World Goth Day

Soul Asylum C L RavenIn case you don’t know, today is World Goth Day! */* and time to appreciate all things dark and Gothic. What could be more Gothic than a haunted asylum? Soul Asylum has plenty of the Gothic elements – a spooky location, madness, ghosts, despair, etc, so to celebrate, Soul Asylum is FREE on Amazon until Friday. But in order to make it free on Amazon, we had to pull it off the other retailers. We weren’t happy about this, as it means people who don’t have Kindles would miss out. So we’ve decided that to keep things fair, anyone who doesn’t have a Kindle, let us know and we’ll email Soul Asylum to you in a different format.


The blood wanted to prick a conscience that couldn’t bleed.

Poe could keep his telltale heart.

I couldn’t hear it beating.

Ravens Retreat harbours a sinister secret. Inside its blackened heart lurk the ghosts of patients and staff who died when the asylum was burned down in 1904. Over a hundred years later, the West wing survives and now the patients want revenge.

Their eternal repose is disturbed by a malevolent poltergeist and the ghost tours led by the asylum’s resident, Phineas Soul, which attract the attention of journalist Mason Strider. His attempts to expose Phineas as a fraud have catastrophic consequences when it is Ravens Retreat’s dark heart that’s exposed as it awakens to claim the lives of those who dare to enter its brutal past.

Some things should never be disturbed.

If that hasn’t convinced you to download it, why not watch the trailer  Fireclaw Films made for us?

We have also created a newsletter where you’ll be the first to know of new releases and we’ll have some exclusive content in there. If you’d like sign up, click here. We promise we won’t spam you, or share your email with anyone else 🙂

If that’s not enough ghosts for you, L K Jay‘s fabulous novel, The Ghost Hunters Club will be free on Friday. We’d love to go ghost hunting with Anna, Karen and Linda, so download the book to find out why.

Soul Asylum Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Soul Asylum C L RavenA thunderous crash shook the asylum’s ancient bones. The candles extinguished with a soundless flourish. The tendrils of their dying breath snaked through the air, slithering over the guests’ faces and coiling around their heads.

“Anyone got a lighter?” Someone asked, their voice trembling.

There was a spark and a tiny flame appeared. I could make out the guests’ stricken faces in the meagre orange glow. I approached the candles lining the corridor and they ignited. Someone stifled a scream. I ran my fingers through the flames, not feeling the blazing kisses they sprinkled across my skin. The flames danced and bent to my will. I led the way to the next room. The guests stared at the candles as though they held the answer to the blackout. The half-naked man with wrist bandages stood facing the wall, his head lowered. He was crying. My fingers danced across his back as I passed. Some torments were too powerful to be buried with the body.

Ominous shadows stalked us, accompanied by the sizzling of the lights. A bedside cabinet was overturned and sheets were scattered over the floor. I picked them up and draped them on the bed before righting the cabinet. One of the cabinet doors opened so I kicked it shut. Some guests jumped. Shrieking echoed towards us. A small girl ran in, screaming. The guests looked nervous. She sobbed; a chilling noise that grew louder as a nurse ran in and shut the door. The guests glanced towards it. The nurse picked the kicking child up and laid her on the bed, strapping her down. She writhed and screamed like she was possessed. The guests photographed the room, immortalising the dead on film. Excitement had surrendered to apprehension. They wanted to see ghosts, but they wanted Casper the Friendly Ghost, not the disturbed, dangerous spirits that wandered the old mental asylum.

I let them investigate the other dorms and wards alone.

Thunder boomed as though the gates of Hell were banging shut. Lightning illuminated the darkened room. The group passed me down the stairs. I gripped the banister in case someone pushed me. I led them through the kitchen and wiggled the door handle. I released it, flexing my fingers. The lock clicked and the door swung open. The light fizzed, blinking malevolently. The group edged down the steps. This was the coldest area, as though the heat from the living couldn’t banish the chill of the afterlife. I took them under a large archway. The cold stone floor kissed my bare feet. I stopped outside a door then opened it.

“Welcome to the morgue.”

A slab stood in the centre of the room. A tall fridge with four numbered doors was in the far corner. A lonely sink stood below shelves with various bottles and jars.

“Can you hear whispering?” A woman asked.

“There’s probably a tape recorder.” Mason’s voice was disrespectfully loud in the hush.

I opened the fridge door and pulled out one of the trolleys, revealing a dead woman. Her toe tag identified her as Charlotte. Dried blood matted her hair, her glassy gaze fixed on me.

Shadows lurked in the corner, whispering my name. I pivoted, but could see only darkness – their shroud. I could feel their many eyes, their seeping hatred and iniquitous intentions.

