The Malignant Dead cover reveal

*drum roll* We can finally reveal to you The Malignant Dead’s cover! *Tugs on curtain. Frowns as it gets stuck. Tugs harder. Winces at the crash.* Well that wasn’t supposed to happen.

The Malignant Dead

We think you’ll agree that our artist, River Rose (who did Disenchanted  and Deadly Reflections’ covers) has done a fantastic job. This has probably been the most stressful book release we have ever had. And in the history of Raven releases, that says a lot. We’ve had releases without books when Amazon cocks up, but this was the first time we had to cancel a release, back in June. But finally, it is all ready for it’s Halloween launch, which we will be having in Falkirk, Scotland, thanks to Julie and Dee at Trinity Moon, who stock our books.

And we will also be at Bristol Horror Con on Saturday October 17th! Yep, they’re letting us have a table. Tickets are available here. So come along and say hi, just so we look marginally popular. Or if you’re too shy to say hello, just stand by our table, which is our usual method.

Read chapter one here

And here is The Malignant Dead’s book trailer!

The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK US and Smashwords 

Mansion in the Woods

Wandering the woods, interviewing sheep and scaring fellow guests. Ghost hunting the Calamityville way. It’s not like you see on TV.Woodchester Mansion

Last night was the second horror night at Woodchester Mansion with Team Impact. We didn’t think it could get better than last time. We were wrong. Even though we were at the last horror night, we were excited. One, because we were looking forwards to meeting Team Impact again, and two, because they promised something special to test our bravery. Paul had threatened to blindfold us and leave us in the cellar or mortuary but then told us they had changed their minds. They had something better. We asked if it was being used as human Ouija boards. Apparently, it was worse. With thoughts of being human wickermen, we were intrigued. We reminded them the gods would not be happy with us as an offering. We’re more the bargain basement types of offering that gives your enemy incurable toothache, rather than the grand offerings that get you a good harvest and allows the sun to rise each day. We were even more excited when Paul admitted they were nervous about it. Now we were thinking they were planning to strap meat to us and leave us for the panther that has been spotted in the valley. We’re fast, but we’re not ‘escape a hungry panther’ fast. And we’d probably become horror clichés by falling flat on our faces in the mud, our dignity scattering with our cameras.

Woodchester MansionIt threatened to be a very quiet episode as Cat has spent the last few days suffering with a bad throat. By ‘bad’, we mean acid reflux has sent stomach acid to her throat, which caused acidic burns and ulcers in her throat and mouth, resulting in 3 sleepless nights on the settee watching Monsters and Mysteries on Pick. Our mum and sister kept telling her not to go as she looked so awful. But our belief is, “if we’re not dead, we’re going.” So for last night, she disobeyed doctor’s orders and spent the event downing Ibuprofen, Gaviscon and using a throat spray which tastes like perfume. It meant she could talk, eat and drink without the need for interpretive dance.

Woodchester Mansion

the library

The adventure started badly when we left 45 minutes later than planned then realised we’d forgotten our cameras and had to go back for them. We’re filming a ghost hunting show and we forget the most important pieces of equipment! As soon as eBay start selling memories, we’re upgrading, because our storage capacity is clearly full and has started deleting files. Like Sky Plus does when we record too many programmes and don’t watch them. Then we reached the M5 junction and couldn’t remember whether we went north or south. *Refers you to the sentence about our memories deleting files* We went south. We were wrong. We decided to give Helen another chance, even though the last three times we’ve used her, she abandoned us in Cornwall, sent us to the far end of Wollaton Hall, and sent us on a roundabout route through Bute Park when we were only a hundred feet from our destination. But we figured, everyone makes mistakes, she could redeem herself. Everyone is always telling us to get satnav and we’ve resisted because we don’t trust technology. We’ve heard the horror stories of satnavs directing people to the rough parts of towns where they’re then murdered. Or was that an episode of CSI? Helen repaid our trust by diverting from the AA route planner. When we reached a roundabout we definitely didn’t recognise, we typed the postcode in. And lost service. When we needed Helen the most, she was silent.

We were lost.

Woodchester Mansion

library ceiling

Sensible people would have turned around and retraced their route to the point where it diverted. But this is Calamityville. Being sensible gets you from A to B. We wing it and hope for the best. That gets you stories. One long country road later, we were beginning to think we should give this ‘being sensible’ thing a try and turn around. But there was nowhere to turn around. So we kept going. Our theory is, we would eventually end up somewhere with a road sign. It worked. The sign pointed to Nympsfield. A few minutes later, we spotted the gates to Woodchester. We had somehow circled around and come from the other side. Screw you, Helen, we don’t need you and your unreliability.

Paul, Dave and Chris were already at the gate. We followed them down. A storm was meant to hit so we tried convincing them to do a rain dance. Dave did a couple of moves. Then we heard rustling in the trees. Rain was coming. Then the clouds’ stomachs burst open and rain escaped like baby face huggers. We leapt back in General Pinkinton, cursing Dave’s rain dance. That’ll teach us to mess with Mother Nature.

Woodchester MansionOnce we’d dumped our stuff in the tea room, we were given free rein to explore. Never ones to turn down a chance to explore, we set off while they got ready for the event. There’s a ladies’ WC on a windowsill part way up the stairs. They must’ve been really tall back then ‘cos Cat struggled to get up to sit on it, then her feet were dangling about a foot off the floor. Tony arrived while we were skulking in the laundry. We’ve never been in the laundry before. We remembered to offer around our dinosaur and ghost shortbread biscuits that we’d promised them last time in exchange for cellar time. We got cellar time then robbed them of their biscuits. We decided to make up for that by making more biscuits. We don’t like breaking promises.

While the others went to fetch the guests, we went off with Chris to do some horror photography. On the first floor, there is a lovely shot of the window, which is ruined by a support strut. Cat “we could remove the strut, rush in, take the photo and put the strut back.” Gravity waits for photos, doesn’t it? Chris said that was his favourite quote of the night. We noticed him eyeing an area beyond a barrier. Cat “We can hurdle that.” Chris “this one unlatches.” So Chris removed the barricade and we walked on the drawing room ceiling to pose by the fireplace. Cat managed to squeeze into the fireplace and stand up in the chimney like a creepy Father Christmas.

Woodchester Mansion

the shop

When the other guests were arriving, Chris couldn’t find us. We were on the first floor trying to convince the children to dance with us. Chris “quick, you need to get pick of the seats.” We dashed down the stairs, with Lynx running into the drawing room where the cinema set up was and Cat ran to our equipment and food. It wouldn’t have looked good if we’d elbowed people out the way. Fortunately, Lynx had managed to claim the whole first row. It’s not just spirits we repel :D Then she realised we should’ve switched places – Cat still couldn’t find her way round the mansion. In the introduction, Paul talked about the barriers and said no-one was to climb them. We got a special mention for that. We smiled and decided against revealing we’d already got Chris to remove one :D ‘Removing’ and ‘climbing’ are entirely different actions.

Chris took everyone on a history tour of the mansion. For once, we weren’t the ones getting left behind. Future ghost hunt teams, if you want us to behave and stop us wandering off, let us explore first and satisfy our curiosity, then we’ll give you our full attention instead of getting distracted by shinies. Although Chris pointed out an area we need to explore – the attic. There are steps in the rafters. Steps need investigating. Attics need investigating. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a ladder with us, so we could only stare at it and lament our lack of ladders. Maybe we need to add ‘grappling hook’ and ‘ninja skills’ to our ghost hunting kit.

Woodchester MansionAfter the tour, it was time for The Exorcist. We haven’t seen this film for at least ten years, so it was like watching it for the first time – that is a plus side to having bad memories. Paul introduced us to the other guests as ‘horror book writers and horror comedy ghost hunting producers who make great dinosaur biscuits.’ That makes us sound far more professional than our ‘idiots with a camera.’ We should hire him for our PR. Then it was time for the ghost hunt. Paul then revealed their dastardly plan: we were going to go into the woods with Chris while everyone was doing their group vigils. We don’t know what Chris did to deserve being stuck with us for the first part of the night, but it must’ve been bad :D They weren’t sure if we wanted to do it, because it was now raining. But we donned our hoodies (which were damp from the previous downpour and slightly smelly from being stuffed in our rucksacks) and were eager to go. We’re Welsh. If we didn’t like the rain, we’d be stuck indoors for 11 months of the year.

Woodchester Mansion

the laundry

Some dog walkers have stopped walking their dogs in Woodchester’s woods, as they find them too eerie. We love woodlands – we walk Bandit in woods every day – so we were excited. Our excitement grew when Chris admitted that he doesn’t like being in them. And he likes woods. We set off to the old stable block in the woods. Now we knew why people find the woods eerie – they were quiet.  Normally, woodlands are full of noise – rustling, animals, etc. At night, you should be able to hear the nocturnal creatures. There was nothing. It was although there was nothing in the woods but us. Naturally, Stormborn (our phone. Tesco made us name him) picked this moment to blast our Silent Hill notification alarm. Yes, Stormborn, because the woods weren’t creepy enough. And we were too far from the chapel to run to safety.

Woodchester Mansion

stable block

We reached the old stable block and Chris found some steps. He’d never climbed them. Naturally, we encouraged climbing them. Weirdly, they led behind the stable block, but nowhere else and a wall blocked them off. Although we had torches with us, we had our hands full with our cameras and IR lights, so when Chris’s torch was facing the other way, it was blacker than the devil’s soul. And yet we didn’t trip once. Clearly it’s our vision that hinders us. We ventured deeper into the woods and still there were no sounds. Where were the foxes, owls, and insomniac birds? Then we came across a random log pyramid that was bolted together. Was this a panther trap? Then we found a log see-saw. It was a shame it was wet, because we really wanted to test it out.

Woodchester MansionBy now, everyone else would be starting the second vigil. We were halfway to the lakes where the soldiers drowned during a training exercise for the D-Day landings. We could go back, or we could go on. We chose to go on. Once we were out of the top section of woods, the woods came alive. We encountered the resident sheep, crickets were communicating via their secret code and owls were shouting at us from the skies. Where the hell were they a few minutes ago? The first lake we reached was the one where the soldiers drowned. The lake was odd. The raindrops that fell didn’t leave ripples. They bounced off the surface and turned into bubbles. The water also appeared to be thicker than regular lake water. Clearly someone has been messing with it. We’ve all seen the films where the government dump chemicals. Swamp Shark, anyone? Oh wait, swamp shark only ate the jerks, like some kind of moral hero. Carry on, government. We heard a lot of splashing. Was that one of the soldiers, recreating his watery death? Or a duck having a midnight swim? We’ll never know. But due to possible chemical contamination, that duck may start eating people. Stay safe, lake goers.

