We see dead people

Fuelled by our love of ghosts and our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror, in March we decided our next release would be a collection of ghost stories. 13, to be precise. It’s our favourite number and one most associated with horror. Even better was we already had 8 stories written. Simple. We would have this collection out in no time!

It’s now the end of July. And we still have one story left to write.

The problem is, after writing 8 ghost stories, we kinda ran out of ideas. This happened with Disenchanted when after 8 stories, we ran out of ideas on how to twist the fairy tales. And one of these ghost stories was entered into Writing Magazine’s paranormal story competition. If it won, that left us with 7 stories for our collection. But it would earn us a lot more money by itself than the entire collection would ever earn us. Yes, we know there’s a romantic notion of starving artists writing for the love of their craft, but this is reality. Romanticism doesn’t pay the bills, or keep us in Red Bull.

The story didn’t win. So we remain poor but at least it gives us one less story to write. Yay. Sort of. Whilst we were waiting to hear if we’d won, we killed time by editing two novels and going ghost hunting.

Our overnight ghost investigation at Rothley’s Edwardian train station gave us one story. A ghost legend about wraiths and another about a ghost smuggler in a British ghosts book gave two more. Then we watched the film Mama. It was based on a 3 minute film of the same title. So we watched both versions and the director said he loved the original film because it was very short and very scary. We decided we should do the same. Write a very short, very scary story. We just needed an idea. We’ve always loved the creepiness of ghost brides; except we created a ghost bride in our Bad Romance trilogy, and really, what else could we do with a dead bride? But we had no other ideas. The tricky thing was making it completely different to Kill the Bride. We think we’ve managed this but we’re so desensitised to horror that it takes a lot to scare us, and we never find our work scary.

But this week we feel we’re finally making progress. We’ve got a collection of images for the trailer and have made a file of potential music tracks to go with them.  8 of the stories have been printed out double spaced – this is our final stage. The error check. We look for mistakes, repetition in words or phrases with all the stories and make any last changes before once again handing them to our mum for an extra pair of eyes. Two of the remaining stories have been subjected to more redrafts this weekend because we’re still not happy with them. Actually it’s very rare we ever feel a story is ‘done’ and these two are actually the oldest in the collection.

We still have one to write. Luckily, we know what this one will be about. So hopefully by Tuesday the final story will be finished then the intensive redrafts can begin to bring it up to the same standard as the others, which are way ahead. We’re aiming for an August/September release and it finally feels like it’s happening.

Two of the stories still don’t have titles. Neither does the last, unwritten one. Did we say August/September? We meant October…

The Ancient Ram Inn

The Ancient Ram InnLast night we stayed at what is the Mecca for ghost hunters – The Ancient Ram Inn. And we travelled there in style, in Calamityville Horror’s newest member’s camper van. Neen joined us on Calamityville’s Edinburgh adventure and has never left. And what was even better was her mum lent her a newer model of Sony Handycam with night vision. We spent two and a half series without night vision, and suddenly we have two cameras. We started off checking out St Mary’s church, which is apparently joined to the Ram via secret tunnels. We strutted in wearing our noisy cowboy boots, which echoed on the tiled floor. And found a group of children having choir practise. They all turned and stared. We explored the church trying to walk as quietly as possible but each footstep sounded like a gunshot. We left.

the Ancient Ram InnThe owner of the Ram, John, sadly has dementia so every time he saw us, he forgot who we were and why we there. Luckily, Neen’s uncle Rob has lived in Wootten-under-Edge for years and has even done several investigations at the Inn, so John remembered him. As we sat in the van, a loud THUD! hit the roof. We pulled the ladder down then Cat climbed onto the roof to check it out. There was nothing there. Then the motor for the camper step died. It has died before so this was just a coincidence.

We did a daylight walk through at 8 p.m. after visiting the pub. John told us not to come back sober 😀 But we did. The Ram is amazing. John’s a hoarder so the place was crammed with interesting objects and hasn’t been cleaned in probably over 30 years. The most dangerous thing in this place was the dust and the uneven stairs. It was built in 1145 on a 5000 year old pagan burial ground. In the bar area is an open grave where daggers and children’s bones were found.

The Ancient Ram Inn

the ancient grave in the bar

The University of Bristol has confirmed the age of the daggers, so it’s possible it was a ritualistic killing. As we passed through the curtains to the bar area, Cat’s head was swimming. It’s the same feeling you get when you put your arm into a fish tank full of water. Though we when we say that to people, they stare blankly at us. We can’t be the only ones who have done this. This feeling lasted until we left the Inn, but when we returned later, she didn’t have it. We attribute it to the dust, dim lighting and uneven floors.

