The Huntsman

CYGNUS CYGNUSToday I have a brand new 75-word story appearing at Paragraph Planet.

The Huntsman is based on those old northern European ‘swan maiden’ fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson and the like, but with a hefty and macabre twist.

I just hope it doesn’t put you off your lunch!

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Ghostly science

There’s a fascinating article in the current New Scientist magazine about research on the physical and psychological phenomena that may be behind sensations of haunting.

Apparently a former member of the Most Haunted crew, parapsychologist Ciaran O’Keeffe, wants to build an immersive video game that will test people’s responses to various scary scenarios, in order to find out what scares us most, and when, and why. There’s also research being done on the effects infrasound – sound below the normal level of human hearing – and electro-magnetic fields can have on human senses, and in particular the feeling of not being alone.

Needless to say, some of the results are pretty underwhelming – sensitive people are more likely to be scared by spooky situations, as are people who already believe in ghosts. But there are new and interesting lines of enquiry springing up, such as the role of synaesthesia – the ability to use more than one sense at once – and the phenomenon of sensitisation of different areas of the body at once, which may lead to a feeling of being touched.

I found all this really interesting. It’s always good to see research putting a rational, scientific spin on previously inexplicable events. However, the one thing that saddened me was the lack of any possibility whatsoever that some of these paranormal events are just that – paranormal. In my case none of the arguments put forward in the article help to explain things I myself have experienced. Yes, that could just be because we don’t yet understand the science behind them. But it could also be because they were real. Surely we need to research this whole subject from both directions – one, that it can all be explained by science, and two, that it can’t. And wouldn’t it be exciting if we could find proof of the latter, as well as running after the former?

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Two go exploring in Keswick

We had a lovely crisp sunny autumn morning yesterday, so hopped in the car and headed for Keswick nice and early before too many crowds got there.

Keswick is one of our favourite Lakeland towns. A few years back it suffered badly during the Foot & Mouth crisis, and it’s been hit by flooding several times as well. Luckily it’s managed to bounce back, and is now home to a wide range of shops and cafes, many of them on the artisan side. On top of that the scenery is stunning, with a walk down to the shores of Derwentwater, and the Skiddaw fells looming over the rooftops.

We started with a mooch round the Saturday market stalls, then had a quick coffee at the Wild Strawberry (not so much wild as livid, to quote the old Not the Nine O’clock News sketch), and then walked to the lake. Here, instead of going to our usual spot by the landing stages, we turned off over some National Trust land to get a different range of views/photographs. I also managed to snap a few interesting bits and bobs around the town, which will no doubt turn up on my Instagram account in the days to come!

By now it was getting pretty crowded and we were running out of time on the car park ticket, so we grabbed some nice grub from the market and set off through yet more sunshine and scenery for home.

Strange wicker sculptures framing the view across Derwentwater:

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Seagulls perched in a line:

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Friday Five: time-shift novels

P1030049I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of different time lines, or time that moves in different ways in different places. So it’s hardly a surprise that some of my favourite books share this subject:

The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe: C S Lewis

I loved this book as a kid – the adventure, the talking animals, but most of all the concept that people could grow into adults in another world, then come back home and have only aged by seconds. The later book The Magician’s Nephew examines the whole subject in more detail but this was the one I read first and it remains a favourite.

Tom’s Midnight Garden: Philippa Pearce

Another classic, this time using the device of a beautiful garden as a kind of ‘time portal’ for a young lad to go back into the grand Victorian past of the house he’s staying in. I loved it as a kid and I still love it now – the descriptions of the past are vivid and magical and the explanation comes as a complete – but satisfying – surprise.

The House on the Strand: Daphne du Maurier

Not one of du Maurier’s better known works but it should be in my opinion! This time it’s an experimental drug which appears to send the book’s narrator into the past, based around the (real) village of Tywardreath in Cornwall. The medieval landscape and characters are brought to life so strongly it’s as though we’re walking the same paths and streets as Dick. Quite possibly my favourite book of all time, with a terrific knock-out punch of a twist.

The Time Traveller’s Wife: Audrey Niffenegger

A much more recent book that plays wonderfully with the concept of time, by having it passing in different directions for two characters who meet and fall in love, at totally different stages of their lives. For me, the violent ending spoiled the poignancy of the rest of the book, but I still loved the sheer originality and the deeply unusual romance.

Roses in December: Fiona Glass

*cough* One of mine included on the list. But given how much I loved most of the above, it’s hardly surprising I’d try my hand at a similar theme myself. Like Tom’s Midnight Garden, in Roses it’s a garden which acts as a portal for characters to slip between past and present, with shocking but ultimately heart-warming results. It’s currently out of print but I’m hopeful of getting it re-published at some point.

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Lights in the sky

We had a bit of an adventure last night. About 10pm Dave got an aurora alert on his mobile phone, which showed we were right in the middle of an active aurora event. Since neither of us has ever seen the Aurora Borealis before we decided to grab some warm clothes and a camera, and hop in the car.

The Northern Lights, as their name suggests, appear in the northern sky. This is a problem for us because we live in the Lake District and between us and the north there are all these socking great mountains in the way! However, we drove (carefully, it’s a tricky road at the best of times let alone after dark) to the top of the Kirkstone Pass, where we hoped the view north would open up.

Of course it didn’t, very much. Even from the Kirkstone Inn car park we could only see a narrow ‘v’ of sky between Red Screes and Caudale Moor. However, it was blissfully dark so the stars stood out like Christmas tree lights. And down in the lower part of the northern sky, there was indeed a weird bright glow.

We’re still not sure if it was the aurora, or something to do with moonlight on mist. However, it was in the north, and there’s nothing in that direction for miles that would light the sky up so brightly. Dave took some long-exposure shots which show the Plough, the mountains, and a definite pool of greenish-white light just above the horizon.

Even if it wasn’t the Northern Lights it was utterly beautiful, and quite exciting to be out in the fells so late at night. If we get another alert, with a bit more notice this time, we’ll try heading for Dunmail Raise (the pass just north of Grasmere) or even the A6 over Shap, where there are much wider views north. But as a brief taster, it was rather fun.

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Most Haunted: real, fake, or somewhere in between?

Most-Haunted-Derek-Acorah-and-Yvette-Fielding-679x382I don’t know if anyone else remembers Most Haunted, the incredibly popular ghost-hunting show that was all the rage on Cable TV a few years ago? It starred (amongst others) former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding and a well-known medium called Derek Acorah, and each episode visited a different haunted property or location to film the ghosts.

From that write-up you’ll guess that it provided inspiration for my own book ‘Got Ghosts?’. However, where the Got Ghosts? mob are a pretty dodgy lot, I’ve never entirely made up my mind about Most Haunted. But I do still have my doubts, and now you can read about those doubts over at The Spooky Isles magazine.

While you’re there, check out some of the other articles because they have a wide range of paranormal and supernatural stuff from Britain and Ireland: ghosts, history, TV and film reviews, folklore to name but a few.

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Filed under Books, Guest posts, History, News, paranormal, reviews

Where there’s a ghost…

House Halloween Haunted Horror Demon Death Ghost…there’s often a crime. After all, ghosts are people who died, and not all those deaths are natural.

To read more about this rather weird subject, head for Ellie Sisson’s blog, where she’s been kind enough to lend me a soapbox and hand me a microphone for my latest “guest ghost post”.

This time it’s about the deaths, natural or otherwise, of some of the resident spirits in ‘Got Ghosts?’, and the whole issue of crime in paranormal fiction. I hope you enjoy it!

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Filed under Books, Guest posts, paranormal, Writing