Woodchester Mansion

just making sure it’s secure

We set off to the next lake, which had a Victorian boat house. It was really cool. There was even a rowing boat out on the embankment. Unfortunately, the boat house was padlocked. Chris attempted several combinations, but we couldn’t get inside. *Adds boltcutters to our ghost hunting kit* We noticed that one of the windows was wide open. Had the window been on the banking side and not above the lake, we would have tried to climb in. But we didn’t fancy having to spend the rest of the night soaking wet and covered in weeds. The only spare clothes we had were our jackets and we couldn’t conduct a ghost hunt wearing only those. People came to the mansion to be scared, not traumatised. At another lake, Chris threw a stone in, to test the thickness of the water. We asked for any ghosts to throw it back. Sadly they didn’t. Maybe they couldn’t find it.

Woodchester MansionWe took the long route back, as they were still doing the vigils and stumbled across a car near one of the lakes. It was parked too well to be dumped, but we hadn’t seen anyone. We were tempted to peek inside but were worried at what we’d find: chopped up body parts, dogging, someone guiltily watching The Only Way is Essex. We stopped to interview the sheep about the panther, which is actually a panther cross lynx. The sheep weren’t keen to talk to us. Some even fled. We’re not sure whether they were more scared of us or the beast. Our egos are hoping for the beast. But we solved the mystery – the beast is none other than a black sheep. One of them even admitted this and backed it up with evidence while the black sheep nonchalantly ate grass, as though trying to convince us she was not in fact a carnivore. We might be rubbish at ghost hunting, but we have nailed cryptozoology. Then we spotted a black sheep with horns. She denied any accusations of being the devil, though she looked the type who would enjoy being worshipped.

Woodchester Mansion

the lake

We got back to the mansion while everyone was on a break. They hadn’t had the third vigil yet, because the guests wanted a break between the first two. We told Dave and Tony about solving the mystery of the beast. Not sure they were convinced, but the confession is on camera for experts to analyse and claim we faked it. Other guests wanted to go into the woods, so Chris had to trek back out. We decided to continue doing lone vigils and headed for the sacristy. We’d brought blindfolds with us, (skull bandanas,) so Cat blindfolded herself and we did some calling out. All we achieved was scaring passing guests. They’d look into the room, see us and either jump or shriek. We were just standing there! Paul had laid out trigger objects of a wooden cross and old coins, so we asked the spirits to throw the cross, as homage to The Exorcist. They clearly weren’t fans of the film, as they didn’t oblige.

Woodchester MansionWe moved into the chapel, where Lynx donned the blindfold. We scared a couple more people with our mere presence. Now we know why Monstrous Productions wanted us to be the snake twins. We really have got this ‘standing there and being creepy’ vibe. We didn’t do a vigil in the mortuary last time, we so we headed there. The mortuary was actually a Victorian cold storage room, but it got its name because the soldiers who drowned were placed in here. So we replicated it and lay on the floor. We invited the soldiers to join us by singing Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. They declined. They wouldn’t get in the bath with us last time and now they won’t lie on the floor with us. It’s a good job being writers has prepared us for a lifetime of rejection. What’s scarier than goth twins standing around being creepy? Goth twins lying on the mortuary floor, looking creepy and at some point, doing death poses. After scaring a group, we heard a woman asking “where’s the mortuary?” In an effort to be helpful, Cat instinctively answered “in here.” The woman shrieked. We laughed. And yet, despite now finding the room she was looking for, she didn’t join us.

Deciding we’d frightened enough people for one night, we made our way to the bathroom. Cat tried to get one of the soldiers to dance with her, but to no avail. Doing the Cha Cha Cha alone should be depressing, but we don’t need partners to dance. Damn it, soldiers, you’ve been dead 70 odd years, you can’t afford to be picky! If we’re willing to overlook the fact that you’re dead, you can overlook the fact that we’re…well…we see your point.

Woodchester MansionWe went to the top floor to contact James the builder, but he was on a tea break. Then the mansion went very quiet. Like everyone had sneaked out when we weren’t paying attention. We tried to get the ghosts to communicate through the bats’ squeaks then gave up and interviewed the bats. We asked for a ‘squeak once for yes, twice for no’ and on two separate occasions, the bat answered ‘no’ to our questions. They didn’t admit to knowing anything about the ghosts. What is it with animals and refusing to discuss the paranormal?

As the silence continued, we figured we should return to base camp. Everyone was already assembled for the debrief. We snuck to our seats at the front. Not that’s possible to sneak when laden down with equipment and our necklaces jangling like bells of doom. Last time, the mansion was really quiet on the paranormal front. Last night, it woke up. When we left to explore the woods. And stopped when we returned. Damn it ghosts, stop trying to make us look unpopular! We can manage that ourselves. In the cellar, all the guests were holding hands and a stone was thrown into the circle. Everyone’s positions could be accounted for as they were all linked. Coins were also thrown. On the top floor corridor, one of Dave’s EVP recorders stopped working and just emitted static, but the static would respond to their questions. Coins were also thrown in the corridor outside the cell witnessed by Dave and by the kitchen, witnessed by Tony.

Woodchester MansionWhen everyone left, the guys let us have the place to ourselves again, so we went down to the cellar, as we hadn’t had a chance to visit there. We invited the ghosts to throw things at us. The living seem to enjoy this sporting activity, so we hoped the dead would too. Footsteps clumped down the steps. We lurked in our separate rooms, ready to terrify the ghost back into life. It was Tony and Dave. Dave hasn’t been in the cellar for four years, after he had an unpleasant experience. So we ‘encouraged’ him to go into the room where the experience happened. Face your fear and all that jazz. Lynx even went in first to dispel any bad spirits (we’re Spirit Blockers, remember?) Luckily, nothing got him this time. Paul joined us, then as Dave was tidying up, the rest of us legged it out of the cellar and hid around the corner, cameras poised for screaming. Dave wasn’t far behind :D We ended up leaving at 5:30 again and followed Tony and Dave back to Wales. At one point General Pinkinton overtook them. Proud moment. Tony overtook us a bit later and us and Dave waved to each other as they passed. We were separated at the bridge ‘cos the twatapus in front of us took ages to find his money.

Woodchester MansionWe had a fantastic night, with the added bonus of seeing the lakes. We’ve wanted to visit them since we first went to the mansion. They don’t usually take guests out to the lakes – health and safety – but we’re already health and safety’s worst nightmare so it’s fine. Chris “Team Impact don’t always do what we’re told.” At last! Calamityville have another team who are willing to join us in shenanigans, as well as Jack and Laura. What we love about Team Impact is that they’re fun and unlike some paranormal investigators, they don’t have big egos. In the paranormal world, there is a lot of bitching, back biting, and teams trying to prove they’re the ‘real ones’ by calling everyone else fakers. We can’t stand that bullshit and it’s stuff like that that gives the paranormal world a bad name. So it’s refreshing to find a team that takes it seriously, but knows how to have fun with it.

Tony suggested a Team Impact/Calamityville Horror team up, possibly at Tintern Abbey. We love Tintern Abbey and revealed we once fake married Red Bull at the Abbey, even making little top hats for the cans and our cuddly sheep, Marvin and Mini Marvin, who were to act as our witnesses. Not sure Tony and Paul were really expecting that response. It’s not every day someone tells you on your second meeting that they fake married a can of Red Bull. We sound crazy. When we do these random things, we don’t think we’re crazy. Maybe this is why the ghosts avoid us…

Woodchester Mansion

Team Impact l-r Paul, Chris, Tony, Dave

Sheriffs of Nottingham

Robin Hood Nottingham CastleGetting taken at sword point by Robin Hood, getting lost, exploring Nottingham’s caves and admiring the beautiful men. Views. Beautiful views. We had an unexpected weekend away ghost hunting in Nottingham with fellow writer and ghost hunter, Lesley (AKA L K Jay).

Earlier in the week, we decided to meet up for our annual ghost hunting weekend, which usually takes place in October. All we had to do was pick a place in England. Lesley lives in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, so usually our jaunts are somewhere in the fens. After staring at the road Atlas and jumping on Google, we decided on Nottingham. The three of us went there three years ago, to the Galleries of Justice for a day trip. Although the most memorable part of that was driving through our first ever pedestrian zone. We would be arriving Saturday lunchtime. Late Friday night, we booked a hotel. We like winging it on this show.Nottingham Castle

We arrived in Nottingham and found our way to the hotel easily. This always makes us suspicious. Fate’s never kind to us unless she has something nasty planned. Within five minutes of leaving the hotel, a guy shouted abuse at us from his car window. Listen, people, we get abuse shouted at us a lot and 90% of the time, we cannot understand you. If you will insist on abusing strangers for walking down the street, please make your insults clearer, otherwise we can’t post them on Twitter and Facebook for other people to enjoy your stupendous vocabulary.

Nottingham CastleNottingham castle was first built in 1067, the year after the Battle of Hastings, on orders of William the Conqueror. During King Henry II’s reign 1150-1189, the castle was rebuilt in stone. In 1194, King Richard I, Lionheart, returned to England to quash King John’s rebellion. The castle surrendered after only a few days. In 1346, King David II invaded England but was wounded in the Battle of Neville’s Cross and was taken to Nottingham Castle en route to the Tower of London. Richard III spent most of his reign in Nottingham Castle, until 1485 when he left for the Battle of Bosworth and became the last king to die in battle. In August 1642, Charles I chose the castle as his rallying point for the Civil War and shortly after he left, it was seized by parliamentarians. In 1651, John Hutchinson applied to parliament to have the castle destroyed so it could never be used in war. The request was granted.

In 1678, Henry Cavendish, the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, built a ducal palace on the grounds, but it was burnt down in 1831 during the Reform Act Riots, and the rioters sold off the tapestries. It remained derelict for 40 years until 1875 when it was leased to the Corporation of Nottingham for 500 years. After being remodelled, it opened to the public in 1878 as a museum of fine art.Nottingham castle

Nottingham castle

caves below the castle

The castle was a 25 minute walk so we headed off. Only took one wrong turn. As we were buying our tickets, the guy behind the counter said “just flash these at the gentleman on the gate.” Lynx “flash what at the gentleman?” Cat “We can’t flash gentlemen!” Don’t think he was expecting that response. He soon stopped laughing to say “you can flash whatever you want.” We chose to flash our tickets to the gentleman on the gate. We wanted to see the castle, not get frogmarched out by security.  A guy dressed as Robin Hood lurked nearby. A Japanese couple nabbed him for a photo, so we decided to do the same. Robin “where do you want me?” Lynx “Well!” Robin *stands behind us for the photo* “Do you want to hold my sword?” Cat “You can’t ask ladies that!” He laughed. Lynx “Can you take us at sword point?” So he did. The next time we encountered him, he chuckled after we greeted him. Sorry Nottingham, we probably should’ve warned you we were coming.

