Time To Talk

It’s Time To Talk Day, which if you don’t know about it, is a day to talk about mental illness in order to remove the stigma from it. We wrote a post about it last year too. You can read it here. Until 2014, we’d been seeing a wonderful psychologist, Neil, who changed our lives. You can read about how we felt about leaving the mental health system here. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t get the help they need – they’re either ashamed, see it as weak, or there just isn’t the support around. Mental health isn’t treated with the same importance as physical health, when really, the two are often linked. If people with cancer were treated the same way as people with mental illness are, there would be uproar. And whilst illnesses like depression and anxiety are slowly gaining support, the other issues, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are still stigmatized. That needs to change.

We haven’t blogged much recently – we’ve written maybe two posts in two months. We’d like to blame it on being busy but that would be a lie. We just didn’t care. Our youngest cat, Ebony, died in December and to us, our animal army are our family. So when one of the dies, it’s like losing a family member. Grief is grief, no matter who you’re grieving for. We were heading into a spell of what we call the darkshines anyway, because when we’ve had a few good months, the darkshines like to visit to remind us they’re still there lurking in the background. Whilst they can be dealt with, they never go away completely. Winston Churchill likened his depression to a black dog – some times it was a small dog that he barely noticed, other times it was a large dog. It’s a good description. It’s like a shadow – you always have one, but sometimes you and others don’t see it, so you forget it’s there. Other days, it’s clearly visible, like a twisted, blackened version of yourself.

We use the term darkshines (stolen from a Muse song) because it’s an umbrella term that covers the different forms it takes – sometimes we feel inexplicable rage, or a burning knot of frustration, or times where the slightest thing will make us cry. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming numbness. For it to be a bout of darkshines, it has to last more than a few days, otherwise that’s just a shitty mood. It’s been six weeks now and this time it’s despondency. Rage is preferable because we’re like Bruce Banner – avoid confrontations whenever possible but when the rage hits, we Hulk out and get shit done. We once emailed every library in Cardiff, asking if we could do readings purely because we were in a fit of rage. Why? Because we discovered dinosaur erotica was selling more books than we ever will in our lifetime. For us, rage is empowering. We embrace it. It gives us the confidence we normally lack to face our problems and take them down. We turn from socially awkward messes into goddamn productive ninjas. And who doesn’t want to be ninja?

Despondency is more destructive. Despondency makes us not care. Despondency finds something that isn’t going well and focuses on it, using it as a example of what massive failures we are. In this case, it’s book sales. We sell one ebook a month. Considering we have eight books out, that’s spectacularly shitty. So the darkshines like to remind us how shitty this is. Every single day. Though to be fair, even the most positive person would have to agree this is failure. It tells us we must be shit writers to achieve such poor sales. It tells us there’s no point releasing more books because they won’t sell either. It tells us that whatever we submit will be rejected and it backs up the argument with the 300+ rejections we’ve had over the past eight years. The darkshines love statistics to prove the point. We stopped counting after 300 but the darkshines wants to know what the current total to further support the point. It’stough to resist the urge to give in and do a recount. We’ve come close to giving in a few times, but we know it’s what it wants. January was extremely difficult as we submitted five novels and four poems with the darkshines chattering away about how pointless it all was because we weren’t going to get anywhere. Then we weren’t longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize for the first time in two years. The darkshines just said “told you so.”

Writing is something we’re passionate about. Being writers isn’t what we do. It’s what are. That burning, consuming hunger we feel every day never goes away. Not many people understand that hunger. People tell us all the time, “if it has this effect on you, why don’t you quit?” And do what? It’s like telling someone to stop breathing. Yes, there are times it destroys us, but it also keeps us going.

What helps, is writing. Escaping. Going on adventures, doing zumba or FitBox. And hanging out with our friends. Our friends don’t know when the darkshines hit. We don’t tell them. We don’t want to burden them. But they help us without even realising it. Hanging out with them brings us out of ourselves, whether it’s going to the cinema, having game night, D&D or spending an evening watching horror films back to back. Even though we know we haven’t been fun to be around. When at times the darkshines is too strong to conceal completely and our mere presence just ruins everything. We’ve been hurt badly by people we thought were friends, but that taught us who the good ones are. Just because someone is fun to be around, doesn’t mean they’re a good friend. It’s the ones who are there for you, who stick up for you. We’ve found them and we’re keeping hold of them. Sorry, guys. Not sorry.