After our uneventful walk through, we returned to the camper for food. John retired to bed, locked us out then forgot who we were. After Rob got him to open the door, we then left it on latch, otherwise we would have spent the night in the car park. Not exactly a glamorous haunted location. We returned inside at 10 p.m. There was no bulb in the light above the open grave so after we found a bulb lying around, Ryan climbed over a grate that blocked the area off and screwed the bulb in then we headed upstairs.

We set up base camp in the Bishop’s Room, which is reportedly the most haunted room in the Inn, with 5 ghosts plaguing it, including monks and a Cavalier. Yet we felt really comfortable here. It was our favourite room and the one where we felt most at home.

During a vigil in the Witch’s Room – so called because people have seen an old witch and her cat in there – we found a Ouija board on the table. Us and Ryan sat around it and asked questions but as usual, nothing came through, reinforcing our belief that Ouija boards are purely gimmicks. We moved up to the attic. The stairs are so bowed we could only go up one at a time.

The attic is rumoured to be haunted by William Crewe, a highwayman who hid there every time he returned to Wootten-under-Edge. On one occasion he received 300 lashes. Another time it was 200. He clearly doesn’t learn. He apparently robbed and killed an old woman and was executed in Gloucester in 1786. After we had been up there a while, the K2 meter started bleeping and the needle climbed to red. It bleeped faster so we did an EVP session. The K2 went silent so we played back the DVR.

We all heard a voice.

The Ancient Ram Inn

The Bishop’s Room

We replayed it. Rob thinks it said “I’ll kill her.” We need to put it on the laptop for proper analysis, but when we returned to the attic later in the night, the K2 was silent. Rob left at 12:45 a.m. so we all headed downstairs. The bulb above the grave was missing. It was on a barrel nearby so Ryan screwed it back in. The light switch was still in the on position. The bulb blew, shorting the electrics in the house. We found the fuse box and tripped the switch, which turned everything back on. We’re great at shorting electrics in Casa Raven. We suspect the bulb removing culprit was John, but he would have had to climb over the fire grate, and we have no idea why he would remove the bulb, rather than switch the light off, as the other light was left on. But we couldn’t ask him about it – he wouldn’t remember doing it even if he had. We stayed in the bar and did a vigil in the dark then we decided to split up for lone vigils. Neen and Ryan both wussed out so we headed upstairs with Neen’s night vision camera and Lynx’s Canon. Lynx stayed in the Witch’s Room with the Canon while Cat sat  in the Bishop’s Room with the Sony. The most frightening part wasn’t being alone in the dark in the two most haunted rooms but the drunks walking past our windows. The Inn is set lower than the road so the upper floors are level with the pavement, which is very unnerving. Evil ghost witches, murderous Highwaymen, Incubi and poltergeists while we’re sitting alone in the dark? Easy. Drunks passing outside our windows? Terrifying.

The Ancient Ram Inn

The Witch’s Room

Lynx heard footsteps clumping up and down the landing. She assumed it was Cat and called out to her. When she got no response, she went to the Bishop’s Room. And couldn’t open the door. The footsteps weren’t Cat – she was locked in. When Lynx finally opened the Bishop’s Room, Cat asked her if she’d been to the toilet, which was opposite the Bishop’s Room. Cat heard a door squeaking open. The only time Lynx left the Witch’s Room was to check where Cat was. We’ll have to play back the cameras to see what caused these noises. Downstairs in the bar, Neen and Ryan kept hearing footsteps walking around and assumed it was us pacing the rooms. It wasn’t.

We headed downstairs and regrouped. We set the JVC camcorder up as a static camera pointed at the light bulb to see if it was John who removed the bulb then headed to the barn. When the barn was partly excavated to build a new wall, posts found in the foundations were dated – they were 3000 years old. We returned upstairs and stayed in the Bishop’s Room for a while, eating cake and drinking Red Bull before asking questions using a crystal. Ryan didn’t get much response from the crystal. It behaved a bit better with Neen. As we were lounging in the Bishop’s Room in complete darkness, we decided to break out Ryan’s iOvilus, which is always good for a laugh. After sprouting a load of gibberish, at 1:26 a.m, three words came through in quick succession.

‘Demon. Hour. Run.’

The stairs in the Ram are way too dangerous to run down. It would have to better than that to scare us. Then something started flapping by Cat and Neen, landing on them then vanishing. The night vision  identified it as a butterfly. Knowing the butterfly would die if we left it, we captured it, put it in our empty food tub and went to every window to try and release it. None of the windows open. To get out of the Ram we’d have to pass John’s room, so we opened the tub slightly to give the butterfly enough air until we left.

