was also where my love of character-driven fiction was born. I love experiencing a story through a character or characters, driven along by their decisions and motivations. I like to live the story with them and my enjoyment of this way of storytelling has led me to try and write the same way.
There were dozens of these novels – I had several bookshelves of them – and they all influenced me. But if I had to choose one in particular, I think I would choose the New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, simply because it was the one I went back to again and again.
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I have, in fact, recently re-bought it to revisit it again, 15 years later.
Next I do feel like I need to drop in the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles, particular the first one, Interview with the Vampire. In my world that until this point had been dominated by lightsabers and spaceships, it was thrilling to discover this dark and decadent world of velvet, destruction and blood. I was hooked from the beginning. They showed me that I love a bit of darkness in my fiction and desire richness alongside everything else. The first book in particular with its melancholy and introspective narrator Louis de Point du Lac confirmed for me that it’s all about character-driven fiction. Still now, my favourite story is the sort that lets you get into the characters’ heads and knowing the story and settings as they know them.
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The last two books I feel have to mention because they too have shaped me as a reader and a writer are both Fantasy series. Yes, I’m a SciFi writer, horror writer on occasion, but I simply have yet to find any SciFi books, or series of books, that inspired me as much as these and made me want to write exactly like them. Star Wars I loved as I say, and started off certain trends in my preferences that I still hold dear, but they were not novels that inspired me with their technical abilities. These series did.
The first series is just two books: Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams by Lisa Barnett & Melissa Scott. The series, sadly, never got any further since Lisa Barnett passed away in 2006. Her writing and life partner, Melissa Scott, did bring out another novella in the series, Point of Knives, very recently. However, I have to say, it wasn’t a patch on the novels she wrote alongside Barnett.
I would go so far as to say these are my favourite books ever. They are not for everyone, mind. They are full-on fantasy: magic metals, gargoyles, spells etc. However, I haven’t before or since encountered the genre used in quite this way or written so well, with such a simple yet effective approach. I think this is why they stuck with me the most: the writers are the best I’ve ever found for use of exposition. They have created the most amazing world in these books, rich in history and magic, but write about every aspect as if it were commonplace, with very little out-and-out explanation. It means to begin with you sometimes have to make a couple of passes to follow what’s going but, but this gives it such a real feel, no matter how far-fetched the object, context or motivation, that the reader is sucked right in to experience it all right alongside the characters.
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Plus, the actual stories are basically whodunnits, the main character being what passes for a police detective in that world, and they are one of my favourite types of story when done well.
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My list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb. Hobb is a wonderful writer. She, like Barnett and Scott, creates a world that has magic and dragons but makes it feel real. The stories are character-driven again (sensing a theme here?) so, even though there are magic powers and mystical beasts crawling through the stories, the primary driving force of the plot is the narrator, FitzChivalry Farseer. We live his tumultuous but adventurous as a bastard son of the royal family alongside him and feel his pain and share his victories. It is all about fate and free will, decisions and love, heartbreak and power. The books are, without a doubt, magical, but with a really generous helping of grit and realism, my ultimately favourite combo.
farseer-trilogy
I have Robin Hobb to thank more than any other author for wanting to become and author myself and for showing me the sort of author I wanted to be. I wanted to take people on a journey like she did with me. She also replied when I wrote to her in Canada (in days before the internet) encouraging me to follow my dream.
Hobb has also just begun releasing a third trilogy in this series too, the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, the first novel of which, Fool’s Assassin is out now and waiting in my book pile for when I am through the half-dozen other novels I am reading at the moment. It pleases me immensely that she is still releasing these novels I love so much and her writing still continues to inspire me.
Narnia birthed my love of stories. Star Wars my love of Scifi. Lisa Barnett, Melissa Scott & Robin Hobb my love of wonderfully written fiction. They are all the reason I am the reader, the writer and probably the person I am today.
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The Legacy of ‘The Doll’

I’ve never been into comics.

I’m sorry, I know, it’s not cool is it?

I’ve tried.  When I was a teenager, I collected Roman Dirge‘s ‘Lenore’ series;  I enjoy the Marvel adaptations of Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Talisman as well as Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell‘ but that’s about it.