We’ve talked a lot about our depression and overcoming the social phobia that kept us imprisoned inside our house from age 18-26. We’ve come such a long way. Back then, we couldn’t eat out in public, could barely speak in public. A supermarket trip was traumatic. Now we’ve done readings at literary festivals, had tables at horror cons, we travel the UK with our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror and in September, we went to America with Neen. Our first time of leaving the UK. We went to Las Vegas and San Francisco. We visited Alcatraz, the Winchester Mystery House, we spent a day by ourselves in Vegas while Neen was at her brother’s wedding. We met the guys from Ghost Adventures. And these are the same people who were once too scared to walk anywhere in public. So the social phobia is cured. Yes we’re still socially awkward but we’ve learned that’s not part of our mental illness, that’s just who we are and we can’t change it, so we’ve learned to accept it. We joke about it. Our depression cannot be cured. But it can be lived with.Paillon Grand Canyon tour

The worst thing is knowing that it’s just the darkshines and it will pass and yet still drowning in them anyway. It’s like a wave – sometimes it drags us out of our depth, but eventually it will carry us back to shore and spit us out. We just have to wait for it to change direction. We’ve been listening to Rise Against’s ‘Tragedy and Time‘ which is great for reminding you that nothing lasts forever – not even the bad times.

Nightmares After Christmas

We were going to blog on New Year’s Day but we hate New Year’s as much as we hate Christmas. Everyone else is so positive, with resolutions, how this year will be better, it’s a fresh start like last year is magically wiped from existence, and we’re sitting here thinking ‘the world doesn’t change because everyone gets new calendars’. Resolutions are usually broken within two weeks – mostly because they’re overly ambitious, such as ‘I’ll run five miles a week’ when the only running you do is for a bus. We’ve had the same resolution for the past 3 years – do something different. And we’ve kept it. The past 3 years we’ve been to so many new places, met loads of new people and done things we’ve never done before. And even though it’s a new year, that doesn’t mean that all the hurt and bad times won’t affect you just because the clock turns midnight. This isn’t Cinderella.

So if you were expecting a happy ‘New Year, New Us’, sorry about that. The darkshines came to visit after our gorgeous cat, Ebony, died in December and the darkshines love dwelling in misery and negativity and backing up that negativity with statistics to prove their point. We think the darkshines are allergic to New Year’s. While everyone else is all cheerful and optimistic and singing Auld Lang’s Syne, the darkshines are sitting in a corner, singing Del Amitri’s ‘Nothing Ever Happens’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxbIU0X-lCI

Now that we’ve utterly depressed you, we’ll tell you what we’ve been up to. A lot of time has been spent contacting haunted locations to hire them. Some don’t get back to us, some are so expensive we’ll have to start smuggling diamonds to pay for them and a some ask us for public liability insurance. Yes we’re public liabilities, no we’re not insured. But there are some places we can hire. And we’ll be teaming up with regular and new faces.

But over the past two months, we’ve mostly been working on novels. Seeing as our sales are lower than a stripper’s inhibitions, we’ve needed something positive to do until the darkshines crawl back into the dungeons in our minds. Two publishers have an open window this January – Angry Robot and Gollancz. Gollancz publish Terry Pratchett and George RR Martin, so we’re a little star struck. We’re sending Silent Dawn to Angry Robot. But they wanted novels of 70,000 words and higher. Silent Dawn was 63,000. So we had to do a lot of work on it. Gollancz are accepting self-published novels, so we’re sending them Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire. Soul Asylum was published three years ago and after we bring a book out, we do not look at it again. Ever. We’re so scared we’ll find mistakes or it will be shit etc. But we had to re-read Soul Asylum to write its synopsis because we couldn’t remember what happened. See, when we write a book, we only ever remember the original. No matter how times we work on it, only the original version sticks in our minds. And while the book is not shit like we feared, we picked up on passive voice and framing that we didn’t know about three years ago (thanks Anya for teaching us about them), so we’ve been doing a lot of editing on it and will re-publish it once we’ve sent the extract to Gollancz. And of course, having to write three synopses has not been fun. But massive thanks to our mum, and our mates Tom and Hayley for beta reading our work. If Bleeding Empire isn’t accepted, it will be the next book we release.

As well as submitting three novels to publishers in January, we’ll be entering Romance is Dead and The Malignant Dead in the National Self-publishing Awards. Soul Asylum was short-listed (2012) and Deadly Reflections was highly commended (2014). Yes. Four novels and one short story collection will be sent off in one month. We don’t believe in taking things easy.

Normally, we enjoy spattering Valentine’s Day in blood, but since Gunning Down Romance, Bad Romance and Romance is Dead were all brought out in print last year under the series name Romance is Dead, we mourned the loss of ruining the day for everyone this year. But that has changed. One, because Deadpool is out and we’ll be spending Valentine’s in the cinema with our mate, Andrew. And two because Southcart Books in Walsall, who stock our books, have invited us to be one of the headliners at their Valentine’s Day Massacre event on Feb 13th. So if you’re around that day, feel free to come. We’ll be reading from Romance is Dead. But you probably guessed that. So give your lover a Valentine’s Day they will never forget.

Southcart Books

Merry Christmas. Or Bah Humbug.