So…all that happened in the demon hour was…the butterfly. We now suspect the butterfly to be the cause of all the paranormal and poltergeist activity. At 3 a.m., after an impromptu zumba session in the Witch’s Room (in keeping with our zumba moves in Edinburgh’s witches’ circle), we were all knackered and nothing else had happened for a long time, so we packed up and headed out to the camper. The bulb was still in above the grave. We released the butterfly and it flew off into the night. We fully expect all paranormal reports to now stop 😀 Then we can quote a line from The Simpsons. “It was the butterfly!”

We went to bed in the camper about 4 a.m. and weren’t attacked. We got up at 9 a.m., only to realise there was not an accessible toilet nearby and John was still asleep. There was only one way to save our kidneys – with a plastic cup. We then took more photos of the outside then returned home.

So our first solo overnight investigation started with what is considered the most haunted house in England and ended with peeing into a cup.

That’s how Calamityville rolls.

Calamityville Horror

Happy Campers

Our mate Neen turned 30 on Friday and like all 30th parties, it had to be memorable. Plus she had our fancy dress and bouncy castle party to compete with. Think she trumped us. We spent the weekend camping in Tenby with a trip to Heatherton adventure park. We know last summer we vowed to never return to west Wales after the welcome we received, but we couldn’t say no to this trip. We haven’t been camping since we were 13 and that was in our aunt’s back garden in Guernsey. There were 14 of us in total. For the first time we got to take our pink Smartcar on a road trip as Ryan would be staying in west Wales to look after his mum who’s hopefully coming out of hospital today. We won. We didn’t tell Ryan, Sarah and Craig we were racing as General Pinkinton only has a top speed of 85 & they would’ve trounced us. But a victory is still a victory.

Meadowfarm camp siteWe got to Meadowfarm camp site and immediately pitched our tent. It’s a great camp site, with stunning views and best of all, a freezer in reception where you can store your ice blocks. That came in very handy, even if the trek up and down the steep hill to reception was a killer. Still, it kept us fit and out of mischief. We’d definitely stay there again. In the excitement of camping, we’d bought camping mats, sleeping bags, air beds, chairs & Ryan bought other equipment. We weren’t going to bother with chairs, but Ryan persuaded us that going camping didn’t mean we had to go feral. It turned out, our 3 man tent did not mean 3 air beds. No, we didn’t check this before setting off. So we spent 2 nights with the 3 of us squished onto 2 single air beds. It’s a good job we’re all friends. After staying up ’til one a.m. then not sleeping all night, we woke at 7 ready for Heatherton. On the hottest day of the year.

The first competition took place on the go-karts. Round one was us, Ryan, Neen and Richard. On the second lap, Cat took a fast corner too fast and spun her kart, much to the delight of the spectators. After managing to turn it and drive through the pits, it was game on. But we lost. As much as we love karting, we seriously suck at it. We’d spent the week watching go-karting videos and studying the racing lines on the Heatherton track so we could win. But when it came to the race, the racing line was forgotten. Neen and Ryan lapped us twice. They are very serious racers. Not entirely sure who won that race, think it was Ryan but they’re both claiming winner’s rights. The second group was Craig, Amy, Rachel (AKA Gibbon), Nici and Zoe.

Next up was the bumper boats. heatherton adventure parkWe watched others do this and it kinda looked boring as they chugged around the water slowly. We all got in the boats and turned them into the bumper boats they were supposed to be. We discovered if you turned the engine all the way to one side, the boat would spin really fast, making the impact into someone else even greater. Think we set a bad example to others because after we got out, everyone started spinning the boats.

body zorbing, Heatherton adventure parkThen we moved on to body zorbing. Last time we did this, we used the adult balls. But they were way too big for us, came down past our knees, which made getting up difficult and they were really heavy. So this time we requested children’s zorbs. Big mistake. They weren’t anywhere near as padded so we felt every impact of hitting the ground, like whiplash. We were up against Neen, Ryan and Zoe. Zoe and Neen are roller derby girls so are very fit and strong. We’re fit and strong for our size, but we’re also very small. Needless to say, us and Neen were the ones on the floor for most of the fight. We couldn’t get Ryan and Zoe down. Even when us and Neen teamed up, we couldn’t get them down. Ryan was the only one could fell Zoe. We trooped out of the arena battered, bruised and barely able to move. Lynx’s back bent the wrong way against the ropes, making her Scoliosis protest vehemently at this abuse. Then Cat’s bad knee went. Despite quickly slapping on the Deep Freeze ice patch and her brace, the damage was done. The pain was so bad she couldn’t walk but with her crutches at home, there was no choice.