I stepped aside as the mortician appeared beside me. He lifted the woman up and placed her on the slab. Clattering filled the silence as he gathered his wicked implements and moved them to a small table. The group hurried out and rushed to the steps, fear silencing them. I brushed past the guests and felt the iciness of the poltergeist beside me. As the group climbed the stairs, the light bulb exploded. Shards of glass cascaded and the stairway was plunged into darkness. The group’s breaths appeared in silver mists. They clung to each other, terrified of the dark now they knew the dead inhabited it. The shadows could glide unnoticed in the blackness’s arms and strike before I was even aware they lurked. When the lights came back on, all that would be left would be my bloody remains.

Something crawled over my skin. The shadows. I lashed out, loath to touch them, but desperate to be rid of their repulsive touch before they seeped inside me. Mason’s bloody machine buzzed loudly, the red light glowing like a hellacious flame.

A piercing scream punctured the suffocating silence. A thud followed and the scream died. A lighter’s tiny orange flare danced in the darkness. I snatched it from the man and carried it down, my feet crunching on the broken glass. A young brunette woman was sprawled on the bottom step and floor. Blood splattered the step and stained her hair. A large pool of it congealed beneath her head. Her neck was twisted at a suicidal angle. Terror stained her eyes as she glimpsed a world too horrifying for the living to comprehend. I stared into her eyes but I couldn’t even see my own reflection. She’d crossed the veil of mortality and entered the asylum’s second life.

Mason’s fingers touched her neck, his camera pointing straight into her death mask.

“She’s dead.”


I sat at the head of the dining table. The shaken guests were seated. They’d aged. Witnessing somebody’s death takes a part of your soul you’ll never get back. They’d come to see the dead. They got what they desired. Soft crying filled the silence. A young female patient sat on a chair against the far wall, her head in her hands, weeping.

“Is this your first ghost tour?” Mason asked the woman’s companions, placing his recorder on the table.

“Do you come here often?” I mocked. He ignored me.

“Yes. Danielle wanted to do something different for her birthday,” one of the men answered.

“Do you believe in the paranormal?”

“Not until tonight.”

“Did you experience anything supernatural during the evening?”

“I thought I saw someone dressed as a patient, but when I looked again, he’d gone.”

The front door opened then closed. The dining room door opened and two non-uniformed police officers entered. One was older, creased, and jaded. The other was young, alert. Untainted.

“I’m DS Ifans, this is DC Ripley. We’ll need to interview you all separately.”

“I was filming at the bottom of the steps,” Mason said. “You can have the SD card, as long as I can have it back.”

“That would be a great help,” Ifans said. “We’ll talk to you first.”

He’d only been here a couple of hours and he was leading the police investigation. No doubt he’d try to shut this place down. Perhaps he’d watched too many episodes of Murder She Wrote and believed every writer was allowed to solve murders, purely because they wrote about them. I wished the poltergeist had got him. Perhaps the poltergeist pushed the woman, hoping she’d take Mason out with her.

Mason ejected the SD card from his camera and shadowed them from the room. I wondered whether I’d be arrested before the night was out. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d left this place. I couldn’t even be sure the outside world still existed.

“Just because she screamed, doesn’t mean she was pushed,” I said. They ignored me.

I mumbled about making drinks and headed for the kitchen. I stood at the door. Tape cordoned it off. Lights had been erected, revealing the gruesome scene. The corridor looked wrong under so many lights. It was a place of gloomy fear, not the bright welcoming tunnel they were turning it into. Glass littered the steps. Blood stained the bottom. A uniformed officer stood guard while men in white suits collected evidence and someone tended to the body. They didn’t belong here. Nobody noticed me. The dead were more alluring than the living.

I moved away. The fire ignited and the cauldron water bubbled. I wasn’t alone. I was never alone.

“We’re ready for you now,” Ripley said, looking at the kitchen table.

I followed him into the social room and sat before the fire. It ignited. Dr. Lambert sat beside me. I slid sideways.

“How many do you usually have on the tour?” Ifans asked.

“Ten to twenty people. I run them twice a week. Four times a week in October then every day of Halloweek.”

“Have there ever been any accidents? Fatalities?”

“No fatalities.”

“The reporter said on your website people give this place a five-star rating for paranormal activity. Some guests left comments stating they’d been hurt on a tour. Tripped up, pushed into the wall, had objects thrown at them. One guest claimed he received a black eye after being hit in the face with a book.”

I stared at them. “People come here at their own risk. No-one’s holding a gun to their heads. If they get hurt, that’s not my fault.”

“Where were you when she fell?”

“Near the top.”

“Have you met Miss Bailey before tonight?”


“Did you see her fall?”

“No. I heard her scream. And a thud. Then the screaming stopped.”

Lambert spoke. “I think that’s enough questions. It’s been a long night. I will medicate the patients and if you have any more questions, you can come back tomorrow. I’m sure Mr. Soul did not intend for anyone to get hurt.”