We haven’t blogged for a while – we’ve been busy writing and editing, but that’s not very exciting. You don’t want to know how we rearranged a sentence, or what words we cut. That’s what we spend most of our time doing but it doesn’t make a good blog post.

Instead, here’s a Christmas poem from our D&D/RPG group, Disaster Class. At the moment we’re role playing the Dresden Files, which you can check out here. First case, second case. You can subscribe here. It won’t surprise you to learn that we’re as bad at rolling dice as we are at ghost hunting and marketing. But enjoy the poem, which Tom wrote, tailoring it to our characters. So Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and if like us, you don’t, bah humbug :D

 

Smelting Pot

Moira Furnace

front of the engine house

Shenanigans, inappropriateness and people getting injured. It could only be Calamityville Horror. We were invited to spend the entire night at Moira Furnace by our FB friend, Helena and her team, Boleyn Paranormal. Neen was meant to still be working on Galavant, so we decided to go alone. Turned out Galavant finished early. Balls. Anyhoo, we set off Saturday afternoon, later than we intended leaving, which is becoming our trademark. And yet we arrived on time. Yes. On. Time. At half past four exactly. The time we said we’d be there. Then we spent half an hour trying to find a way in. There were only a few places where we could get phone signal – parts of the woods, the loading bay and by the toilet in the engine house. We failed to break in then eventually managed to find phone signal and rang Helena.

Moira Furnace

lime kilns

Moira Furnace was built in 1789 by Francis Rawdon Hastings, who later became the 2nd Earl of Moira, after he inherited land in Ashby Woulds. He recognised the potential of the area’s coal and iron ore deposits and began developing it. In 1792, a company was formed to build a 30 mile canal to link the Woulds with the main canal network. The first coal mine was sunk in 1804, a lime kiln was built and construction started on the iron-making blast furnace. It was brought to blast in 1806 and closed in 1811, due to some features not being successful as it was a period of blast furnace development.

Moira Furnace

engine house

A foundry making iron castings continued functioning for another 30 years. Moira Furnace was converted into housing for the mining community. In the 1850s there were three families living there. Also in the 1850s, the foundry and lime kilns closed, ending industrial activity, except for coal and clay extraction. The canal was abandoned in the 1940s due to railway competition and mining subsidence and filled in. The last residents moved out of the Furnace buildings in the 1970s and coal mining finally stopped in the 1980s.

Moira Furnace

lime kilns

The foundry was demolished in the 19th century, but the bridgehouse and engine house were converted to dwellings. By the time the families moved out in the ‘70s, the dwellings had become derelict and the engine house was demolished. The bridgehouse and furnace were scheduled as ancient moments after pressure from Philip Riden and the Leicestershire Industrial Historical Society.

Moira FurnaceMoira Furnace is one of the few remaining blast furnaces from this period because it was a commercial failure. If it had been successful, it more than likely would have led to the site being developed and the furnace replaced. Documents mention bad management, construction, raw materials and design, but many of the documents were written by people who were trying to deflect blame from themselves. When the furnace was abandoned, its final charge was still inside, partially smelted. A high sulphur count was detected in the raw materials, which may have contributed to the failing, as well as a design fault or operating problem in the chimney, which led it to overheat.

Moira Furnace

engine house

Staff, visitors and paranormal investigators report feeling unwell in certain parts of the building, shadows are seen, people are touched and screams are heard from the bridgeloft. In a book, Shadows on the Water: The Haunted Canals and waterways of Britain by Allan Scott-Davies, he said during the building of Moira Furnace, a number of ghosts were seen. One was a small boy seen crouching in the corner on the upper floor by the mouth of the furnace.

Moira Furnace

furnace where workers fell to their deaths

There were a number of accidents during the short run of producing iron. The dangerous job of feeding the furnace fell to women and children. As they tipped the wheelbarrows of iron, ore, coke or limestone into the furnace, it wasn’t uncommon for the weight to pull them to their deaths. They would die from asphyxiation before becoming part of the next batch of cast iron.

Moira Furnace

attic

There was a fatal explosion in Moira coalmines in the Bath Pit on 9th August 1845. Seven men and boys died of burns from the explosion. Francis Hastings has apparently been spotted in the woodlands surrounding the furnace and apparently someone died from falling off the top of the furnace. Children also are rumoured to move stuff around on the top floor.

Moira Furnace

Mary’s Parlour

We did a quick walk round, dumped our stuff in the kitchen and promptly loaded the fridge with Red Bull and soya milk. In the loading bay, we found children’s dressing up clothes. Cat walked into a cart. When the lights were on. We returned to the engine house and split into two groups of three. Helena, her mum, Liz and stepdad, Nick stayed in the engine house while us and Helena’s husband Alex ventured into the woods. And so began the calamities. There is a reason that word is in our show name! We found a small clearing. Hanging from a tree was a piece of bark with a hole in it for the string. There was also a stick tied in front of it. We have no idea what this means. If anyone can identify it from the photo, please let us know. We’re intrigued. We decided this would be the perfect place for a vigil.