pirate golf, Heatherton adventure parkNext it was pirate golf. We split into teams of 3 or 4 and hit the course. Two balls ended up in the water and Amy bravely waded in to fish hers out. Thinking of it, we all should’ve thrown our balls in just so we could escape the blazing sun. Then it was round 2 of go karting. This time, it was serious. It was us, Neen, Zoe, Ryan and Amy. We were determined not to lose this time. But against Neen and Ryan, we didn’t stand a chance. This time, Ryan spun his kart. And we nearly drove into him 😀 Neen won that bout. Turned out, the kart Cat spun was number 7. The kart Ryan spun was also number 7. This now removes driver error from the accidents. We had a faulty kart. After the race, Cat’s ribs were sore on the left, from where the seat was digging in – there was a swelling there. By night time, the swelling had grown to the size of half a golf ball. For the first time ever, her ribs couldn’t be seen beneath her skin.go-karting, Heatherton adventure park

On our way back to the camp site, we spied a woman sitting in the road. We stopped, wondering if she was drunk or had a stone in her shoe but then she heaved herself to the side of the road on her hands and arse so we could pass. Cat got out and went to see if she was ok – she’d gone over on her ankle down a pothole. An ankle she’d previously broken and had surgery on, and her other leg was badly grazed. Luckily Cat had spare ice patches so we put one on her ankle, helped her up and insisted on giving her a lift to the camp site. We dropped her off outside her tent. Did you see that, Karma? We helped someone. Now pay up.

Sunday morning, we woke feeling like we’d lost a fight with Megazord. We got home at 6pm and all 3 cats flocked to us. Mum hadn’t really seen them all weekend. They knew when their slaves were home and crowded round with untrue tales of starvation and being left alone. They seem to think we’re the only ones who live at Casa Raven. Today we’re still sore and stiff. And tonight we have an hour of zumba with extra half hour of toning. This is going to hurt…Heatherton adventure park

Tax Evasion

Wow, it’s been ages since we blogged, but that’s because we haven’t had anything to blog about, so instead of bombarding you with mindless tripe, we figured it was better to stay silent. But today’s blog is brought to you by the letters A, T and the number 44. A is for Amazon, T is for tax and the number is for the last amount in dollars that Amazon withheld from us. It’s grown since then but we don’t have the data. If you want to read about our tax battle, this post is about the trouble we had with the IRS. Then there was this post about Amazon withholding our money.

You know your day is starting badly when you switch on the laptop and your first words are “fuck you Amazon.” Their email went along the lines of ‘here’s your money’ *dangles it in front of us* ‘no you can’t have it.’ They told us that they do not issue refunds for amounts held before they received the W8-BEN form, but in MARCH they will send us a form stating how much they’ve stolen from us and if we want to, we can contact the IRS about a refund. So…they DO issue refunds? BUT – we sent Amazon THREE forms then chased them up about each one. They claimed they never received the forms and we should send them it via tracking. We told them seeing as it’s their fault they haven’t received the forms, we would gladly send another one via tracking, as long as they pay for it. A few days later, they found the third form. Like magic.

We were looking forwards to our royalties for the past couple of months because they’re our highest yet. Yet we got paid this morning and it’s a lot less than it should be. Because they’ve withheld our tax again. We emailed them telling them how ridiculous it all is, and reminding them the UK has a tax treaty with America, so they have no right to withhold our tax and we will not be waiting until March to claim it all back. That’s OUR hard earned money, you thieving bastards! It’s hard enough making a living from writing and when Amazon then steals a large percentage of that money for no reason, it makes it worse.

And this comes a few days after we’ve been fined £100 each for a late tax return in the UK, even though we sent them our returns well within the time frame. So we now have to fight Amazon for our American tax and HMRC for the fine. Will there ever be a day when we don’t have to fight to the death about everything? Unlikely. We’re full time writers. We don’t earn much so having to battle two different companies for tax that is rightfully ours is a pain in the arse, and financially damaging. Some days we just get sick of fighting. But some days, the fight is all we have left.

Listen Amazon – you haven’t paid tax in our country, so don’t fucking steal our tax in yours! If we have to come to America to perform a daring robbery armed with glitter guns to get our tax back, you’ll be sorry. You’ll also be sparkling like a Twilight vampire in the sunshine. So give us back our tax or you will be picking glitter out of your hair for weeks.