He was looking behind the officers but there was no-one there. Maybe it wasn’t just the patients who were crazy. Lambert looked straight at me. I froze.

“That will be all for now,” Ifans said.

Footsteps clumped across the floor. The door opened then closed then Ripley got up and fetched one of the guests.

I headed outside. Wind nipped my feet and danced around me, tugging at my clothes like an insatiable lover. It rippled through my short dark hair. The moon’s silvery light guided me to the graveyard. I walked among the graves, reading the names of the deceased, though I knew them by heart. Reaching the skeletal tree, I traced my fingers along its rough skin. The branches’ gnarled, bony fingers probed my head. The tree always tried to implant memories into my mind, but I refused to surrender to its pressure. Some were good, others were so terrifying they poisoned my blood.

The sky was midnight blue, the stars silver bullets piercing the night’s flesh. The moon was large and full, hanging low like a giant spotlight exposing the evil that lurked below. Its eerie glow cast shadows in the graveyard. My shadow was entwined with the tree’s. A raven flapped its wings in the branch above my head.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” He cawed twice and shook his feathers. Other ravens in the tree stared towards the asylum. I watched the police cars parked outside it. A blue light revolved, spilling its light on the walls. “I hope they won’t be here all night.”

I heard the door opening and moved behind the tree, our bodies pressed together. I inhaled the charred scent lingering in its bark. From the security of its shadow, I watched the tour group climb into their cars and drive towards the gates, escaping from the asylum with their lives. The gates opened then clanged shut behind them.

The front door opened again and I ducked behind the tree. Mason climbed into his Beetle and drove away. This would be reported in all the papers tomorrow. Reporters would camp outside. I’d have to get rid of them. This was his fault. He’d failed to expose me as a fraud so decided to frame me for murder instead. Then I remembered he’d been at the bottom. Maybe he and the poltergeist plotted my downfall between them. Joining forces to create their own little murder club.

I waited, but nobody else left. I sneaked over and peeked in through the dining room windows at the intruders. Ifans and Ripley were seated. Ripley glanced up, looking startled. I hid behind a curtain, counted to one hundred then risked another look. The room was empty. The front door opened and voices filtered through the frigid air.

“We’ll look at this tape tomorrow, Dylan,” Ifans spoke. “It’s been a weird night. Suspicious death in a supposedly haunted asylum during a ghost hunting tour. I need a good night’s sleep before I can face watching the tour on tape.”

“There’s something peculiar about this place,” Ripley replied. “Like we’re trespassing. Somebody doesn’t want us here.”

“You don’t seriously believe in ghosts do you?”

“A woman died here today. Someone said they saw a patient push her. Ghosts or no ghosts, that will haunt everyone who was here for the rest of their lives.”


I hid until the police cars left then returned inside. I glanced at the clock in the hall. The eternal midnight. Upstairs, floorboards creaked and music played. Green Day’s ‘Know Your Enemy.’

He was taunting me.

I locked the front door then crept up the stairs. I entered my bedroom without turning on the light and sat on the bed. I left the music on. I undressed then crawled into bed. The curtains were closed. A sliver of moonlight stole in where the curtains didn’t join. The hall clock ticked, counting off each lifeless second.

I rolled onto my left side, facing the window. The bedroom door closed quietly. I could hear him moving around the room. The bed dipped as he lowered his invisible frame onto it. It grew cold as his body slid in next to mine. I stayed still, my back to him. His breathing was even.

“Sleep somewhere else. You know this is my room.” His crying echoed around the room. Tears for the dead. “Shut up. She’s one of you now. Yet another murdered soul to join your legion against me.”

I’d be the prime suspect. Pushing a woman down the stairs to gain notoriety for my tour. People would flock to see where she died. It would be especially popular each anniversary of her death. My very own museum of death. I should sell postcards of the crime scene. Make a killing.

The bed moved then footsteps padded across the wooden floor. The light flicked on and the window edged open. Cool breeze filtered in and the curtains gently billowed. An owl hooted. Fury knotted my stomach. My fists clenched. I took deep breaths, but anger burned inside me until I crossed to the window and shut it.

The window swung open and a gust of wind rushed in, biting my naked flesh. I wrenched the window shut. It swung out then slammed, shattering the glass. I pushed him. The curtains writhed as he tried saving himself. I stared at the blood staining the broken glass in the window. It glistened in the flickering light. I touched it.

“The dead can bleed.”

Soul Asylum book trailer

Soul Asylum Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Soul Asylum C L RavenWeeping echoed around the room. Self-pitying tears for the sanity she’d lost and no longer remembered. I stared out at the rain. I didn’t need to be haunted by their madness.