Moira Furnace

unknown object in the woods.

Alex felt a warm spot near him.  Cat moved closer and could also feel it. It was about three feet off the ground. Lynx also felt it. We tried pointing the temperature gun at it but the readings went weird. Then we realised by trying to find the warm spot, we may inadvertently be groping a ghost. We hope you enjoyed it, possible spirit person. We moved on. Alex got stuck climbing over a log in his two pairs of trousers then Lynx walked straight into a bog. She thought it was the path, until she started sinking. She made a hasty retreat. Cat then got caught by a tree. It had her hair and camera bracket and refused to release her. We ended up walking in a big circle and returned to the clearing.

Moira Furnace

us and Alex in the woods

After a creepy sounding owl kept contributing to our calling out by imitating someone screaming horrifically, we started hearing voices. Alex called out to them, wondering if they were fleshy people and not spirit people. We hoped they weren’t. We’re here to hunt for ghosts, not perverts. We decided to find where the voices were coming from. Except Alex slipped in the mud, fell to his knees and smacked his face on his camera, cutting his lip. Cat, who was answering a text at the time, quickly checked her camera. Yes, it was pointing at him. We will now be able to watch it in slow motion replay. We look after people on ghost hunts. This is also probably why locations keep asking if we have insurance and a first aider. Nope and like bollocks.

Moira Furnace

in the loading bay

Meanwhile in the furnace, Liz had asked the spirits to imitate her whistle. The three of them heard a whistle in return and it was captured on EVP. It’s really clear. They played it to us over our walkie talkies while we were in the woods. We regrouped for a warmth then we headed out to the loading bay with Helena for a ouija board session. Although the three of us spent most of our time falling over the steps. It’s a wonder none of us fell into the furnace. We got nothing on the ouija board but on the sp7 spirit box, there was this weird noise. Cat thought it was a sheep, Helena thought it was a horse, Lynx thought it sounded like the Gremlins laughing.

Moira Furnace

lime kilns

We started asking if there was the ghost of a horse present, but it wouldn’t stamp it’s hooves or neigh in response to our questions. Yes, we tried to do an EVP session with a horse. There were some strange bangs, but we couldn’t identify where they were coming from. Moments after we asked the ghosts to push us or push something of ours, Alex radioed to say one of their cameras had fallen off the box it was on. He tried debunking it by shoving the box, but it didn’t tip the camera.

Moira Furnace

romantic candlelit ouija board

We moved the ouija board to the other end of the room and had swapped the planchette for a candle, which was easier to move. Cat moved outside to the furance chimney for a lone vigil while Lynx and Helena amused themselves by discovering that the thumb of a gardening glove looks a lot like a penis in night vision. They shared their finding with Cat and the vigil was soon abandoned for channeling our inner teenage boys. Lynx poked the tip, which looked decidedly dodgy in night vision then Cat made it dance. Only on Calamityville could an innocent gardening glove lead to inappropriate shenanigans. Alex, Liz and Nick joined us for a group photo at the chimney before we all headed back inside to thaw.

Moira Furnace

us doing the ouija board session with Helena

Our next vigil was up in the attic with the sp7. There were some voices coming through, one male voice seemed to be the same person, but we can never understand electronic devices. The SB7 was sweeping in reverse, which hopefully means it wasn’t picking up radio stations. Helena sensed someone on the stairs so went to investigate and felt dizzy. Cat joined her then Alex moved further down the stairs. He felt himself being pulled. Then he tripped climbing the stairs, which was nothing paranormal :D When we returned to the room, Alex found witches hats, so we conducted part of the vigil whilst wearing them and no doubt looking absolutely stylish. The K2 spiked a couple of times but the voices on the SB7 died down. After about an hour, we returned to base camp.

Moira Furnace

Roxy being a trigger object in the attic

We split up again, with Helena, Liz and Nick staying in the engine house while us and Alex investigated the lime kilns and canal. We could hear distant voices that sounded like they were in the woods. Maybe the perverts had returned, believing they were safe from our cameras. No-one is ever safe. We invited any ghosts in the canal to bob to the surface like creepy corpses but none would oblige. On the furnace are hand prints from people from where the furnace overheated. We called Helena and Liz out for a group photo on the stage bit by the tower.