Nottingham castleWe headed up to the castle and booked ourselves on the cave tour. It takes you under the castle, into the caves known as Mortimer’s Hole (we kept ourselves amused making inappropriate remarks about Mortimer’s hole), which Edward III used to capture Sir Roger Mortimer after his part in Edward II’s death. Queen Isabella is heard shouting in medieval French “Fair son, be kind to gentle Mortimer,” and her cries have been reported for 600 years in the caves. Mortimer was taken to London, and on 29th November 1330, he was hanged, drawn and quartered and his head put on a spike on Traitor’s Gate. He took two days to die. Clearly Edward III and Isabella have different ideas on ‘gentle’.

Friar Tuck was leading the tour, so we asked him if he’d ever experienced anything spooky down in the caves. He was actually part of a ghost hunt down there and witnessed one of the monitors they were using fly across the cave.

The caves were brilliant. We sadly didn’t encounter Queen Isabella or Mortimer and we kept getting left behind to take photos of the caves without tourists blocking our artistic shots. We then returned to the castle to tour the museum exhibitions and discovered one thing – Nottingham castle was full of good looking guys. Model worthy guys. The types of guys you don’t often see wandering about in the wild. Most of them appeared to be French. We have a cousin in France who keeps asking us to visit… As we loitered by Robin Hood’s statue, waiting for a photo opportunity, we watched a young family posing by the statue. The father, a young Frenchman, was gorgeous and had tattoos, which is always a bonus. Cat “Whenever I see a hot guy with kids, I always think ‘what a waste.'” Lynx and Lesley were in agreement.

There’s a curse hanging over the castle involving the Welsh. When King John was hunting from Clipstone, his favourite place of residence, his sister Joan, who was married to Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, warned him of a Welsh uprising. He summoned the barons to meet him under the Parliament Oak and demanded they consent to executing 28 hostages who were being held at the castle. These were noblemen’s sons, some of which were children. John rode to Nottingham and demanded the Governor tie up the boys. They were then hanged from the castle walls. John rode back to Clipstone in time for supper. Legend states if you walk past the Castle Gatehouse on a winter’s night, the boys’ cries and the sound of their feet kicking the castle wall can still be heard.Nottingham castle

Inside the castle it said no photography was allowed, but there were two incidences where we were forced to break this rule: when we found dressing up clothes and when we spotted another exceedingly handsome young man amongst the WWII displays. The fact he appears in the only two photos we took of the displays was entirely coincidental. We like taking photos of beautiful things ;) Sadly though, he was way out of our league. And no, we didn’t speak to him. That would’ve been weird.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem InnAfter the castle, we headed to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, England’s oldest Inn, built in 1189. Crusaders en route to the Holy Land would stop there and King Richard the Lionheart is rumoured to have stayed there. This also has caves below it and is fact, carved out of the caves. The smell of burning tallow haunts the chambers, lingering for twenty minutes before dissipating. The far side of the cellars is a rusted iron gate before a doorway carved into the rock. It’s believed to be the castle’s prison condemned cell. Men were shackled to the walls, with some left to die of starvation or dehydration. This is where Mortimer was temporarily held.  A former landlady saw a grey mass walk past her by this cell and her husband once felt icy fingers on the back of his neck when he ventured into the cell without turning on the light. Two regulars, after plenty of Dutch courage, decided to sleep there. They soon fled and were violently sick. In the Rock Lounge, keys disappear then reappear in strange places. Glasses and bottles fly off the shelves and smash when there’s no-one around. The staff hear breaking glass from the bar but when they go to clean it up, there’s nothing there. There’s also the smell of perfume, like lavender or rose water. Tourists who asked to see the cellars apparently saw two soldiers walk through the wall. A medium who visited the pub told the landlord and landlady a clock in the bar was possessed by two evil spirits. A previous landlady’s Dobermans apparently hated the clock and would bark at it. Another landlady’s Doberman apparently would howl whenever he was out in the office. This is where an entrance to Mortimer’s Hole is. She said previous landlords had seen and heard ghosts. She and her husband heard people calling when there was no-one there and a woman wearing a crinoline skirt has been seen walking down the stairs into the cellar.Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Between 1894 and 1914, the landlord was George Henry Ward, known as Yorkey. He is believed to haunt the inn and the cellars and has been seen on several occasions.

Ye Olde Trip to JerusalemA cursed galleon sits in a glass case above the bar in the Rock lounge. Sailors used to carve the models while at sea. The last three people who cleaned it, died within a year, so no-one is allowed to touch it. We always knew dusting was bad for you. We had a drink there and were going to order food, but it was so crowded we decided against it. Lesley had spotted a leaflet for a ghost tour that happens to be every Saturday, leaving from Ye Olde Salutation Inn. Suddenly we had plans for the evening.

Ye Olde Trip to JerusalemIn the Trip is a pregnancy chair – women who sat on it would become pregnant. This needed testing. Seeing as we’d rather be trapped in a jail cell with the cast from The Only Way Is Essex than have a child, Lesley sat on the chair. We’ve given her a year to fall pregnant. Mark your calendars. Lesley “I’m 43, this would be a bloody miracle.” Could these be famous last words? We’ll keep you posted. We’re putting forth name suggestions now: Trip or Jerusalem. Maybe Robin. Though we think Jerusalem Jackson is a worthy hero’s name.

Ye Olde Salutation InnWe left the Trip and headed for Ye Olde Salutation Inn. As we walked in, The Beatles’ Paperback Writer started playing. How did they know we’re all writers? We explored the pub, which also happens to be haunted and got drinks. Sadly they didn’t serve any food. We’d forgotten to bring certain food items with us, so were surviving on chocolate biscuits and vegan gummy bears. We’d also forgotten Cat’s phone, our foundation, phone charger, hair wax and Cat’s ice patches for Linus (her bad knee). But we brought more Red Bull than we would possibly need.

We hung out in the pub for an hour, where Lesley came up with a great idea. She’s going to write a blog detailing a series of experiments taken from The English Book of Magic. And we’re going to participate in these experiments. The first one will be done on Friday.

We spied a guy in the pub wearing pirate style boots and carrying a dagger. We figured he was either our tour guide or the most obvious mugger ever. We were right the first time. There were loads of people on the Nottingham Ghost Walk and we were all given numbered orange ghost stickers to wear. We weren’t sure whether they were to identify interlopers trying to join the tour for free or to identify one of the group should they happen to get mown down by a bus when crossing the roads. We hoped for the latter: ‘sorry gang, 692 was got by a Peugeot.’Nottingham Ghost Walk

The guide was very entertaining, especially when telling the more risqué ghost hunting stories as there were kids on the tour, so he was using euphemisms, which made it funnier. When he was recounting Mortimer’s brutal death, he needed a volunteer. French tourist Benoit stepped forwards. He was hilarious and took being hanged, drawn and quartered like a pro. And it was apt, as Mortimer was also French. When the guide asked who was on the throne in 1327, only two people guessed Edward II correctly – us. He was impressed and said only three people had ever got that right. And one was French. Lynx “we’re Welsh, does that matter?” For shame, English people. For. Shame.

Ye Olde Salutation InnThen we went down into the caves below Ye Olde Salutation Inn. A lady is rumoured to haunt them and she always sits in the same spot and people who see her, describe her in the same way. But the guide never tells them where she sits or what she looks like. No-one on our tour spotted her. That’s because they were sharing their tour with the Spirit Blockers (until we can think of a cooler superhero name).Ye Olde Salutation Inn

After the tour, we headed for a curry house so Lesley could eat. A drunk guy came over to us brandishing a handwritten sheet of A4 saying ‘peace and love’ and explained he and his mate were spreading it and free hugs. Free STIs more like. We sidled away. Although we overcame our aversion to hugging a few years ago, we will only hug people we like. We will not hug strangers. We will definitely not hug people wielding A4 sheets and threatening to spread things. He asked if we believed in peace and love. Us “No.” If he’d tried to hug us, he would’ve quickly learned how unpeaceful and unlovable we can be. Fortunately, Cat had accidentally filmed the whole thing. We escaped into a curry house. They cooked their chips with the meat so we ate a chocolate biscuit when they weren’t looking. The waiter brought a hot towel over afterwards. We stared at him. This seemed odd to us. Lesley explained curry houses do this after your meal. This is the first time we’ve been in a curry house. Bizarre.

Francis on Twitter told us about the Bell Inn, built in 1437, which was also rumoured to be haunted and like most of Nottingham, sat on top of the caves. So we headed there, after a slight wrong detour up a side street. It was really noisy, with everyone trying to outdo each other in the shouting department. In the toilets, women were discussing where the best looking men hang out club wise and one said she only ever goes out to Nottingham. We thought this strange. We go out to lots of places over the UK. Then we realised for her, ‘going out’ was ‘going out clubbing’. For us, it means ‘travelling the UK ghost hunting.’ And clearly, the best looking men were hanging out in Nottingham Castle.

We called it a night and got a cab back to the hotel. We never take cabs but we were tired and Cat’s knee was making her regret forgetting the ice patches. She had her walking stick on hand but a cab was quicker. The cabbie asked if we were going out. We told him we’re too old for that. Plus nightclubs are our idea of Hell. Give us a haunted dungeon any day. While Cat was fetching our soya milk from the hotel fridge, a guy left the kitchen on his mobile phone. He looked at her then went out into the hall. Where Lynx was waiting. He stared at Lynx then looked back over his shoulder at Cat then tripped over a display stand. Our work here is done. His thought process clearly wasn’t ‘oh twins’ but ‘how can you be in two places at once?’ even though we dress differently and have different fringes. How we laughed.

Wollaton HallOn Sunday, we had to check out at 10:30 a.m., so headed to Wollaton Hall. Except Lesley’s SatNav took her to Wollaton Hall’s car park and our SatNav (who Laura named Helen) took us round the back of the deer park in a housing estate. Thanks, Helen. That was really helpful. We found our way back to the main road and followed the tourist signs. There happened to be a food festival on. Our ability to show up to places when there are massive events on is quite legendary. Luckily it meant parking was free. And everyone was at the food festival, not the Hall. No, we didn’t go into the food festival. We were happy with our dwindling supply of chocolate biscuits and gummy bears.