Collecting comics should appeal to my slight OCD and hoarding personality (settle down ladies, I’m taken.)  yet for some reason they just…don’t.

I imagine there’s plenty of comics I’d like, I imagine that you’re probably grimacing at the screen thinking ‘you just need to read…so-and-so’, but it’s not going to happen. Sorry.

Perhaps it’s because I never liked superheroes. I still don’t. In fact, my view of superheroes is mostly indifferent, maybe a little contemptuous. It was the same as when I a kid. Superman, Captain America, Batman; whatever the darkness in their personalities, I just found them smug, slightly self-righteous goody-two-shoes who remind me of the clever, good-looking people I always knew I would never be anything like.

What I liked when I was young was the bad guys – Skeletor and Hordak, General Kael from ‘Willow’ – the guys dressed in bones and skulls, the guys who dwelled in lairs; they were my guys.

I think comics never appealed to me because in them, good always prevailed, my guys were always thwarted in the end. I imagine there are comics where the bad guys win, but when I was seven, I had no idea where to find them and really didn’t have the impetuous to try.

Or I just preferred books.

Then a comic came along and scared me in a way that I had never been scared before. It was a pivotal moment in my development into a fan and a creator of horror.

It was a comic you’ve probably never even heard of, a story by a writer whose name is lost to time (or to my limited detective skills). It was called ‘The Doll’.

Okay, a bit of backstory: In the late 1980s, there was a short-lived series of toys made by the Tonka company called ‘Supernaturals’.

I wont bore you with a lengthy description but in the advert below, you’ll see why they appealed to a seven year old me…

I had a few of them, they were ok, not a patch on Modulock, but pretty cool.

Then came the Supernaturals comic. At seven, i only ever really read the Beano, so the artwork of Dave D’Antiquis and Antony Williams was a welcome change. Plus, it was the Supernatural baddies who hosted the comic. I liked that.

I don’t recall the stories of the Supernaturals in those comics. Alongside them, a letters page and a centre spread poster was a totally unrelated comic strip.

The Doll..

THeDoll2

The Doll was the most terrifying thing I had ever read in my life.

The Doll was a dark story, something that certainly would not be deemed remotely suitable for children today.

Here’s a synopsis:

A boy (Simon Wickham) moves in with foster parents who are still grieving over the death of their own child.

Simon, staying in the dead boy’s bedroom (of course!)  finds an old trunk on top of the wardrobe that contains a creepy old ventriloquist’s doll.

THeDoll1

Simon shows his find to foster parents whereupon dad takes it from him to put in the bin.

Perhaps the most chilling part of the story comes next – dad returns to the house from the dustbin and declares he’s sure the doll scratched him.

I will never forget that final panel in that first episode – an image of thedoll rising from the dustbin (remember this was a year before the first ‘Child’s Play was released)

As the subsequent 40p episodes of the comic was released, I found myself flicking past the Supernaturals strips with a morbid fascination for this terrible story that trilled and terrified me in equal amounts. Simon and his family try many times to destroy the Doll, yet like Michael Myers, always manages to come back.

THEDOLLpage3THEDOLLmelting

As the Doll story progressed the Doll terrorised Simon, strangling him, burning him, biting him and finally taking possession of his brother.

In the final episode of the Supernaturals comic (episode 9 – the only one I still own today)., the Doll made the front cover. This was perhaps testament to its power.

When I tried to sleep, I saw that face. felt the presence of that relentless, indestructible creature. The terror that comic strip induced in me has never truly left me. When I am writing and need to summon something from that bubbling, black pit at the depths of my imagination; it is the Doll’s face that leers up at me from those dark waters. It is that fear that I strive to induce in my readers.

The last episode of The Doll finishes in a suitably horrific way (below), yet there were, to my knowledge, no more ever published.

THeDoll3

Digging about online, even contacting the Egmont Publishing Group has revealed no credit for the writer or even the artist of The Doll. This creates a suitable aura of mystery around it; even today, that thing’s face sends a chill through me. Whoever drew it managed to capture a cruel malevolence, a sneering horror I have never seen replicated in a visual form.

The Doll’s place in the dark recesses of my nightmares will take something monumental to usurp.

Maybe I should read more superheroes?