Moira FurnaceWe retired to bed around 4:40a.m. We slept on the attic floor under the watchful gaze of the Sony (until battery/tape ran out). Got up around 8 and packed up. We lingered to do daytime shots then left at 9:30. And we still didn’t get lost, despite not printing out reverse directions! Our map reading skills are improving. And then we started to run out of petrol. There are no petrol stations along the M50. There’s one before the A40 but we thought we’d be ok. We were wrong. As Pinky dropped to 5 litres then 4 litres then 3 litres, we began to panic. Especially as there’s no petrol stations along the A40/A449. We dropped our speed and drove behind a caravan to reduce the drag. Had one satisfying moment when we overtook a police car though. Made it back to Cardiff with 2.5 litres of petrol. Even when we don’t get lost we can’t drive without some sort of adventure! But we had a fantastic time with Boleyn Paranormal and we’ll be teaming up again on other adventures. In fact, we have our sights set on Italy…Moira Furnace

Autumn of Terror

Those of you who follow us on social media or know us in real life, know what our Mastermind subject would be: serial killers. And our favourite of all? (Favourite sounds wrong, like we’re fans or something.) Jack the Ripper. So when we saw an anthology call for fictional Jack the Ripper stories, we desperately wanted to be in it. By ‘desperate’, we mean we would’ve performed a ritual sacrifice on reality TV stars if the anthology had demanded it. Why did the anthology not demand it? We wrote a story, Autumn of Terror, with a short deadline (we think about three weeks) and submitted it. We didn’t expect to get anywhere because the publisher was Little, Brown who publishes J K Rowling, and our acceptance rate has a poorer showing than a ghost’s birthday party. Stephen King used to stab his rejections on a spike. We could impale ours on pikes outside our house, like a paper version of Vlad the Impaler’s scare tactics.

But Autumn of Terror got accepted. The universe was so shocked, an angel choked to death on a chocolate eclair. You’d think that being accepted would mean being on a high for weeks on end. We finally got a story accepted by a major publisher who would actually pay us. Proper money, not  the usual $10 for hours of work. But no. Our demons don’t allow us to enjoy success. They were immediately saying “he sent the email to you by mistake.” Quickly followed by “he was one story short and picked yours at random.” See, demons? This is why we can’t have nice things.

And yet, the second email, apologising for accidentally accepting our story didn’t come. It’s still the only story we’ve had accepted this year, so our demons are happy being smug in our failures, but at least our fascination with Jack the Ripper has finally paid off and we can claim that everything we’ve read or seen about him was purely research ;) We now need to visit Whitechapel and go ghost hunting there, see if we can meet him and his victims in spirit person.

Autumn of Terror follows a Jack the Ripper tour guide as he takes his group to all the murder sites and brutally reenacts the crimes. And as the tour guide puts it to his audience “real murder doesn’t come with refunds.” The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper is out now in the UK and will be out in January in the US. You can get it here Amazon UK   WHSmith   WaterstonesThe Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper

Skeleton Crew

Anatomy Museum EdinburghToday was finally the day. The day we’d been looking forwards to for months. We were going to meet one of the most famous men in Scottish history: William Burke, of Burke and Hare fame, thanks to Iain Campbell at the Anatomy Museum. Most people get excited at seeing celebrities. We get excited at seeing the skeleton of a man executed in 1829 for murder. This may explain why we’re horror writers…

Even though Burke and Hare are known as the most notorious of the Resurrectionists, that’s technically a lie. They didn’t dig anybody up – they murdered 16 people between 1827-1828 and sold their bodies to Doctor Robert Knox to be dissected. Hare then turned King’s evidence on Burke and escaped without punishment, while Burke was hanged before a crowd of 20,000, publicly dissected and his skeleton was put on display in the Anatomy Museum in 1870, where he’s been ever since. Although having now read about the history surrounding the case, we have to say, Hare was the vilest of the two men – Burke at least felt remorse – and yet Hare was the one who got away with it.

us making friends outside the armoury.

us making friends outside the armoury.

One of the reasons we wanted to see Burke’s skeleton (apart from the fact our NaNoWriMo novel is about the Resurrectionists) was because Burke and Hare were the reasons we wanted to visit Edinburgh years ago. We’d had no desire to visit it until we read about them. Suddenly, Edinburgh sounded like a cool place, with its division of Old and New Town. It was years until we’d battled enough of our social anxiety to go, but had we not heard about Burke and Hare, we might never have fallen in love with Edinburgh.

The Anatomy Museum is open to the public on the last Saturday of every month. But we were in Falkirk doing the book signing. When we realised the dates clashed, we emailed the museum, asking if there was any chance we could see him on another day. Our last visit to Edinburgh consisted of us asking at every museum we visited “do you know where Burke’s skeleton is?” We explained that our next book was on the Resurrection Men and that we’d be in Edinburgh doing research for it. We didn’t even expect a reply, so were shocked when Iain emailed back, inviting us for a private viewing on the Monday. We have to say a massive thanks to him for taking the time to let us see Burke. The museum is well worth a visit.