Designed by Robert Smythson to be the home of Sir Francis Willoughby, building on Wollaton Hall began in 1580 and was finished 8 years later. Following the death of Michael Guy Percival Willoughby, 11th Baron Middleton, Wollaton Hall was passed to Nottingham Corporation and is now a natural history museum.

Wollaton HallWollaton Hall was used as Wayne Manor in The Dark Knight Rises. We didn’t bring Batman costumes with us sadly, but we plan to take over the hall and rename it Raven Manor. We booked to go on the hidden house tours then wandered. The Hall is now a natural history museum. There were these kids there who were running from room to room, shouting. Don’t get us wrong, we were glad they were excited about being in a museum, but please, tone it down. We were tempted to dump them in the hissing cockroaches tank (live cockroaches, not a display). Us and Lesley were in agreement – kids are the best advertisement for contraception.

The museum was interesting, but once you’ve seen one display of stuffed British wildlife, you’ve seen them all. Also, we find taxidermy rather creepy. Who first thought ‘that’s a beautiful dead animal; I’ll stuff it and put it on display so everyone can see its corpse’? There would be outcry if you did that to your relatives. “Oh don’t mind Uncle Steve, he’s been dead fifty years. It’s ok, we replaced his eyeballs with glass ones. He just loved that chair.”Wollaton Hall

At 12 was the first of the tours – the Prospect room and the half roof. While we waited, a guide was showing a couple around who were thinking of hosting their wedding there. We didn’t hear much of the conversation, apart from the groom-to-be saying “we’re very flexible.” Quite frankly, what you get up to on your wedding night is none of our business, sir.

Wollaton Hall

Prospect Room

The Prospect room is where paranormal activity occurs, in the form of an orange glow seen emanating from the windows when there’s no-one inside and the electricity is off. An attendant at the Hall, Don Wyatt, said in the newspaper report that he’d witnessed the light. In 1971, the gardener, Richard Barlow was returning home with his wife and saw the light in the window. He fetched Don and they went to investigate. The Hall was empty and the electricity was off at the mains. Don saw the light again in 1974. The half roof is haunted by a white lady. She hasn’t been for many years, possibly since the ’70s. Though like the dodgy hairstyles and dodgier fashion, she’s sure to make a comeback. A newspaper story in 1975, the then curator, Cyril Halton said even though he’d been employed there for many years, he’d never seen the white lady. Directly below the half roof is the Prospect room. This was the bedroom of Lady Jane Middleton, who was paralysed following a fall and later died in the room. We asked our guide, Dave if he’d ever experienced anything paranormal. He said “we all think we hear voices don’t we?” We were the only people on the tour, which was wonderful. We loved the Prospect room. It had a really nice atmosphere to it. There were boards there with photos from when Batman was filmed. It was fascinating seeing how they’d changed things.

Wollaton HallWe then went up onto the half roof. During WWII, soldiers on fire watch were too scared to come out onto the half roof because of the white lady. We found this funny. They were in the middle of a war, with constant threats of being bombed, yet a ghost scared them? Dave told us there was a statue of Charles I, which was built after he visited. Us “we’ve visited now, are they going to build one of us?” Dave pointed out niches in the tower where our statues could go, terrifying generations to come.

While we waited for the next tour, we explored the old stable blocks. We all imagined ourselves as ladies of the manor, galloping around the grounds on horses and hiring stable boys based on aesthetics and not their ability with horses. ‘You set a bale of hay on fire? Don’t you worry your pretty little face about it. You have other talents.’ ‘Now take your shirt off and get shovelling.’ People had their dogs with them, off the leads. We couldn’t help eyeing them enviously. No way could Bandit be trusted at a manor house off the lead. He’d be thieving from people, running off and leaping in the lake. Coincidentally, our mum then posted a facebook status about Bandit leaping in a pond five times.

Wollaton Hall

Tudor kitchen

We returned inside for the next tour, which was the Tudor kitchens and the caves, where the Admiral’s Bath is. Admiral Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby of Aspley Hall bathed there, apparently. Dave brought us over a photo he’d taken during a previous tour. In the corner of the photo is what looks like a ghostly face. It’s really cool. We were joined by 5 people for this tour. We were taken in to what used to be a study. Sadly, none of the books in the bookcases opened a secret passageway. We tried. Seriously, we did, selecting books that seemed out of place on particular shelves. Gutted. Yet again, films have lied to us. Dave pointed out a trapdoor which led to an area under the floor where important papers were kept. We asked if ‘important’ meant ‘title deeds’. He said yes. We eyed the trapdoor. Suddenly we had plans for tonight. The Tudor kitchens were really cool. Apparently, back when they were in use, only men were hired in the kitchens. We couldn’t help wondering if the lady of the manor had adopted the same attitude as us when hiring staff.Wollaton Hall

Then we headed down to the caves. There was a doorway to the Admiral’s Bath that even we had to duck to get through. We debated the possibility of tunnelling our way up into the manor house from the caves at night. Tunnel plots always go well in history.

Admiral's bath Wollaton Hall

Admiral’s bath

We loved Wollaton Hall and highly recommend doing both tours. It made a massive difference to our visit. Plus we enjoyed going through secret doors while other tourists looked on jealously. Not for you, peasants. And it meant we got to visit the haunted areas of the Hall. And now we know all the secret layouts…

We concluded our ghost hunting weekend with a trip to…Ikea. Lesley needed bookshelves. Then we went to Nandos where we were finally able to eat food that was not chocolate biscuits or gummy bears. On our way home, Helen panicked when we pulled into Hopwood services. We always seem to stop at Hopwood. Helen kept trying to make us go out, convinced we’d taken a wrong turn and were lost. Helen “slight right, slight right.” Calm down, Helen, we needed a wee. And you’re the one who keeps getting us lost. We have already planned our next ghost hunting weekend with Lesley – Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick castle. Haunted Shakespeare. Ghosts to be or not to be, that is the question.Wollaton Hall

A plague on Falkirk’s houses

This is Halloween, this is Halloween, plague victims scream in the dead of night! Well, they will this Halloween. As you know, The Malignant Dead, our novel set in Edinburgh during the 1645 plague was meant to be released June 13th. We’d had that date in mind since we wrote the book. Why that date? Because it was the anniversary of Edinburgh’s plague doctor, George Rae, getting the job. But due to our cover artist falling ill a week before the launch, the date came and went and instead of launching a book, we learned to ride motorbikes and went ghost hunting (Bad combination, people. Especially when you fall off the motorbike). As soon as we have the cover, we will reveal it to you and release the book trailer that we made in May. Yeah, May. We actually formatted the book for release in February.

But now, thanks to Dee and Julie at Trinity Moon, an awesome pagan/wiccan shop in Falkirk who stock our books, we will having a special Halloween launch in Falkirk. What better place to launch a Scottish book, than Scotland? They invited us to do a Halloween book signing in Callendar Square shopping centre as part of a fair that’s on that day. And we thought “what better time to launch our plague doctor book? Halloween, in Scotland.” So we will be in the shopping centre between 10 a.m- 4 p.m, signing books, getting distracted by Halloween decorations and trying to behave ourselves. Then we’re going ghost hunting overnight with Julie and Dee in Culross Palace in Fife. We’re excited!

And we’ll also be spending a few days in Edinburgh with Tom and Amy, doing research for our next book in the historical horror series, the body snatchers. After finding out William Burke’s skeleton was only available for viewing on the last Saturday of every month (we spent our last holiday there failing to find him and randomly asking people where his skeleton was), we discovered Halloween was the last Saturday. And he was available from 10-4. Yep. When we’re in Falkirk. So we emailed the Museum of Anatomy and asked if we could see the skeleton at a different date and explained why. And they said yes! And we’ll also be able to visit the Surgeon’s Hall Museum, where Burke’s death mask and a book cover made from his skin are kept. Best. Holiday. Ever.

So, to tempt you into buying the book, here is the blurb:

  1. The year Scotland died.

“Ring a ring of roses.”

Dirty white rags dangled from windows, like hanging men left on gallows for the city to witness their shame.

The Bubonic Plague is ravaging Edinburgh. Despite the council’s best efforts, people are dying. Soon there will be more people buried under Edinburgh than living in it.

“A pocketful of posies.”

When the plague doctor dies from the disease after a week, the council hires student doctor Alex McCrae, promising him one hundred pounds to cure the wretched pest. But a man who makes himself a hero, makes himself enemies. And when the council can’t afford to pay McCrae, they hope he’ll succumb to the disease.

“Ashes, ashes.”

But the plague isn’t the only way to kill a man. And in the city of the dead, it’s not just ghosts who return.

“We. All. Fall. Down.”

 

Serving Time

For most people, spending the night in jail is their idea of a nightmare. For us, it was a dream come true.Bodmin Jail

Back in February, we decided to finally make a start on a book we’ve been thinking about for a couple of years – a non-fiction ghost book. We always work on numerous projects at one time and our therapist, Jennifer, suggested trying something different. We told her our idea of the book. But we didn’t want it to be like the other ghost books, so she suggested we write one based on our Calamityville adventures. Bodmin JailWe actually spend some sessions discussing paranormal occurrences and debunking methods. Yes, this still counts as therapy. We already had most of the research from our visits and from the articles we write for Haunted Digital Magazine, so we were halfway there. We began by contacting all the places we’d visited for the four seasons of Calamityville, to get staff experiences and see if they’d let us do an overnight investigation for our book. Most didn’t reply. Some gave us the standard price of £600. But Mark Rabin, the resident medium of Bodmin Jail invited us to spend the night.

That was last night.

He’d said in his email back in February that he’d phone us to make sure we were decent people. When he rang, he said “no interviewing sheep or mannequins. And you might want to dress warmer. It gets really cold overnight.” Lynx “You’ve seen the show, haven’t you?” He watched our Bodmin Jail/Bodmin Moor episodes from S2 to see what we were like. And he still let us have the jail. He’s a brave man.

The Museum of WitchcraftLaura Dixon from Jack and Laura’s Ghost Series joined us, along with Neen’s mum, Elaine. You may remember her from our Redcliffe Caves episode. Neen was working so she and Elaine weren’t leaving Cardiff until 6 p.m. We wanted to spend some time in Cornwall so we picked Laura up at 1 p.m. Our route down was peppered with “so glad we’re not on that side of the road.” “Pass the Red Bull.” and “Is that guy peeing in the bushes?” We arrived at 4ish and headed for our first stop – The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle. We went there three years ago on our ghost hunting holiday but as the book we’re working on now (The Devil’s Servants) is about the witch trials, we wanted to go again. The last time we went, Cat was robbed of 5p by the pay and display machine and had an argument with it, and Lynx ended up drowning in sun cream. This time, we left the car park with our dignity still intact. We wandered over to the public toilets, only to find we had to pay 20p to use them. Ok, it was to contribute to the upkeep of the toilets, but we still felt aggrieved at having to pay for a basic human right. We decided to hang on until we reached Jamaica Inn. If we’d used our common sense, we would’ve gone in the pub opposite, but common sense divorced us years ago and we’re beyond reconciliation.

