Trick or Treat

Halloween is galloping towards us like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and as excited as we are about the best day of the year, we’re trying to focus on Deadly Reflections. It will be out soon and if you’re a subscriber to the Ravens Retreat newsletter, the ravens should have delivered the scroll containing the opening 600 words of Paranormality, the first story in the collection. If you’d like the ravens to deliver you that same October treat, sign up here.

But we thought it would only be fair if our faithful blog followers also got a spooky treat, so here in keeping with our recent ghost hunting expedition where we tried to find the Gwrach y Rhibyn, here’s an extract from The Witching Hour, where you’ll get to meet her in all her fleshy glory.

The Witching Hour

Something stirred in the water. My K2 meter bleeped once, its red lights flashing. I pressed record on my digital voice recorder.

“EVP at Caerphilly Castle waiting for the moat hag.”

I checked the video camera had plenty of battery life. I needed backup in case the photos were blurry, although if they were too clear, I would be branded a fraud and shunned. Photoshop would become complicit in my crime.

My hands shook from excitement as I zoomed in, finger on the button like a trigger-happy executioner in a firing squad. I stepped closer, my black fishtail skirt clinging to my legs. The K2 bleeped twice. I hoped this wouldn’t mirror old horror films where you spend the entire film waiting to see the monster, only to find he came from Funzo’s Fancy Dress Shop and not the bowels of Hell.

“Come on,” I whispered. “I’m not catching hypothermia for a rubber mask.”

I had been here every evening of Halloweek. People took one look at my Gothic clothes and presumed I was here to open the gateway to the spirit realm and release the demons to walk the earth so they could feast on the souls of those destined for the fiery lakes. Perhaps I was, but I wasn’t about to admit that. I didn’t want them branding me as a stereotype.

Bubbles popped on the surface. Another ripple distorted the moat. The K2 bleeped slowly, like a life support machine about to die, the needle climbing towards the red zone. This was it. This was the moment that made showering with my clothes on worth it. I hoped the bubbles were from the creature I sought. I didn’t want to spend all night in the rain and catch pneumonia only to find I had photographed a frog.

A shadow crept across the moat then vanished. This was the moment I unveiled the legend for all its brutal reality. This was the moment I brought the dead to life.

The moat yawned, water gushing off the entity that rose from the hellacious depths.

She was real.

And she definitely wasn’t a frog. The K2 responded urgently, its lights staying on red as it bleeped like a TV presenter having a swearing fit. My finger instinctively pressed the shutter button. The flash banished the darkness; a thrown lightning bolt as the storm gods waged war in the skies. Dark hair trailed down her waxy face like matted seaweed. Funereal, ragged robes shrouded her skeletal form, like a supermodel displaying the latest Halloween Collection. Wizened decaying skin caressed her bones. Not even Hollywood could conjure this horror, even after five hours in the makeup chair. Guttural moans escaped her peeling lips. I snapped off photos, praying my camera captured the nightmare. Unfortunately, my Panasonic didn’t have Monster Mode on its settings. But she was real.

The Gwrach y Rhibyn.

She was one tourist attraction you didn’t want your photo taken with.

Unsurprisingly, she didn’t feature in the guide book of Things to See and Do in Wales.

I scanned the stragglers patrolling the castle. Nobody glanced her way. Not even the resident ducks and geese noticed her. I was privy to a private performance. I hoped the after show party wasn’t in Satan’s palace.

Her wails were a siren song of suffering. Piercing eyes were sunken into her repulsive face. Bat wings fanned out, beating the air. Her talons clawed the water, her screeching suddenly dying. She smiled, revealing gruesome razor sharp teeth set in decomposing gums. As she disappeared into her gloomy watery grave, she hissed her next victim’s name.


My name.