St Cuthbert's

St Cuthbert’s

We headed to the Anatomy museum, cases in tow, hoping Iain wouldn’t think we were planning on moving in. Or secretly hoping he’d let us. We ended up taking a roundabout route, but we got there. Probably should’ve studied the route better. But that’s not what we do. We entered the uni after Cat failed to open the door and a student came to her rescue. He must’ve clocked the look of confusion and slight panic on our faces, as he asked what we were looking for. We explained we were looking for the anatomy museum, so he told us where it was – up several flights of stairs. Why can’t our luggage walk like Luggage in Discworld? And eat people. We heaved our luggage up then found the museum. Cat asked in the reception about Iain, so the woman phoned him. It was kinda obvious we didn’t belong in the uni. Not sure it was the suitcases and hiking rucksack or our lack of intelligence shining through like gout.

St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh

St Cuthbert’s

Iain was lovely and took us up the rest of the way in the staff lift, to save us lugging our suitcases up. We stashed them in the corner of the museum so they wouldn’t become a trip hazard. We talked to him for ages about the Resurrectionsts, our plans for the book and our interest in anatomy. He revealed they’re doing public dissection lectures. Guess what we’ll be doing in Edinburgh next year? :D Every year, Edinburgh finds a new excuse for tempting us back. Edinburgh, stop playing games and just admit you love us as much as we love you. Iain let us have as long as we wanted in the museum. There were some students there studying. We were trying to be quiet so we didn’t disturb them, but Lynx’s knee decided to click loudly every time she passed a student. It does the same during EVP sessions when we’re ghost hunting.

St Cuthbert's watchtower

the watchtower

We weren’t allowed to take photos, unfortunately. Burke is shorter than we thought he’d be. But it was great to finally meet him. He has 2 wonky toes on his right foot and his middle toe is missing as well as some teeth. Iain told us he once took Burke to France in the back of his car. That would’ve been the best road trip ever! Though we wouldn’t have been able to resist posing with him at all the tourist spots. There was also the skeleton of another murderer, standing back to back with Burke. He was the last person to be dissected. St Cuthbert's watchtowerWe spent ages looking at all the specimens. The museum sadly isn’t as grand as it once was. There used to be five floors of exhibits, but it all got scaled down and most of their artefacts are in storage, which is a shame. The public need to see it! We were there for over an hour and were sad to leave Burke. It was surreal to finally meet him after spending our last visit to Edinburgh hunting him down like Prince Charming seeking Cinderella. And there he was, one of the most famous murderers in Scottish history, standing before us in a glass case.

P1140103We waved goodbye to Burke and headed down Candlemaker Row to the Grassmarket and stopped in a cafe for Tom and Amy to have breakfast then went to the armoury and witchery shop to replace a keyring we lost. The witchery shop has the card case made out of Burke’s skin. In the armoury, they had a Davies (our real surname) coat of arms on a pinbadge! So we bought it. The Davies motto is rubbish: ‘without God, without everything, there is only God.’ We’re adopting ‘we had badass dragons.’ Also bought sword pens and a sword letter opener.

Jekyll and Hyde, Edinburgh

inside the Jekyll and Hyde

As we weren’t far from St Cuthbert’s, which has a watchtower, we went there. We didn’t think we’d have time to visit the watchtowers – there’s another one in Carlton Hill cemetery – so it was an unexpected bonus. As we’ve never been in Princes Street Gardens, we walked through there to get to St Cuthbert’s. Tom stayed on a bench outside, as his legs were hurting, so us and Amy went exploring. We thought we’d found the watchtower and went right up to the front door, photographing it, but it turned out to be the caretaker’s house. Whoops :D There were people camping in the kirkyard! There was a shifty looking guy with a camera, who kept staring at us like we were the shifty looking ones. Avert thy eyes, judgemental sir! There was another part to the graveyard and the watchtower was there. It was built in 1827 to deter the Resurrectionists.

ShakeawayAs we headed out to go to Shakeaway, we stopped to have a play in the children’s play park. We all had a go on a hammock and spinning thing then we went on the swinging beam. Amy managed to pick up a playground related head injury on the monkey bars :D She swung underneath them and clocked her head on another one. It’s rude to pass playgrounds without going in them. We don’t need kids to access them! There were a couple of parents in there with their kids. We like to think we taught them that just because we’re adults, doesn’t mean we have to be boring.

Jekyll and Hyde, Edinburgh

preparing to sample cocktails

We had our traditional vegan Redbull milkshakes in Shakeaway then went to Jekyll and Hyde, our joint favourite Edinburgh pub. Amy was asked for ID the minute she walked in :D We had the Gluttony and Humility cocktails, Amy had Kindness and Tom had Death. We also had chips. We weren’t hungry, but it was gone 2 o’clock so we thought we ought to eat. The barman had really pretty eyes. We’re suckers for pretty eyes. We amused ourselves in the pub by making up dialogue for the film, Invaders that was playing on mute. That was followed by an old episode of Doctor Who, which we also gave new dialogue, which included a love story involving The Doctor and the baddie’s beard. Some people will shoehorn a love story in anywhere.