The Museum of WitchcraftAs we reached the doors, a family debated about going in. The kids took one look at us and seemed to think we were scarier than the museum and almost backed out, until their parents persuaded them to stay. That and we were behind them, kettling them in, It’s a fascinating place and well worth a visit. There are displays from the early years of witchcraft, such as the Pendle witch trials, all the way up to modern Wicca and even how witches have been portrayed in literature and art. And there are human skulls in cases. Win win. We’d forgotten to bring our Weeja board to the jail, so were tempted to take one off the museum’s walls, but the displays are alarmed and we didn’t fancy our chances of getting away.

Jamaica InnThe next place on our list is perfect for hungry, travelling ghost hunters: Jamaica Inn. We’ve only just starting putting our trust into SatNav and after only a few attempts at this new relationship, SatNav betrayed us. We knew it would happen this way – no signal means no SatNav. That’s why we’ve never trusted them. We had to find our way to Jamaica Inn using our memories and a map. Considering our memories are so bad that when people ask us what we’ve done in the week, we’re unable to answer them, we only made a couple of wrong turns and they weren’t as disastrous as they usually are. We arrived at Jamaica Inn with over two hours to spare until Neen and Elaine were due to arrive. We spent it wisely – having a drink and food. Our chips arrived covered in green stuff. Laura thought they were herbs. Lynx suspected it was grass cuttings, but we were brave and tried them anyway. Luckily whatever the green stuff was, had no smell, taste and was invisible, so it was allowed to stay. It would’ve been a pain to scrape it off. This counts as trying new food, because we never have anything on our chips – no salt, vinegar or ketchup. They are as naked as nature intended.

Jamaica Inn

stocking fillers

With an hour to kill, we visited the Daphne Du Maurier Museum. We wanted to visit the gift shop, but it was closed. It was creepy being the only ones in there, especially as the ceiling was creaking with people walking in the rooms above. We heard a door opening to the toilets then the sound of a toilet lid being lifted. Was this a visitor? Or a toilet ghost? If any show was going to discover a toilet ghost, it would be Calamityville Horror. We then made our way to Joss’s bar to have photo fun with the mannequins and chat to some of the locals about Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. By the time we finished, Neen and Elaine had arrived.

Bodmin JailAs darkness drew in, we left Jamaica Inn and skirted around the moors to Bodmin Jail. To discover the bar was still open and someone was having a disco in the old chapel. We’d been told we’d have the jail from 10 p.m. til 6 a.m. but this disco showed no signs of dying. In hindsight, we should’ve gatecrashed and busted classic Calamityville moves. That would’ve cleared the dance floor. We headed inside and the guy behind the bar guessed we were there for a paranormal investigation. Was it the cameras that gave it away or the crazed-eyes, drool wiping excitement emanating from our every pore? He led us down to meet the medium, Sonia Richards. Mark was away in Essex so couldn’t meet us. Sonia took us in to the crew room, where the old jail kitchens used to be then we headed back outside to get our gear. She said it was ok for us to sleep there so luckily we’d brought our sleeping bags and camping mats just in case. Plus, we didn’t have a backup location, so it was either the jail, our cars or the Moors. We kinda hoped for the Moors. We could get a bit of Beast spotting in. It would be undeniable footage if it were to drag us off in our sleeping bags.

Bodmin JailSonia was lovely and took us on a tour of the jail. It’s changed since we were there three years ago. There are different mannequins, the set ups in the cells are different and some areas have opened up whereas others have closed. The mannequins were like a Tantalus, smirking smugly inside their cells, knowing we couldn’t get to them. Like someone in Witness Protection hiding from the Mob. We were gutted. Molesting mannequins is what we’re best known for! That and getting lost. And being the Worst. Ghost hunters. Ever. Each cell we passed seemed to mock us further, their creepy faces leering at us as they committed their crimes unashamedly before our eyes. We’ll find you in your dreams, mannequins.

execution shed

execution shed

In 1778, an Act allowed the local Justices to build three penal institutions on a new site in Bodmin. Another County Jail, a Debtors’ Jail and a House of Correction. Sir John Call Bart, JP, MP designed them, based on ideals of prison reformer John Howard. Bodmin Gaol was a pioneer in design: light and airy with isolated areas for debtors, felons and those who committed misdemeanors. Men and women were kept separate. The gaol had hot water, under floor heating, a chapel, infirmary and individual sleeping cells. Prisoners were paid for work from profits of the products the governor sold.

Bodmin Jail

Naval Wing

Prison population was low until 1815, the end of the Napoleonic Wars, then cells became occupied by multiple prisoners. After 1820, numbers dropped again until the gaol’s closure. Old buildings were extended and new buildings added until 1850, when they were deemed unfit. Several Acts of Parliament demanded segregation based on prisoners’ offences and gender, resulting in over 20 classes of prisoners who had to be kept separate. In 1850s, a new 220 cell gaol was built, which was too large for the number of prisoners in Cornwall. In 1887, parts of it were transferred to the Royal Navy, becoming HM Royal Navy Prison Bodmin. In 1911, the female prison closed. The male civil gaol wasn’t used after 1916 as prisoners and staff went to war. The Naval prison closed in 1922 and was sold seven years later.

Bodmin Jail

the basement

60 executions took place between 1735 and 1909. Eight were women. Thirty five were murderers. Earlier executions took place on Bodmin Common. Between 1802-1828, a drop gallows was used in the field outside the front of the gaol. Between 1834-1856, a new drop gallows over the main gate was used. When the new gaol was built, the drop was over the main gate, but this was deemed illegal by the Inspector of Prisons, as it wasn’t public enough. The drop was then placed over the south wall, where the crowds could watch the executions from Asylum Hill, otherwise known as Bodmin Highlands. In 1868, a new law was passed demanding executions take place in private. Hangings in 1878 & 1882 took place on the same site, but a canvas shield blocked people’s view. In 1897, an execution shed was constructed in one of the prison yards, which was used for the last two hangings in Cornwall in 1901 and 1909, which were the only actual private ones inside the jail. It’s the only workable example of a Victorian execution shed and gallows in Britain. Sonia told us they have an executioner, Gary, give demonstrations on how the drop gallows work and he even hangs the dummy. We were gutted he wasn’t there last night.

The prison that exists today was built by the prisoners, using granite from Bodmin’s Cuckoo Quarry. But as well as holding prisoners, the jail has also guarded the Crown Jewels. During the First World War, it protected the Doomsday Book and state papers. It closed its doors for good in 1927.Bodmin Jail

Ghost hunters report the most active part as the boiler room in the basement. Really? An old boiler room? Is Freddy Krueger down there? We told Sonia last time we were there, there was a repulsive stench in the basement. It made us feel sick and we nearly had to leave. She said a lot of ghost hunters have reported that same smell. They describe a tramp being down there. We just thought maybe there were sewers nearby. We had no idea the smell was associated with anything potentially paranormal. Typical Calamityville, missing stuff.

Bodmin JailWe reached the chapel where the disco was and Uptown Funk was playing. This is one of our favourite Zumba dances. Neen and Cat broke into simultaneous Uptown Funk dancing outside the cells. Sadly it was the only dancing we did all night. We told Sonia about our crappy super power of being spirit blockers. She was surprised that being Goths, we’re sceptical of the paranormal. We’ve always loved ghosts but we’ve never believed in them. She thought our scepticism might be blocking the spirits, acting as a negative barrier. We know believers are more likely to experience paranormal phenomena, but we attribute this to believers automatically suspecting it’s paranormal whereas sceptics will find a way to debunk it. She suggested we try meditating. Neen still insists we’re dead on the inside and all the Red Bull we drink has caused this, but we don’t listen to her blasphemy.

The disco finally ended at midnight but it was half midnight by the time all the staff left and we had the place to ourselves. By then, we were all tired after our journeys. We began with a walk round with the cameras and K2 while Lynx read some of the jail’s history. Then we decided to try meditating to see if it would work. We used the techniques our multi conversion therapist taught us. We’ve been neglecting her therapy recently but were still able to use our code words to help us relax.

Bodmin Jail

Naval Wing

Then we headed outside to the naval wing. This wing is abandoned and crumbling, with bats hiding among the ivy roof. There are no floors. It’s beautifully creepy. We had our new IR floodlight with us and it made a massive difference to our full spectrum camera, which struggles to see far in the dark. Well worth the £30 we spent on it. And the £5 battery pack. We do ghost hunting on a budget.  We moved into a cell and stood in a circle to do calling out, with Lynx pointing the full spectrum camera out into the main wing. We kept hearing murmured voices but the jail overlooks the town and this wing has open windows so it was probably voices from the town. We also kept hearing stones dropping and rustling so we moved out while Neen, Laura and Elaine stayed in the cell. We couldn’t see anything, but due to the wing being exposed to the elements, we’re putting this down as natural phenomena. There are bats living there. We then separated and took a cell each until Neen legged it out of her cell. She thought she saw a shadowy figure standing in the cell with her and sensed it wanted her to leave. So she did, quickly. Cat, Elaine and Laura entered her cell but they didn’t sense anything. The Naval Wing is haunted by a gay prison officer who apparently used to abuse the prisoners. It’s said he pushes women out of the way and tries to drag men into a cell. We gutted that our two ghost hunting guys (Jack and Tom) couldn’t make it. We’d planned for them to be bait. We hadn’t told them this, as we’d wanted it to be a surprise. Men who appear on our show get special treatment.

Bodmin Jail

Naval Wing

Neen and Elaine headed back inside as they were cold but us and Laura stayed out to try and summon the demon that apparently lurks there. He was created by a coven of witches to stop locals trespassing the gaol. He’s harmless but feeds on your fear to grow stronger. Like Popeye with spinach, only more Hell-bound. He sadly didn’t make an appearance. We’ve never had a demon on the show and were looking forwards to adding him under our ‘special guest’ heading in our end credits. Plus, you never know when a demon might come in handy – hexing your enemies, getting you a throne in a palace downstairs, filing your tax returns…

Cat saw like a torch light on the old steps at the far end, but this could have been a reflection. We returned inside and tracked Neen and Elaine to the third floor, where a bat had fled one of the cells, straight over Neen’s head before disappearing. We ventured up to the top floor where creepy child mannequins loiter in the cells. Elaine threw a stone for a child to throw back but they refused to join in. We asked for any child spirits to trigger our motion sensor lights but again, nothing happened. Laura felt something tickling her hand.