The House on Beaumont Grove: The End.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

What the priest must have thought when three half-dressed and hysterical teenage girls, with bare feet, tangled hair and makeup streaming down their faces came clattering into Beaumont Grove Polish Orthodox church as the congregation filed out after Sunday mass is anyone’s guess.

By Sunday morning, the regular occupants of Wynwood house had left early; Carla, Marney and Rose remained.

“I don’t pray.” Rose said.

“Me neither.”

The ding of the telephone handset still resonated from when Marney had put it down. She looked to the others, back and forth.

“My grandma’s a medium,” She said, frowning. “She knows what to do.”

The others looked at their feet. Chipped toenail polish. The stained, threadbare carpet beneath.

“She said we have to. If anything happens, we have to pray.

Rose tried not to think of the flame that flickered from beneath the grill this morning when she was looking for matches. The banging that had kept them up in the night.

They all knew about the window and the bed.

“Come on, we’ll start in here.”

Marney pushed open the door of one of the downstairs bedrooms, the ones that no one ever used.

Our father,” She began, staring pointedly at the others. “Who art in heaven…

Carla and Rose joined in, their voices tiny.

A stench rent the air; thick and foul like something had rotted, something had died.

Hallowed be thy name…

The girls traversed the ground floor of Wynwood house, holding hands as they chanted. One bedroom, then the next and back into the hall. The stink followed them.

Carla and Rose’s voice petered out, they stopped dead, neither would go any further.

“I’ll say it then!” Marney snapped.

She continued with the prayer. Rose and Carla could feel the air thickening, that terrible buzzing tension curled into the house like fog.

I don’t think it’s a ghost.” Rose’s voice was a whisper. “I think the house is alive…we’ve agitated it…”

Tears began streaming down her face; her breathing getting faster.

“Stop it.” Marney said; the blessings forgotten. “Rose..please stop…please stop crying!”

“It hates us, it hates us!”

In answer to Rose’s wails, both bedroom doors slammed shut.

Screaming now, Carla and Marney pulled Rose fromthe house and out into the morning sun that poured over Beaumont Grove.

“The church, the church!” Marney was screaming.

It wasn’t far away. Five doors down.

Whatever the priest thought of what Carla, Marney and Rose told him about what had happened at Wynwood House, whatever he thought of them, stumbling into this holy place shambling into his solace like drunks or addict; he and his translator agreed to visit Wynwood house at 3pm that day.

 

I got round an hour or so after he’d left. Only Carla remained.

“It seems…calm…” I said.

“Yeah.”

It did as well; the tension that filled the place to the point that we had become accustomed to it seemed to have gone.

“What’s this?”

A postcard-shaped piece of cardboard was blue-tacced to the downstairs bedroom door.

“Oh, that’s the virgin Mary.” Carla said, leading me up the stairs. “The priest put them on every door; he gave us this as well…”

We passed the attic staircase door (closed for once) and Carla pointed to a plastic bottle filled to the brim with water in the middle of the living room floor.

“What’s that?”

“Holy water.”

“Oh.”

It was a crumpled old water bottle. It didn’t look very holy to me.

There was not one of us who was remotely religious in Wynwood house, save for one or two half-hearted claims to paganism. It was only Marney who seemed to have any real connection to Christianity. We had noticed lately she had begun to wear a small cross around her neck.

“Won’t all this…” I said, peering into the bucket. The water didn’t look any different. “Won’t this just…annoy it?”

“One way to find out.” Carla plunged her hand into the holy water and flicked her fingers at the living room wall.

The power of Christ compels you.

I followed suit.

My memories from this point on are fuzzy; fog clouds the remaining events but suffice to say there wasn’t many. Summer was nearly over and most of those who had stayed at Wynwood house had decided not to come back. Carla and I’s relationship was at its end , aside from in the house, we were spending less and less time together; she was due to start college soon, I was going back to school.

I do remember flicking that water; I still feel it on my hands. I remember the tension that filled the air of the house whilst we were doing it. I also remember how we decided to stop when it got too much.

Then there’s a blank.

Nothing.

It’s a strange place to end; but this is all I have. My memories are not strong enough to shine through the fug of time. I have one lingering recollection of Carla and I packing up her stuff into bags and suitcases. The house was empty, the presence…gone.