Mason asked if he could have a tour of the asylum before everyone arrived. No doubt to check I hadn’t rigged anything before the lights died and the macabre performance began. Not even the most brilliantly malevolent mind could create the horrors in this haunted house of nightmares. Reality was far crueller. I didn’t know why he was here. I hadn’t invited him. I hadn’t invited any of them.

Everything that happened here was beyond my control.

I sighed and opened the door to the corridor. He gathered his equipment and followed. He switched on a small black box. It started making strange noises and lighting up.

“What’s that?”

“This is a K2 meter. It measures disturbances in the electrical or magnetic fields. Some say that means there are ghosts.”

“Since when were ghosts comparable to faulty wiring?”

The corridors were endless, with curved arches high in the ceiling. The large, chilly kitchen welcomed us. The bricks at the bottom third of the wall were painted black, with white bricks stretching to the excessively high ceiling. There were windows near the ceiling on one wall. Light could enter but no-one could see out. A large picnic table stood in the centre. An Aga stove was to the left, crouched beneath a single window, beside the large rectangular sink. It was filled with broken plates – disposable victims of a fractured mind. A lot of things had changed here over the years. I wished everything had been left alone. People thought they could improve things by redecorating. It didn’t eradicate the past, just pushed it further into the shadows.

Through the window, I spied two people wandering the grounds. They passed through headstones then vanished.

The stone tiles tormented my bare feet with a cold burn, like Hell was freezing. A fire with a large cauldron was to the right. I passed through a wide arch and opened a door. Stone steps were swallowed by the blackness. Icy air swept up, caressing me. Memories of tortured screams echoed through the realms of the living and the dead. I switched on the light. The bare bulb flickered then died, darkness smothering the passage and concealing its nefarious secrets.

“What do you keep in the cellar? Wine?” Mason asked.

“You can’t bottle what’s down there.”

“The cellar isn’t mentioned in the history books.”

“There are some things history doesn’t want you knowing. It’s not a cellar.”

“What is it then?” Mason edged closer.

“The morgue.”

“This place has a morgue?”

“Even the insane die. They just don’t stay dead.” I switched the light off and closed the door.

The kitchen door swung open. Mason shivered. I edged past him and led him through the corridor into the social room. Mocking voices whispered to me. I moved towards the fire. Out of the corner of my eye I saw three women standing together. They looked in my direction then whispered furtively, giggling. Raspy murmuring tantalised my ears as an icy finger glided down my face. I closed my eyes, shivers stroking my body. The fire ignited and I reached into it, the flames dancing over my fingers before I withdrew my hand and touched my face. My hands remained cold.

“Don’t you have heating?” Mason rubbed his arms, glancing towards the settee. His K2 lit up.

“Have you never heard of the temperature dropping when the dead are near?”

I’d spent so long amongst the dead I’d forgotten what it was like to be around the living. Those who’d tried living here soon discovered the novelty of living in an old asylum was far removed from the horrifying reality.

He opened another door, which led to the psychiatrist’s office. An old desk faced away from the window to the right of the door with a captain’s chair behind it. A chaise longue was in the left corner in front of a bookcase. I read some of the books’ titles. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life by Sigmund Freud, Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard Von Krafft-Ebbing. On Double Consciousness and Alterations of Personality by Alfred Binet. Fact and Fable in Psychology by Joseph Jastrow I picked up a book, flicked through it then replaced it. A tall brown haired man with a moustache selected a book called Multiple Personality: An Experimental Investigation into Human Individuality by Boris Sidis. I shot sideways. Dr. Lambert. He carried the book to the desk and sat down. An uncontrollable urge to grab the book and beat Lambert until he stopped living consumed me.

Sometimes their madness was contagious.

Sometimes I could control it.

Sometimes I chose not to.

“What’s through there?” Mason pointed to a door, nearly walking right through me. His electrical toy buzzed loudly, the lights turning red. It was starting to get on my nerves.

I opened the door and let him pass through, spying goose pimples on his flesh as I closed the door behind us. I edged down the corridor and opened another door. He stared in shock. A stretcher with ankle, wrist, torso and head restraints stood to the right. A table with a crude black box was positioned behind the head of the bed. The rest of the room was barren.

“Is this a music box?” He raised the lid, revealing brass knobs and a cylindrical battery.

“Only if you find the sound of screaming musical.”

He picked up the two wires leading to circular pads. “Early defibrillator?”

“Electroconvulsive therapy. Electric shock treatment. It looks dated now but it was high tech when it was introduced in 1941.” I tightened the straps on the bed. “Initially it was administered without anaesthetic or muscle relaxants. The spasms from the current were so powerful, patients could suffer dislocated limbs or fractured spines and pelvises. The after-effects are…mind-numbing.”

He photographed it then filmed it.