Bodmin JailWe then moved down to the basement and did calling out. There were two mannequins being hanged for crimes against impersonating a human being. We set our motion sensor lights down but again, the spirits refused to co-operate. We demanded rope burn imprints round our necks but they obviously decided we had enough necklaces without them adding to our collection. Neen thought she saw a grey figure in the doorway, but wasn’t sure if it was her imagination. We invited it in to stand by her, stroke her face and caress her hair. She moved. Elaine and Laura’s stomachs participated enthusiastically so we retreated to basecamp for sustenance.

Bodmin Jail

Selina Wadge

Next we went to level three to try and contact Selina Wadge. Selina was twenty eight, unmarried, with two children, Henry (often called Harry) who was two, and John, who was six. She was often forced to enter Launceston Workhouse when she couldn’t find work. Henry was partially crippled, so he couldn’t walk, but her children were cared for. In 1878, she and her children left the workhouse to visit her mother in Altarnum. She claimed to be having a relationship with James Westwood, a solider. He wrote to Selina, asking to meet her in Launceston on Saturday, June 22nd, but later wrote to say he was working. On Friday the 21st, Selina and her children hitched a ride to Launceston with William Holman, a local farmer. She told him she was going to meet her boyfriend. On Saturday, she was seen near Mowbray Park. By midday, she was back at the workhouse, but only had John with her. In front of the workhouse master, Mr Downing, she told her sister, (who was also an inmate) that Henry had died in Altarnum. That night, John told the nurses Selina had put Henry into a pit.

Selina claimed James Westwood had drowned Henry in a well on Friday and threatened to kill her and John. Mr Downing called the police. Superintendent Barrett from Launceston arrived to question Selina. She gave him the same story. Henry’s body was found in three feet of water at the bottom of a well in Mowbray Park. The top of the well was covered, ruling out Henry falling in by accident. There were no signs of violence on his body. Selina was left in Mrs Downing’s care and confessed that she had acted alone, with only John present. When Selina was arrested and taken to Launceston police station, she told a constable that Westwood had promised to marry her if she killed Henry. Her trial began on 27th July 1878, presided over by Mr Justice Denman. The jury took 45 minutes to find her guilty, but asked for mercy because of the way she had previously treated the children, and because there was no evidence of premeditation. She was sentenced to death.Bodmin Jail

She was executed 8 a.m. on Thursday, 15th August 1878. Hers was the first private execution to be held at Bodmin and the first to use the measured drop. There is a mannequin scene in the condemned cell showing her crime and she was executed via the old site only a few feet away. Pregnant woman report experiencing her remorse and often feel emotional on the third and fourth floors. Children have been known to ask who the crying woman is. She is seen as a full torso manifestation. Our cuddly executioner, Ketch, served as a trigger object. Selena didn’t show so we crowded around the execution site and pretended to be hanging for photos before returning to the basement and the boiler room.

Bodmin Jail

Anne Jeffries

Another prisoner said to haunt the jail is Anne Jeffries, who was accused of being a witch. When she denied it, she was apparently left to starve to death. It took her three months to die.

In the old boiler room, Lynx fell down the step, much to everyone’s delight. Yes, Cat was filming her at the time. Again we set out the motion sensor lights, along with our old keys as trigger objects. Lynx moved to the far end of the corridor to encourage the spirits to come to her. After a while, Cat claimed another doorway. Unfortunately, the basement was as active as a sleep clinic, so we retreated upstairs and asked Sonia to do some glass divination with us, to see if she could get the spirits to interact with us.

Bodmin Jail

execution door

We took a table and glass into the long room with the cells and gathered around. Sonia stood a few feet away and called out to the spirits. At times it felt like the glass moved slightly, but none of us could keep still, so our fingers were slipping all over the glass, which could have moved it. We tried for half an hour, but got nothing other than slight vibrations and all of us feeling like we were swaying, which can be explained by the fact it was 4 a.m. and we were all knackered.

We called it a night and bunked down in the crew room for two hours. It’s surprising how comfy a jail floor can be when you’ve been awake most of the night. We napped in services car parks on the way home. like rock stars. Or tramps. Due to the party and needing to sleep, we only had three and a half hours investigation time, which wasn’t long enough in a location that size. We didn’t have time to separate and do paired or lone vigils, as we wanted to explore every area. There’s only one thing for it – we’ll have to get ourselves locked up again.Bodmin Jail

Conjuring Spirits

A horror film in a haunted mansion. That wasn’t an invite we would ever turn down.

We’ve wanted to return to Woodchester Mansion since we visited it in 2012. You can read about our last visit here. But the next time we visited, we wanted it to be overnight. Then Team Impact announced they were hosting a horror night with a screening of The Conjuring followed by a ghost hunt until 4 a.m. Although we’ve seen The Conjuring 4 times, we’ve never seen it in a haunted mansion.Woodchester Mansion

We’ve known about Team Impact since they took part in a TV show in 2010 and they seemed like a fun bunch. We were the first to book tickets and worryingly they knew who we were, even though our Facebook is under our C L Raven name. When people tell us they know of Calamityville, our first thought is to apologise. We’ve been chatting to Paul and Chris since we booked and they asked if we had any requests, seeing as we were experienced in investigating the paranormal. After we finished laughing at the idea of being experienced, which lends an air of respectability, we told them we wanted to do lone vigils in the cellar. They promised to lock us in. Horror film, haunted mansion and locked in a cellar. Careful boys, propositions like that could lead to marriage.

Woodchester Mansion

clock tower

Louise, who joined us for our Borley Rectory misadventure was also going with some friends. This was shaping up to be a great night. On Thursday, we tweeted about making spooky biscuits for the night. Sadly, our one bat cookie cutter rusted and the other melted, so we substituted it for a pterodactyl. Team Impact promised not to tell the bats, but couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t find out. We agreed on a price of three bat biscuits for ten minutes in the cellar.

We set off at 5:45 p.m. to allow us plenty of time for calamities. There were none. Apart from a misunderstanding about ablutions: Cat “I need a wee.” Neen “Want me to pull over?” Cat “What if the van gets hit by a truck?” Lynx “There’s services.” Cat thought Neen planned to pull into a layby. We reached the gates at 7:10 to find two others waiting. We were early. Super early. This never happens. Are we becoming…responsible?

Woodchester MansionWoodchester Mansion is a beautiful gothic building, complete with bats, gargoyles and vampires. But to complete the Gothic Guide to Buildings sticker set, you need ghosts. One story says the 2nd Earl of Ducie held a lavish party in 1840 to celebrate his new title, when he saw his father’s ghost sitting in his chair at the head of the table. He apparently left the mansion and never returned. We suspect his leaving was more to do with financial problems rather than ghosts.

A headless horseman roams the grounds. He’s believed to be Sir Rupert de Lansigny, who inherited Spring Park after murdering his cousin. Who says crime doesn’t pay? We’ve found no evidence of his existence, so it’s probable he’s a scary legend. Like Prince Charming. So who is the headless horsemen? And why does he haunt Woodchester Mansion?

The strangest apparition hovers above a lake on the vast grounds – a coffin, believed to belong to a Dominican Friar who drowned himself. Though how do people know who it belongs to, unless they’ve seen the name plaque? Also, why would a coffin haunt anywhere? It’s an inanimate object. It’s not sticking around for unfinished business, or to seek vengeance. “Avenge my foul and most unnatural…construction.”

Woodchester MansionThere are also reports of a horseman in civil war clothing on the drive and a black dog that haunts the cellar. His appearance coincides with the death of people closely associated with Woodchester. It wouldn’t be a British ghost story without a black dog. During our last visit, a worker told us a visitor had brought a dog with them and it refused to enter one of the rooms, becoming quite distressed.

There are rumours of Satantic rituals in the chapel but going on lack of evidence and how popular Satanism is with haunted places, we’re discounting it. Soon, abandoned supermarkets will have rumours of hosting Satanic rituals. People have heard a kitchen maid singing an Irish folksong as she works and a young man crouches in a corner, as though hiding from someone. A tall man apparently stands in the kitchen doorway and leans towards where the hiding man is crouched. Visitors have spotted a small man, rumoured to be a stonemason, in the chapel looking at the stained glass windows, and he is suspected of being responsible for small stones being flicked at visitors. Also in the chapel, people report smelling freshly extinguished candles when no candles have been lit. A girl skips up and down the stairs and on the first floor corridor, a young woman has been seen and heard as she stands at the window above the front door watching visitors below. A floating head haunts the bathroom and an old woman apparently grabs visitors. A tall man has been seen near the laundry room. We’re sceptical of this – when was the last time you saw a man doing laundry?

Woodchester MansionMany people report seeing servicemen around the property. In 1944, American and Canadian troops were stationed there whilst training for the D-Day landings. They used the lakes to train in bridge building for the Europe invasion. Security was very high and rigorously enforced. They stored their equipment in the cellars. During a training exercise, the bridge they were driving over collapsed and more than 20 soldiers drowned in one of Woodchester’s lakes. 1940s music is sometimes heard echoing through the abandoned corridors.

While we waited, we filmed our information piece. The gates were locked. We were tempted to hop out of the van and offer to demonstrate our skill in making burglary tools (yes, we once made a burglary tool), but instead we ate cherries and took the piss out of each other. The gates opened, so we drove in then continued filming. We read about Rupert de Lansigny, the supposedly headless horsemen then discussed how would people identify him without a head. Neen suggested he had wonky nipples. During a lively discussion about how he uses his wonky nipples to navigate the park, we suddenly realised Anthony from Team Impact was standing by the open door, right behind us. Well that’s a first impression we could’ve done without. Anthony said he was waiting to stop gatecrashers showing up. We offered to act as security to scare them off, taser them, or leap on intruders like rabid monkeys. That was a second impression we could’ve done without.Woodchester Mansion

Neen then solved a potential mystery – the bathroom has a floating head. There’s a headless horseman. Perhaps they spend eternity looking for each other like star-crossed body parts.

Paul and Chris soon arrived and everyone drove down to the mansion to park around the back. As Cat climbed into the van, laden down by equipment, she fell and elbowed the horn. Neen “You realise your arse was in the air at that point, and you just drew everyone’s attention to it.” Cat “Balls.” Neen then turned the corner and also accidentally hit the horn. Calamityville are incapable of arriving anywhere in a dignified manner.