What I do know is that I didn’t experience any more activity at Wynwood house. I was spending the majority of my time back at my parents’ place and I can safely assume that that day packing was our last in Wynwood house, the only tension in the air was between me and Carla.

 

In the aftermath of these few weeks, which were actually only a few weeks, but felt significantly longer; the core of us who stayed on Beaumont Grove went our separate ways. It seemed a natural process; jobs, school, college. We’d see each other now and again in the clubs and pubs but that core, that family had dissipated. A few of us remained close, a few of us are still close to this day; but those I have spoken to in writing this account find it hard to remember the events at Wynwood house and it’s not a subject we ever discuss. Like Carla was the guardian of the house, I feel that in some ways, I am the guardian of its legacy. Over the years I have attempted to dramatise what happened to us that summer; turn those events into a story….but it’s never felt right somehow. I guess this is where I finally put Wynwood house to rest.

I’d like to thank those who remembered and took the time to send me their accounts of what happened to them that summer. The majority of them, I am no longer in contact with and something tells me they would not welcome a message out of the blue from someone they don’t know any longer, reminding them of that summer. To them, I extend my gratitude for being my friends long ago.

Skullpic

Conclusion.

                There is no doubt in my mind of what I saw in Wynwood house that summer. One other who experienced what I would say was the most significant event (the window opening and the fingers under the bed), would also look you in the eye and swear it was true.

At the time and immediately afterward; a few of us believed that Wynwood house was haunted. Perhaps there was something dormant in there, a spirit, a ghost, that we had agitated. Perhaps there wasn’t.

As time has passed, however, I personally am less inclined to believe that is the case.

Personally, I don’t know enough about parapsychology to back up and create a concrete theory as to what happened, but I have my own idea.

As I alluded to in the first part of this account; there were other things going on as well as the normal teenage angst and the kind of dramas you would expect in a rickety old student house filled with adolescents.

There were people staying there who were doing battle with their own inner demons. And losing.

Without going into too much detail, for the sake of those people, what I will say was there was a high amount of psychological torment within the group of us that stayed in Wynwood house. This manifested itself physically as well as internally. It was a hard time. Some of us fight those demons still.

My view is that the occurrences in the house were, as some spiritual researchers, psychologists and other academics have speculated upon,  was some form of Psychokenisis. I believe it was caused by us, the people who lived there for that time and it left when we left. If there was something there before us in that house, I couldn’t say. I feel that the blessing of the priest and the holy water that seemed to ‘calm’ the house was coincidental. I think it made those in the house feel reassured rather than cast divine intervention of some sort.

Early research into Poltergeist activity by Cesare Lombroso points to the presence of teenage girls during instances of poltergeist activity. He called this ‘nerve force’ – a sort of exterior manifestation of the surge of hormones of the unconscious teenage mind.  Carl Jung reported strange occurrences that surrounded a cousin, a girl who began going into trances during puberty, notably a table breaking in two and a breadknife inside a cupboard shattering into several pieces. Jung used the term ‘exteriorization phenomenon’ to describe these forces.

Psychical researcher Harry Price, in his book Poltergeists over England takes a slightly different view       “Poltergeists are able, by laws yet unknown to our physicists, to extract energy from living persons, often from the young, and usually from girl adolescents…”

Although Price’s view on Poltergeists is that they are entities unto themselves, he too links them to adolescents.

 

Like I say, I have no concrete theory. All I know is what I and the others saw.

I am interested in the opinions of others. Specifically, you.

Now Wynwood house has been laid bare, I’d invite you, the reader to speculate on what you think happened. Perhaps you think it was just hysterical teenagers seeing things? Perhaps you think Wynwood house is or was  haunted? Feel free to ask me any questions you may have. There are some things such as the whereabouts of the place and personal details of the people that I don’t feel comfortable going into. I can answer from my personal experiences of what I remember and I am genuinely interested in the conclusions you draw on the events from that summer.

 

Thank you for reading this far and I hope you have enjoyed it or else been suitably spooked.

Happy Halloween.

MJ Wesolowski

31st October 2014.

Wynwood ext


100 Words of Horror

A quick interlude from the paranormal, but no less Halloweeny

Dailynightmare have just published their anthology: ’22 More Quick Shivers’ – 22 tales of horror, each one of them 100 words that re-tells a real-life nightmare submitted to the website.