I led him back into the hall and glanced at the large clock positioned beside the stairs. There were no numbers on the clock’s ebony face. The time said midnight. It was always midnight. Even time had died, leaving a ghost to mark its existence. There used to be a receptionist’s desk near the door. One of the “improvements” by a resident was to demolish it. Probably so no more patients could be admitted. That resident fled after two months. It wasn’t new patients he had to worry about. I headed upstairs. Mason hesitated and glanced behind him.

“For someone who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, you’re extremely jumpy.” I stopped halfway up and faced him. Images of him falling to his death invaded my mind. I heard the thud as his skull cracked, saw the blood escaping and the life in his eyes dying.

The stairs creaked near him. I narrowed my eyes before continuing up. Mason followed. The doors were identical—white wood with portholes—and bolt locks on the outside. I showed him the bathroom, the first bedroom, then my bedroom. The only bedroom that had been converted for modern use. He crossed to the window and gazed out over the graveyard. The lights fizzed.

“You need this place rewired. Though I like the authenticity – helps scare the public.”

I picked up my hat and sat it on my head while he took photos. The camera was pointed at me and the flash exploded, blinding me. The room next door was cold. I shut the open window. Mason jumped. The door slammed. I yanked it open and left the room. Mason shadowed me. All the rooms were sombre grey and contained between four and six beds. Dignity and luxury were only allowed to those sane enough to appreciate it.

“These were the patients’ rooms. They were originally converted from wards. Everything is bolted to the floor. The mad can’t be trusted. Throwing things is a hobby of theirs.”

I led him to one of the wards that hadn’t been converted. A row of beds flanked each wall. Some of the beds contained patients. Their vacant eyes tracked me as I moved around the room. I turned my back on them. The K2 buzzed and lit up. He frowned at it.

“These used to be locked at night. You can imagine the terror of an unmarried pregnant woman locked in with a paranoid schizophrenic.”

“I read they would lock unmarried pregnant women in here with the crazies. They didn’t segregate them?”

“Not until the Second World War.”

“That’s like putting someone with a broken leg in the cancer ward.”

No it wasn’t.

“Those with mental illness are cursed by society’s misconceptions. Is it any different today?”

I returned downstairs and sat in the dining room at the head of the table. A large stage dominated the other end of the room. Mason moved around upstairs, investigating the rooms. I heard laughter echoing. Mason and the poltergeist thought they were comedians. I glanced out the window. Darkness was wrapping its funereal cloak around the asylum. A man wearing the standard military-style uniform escorted someone away from the graves. A raven cawed.

Mason returned and asked if there was somewhere he could leave his bag. I carried it to the ECT room and bolted the door. When I returned, Mason was watching the windows as though they contained the answers to the afterlife. He spoke into his voice recorder.

“While investigating the rest of the rooms upstairs, the K2 was finally silent. I’d almost stopped noticing its incessant buzzing. Perhaps the batteries are faulty.”

“Or the ghosts decided reliving their deaths was more entertaining than following you.”

The curtains billowed in my wake. A chair toppled. I stopped and picked it up. Mason looked at his watch.

“Bloody thing’s stopped. Why are the tours at night? Atmosphere? Or so they can’t see the strings?”

“Night is when the screaming starts.”

I drummed my fingers on the polished wood. I could see my reflection in it. I looked away. I hated the way it distorted me. Mason’s gaze shifted towards me. I exhaled deeply, my breath escaping in a silver cloud. The clock in the hall ticked, a heart that thundered towards death with each beat, yet the hands remained frozen. The witching hour.

“How long’s the poltergeist been here?” Mason asked the chair beside me.

“Which one? There have been poltergeists for as long as I can remember. Some are easier to get rid of than others.”

“So, since you moved in. How long ago was that?”

“I don’t remember exactly. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime.”

A knock reverberated around the asylum. I glided to the front door, unbolted it and eased it open. A couple stood between the gargoyles. They looked scared. A bitter breeze rippled past. Footsteps padded behind me then stopped. I heard them walking away. The guests followed them to the dining room. A silver Mercedes was parked beside the green Beetle.

I followed the long driveway down to the imposing gates. The gravel surrendered to cracked tarmac. Beside the house by the gates, HALT was written on the left side of the drive. The porch lanterns either side of the house’s door were lit, offering hope of salvation in the gloom. The stone ravens guarding the gate glared at anyone daring to approach. I gripped the bars and stared down the sepulchral winding road. It ran horizontally past the gates. For now, the road was deserted. The highway to Hell.

I rested my back against the gates. In the distance a lone figure stood beneath the black tree, staring towards where the East Wing once stood. A thick grey shroud concealed the graves. Curtains swished upstairs. The asylum was bathed in darkness except for one light glowing in the hall, an unblinking eye to ward off vampires.