Jekyll and Hyde

haven’t even had our cocktails yet

We returned to Princes Street Gardens to try to find the genius statue for architecture. After exploring the entire gardens, we couldn’t find it, so we found a stone and posed for our own genius statue. Turned out, we’d walked past the statue twice. (Amy Google Imaged it in the airport) Amy even commented on the statue as we passed it. Epic. Fail. We joked that maybe only true geniuses could find it. That sadly turned out not to be a joke. Why did we not Google Image it while we were there? We’re not geniuses, that’s why.

Jekyll and Hyde, Edinburgh

Mackenzie sampling the cocktails

Made our way to the bus station and got to the airport in plenty of time. Our case was 21.6kg! How was it heavier? We’d sold most of our books! Lynx set off the bleepers, had to go through the body scanner then got a very thorough pat down. The woman should’ve bought her dinner first. She spent a long time pressing Lynx’s ribs, even though the scanner didn’t show any metal there. No, there was nothing hidden there – her ribs stick out, that’s all. As Cat and Amy were grabbing their stuff from the trays, Cat heard a security woman say to two elderly women “I can get you both off at the same time.” Didn’t realise that service was provided in airports. Travelling really opens your eyes! Cat was then assaulted by a woman’s handbag and a guy tripped her with his case, both assaults happening within seconds of each other. If that was Fate’s attempt to take her out, it was a poor effort.

Cardiff airport

Cardiff airport has an ostrich!

When we got to the gate, we had a go on these shiatsu massage chairs after Tom convinced us they were worth the £1 for 5 minutes. They’re supposed to be relaxing! They friggin’ hurt! It was like being poked really hard! We got pummelled in the ribs and arses. And they crushed our legs, trapping us in the chair. We’re clearly too bony for them. We paid for that torture and spent most of the 5 minutes squealing. Yes, it was filmed. Whereas Tom had a lovely neck rub, as we’re short, the bit that squeezes your neck, tried to crush our skulls. After we got off them, two little kids had a go. They were laughing and claiming the chairs tickled them. Clearly sadists.

zombies imminent

zombies imminent

Our mum had arranged to meet us outside the airport. We’ve never flown from Cardiff, so weren’t entirely sure how to get out. We headed across the car park and kept going. The roads were deserted. It was like the start to a horror film. We began our holiday by wandering the outside of the airport and it ended the same way. At least we’re consistent.

Princes Street Gardens

Genius does suffer without statues

Digging up the Dead

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

After only 4 hours sleep, we were up, ready to start our Falkirk adventure. So the day was sponsored by Red Bull – keeping us awake for shenanigans since 1998. Yes, our love affair with Red Bull is longer than a lot of relationships. Our first stop of the day was the Falkirk Wheel, which joins the union canal to the lower Falkirk canal. Apparently they do Halloween boat tours. The Narrow Boat of Terror has a starting point! And it now has a name – TerrorNova. For those who have never heard of the Narrow Boat of Terror, gather round and take a seat. Come closer, we won’t bite ;) Falkirk WheelOur mate Andrew and us often have post-cinema chats in the car park ’til one a.m., where some of our best conversations take place. You know how most people, when they have crazy ideas, have other people drag them back to reality with annoying things like logic? Andrew doesn’t hobble our creativity in that way. He joins in. And by joining in, some of our greatest ideas are born. None greater than the Narrow Boat of Terror. We plan to buy a canal barge, paint it black, decorate it with skulls, hang a large Jolly Roger off the back and cruise the canals of Britain, terrifying everyone. We even discussed the possibilities of taking it out to Poveglia Island. (Don’t tell us this won’t work, we know that. Just enjoy the journey.) Anyone who knows horror films, know the monster/murderer walks while his prey runs. Because walking is more sinister. So floating slowly down a canal will be more sinister. It will be a place where Halloween never dies. And now we’ve found a place to launch it. Though this will probably go about as well as that time we nearly bought a watchtower in Barry…Still narked about that.

Antonine Wall, Rough Castle

us at the Antonine Wall

We then walked to the Rough Castle Roman fort and the Antonine Wall, which is the edge of the Roman empire. It’s a grassy hill with a ditch either side and the Roman fort can’t be seen, apart from the undulating ground where the walls once stood. It’s like nature is trying to erase the Romans from memory. There are plaques telling you where particular buildings stood, what they were used for etc. They had underfloor heating, double glazed windows, regular baths. Yet after they disappeared, it took until the 20th century to ‘invent’ these things.