This anthology includes my story ‘Victim’ based on this nightmare and you can buy the paper copy here or else the significantly cheaper pdf here.

download


The House on Beaumont Grove: Part 2

For the sake of objectivity, I need to bring to light the fact that some of the regular occupants of Wynwood house did not experience any of the phenomena that occurred that summer. At least two whom I have contacted whilst writing this account have confirmed that they neither saw anything, nor felt anything for the duration of their stay in Wynwood house.

Neither of these people, however, denied at any point what the rest of us saw, nor have they attempted to provide an alternative to what happened; their view is simple. It didn’t happen to them.

Carpet

The House on Beaumont Grove Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

i.

“Shit. I need my coat.”

“For fuck’s sake man!”

“I’ll be one minute, it’s in the kitchen.”

The taxi driver rolled his eyes as Jonno jumped from the car and dashed up the path and back into Wynwood house.

The enthusiasm from the other two in the passenger seats dulled slightly as they watched Jonno rattling through his keys at the front door; one hand over his head in a futile attempt to protect his precious hair from the rain.

“The big ponce!”

“The meter’s still going, girls.” The taxi driver said, unsmiling.

“What’s he doing in there?”

Less than a minute later Jonno, still carrying the faint musty odour of the house on his leather jacket jumped back into the car.

“OK,” he said, panting. “Let’s go.”

The car pulled off and purred down Beaumont Grove toward town.

“What were you doing in there, Jonno?” Marney prodded him through the back of the seat with her knee.

The windows of the cab were steaming up as twin headlights cut through the rain.

“Getting my coat, keep your wig on!”

There was a pause.

“Why were you upstairs then?” Liz continued the interrogation.

“Eh?

“Your coat was it the kitchen. You left it hanging on the chair, I saw it!”

“Yeah, so?” Jonno was getting more and more confused.

“So why were you upstairs? He kept the meter running you know!”

It was the taxi driver’s turn to roll his eyes.

“I wasn’t!”

“Jonno man!”

Jonno turned around to glared at them.

“I wasn’t! I went in, grabbed my coat, came back. I didn’t even have time to go upstairs.”

Liz and Marney looked at each other.

“I saw you too.” Marney said.

Her voice was quiet now, the fervour of earlier as the three had passed a bottle of cheap wine in the upstairs living room was replaced by a sudden uncertainty.

“We saw the light go on Jonno; we even saw you moving up there…back and forth behind the window.”

“Where?”

Marney and Liz look at each other for a moment. Liz speaks.

“The living room…and… the attic.”

Neither Marney, Liz or Jonno told anyone about this strange little incident for weeks. None of them knew why, it just seemed too weird.

Like they had imagined it.

It was like when Rose spent her first night at Wynwood house. She didn’t want to tell either.

A party. Carla had been drunk, staggering about, on and on about the walls moving in and out like the peeling plasterboard was the inside of a lung; but the place felt familiar to Rose; even with the flies, the stink and the cold. One of the younger ones, she was a latecomer to Beaumont Grove, but it didn’t matter. The place swallowed her like it had done everyone else. Like she belonged.

People flitted from room to room as teenagers do; up and down the stairs; in this strange house that wasn’t quite theirs. Rose found herself in one of the downstairs bedrooms while the party thrummed from above.

“Hiya…” the door hissed open and a name froze on Rose’s lips.

No one there.

Into the other bedroom and a shape lying on the bed’s bare mattress.

“There you are.”

Rose snapped on the light.

Nothing.

No one.

Just a cluster of those black flies bobbing against the window where a streetlamp peered in with its single orange eye.

She spent the night in the attic, woken early by the thump of feet in the rooms, up and down the stairs. Back and forth. She found herself staring from the kitchen window into that back yard with the faces in the wall. There was more than just faces. Twin arches. One of the faces gazing into the arch. A knife. A skull.

“You awake?”

Rose jumped. Held in a scream.

Carla stood in the doorway.

“Finally,” she says. “I’ve been listening to people moving round for ages. When I looked…there was no one there…”

“Me too.”

Ceiling

ii.