I heard a noise and threw a look over my shoulder. A car drove towards me so I parted the gates and stepped aside allowing them access. An uneasy look passed between the passengers. I could slip out when nobody was looking. Hide in the nearby farm or castle. Maybe I’d make it to town. I took a step. The gates banged shut. The passenger turned around in his seat. I stalked them to the asylum and opened the front door. The two men and a woman entered cautiously so I locked the door behind them before showing them to the dining room. Mason and the couple were seated. I took my place at the head of the table, wondering whether Mason’s sceptical words were poisoning them against me.

“This place is creepy,” the woman who’d just arrived whispered.

“Every old house is creepy in the dark,” Mason replied. “Creaks, bangs, strange noises. It’s the charm of old properties. This place more so because it’s isolated. You’re here for a ghost tour in an old asylum. You’re predisposed to be afraid.”

He’d only been here an hour and already he was plotting to destroy everything I had.

The door opened and more guests entered. They gave their names and I watched a pen mark them off on a sheet.

I slid my chair backwards and everyone turned to look at me. “The electricity needs rewiring, hence the candles.” I closed the curtains to block out the night. “Welcome to Ravens Retreat. Where we are now is the surviving West Wing. The East Wing burned down in 1904. A lot of patients died. Staff, too. This place was a pioneer in the treatment of the mentally ill in Wales.”

I made my way to the kitchen. The fire ignited with an unearthly sigh and the water in the cauldron began bubbling. I tried the door to the morgue. It was locked. I rattled the handle but the door refused to reveal the passage’s dark secrets.

“Patients would be given jobs around the asylum, even in the kitchen.”

I took them to the social room. The fire danced mesmerisingly. Footsteps echoed around the room yet everyone was standing still. I recounted the spooky tales they longed to hear. I didn’t tell them this place was sometimes happy, with the staff trying their best to care for their growing number of patients and always introducing new ways to improve their quality of life. That wasn’t what these people wanted. They craved the terrifying stories that would rival Bedlam in their cruelty, depravity and misery.

Sometimes I wondered whether society locked up the wrong people.

Suddenly the room was crowded with expressionless people. An old man sat in the corner playing chess with someone who didn’t exist. Mason was photographing and filming the room. The guests also took photos, but nobody commented on the scene before them. I was knocked aside as a nurse hurried past, opened the door to the corridor and vanished. One of the young women who’d giggled at me earlier sat alone on the settee.

“She shouldn’t be in here,” I pointed. “Men only.”

She shrank back into the settee, her eyes wide. I stepped forwards. She fled. The door slammed after her. The guests jumped.

“This is the social room, where the staff relaxed when everyone was asleep or sedated. The patients were allowed in here if they behaved themselves. Until the 1940s, male and female patients and staff weren’t allowed to mix.”

The fire died and I led the way into the psychiatrist’s office. I noticed a book lying on the desk and returned it to the bookcase. Lambert watched me suspiciously. I’d lived with these people for so long, fear no longer commanded me. He was the only one who still possessed the power to reduce me to a gibbering wreck. The human mind wasn’t meant to be understood. He probed in the darkest chambers where strangers had no right to pry. A sullen patient sat in the chair opposite Lambert, his head lowered.

“This is the psychiatrist’s office. In the 1800s they were experimenting with new ideas. They didn’t have medication in the early years. They’re experimenting even today. The mind is one of the few places that however well explored, will never be fully conquered. I’m not sure if the poltergeist was a patient, but he’s clearly not happy about being dead. He’s very angry and at times is hard to live with. He’s an eternal teenager.” Nobody laughed. Sometimes they acted like I was invisible.

I led them out to the hall and the clock chimed, its bongs echoing. One person jumped. Finally, something drowned out Mason’s damn machine. The front door crashed open, a rush of cold air sweeping through the asylum and killing the candlelight as four people entered. The guests jumped, a woman stifled a scream. Footsteps thundered up the stairs as the intruders raced each other to the top. I took the group over to them, Mason filming. The tour guests shadowed me quickly up the stairs, ignoring the young nurse carrying a tray of medical equipment. Her name was Estelle. She was too friendly. Thought she could help the patients. She didn’t seem to realise some were beyond helping and some didn’t want to be helped. She wanted a sainthood. Shame she’d have to die to get one. She passed straight through one of the women.

“Someone just walked over my grave.” She laughed nervously, shivering.

“A nurse just moved through you.”

She didn’t hear me. I hurried down the stairs and shoved Estelle. She flew to the bottom, her tray crashing to the floor. Everyone whirled around, frantically scanning the gloom. The lights stayed on long enough for them to see a small blood puddle forming at the bottom of the stairs. Somebody screamed. I ran back up the stairs and stood at the top, watching as Estelle hurriedly wiped her eyes and straightened her uniform. She rose, plucked glass from her hand and collected the spilled equipment. She entered the dining room, kicking the door shut. The asylum shook. I stared in her direction, hearing her muffled sniffles from the other side.