Woodchester Mansion

drawing room after everyone had left

After everyone set up in the drawing room, where the screening was to take place, Chris led us on a history tour of the mansion. After he told us the story of a woman who is seen on the staircase, Cat stayed behind to get a photo of the stairs without people. It was the beginning us of us constantly being left behind and wandering off. We’re not sorry. We have form for this. The three of us got distracted by a sink off the stairs. Paul “We have three troublemakers now. That’s the ladies’ toilets.” Neen “it’d fill up pretty quick.” Cat “we’d need a stepladder.” She then tripped going up the stairs, proving Karma doesn’t take kindly to mischief.

Woodchester Mansion

windows where Elizabeth is seen

Chris mentioned a woman, nicknamed Elizabeth, who is seen in the windows above the front door. Neen told him Cat had seen her. He was pleased, as he didn’t know about that sighting. Also on this floor is a little girl ghost. It’s known that a little girl was playing with her friend, running along the corridor. Her friend stopped at the end, she didn’t and plummeted to her death.

After the tour, we all gathered outside for a group photo. We tried to hide at the back like we do in every group photo, but we were spotted and ordered to the front. We compromised and stood by Louise in the middle. Everyone returned inside, but we’d spotted what looked like a tunnel in a wall, so went to investigate as close as we could. The bats came out to greet us, so we stayed to chat to them for a while. By the time we reached the front door, it was locked. We seem to have a knack for getting locked in and locked out of places we’re investigating. Admitting defeat, we ventured round the back. It was either that or squiggle through a window.

It was time for The Conjuring. We had the front row, as they were the last seats left. And we’re so small, sitting anywhere else would mean us being unable to see. The sound kept failing on the dramatic bits, so the blaring noise cutting to silence was quite effective.

Woodchester MansionThe film finished at midnight and the ghost hunt began. We were split into two groups. We were pleased to find Louise and her friends were in our group. We headed to the top floor with Anthony. Louise volunteered to have a DVR with headphones attached so she could hear live EVPs. We would’ve volunteered, but none of us had spare hands to hold it. We could hear voices of people leaving. Neen “All I can hear is ‘keep coming.'” Cat “That’s what she said.” Ever the professionals. We called out for James, the builder who fell/was pushed to his death. He’s rumoured to throw stones, but he didn’t make an appearance. Builders never turn up when you want them to. Cat asked for pushing, scratching or bite marks. No-one’s captured a ghost hickey. Anthony “You’ve been set a challenge now. Can you rise to it?” Neen “That’s what she said.” We see what they meant about us being troublemakers…

A couple of women kept feeling cold, but the window doesn’t have glass. Anthony’s radio kept bleeping and contacting Chris and Paul, even though he wasn’t touching it. In the end, he gave it to Neen to hold. Cat went to the far end of the corridor to see if she could see or hear anything. Lynx and Anthony tried to get the ghosts to shove Cat then Anthony realised she was right by the barrier leading to a two floor fall. Cat had already moved away, in case they were tempted. Neen lamented her lack of Go Go Gadget Arms. Inspired by The Conjuring, Cat tried to persuade the ghosts to play hide and clap. We all spread out through the corridor, with Cat staying at the far end, Neen in the middle and Lynx staying by the window. Almost immediately, we both heard stones falling. But at that point, the bats were flying around, so they were more than likely the cause.

Woodchester Mansion

cellars

After half an hour, we joined Paul in the cellar. They had a Kinnect machine facing the corridor, so Lynx joined the two women who were watching it while Cat and Neen joined hands around the pillar with the rest of the group. Nothing appeared on the Kinnect. Louise felt something tickle the top of her head, but other than that, the cellars were quieter than a sponsored silence. Paul asked for someone to stand in the corridor, so Cat volunteered. Cat said nobody else had spoken up. Neen reckoned she was out before Paul finished speaking. Lynx joined Cat in the corridor, but stayed just in front of the Kinnect. Neen had gone in to watch it. Neen “Lynx’s arse has never looked so big! She hasn’t got an arse.” So if you were to ask a Kinnect, “does my bum look big on this?” The answer is yes. Lynx did a booty shake for the Kinnect. We both heard a single footstep. Cat thought it was Lynx, but she hadn’t moved. Paul wondered if it was Chris upstairs, but he was with Cat. On screen, the corridor between us went completely green, but we don’t know what that means. Maybe a ghost exploded. When everyone was in the corridor, Neen felt something stroke her arse. Paul asked where Chris was. Neen wondered if it was a nerve, but said it definitely felt like a stroke. Cat asked the ghost to slap Neen’s arse. Neen slapped Cat’s instead.

We returned to the drawing room for a break. Group 1 joined Anthony in the kitchen with the Ouija board while group 2 went with Paul and Chris to the bathroom to play 1940s music. Paul allowed us to go to the cellar by ourselves while Louise and her friends went to the top floor corridor to conduct a lone vigil. Chris took us down to the cellar, so we insisted he locked us in. Chris “are you sure?” Us “yes.” Chris “I’ll listen for the screaming.” Cat “But don’t let us out until we’re really panicked. That will be more dramatic.” Neen “You’re never panicked.” If a clown was down in the cellars, we’d be panicked.Woodchester Mansion

Lynx filmed Chris locking the padlock. We each took a room while Neen stayed in the corridor. Lynx didn’t realise there was a beam barrier alarm and kept setting it off. As we were too close to call out without contaminating each other’s EVPs, we took it in turns to call out. Unfortunately, we could still hear the other groups and the 1940s music. Cat whistled for the dog that’s seen in the cellar, but it didn’t come. We should’ve brought treats. Cat tried to entice the ghosts with our Uptown Funk zumba dance, but they weren’t interested.

We switched rooms but the ghosts stayed away. Lynx threw a stone to get the ghost to throw it back, but the ghost didn’t oblige. Paul/Chris radioed us to check if we were happy staying in the cellar. When we said we were, he replied we would be in there for a few hours. Neen put in a request for Red Bull for us. Lynx sang The Bangles’ ‘James’ to lure the builder, but he had another job. People passed the cellar and we heard one say “they’ve been padlocked in.” To be fair, locking us in the cellar is the only way to keep us out of mischief. Most mischief.

Woodchester MansionSadly, the only things in the cellar were us, so we joined Paul’s group in the bathroom, where they were experimenting with glowing balls. No, not that kind of experimenting. One man, Martin, had his ball pulled from his hand. Cat “were you playing with Martin’s balls?” 1940s music was played, but the servicemen didn’t fancy a dance. The group moved into the corridor, so Paul said we could get in the bath. We didn’t need telling twice. Neen joined the group while we got in the bath and sang ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’. Neen returned and joined us in the bath for a three-person ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’ rendition, complete with rowing action. You don’t get that with many ghost hunters. Soon we will be banned from every public event. We even invited the servicemen into the bath with us, but they declined. We reminded them that being dead, there weren’t going to get a better offer. They clearly believed things were yet to reach that level of desperation.

It was now 3 a.m. so we had half an hour to ourselves before a final group vigil. We made our way to the kitchen to use the Ouija table. Nothing. It was the ghost hunting equivalent to sitting in a restaurant when your blind date sees you and flees. We half expected the ghostly servants to ply us with sympathy alcohol and take bets on how long we’d stay. All night, ghosties.

Woodchester MansionWe called out to the ghost of the kitchen maid, Maria, or Moira, but even singing Blondie’s ‘Maria’ or Hard’-Fi’s ‘Better Do Better’ couldn’t convince her to sing back. We even tried an Irish folksong. Well, Thin Lizzie’s ‘Whisky in the Jar’, if that counts. We sang out of tune and the lines in the wrong order, but damn it, we had the guitar riff down. The kitchen was freezing, as it was near the back door. We even asked the ghosts to smash the porcelain, but they didn’t. Lynx then tripped trying to leave the table. Moira’s revenge for the bad singing, perhaps? We wandered the mansion, still humming the guitar riff and joined Louise and her friends in the organ loft galley. Sadly, it’s not a gallery that displays people’s organs in an artistic way. Louise and her friends hadn’t got any activity either. Perhaps joining us before has tainted her in the ghosts’ eyes.

The final vigil was back in the cellar. Blue blobs kept appearing on the Kinnect on this one woman’s waist. Was this the ghost dwarf trying to rifle through her handbag? Lynx switched off her camcorder and IR lights in case they were causing it, but the blob remained and her lights hadn’t affected the Kinnect before. Cat closed the screen on her camcorder so it was pitch black. One woman saw a light on the back wall, but that was caused by Cat’s viewfinder. The vigil was momentarily interrupted by Cat changing the Sony’s tape. If you’re ever on a ghost hunt with us and you hear beeping, cursing and fumbling in the dark, it’s us messing around with our equipment. Not that equipment.

Woodchester MansionThe night ended at 4 a.m. As we were packing up to leave the cellar, Paul asked if we wanted to stay behind and have the mansion to ourselves for twenty minutes while they escorted everyone else out. That’s like asking if we love Halloween. They were lucky we were too excited to think of building a barricade to prevent anyone getting back in. It’s about time the Welsh conquered English land for a change.

Everyone was given a goody bag for attending, which we loved. And those of us brave enough to do lone vigils were given a DVD as a prize. To be fair, we should’ve given the guys a goody bag for letting us come, despite knowing what they would be letting themselves in for. When everyone had gone, we went to the second floor corridor, as we hadn’t done a lone vigil there. We heard a couple of taps, but that was it. We tried convincing the servicemen to dance with us, and we even held out our hands and did the Cha Cha Cha, but they weren’t willing. We don’t blame them – we dig our heels in when people try to drag us onto the dance floor.Woodchester Mansion

While Paul packed up, we went to the cellars with Chris to ask him about his experiences for the book we’re writing about Calamityville’s adventures. He’s been investigating Woodchester since 2002 and has seen six apparitions. We asked him if any of the ghost stories attached to Woodchester are true. Most of them aren’t. The headless horseman is a variation on the folklore of a headless horse that roams the grounds. The Victorians started that rumour as they didn’t have security guards. The floating coffin was exposed as a hoax. But someone has heard a horse and carriage heard on the drive at 3 a.m.

Woodchester MansionWe grabbed Paul for an interview. He’s so tall, Cat struggled to get him in the frame with Lynx. He suggested we get a chair, or that he could go down on one knee. Lynx “are you going to propose?”