“We didn’t imagine it, we both saw him didn’t we?”

“Yep.”

“And I literally just went in the kitchen, grabbed my coat, came out.”

Jonno had lost his grin. His eyes were wide, scared. He was one of the oldest of us and he wasn’t bullshitting.

The ten of us; the core were sat in the living room in a loose circle. We were snuggled in blankets and sleeping bags. Whatever we did with the heating in Wynwood house, it was never warm. We passed around cigarettes, took half-hearted swigs from a crumpled bottle of cider. No one was in the mood for getting hammered tonight. We had started talking instead.

“Has anyone else seen anything?”

I looked around. The flies, the cold, that damn attic door that stood, wide in the hall behind the living room. It just hadn’t clicked; we were young, we had other priorities. The house’s little quirks, if anything, were endearing. It gave the place edge. It was different.

Like us.

“Remember the hanged man?” Carla’s turn to speak up.

“Don’t…”

Marney covered her ears. Carla ignored her and pointed to the light bulb that cast a feeble light into the living room.

“Look.” She said.

The rest of us huddled a bit closer. We were quiet. The Eels ‘Beautiful Freak’ trundled from a cassette player in the corner.

We looked to the ceiling as one. The errant twist of tinsel that once clung to the wire was gone.

“The other night, me and Marney were chilling in here.” Carla said. “It was bad enough with him looking at us.” She jutted her thumb to the far wall where a poster of Evan Dando stared out mournfully. A rare remnant of the house’s student occupants. The opposite wall, by contrast, had been painted with huge, elaborate Disney characters.

Children and adults.

“It’s like his eyes follow you round.” Marney said.

We nod.

“Anyway,” Carla goes on. Centre stage. “we’re just chilling when we notice the shadow on the ceiling from that light. It wasn’t moving but it…it just sort of became a silhouette of a hanged man…and it was like….someone was in here with us.”

“It was horrible.”

The irony was utterly lost on us; with our white faces, funereal dress and silver jewellery encrusted with skulls.

Suddenly there was a thump from the attic staircase and we all jumped.

“Fuck off Steve!” Carla shouted.

No one laughed.

It was the first time we had all acknowledged it being there with us. All together.

And as we were  about to find out; wasn’t going to take such words  lightly.


The House on Beaumont Grove: Part 1.

This is a true story. I have not dramatised nor embellished any of the things that I saw and experienced that summer in the mid 1990s.

I have, however,  omitted certain events that do not bear direct relevance to the phenomena and I have changed all names of people and places for the sake of privacy.

Whether you believe it or not is up to you.

 

I have my own theories about why what happened, happened, that I shall discuss in the concluding part of this story and you are welcome to discuss this and speculate yourself. I have no finite ‘explanation’ of the phenomena at Beaumont Grove and no clear hypothesis to explain it.

I only know what I saw.

Entry #1

 

The House on Beaumont Grove.

A true ghost story

Part 1.

 

i.

The first thing you noticed was the flies.

The flies were the first thing anyone noticed when they stepped behind the walls of ‘Wynwood House’, a three storey Edwardian terrace which looked just like all the other Edwardian terraces on Beaumont Grove.

The swollen, black bluebottles buzzed listlessly against the window panes and hummed around the strip light in the kitchen. When you went to sleep in the bedrooms, you could hear them brushing against the insides of the curtains like little breaths.

Wynwood house was home to five students during term time; all boys

“It’s a student house.” we said , almost as if we were trying to excuse the place’s idiosyncrasies.

the living room on the second floor.

The flies.

And the door that never stayed shut.

After the first week, no one said “It’s a student house.” anymore.

“It’s a ghost.” We said instead.

“It’s the ghost….it’s Steve. Steve the ghost.”

At first we said it with  a smile.

The students were home for summer and during their absence, we filled that empty, damaged place with our empty damaged selves.

Wynwood house became a sanctuary for us, a sort of flop-house. None of us officially lived there; we didn’t pay bills and we came and went as we pleased.  There were nine or ten who regularly slept there a few days on and off, returning to our parents’ houses to eat proper food or wash our ragged black clothes. We were of similar age; fifteen our youngest, seventeen our oldest; our parents didn’t understand us and the ‘normal’ kids at school called us ‘freaks’.