The group cautiously followed me upstairs. I started with my bedroom. The window was open so I yanked it shut. The curtains billowed around the bed.

“This is the master bedroom, where I sleep.” The radio switched on, Meatloaf’s ‘Razor’s Edge’ started. I folded my arms. “He plays music constantly. I think he believes it will silence the voices.” I switched it off as the guests took photos. “Nothing does.” The music played again, the volume increasing. I switched it off. “I’ll show you the patients’ cells.” The radio clicked on and the music grew louder. I laid it face down and removed the batteries.

I stalked the guests and we entered the room next door. A young man sat on a bed, dressed in pyjama bottoms, his torso bare and scarred. White bandages encased his wrists. Silent tears streaked his vacant face. His eyes were hollow, haunted by the things he’d seen. Things no one else would ever understand. They couldn’t contemplate something that wasn’t in their reality.

The guests watched, captivated as the radio dragged itself across the floor then levitated and rested on the bedside cabinet. I watched Mason filming it, then picked the radio up and dropped it back down. The young man’s gaze shifted to me. I stared straight back. The window opened. The poltergeist was antagonising me. Maybe he hoped the nurses would sedate me. I knew all his tricks. I closed the window and locked it. The bed springs creaked as the young man got up and left the room. Faint sounds of screaming filtered in his wake. Outside, the storm raged on.

Soul Asylum’s book trailer

Soul Asylum Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Soul Asylum C L RavenThe screams of the damned penetrated his tortured mind. Black smoke choked him, stinging his eyes until scalding tears left tracks through his grimy skin. Gasping for oxygen only caused him to inhale more of the smoke until his throat was raw, as though Satan’s talons were gripping it. He stumbled blindly on. He could hear the fire crackling nearby, but the fiery threat remained invisible. Like a nightmare hiding just beyond the veil of consciousness. Glass shattered around him as windows exploded like souls fleeing their hosts. A place once so familiar was now a terrifying labyrinth of darkness and smoke, each corridor leading to death. More screams pierced the gloom. Somebody crashed into him and he plummeted down the stairs, falling deeper into the abyss. Here, the heat was intense, suffocating. His broken body fought for breath as the fire caressed his skin.

I wrenched my hand from the headstone and opened my eyes. Rain danced on my skin, kissing my face and bouncing off the gravestone.



My fingers traced the weathered letters of his name. I closed my eyes. He lay curled up on the burning stairs, his lungs filled with deadly smoke as the fire consumed his body. Screaming and sobbing failed to drown the fire’s roar as it raced through the corridors, its need for life insatiable.

I lowered my hand. The clouds wept invisible tears for another life lost. I scanned the graveyard; every grave was old and forgotten. I walked among them, my black trilby hat keeping the rain from my pale grey eyes. As I passed the headstones, my hands remained by my sides. Today, I didn’t crave death. They could keep their play of horrors.

The ground was soft beneath my bare feet, my toes sinking into the slick mud, the grass pricking my frigid skin. I was careful not to step on any of the graves. Time had merged them with the ground like one plague pit and nobody cared enough to stop it. Least of all me. Smoke embraced the graves. The headstones and the black skeleton of a tree were the only objects visible.

I reached a black and silver Rover P4 and ran my fingers over its sleek body. Rain drops bounced off its glistening paint. My feet crunched on the wet gravel. Sixty years ago there had been a well-tended grass and flower patch in the centre of the drive. Now it was overgrown with trees. I glanced back towards the graves. They were shrouded by the smoke, but I could still see the skeletal tree.

The chapel stood forlorn in the distance. Phantom organ music haunted the graveyard. A large stone asylum rose majestically to greet me. It couldn’t decide whether it was brown or grey. Two large gargoyles guarded either side of the double oak doors. Above the door was a worn stone sign that used to proudly declare “Ravens Retreat.” I ascended the wide steps, flanked by peeling wrought iron. Decades ago, flowers had separated the steps into two stairways. Now they had been combined. I walked up another three steps and pushed the left door. It creaked open, revealing darkness.

The lights flickered and sizzled. The dark wooden floor gleamed in the meagre light. I ran my toes over it, liking the smoothness against my skin. A grand staircase to my left beckoned and I obeyed, my hand gliding up the banister. The stairs creaked. I stopped. The lights continued to flicker. The front door opened slowly, the old iron hinges protesting. It slammed shut. I scanned the hall.

I was alone.

I hurried down and slid the bolt locks in place. A door upstairs closed, keys jangling as it was locked.