Antonine Wall, Rough Castle

the anti-picts ditch

The official legend is that the Romans built the wall there because they believed they were at the edge of Britain. Scottish lore says they were terrified of the Picts and built the wall to keep them out. Like the wildings in Game of Thrones. There are still the defensive ditches, which were holes they dug and lined with pikes to stop the Picts. We leapt over the holes like invading Picts, and thankfully, were not speared by phantom Roman spikes. That would’ve been a sour end to the trip.

John de Graeme

John de Graeme’s tomb

We then went to the Trinity churchyard, which has the tomb of Sir John de Graeme, who was William Wallace’s right hand man. We found an ominous object – a foam machete spattered in fake blood and paint. There was only one conclusion – a clown met a terrible fate in the graveyard during Halloween. Nobody mourned its passing. We photographed it as evidence then moved on. We saw the Mercat cross in Callendar Square and a pub where Robert Burns stayed. One day, Travelodges will have a plaque saying ‘C L Raven stayed here’. Or perhaps ‘C L Raven stayed here. Sorry about that. Full refunds are provided with your breakfast bag’.

Callendar House

Callendar House

We made a quick stop at Callendar House. Unfortunately, it had just closed for the winter season, but we were able to walk around the grounds. Every time we tried to take a photo in front of the house, the sun would pop its golden face up and turn us into silhouettes. We know we only had four hours’ sleep and were probably looking haggard, but this was harsh. At least we’ve found the first of the Scottish Casa Ravens. Hey, if the queen can have palaces in Scotland, so can we.

Callendar House

the Scottish Casa Raven

After that we went to see the Kelpies, which are 100 foot high horse heads, built on what used to be wasteland. They were beautiful. They’re modelled on real Clydesdale horses. Julie’s never been there so she was glad to go. Our next stop was back to Culross to see the village in the day. It’s such a cool place. the KelpiesBeautiful in daylight, atmospheric at night. We walked up to the Abbey again to explore. There was a steep ladder to an upper area, which reminded us of the dungeons in the Eyrie in Game of Thrones. That was scary going down. We posed on stone pillars – that was tricky setting up a self-timed photo, as Cat had to run, jump on her pillar and pose. In ten seconds. But we have mastered self-timer acrobatics. Then we climbed up a wall to find a “do not climb on the monument” sign. That might have been helpful at the bottom! Don’t judge us now, sign.

Culross Palace

Culross Palace

Culross Abbey

at the top of Culross Abbey

We explored the churchyard. The carvings on some of the graves were fantastic. We were beginning to lose the light so made our way to St Bridget’s kirk in Dalgety Bay. Resurrectionsts used to steal bodies from here and row across the Firth of Forth back to Edinburgh, so we wanted to see it for ourselves. We saw it on our Twitter friend, Suzy’s excellent blog Britain’s Forgotten Bodysnatchers and had to visit it. It was a longer walk than we thought it’d be, but it was well worth it. We didn’t expect the church to be ruins you could explore. After exploring the kirk, we went down into the graveyard. Couldn’t help wondering how many graves actually had bodies in them.

St Bridget's Kirk

St Bridget’s Kirk

The graveyard overhangs the bay, so we found a way down so we could see how easy it would be to get a body down. It wasn’t high so it wouldn’t have been a problem. Though Edinburgh looks a hell of a way across the Forth. It would’ve taken ages to row across. There was a group of teenagers in the graveyard, so god knows what they thought as we discussed the logistics of corpse retrieval. It’s ok, teenagers, we’re writers! The watch house was on the outer wall, facing the woods, so we had to go out of the graveyard to photograph it. The window faces the woods – not the bay or graveyard. That’s useful then. No wonder the Resurrectionists were so successful!

Dalgety Bay watchtower

Capturing a body snatcher

By the time we got back, the next train was in an hour, so we cwtched Penny and Roxy until we had to leave. Julie drove us to the train station and waited with us on the platform to make sure we got on the right train. The train to Glasgow left from the same platform. We ended up sitting several rows apart as the suitcase takes up one floor space by itself. We got back to the apartment at 7 p.m. Dalgety BayWe debated about whether to get chips from Rapido. It was in New Town and Cat’s knee had been bad all trip, resulting in daily use of ice patches, so we didn’t fancy walking. Luckily, Tom fixed the wifi so we were able to get online and check it out. They did home delivery! Minimum spend was £5, which was 2 large chips. Perfect! So we went on our first solo train ride and ordered our first takeaway. Check us out adulting like pros! Yes, we realise people probably do this at like 16, but at 16, we were were suffering badly from depression and social anxiety, which resulted in a break down, leaving us unable to leave the house. So for us, this was a big achievement.

Culross

Culross honoured us. Well, Cat.

And to continue the theme of bodysnatchers, the next day was going to start with meeting one of history’s most infamous bodysnatchers: William Burke. We couldn’t wait.

Dalgety Bay

stylish bodysnatchers

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