With our black nail polish, white faces and sooty smudged eyes, we had one hobnail boot entrenched in childhood and the other poised over the swamp of adult life.

Music, drink, cigarettes were the only things that mattered that summer; but we would come to find what mattered most of all was that we had each other.

We never knew how much that would mean to us by the end.

I don’t think I ever knew how, but my girlfriend at the time; Carla, knew the students who lived in Wynwood house and it was she who had negotiated our stay there when they went home for summer.

Carla’ was Wynwood House’s unofficial guardian; its gatekeeper. It was Carla who brought me there for the first time.

The club kicked out at 2am. In our leather trousers and smudged make-up; we staggered through the streets, linked arms,  plumes of cigarette smoke over our shoulders, the uneven pavements that glistened with fallen rain beneath our boots; past the rows of dark windows like a hundred sleeping eyes.

Half way up Beaumont Grove, to Wynwood house.

The flies were the first thing I noticed; in that kitchen, beneath the jaundiced yellow of the strip light. There were already a few other people there; sat on the floor, perched against tables, slouched in doorways. I didn’t know any of them, recognised familiar pale faces from the dance floors; we shuffled out feet and dropped our eyes.

Wynwood house had brought us together.

“Look at these.”

We were outside in the back yard; dawn peering at us as our fingers reached out but didn’t dare to touch. Grey faces in the wall; eyes and cheeks and mouths between the bricks. Affixed to the wall with rough, hasty concrete, as if whoever had stuck them there was in a great rush.

“They’re weird…” Someone said.

To look at them too long would send a strange, whirling sensation through your head as if you were falling.

We went back inside, but you could still feel their eyes.

That night all of us slept in the living room on the second floor; we drank neat vodka in the dark and curled like a nest of grubs together in a mound of sleeping bags and cushions.

ii.

I awoke in the little bedroom on the top floor. The attic room. At the top of a flight of stairs and a landing , it was the size of a cell. One tiny window in the sloped ceiling that would only open an inch or so. I could hear the sounds of people coming from downstairs so I pulled on my clothes and clattered past the landing. A closed access panel at its base that opened onto what was presumably the eaves triggered a fleeting memory from last night to float up from my mind.

Carla’s voice.

“I don’t like that…it creeps me out.”

I turned and continued down. The door at the bottom of the stairs was wide open and through it I could see one of the others propped up on the sofa in the living room, reading a comic.

“Alright?” I didn’t know her name.

She looked up. Grinned. Her eyeliner was still immaculate.

“Yeah, sleep well?”

I had.

Still too young to experience the ferocity of a true  hangover, I was still surprised how spritely I felt considering how much vodka we’d drunk. I had a vague recollection of the attic ceiling spinning.

“I didn’t.” The girl on the sofa said.

“Oh?”

“Bloody thing chucking stuff down the stairs all night.” She nodded at the open door behind me.

“What do you mean? I wasn’t…I…”

“Not you…Steve.”

“Steve?”

“The ghost.”

“Oh.”

I looked back at the open door. There was nothing there. I closed the it behind me and went downstairs to the freezing kitchen with the flies to see if I could find a cigarette.

When I came back up, the attic door was wide open again.

I thought of that little landing and Carla’s voice.

                It creeps me out.

As the weeks passed; each of us would absently close that door in passing, only to find it open again. That was the first of Wynwood house’s little idiosyncrasies.

Steve the ghost.

That stubborn little attic door. It’s safe to say we admired its defiance.

By the end it was the last thing we would remember about that place.


The House on Beaumont Grove : a true ghost story…coming soon…

For a summer, back in the mid 1990s, I lived in a haunted house.

Really.

Some of us, in retrospect, agreed that the thing that drove three of the girls into the street in their pyjamas one morning, in tears to the local church was a poltergeist rather than an actual haunting; we were never entirely certain. None of us are, to this day.

There were things in that house that we all saw, which none of us can explain.

All of this is true.

What I saw was real and so frightening I will never, ever forget it.

I will change the names of those involved and the name of the location; apart from that, I will be as truthful to what happened as I can.

Nothing will be exaggerated in terms of what we saw that summer.

Halloween is coming.

My story is too.

Stay tuned.

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