Team Impact are all members of ASSAP and NPI and Paul has recently completed a Parapsychology course run by Edinburgh University, so we wanted to ask him about that, as we’re intrigued. Most paranormal investigators just give themselves the title, but these guys have actually done training. We don’t refer to ourselves as paranormal investigators. ‘Idiots with a camera’ is the term we mostly use. Though technically it’s ‘idiots with 6 cameras’ but we don’t like to boast.

We had a fantastic night and would definitely go again. Plus we forgot to pay them in bat biscuits for being locked in the cellar and Ravens always pay their debts. No, wait, that’s Lannisters. Team Impact were lovely and we’d be happy if they ran every ghost hunt we attend. We eventually left at 5:30 a.m. and parked in the National Trust car park. There was a picnic area opposite, but Paul warned us it’s popular for dogging. The last thing we wanted was to have perverts peering through the windows when we’re trying to sleep. Though seeing as the spectral servicemen wouldn’t get in the bath with us, it’s unlikely doggers would show an interest.

We never did fulfill our bargain about the biscuits…

Follow Team Impact on Twitter here Like their Facebook page and the Woodchester Mansion Paranormal page.

Woodchester Mansion

l-r at front Chris, Paul, Anthony.

Chudleigh Literary Festival

With nerves jangling like a hanging skeleton caught in a breeze, we set off for our second literary festival – Chudfest. Most writers probably attend a festival before speaking at one, but we’ve always done things backwards.

Chudfest

the marquee where the festival took place

We met one of the organisers, Kate McCormick, who writes as Elizabeth Dulcie, at the Salem Literary Festival last year. If you want to know how that went, you can read it here. You can watch the reading here. If you don’t have time/can’t be arsed, to sum it up, we failed to find Sir Walter Raleigh’s house on a straight road and showed up soaking wet, covered in mud and smelling of farm animals. Despite this, Kate still invited us to read at Chudfest. She’s a brave woman.

For once, we didn’t get lost. Usually, if a journey goes well, Fate balances it out by causing something else to go wrong, and we warned people that should the marquee come down on them, it was entirely our fault. But Fate decided to let us have a day off being her puppets. We set up our table of books, complete with spiderweb table covers and leaflets that our friend, Hayley made for us. Our table was by the bar, which we felt was prime position – when people are drunk, they do random things they later wake to regret, so we hoped that would stretch to buying books from unknown authors.

Chudfest

our table

We weren’t reading until 7:30 p.m. but arrived at 1:20 p.m. to attend a writing workshop run by Kate and a woman called Margaret. We’ve never attended a writer’s workshop before, or any kind of creative writing course, so we were intrigued. Yes, you read that right. We have no writing qualifications. We haven’t taken a single creative writing class. And yet we’re writers. We’re convinced someone will one day expose us as frauds and we’ll be captured on camera, hiding our faces beneath our coats and walking into lampposts.

This workshop focused on senses. Everyone was split into pairs (we were separated) and were given optical illusions to look at. After we’d discussed them, we had a few minutes of free writing about one of the images. Lynx wrote about a person’s hidden dark soul and Cat wrote about a person finding faceless bodies hanging from a tree. Their faces were in a different tree.

Our next piece involved touch. One person was blindfolded and their partner had to guide them around the marquee by holding their fingertips. Talking was forbidden. It was interesting that when blindfolded, we noticed things we hadn’t paid attention to before, like the different floor surfaces, the slight gradient and using hearing to help navigate. Then we had to write how we felt, either being the leader or the blindfolded one. This exercise was also a challenge for us in a different way – physical contact with strangers and being blindfolded. Normally, we refuse to close our eyes if we’re with people we don’t know. When we did adult learning courses in sleeping and dreaming, a lot of it involved closing your eyes in class. We refused to participate because we didn’t know our classmates. Closing our eyes involves trust and makes us feel vulnerable.

Chudleigh Literary Festival

everyone’s gone home

The next exercise was using smells to evoke memories. We learned that our dislike of strong smelling/flavoured food extends to any strong smell. Vinegar and bleach are two smells that induce retching. Everyone else was able to differentiate between the smells. We identified perfume, (another smell we find cloying) bleach and vinegar. Everything else smelled like vinegar. Then we couldn’t get the smell of vinegar out of our nostrils. We had to write a memory, or a mind map. Cat’s involved ‘omg that’s rank.’ ‘Vinegar. Ugh. Vomiting.’ ‘Vinegar? Again? Why?’ ‘Sure that one’s also vinegar’. And ‘can still smell that damn vinegar.’

Taste was the next sense to be explored and this was possibly everyone’s favourite. Mainly because it involved a big bowl of sweets. Again you had to write about a memory. We chose pear drops. They remind us of visiting St Fagans (a Welsh outdoors museum), because every time we visit, we buy pear drops. Cat’s also included a side note of ‘sure I can taste that damn vinegar.’

the lane where we did our lsitenin

the lane where we did our listening exercise

We had a break to go outside and listen for any sounds so we could write a poem based on what we heard. We explored the area, wandered into a housing estate and befriended two English Bull dogs and a pretty brindle Whippet. After that we stood and listened. As we were in a lane, we mostly heard footsteps and children from the nearby primary school. And we’re pretty sure we terrified the locals. Two strange Goth twins loitering in a lane isn’t something they’d encounter in their every day lives, so they hurried past, avoiding eye contact. Apart from the dog walkers, who were forced to speak to us when their dogs befriended us.

After the break, Margaret wanted us to explore our sixth sense. Everyone lay on mats and closed their eyes. Once she’d taken us through relaxation exercises, we had to imagine walking down a corridor lined with books until we reached a door. We both imagined a castle corridor with an oak door at the end. Through the door was our writing area. Lynx pictured our shed, Cat imagined an asylum with rusting beds and a circular pewter table with a large white skull. Once we were in there, we had to imagine we were the best writers we could be, with words flowing. So, basically, any writer that isn’t us. We then had half an hour to write about anything that we’d been inspired by from the workshop. We expanded on the optical illusions we wrote about. We’re visual writers, so that’s what tends to attract us. Everyone was given the opportunity to read out what they’d written, if they wanted to. We passed. Ours were so terrible, we didn’t even want to read them ourselves, let alone have anyone else listen to them.

Chudleigh Literary Festival

this way to the housing estate

There was a break between the workshop and the authors’ supper, so we chatted to Sharon, who had the thankless task of looking after us. She introduced us to her teenage children, who had seen some of our YouTube videos. Whenever someone tells us they’ve seen our videos, our first instinct is to ask ‘why?’ Our second is to apologise. We also spoke to Su Bristow, who we’ve met a couple of times. She won the first Exeter Novel Prize, and was at the Salem literary festival, so it was great to meet up with her again.

Although there was vegan-friendly food at the supper, we’re extremely fussy, so we sat at one of the tables with Sharon and other authors, with our vodka and lemonades, eating our crisps and chocolate buttons. Everyone at our table was lovely and were fascinated when we told them about how we can’t eat foods that have a strong smell, flavour or unpleasant texture, or is the wrong colour. They’d never come across that before. We’ve recently discovered there’s a condition called Selective Eating Disorder which is on the autism spectrum where people experience the same aversions as us. We thought we were just fussy buggers.

Chudleigh Literary Festival

us with our mum, Lynette

Our mum texted to say she was outside, so we went to meet her. Our sister, Sarah, was looking after the animal army. We’d written out instructions for Sarah, including ‘obey the cats’. They made sure she stuck to that rule. We’d also warned her Bandit was a wanton thief and so sneaky, she wouldn’t notice him pinch stuff. She texted later saying ‘Bandit stole my shoe. I was sitting right by him and didn’t see him take it’. We really need to take that dog to a bank.

Then it was time for our reading. Our mum was put on camera duty. You can watch the video here. We’d picked three stories from Disenchanted – Long Live the Queen, Master of Puppets and Once Upon A Nightmare and read a short extract of each. As we didn’t know our audience, we figured it’s the book with the widest appeal, as there’re only small amounts of horror in it. After our reading, some of the audience asked questions, so we talked about the gory stories we wrote as kids, how we could’ve gone two ways – serial killers or writers. We think people are glad we became writers, though if we’d been serial killers, we would’ve had a massive book deal by now and people would stop asking when we’re going to get a proper job.

Chudleigh Literary FestivalWe also talked about the disaster that is Calamityville and how the Care Bears influenced us, except we used our Care Bear stare to destroy random children we’d taken a dislike to. One woman asked about what kind of gravestone we wanted, so we relayed our plans for our tomb. It has to be big enough to have steps and corridors, with sconces lining the walls, gargoyles and a plaque which reads ‘this is the story of C L Raven. (They die in the end).’ To be honest, we haven’t given it much thought. Our sister is refusing to comply with our wishes, so we may write it into our will that nobody gets anything until we have our tomb.

There was a quick break for people to get refreshments. In our case, that meant a trip to the bar. We got chatting to a lovely Scottish woman. She confessed she knew nothing about Goths, but that we were very pretty. We laughed. We’ve been called many things in our time, but never ‘pretty’. That’s more an adjective for things that are delicate, or feminine. Not exactly an adjective that fits with us, but it’s nicer than most of the things we’ve been called. She said “to look at, you’re quite intimidating, but when you speak, you’re really friendly.” We need to work on this. Maybe growl at people. She also gave us our only sale by buying two copies of Disenchanted, making this the best month for sales since February. We’re not kidding. Our career is that depressing.

Chudleigh Literary Festival

Matt Harvey

The evening finished off with poet Matt Harvey. He was brilliant. He’s done Saturday Live for BBC Radio Four, poems for The Guardian, different writing residencies and commissions and even poetry for the London sperm bank that was put on posters in the underground. We’ve…did we mention we had spiderweb table cloths? Watching him, it was clear we have a hell of a lot to learn about performing readings. He was confident, articulate and entertaining. His parts between poems were natural. We were our usual awkward selves and read our introduction off a piece of paper, with some adlibbing thrown in ‘cos we were too nervous to concentrate on what we’d written. We were glad we’d gone first. If we’d had to follow him, the audience would’ve heard our footsteps scampering out of the marquee, followed by squealing tyres as General Pinkinton fled into the night.

Matt admitted he had shed envy after hearing about our writing shed. We offered to hang some skeletons in his for him. Skeletons always make a place feel homely and welcoming.

Parts of the A38 were closed on the way home. Our mum missed the diversion signs and ended up back in Chudleigh. Luckily she texted us to warn us, so we knew to look out for them. Though we were a bit worried when the diversion involved going through country lanes. That’s where the cannibals live.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,442 other followers