I shivered and continued upstairs. Squeaking wheels echoed along the corridor. I turned the corner, but saw nothing. The squeaking stopped. I edged forward, fingertips brushing the brown and white tiles on the walls. Squeak, squeak, squeak. I stopped. So did the noise. I closed my eyes. When I opened them, an old wheelchair sat in the middle of the corridor. I looked around but I was alone. The wheelchair trundled towards me. I stepped aside to let it pass. As it reached me, it vanished.

I made my way to the master bedroom. The black four-poster bed stood in the red room. Thick black curtains danced in the breeze. I crossed to the window and shut it. I didn’t remember opening it. I stared out over the graveyard, the graves almost invisible beneath the smoke’s cold cloak.

Downstairs another door slammed. Running footsteps on the stairs. I tensed. A door banged. I snuck from the room and heard the sound of running water. Edging a short way down the corridor, I hesitated at the bathroom door, gripping the cool handle. The gushing water was taunting me. I tried the doorknob. The door swung open. The shower was running. I leaned over the bath and switched it off. As I reached the door, the tap squeaked as it switched back on. I turned it off then gripped it.

I would not lose this fight.

I released the tap and left the room, waiting outside the door. Nothing. A smile played on my lips as I returned to my bedroom. I sat on the bed and removed my hat, tossing it towards the throne on the other side of the room. It landed on one of the tall sides and spun around before coming to a rest. Music started. Muse’s ‘Hysteria’ blared through the asylum, shattering the silence. I closed my eyes. The music grew louder. I covered my ears, my ear drums pounding. I shot off the bed, ran down the landing, flung open one of the doors and entered another bedroom. It was almost barren, painted grey with a single metal bed and a bedside cabinet. There used to be two other beds in here. They wouldn’t allow the male staff to sleep two to a room. I guess if the patients couldn’t control themselves, why should the staff?

The radio looked out of place on the cabinet. I switched it off. It immediately turned back on.

A figure huddled in the corner of the room, rocking back and forth and whimpering. Footsteps echoed through the room and a young male attendant entered, dressed in black. Trousers, waistcoat and a coat, which only had the top brass button done up. The collar of a white shirt peeked out. His peaked hat was askew.

“You shouldn’t be in here, John. These are the staff’s quarters.” The key chain from his pocket clanked. They looked more like prison warders than attendants.

“Get away from me!” John shoved him over then bolted from the room.

He swiftly rose and shadowed him. They ran down the corridor towards the end wall. They ran straight through it and disappeared.

Leaving me alone with the asylum’s memory.

I heard a car approaching. I hurried downstairs. I slid back the bolt and opened the door. An old bright green Beetle parked beside the Rover. I watched a young man exiting the car carrying a rucksack. He peered through the Rover’s windows. He seemed to sense me watching him because he whirled around, startled. I closed the door. The gravel betrayed his footsteps. His knock echoed around the asylum. I waited then opened it.

I looked past him to the falling rain. His Beetle was the only source of colour in the dismal surroundings. The driveway stretched on forever, the black gates barely visible in the gloom. Just inside the gates, a grey building, newer than this one, was partially concealed by a hedge. A light shone in the downstairs window. I hadn’t switched it on.

Thunder rumbled in the bowels of the clouds. Lightning flashed once like a dying bulb. I heard a flap of wings as a raven landed on one of the gargoyles. The lantern above it had gone out. The raven cawed a warning, its round black eyes fixated on this stranger. It shook its wet feathers then took flight, its wings beating the air. From the roof, another raven answered, sparking a fierce debate with the ravens guarding the tree. I listened, but their plotting remained a secret. Inside the asylum I heard footsteps in the corridor upstairs. The wood creaked. Footsteps ran down the stairs and I shivered.

“I’m here for the tour,” the stranger spoke, looking past me. “I’m from the paper. Mason Strider. We spoke on the phone. Thank you for fitting me in at such short notice.”

I read his ID card. He was twenty-five, two years older than me. He adjusted his rucksack, his clothes soaking.

“You’re not on my list. And we’ve never spoken. I didn’t invite you.”

“Is it alright if I come in? I need to sort my equipment out. It’s freezing out here.”

I opened the door further and allowed him to enter. He surveyed the hall uneasily. A door up ahead opened and I gestured for him to follow me through it, into the dining room. A long table stood in the centre with ten chairs surrounding it. He placed his rucksack on the table and unzipped it. The chair to my right scraped back. I seated myself at the head of the table, watching him empty his bag: a digital voice recorder, camera, a video camera, notebook, pen and a torch. A nurse dragged the voice recorder towards her. I reached out and stopped it. Mason looked alarmed then laughed.

“That was good. Did you use magnets?” He checked under the table.


“I know you claim this place is haunted.” He was looking at the empty chair to my right.

“I didn’t use magnets.” I resented his accusing tone.

“You can save the tricks for the tour. You don’t have to entertain me.”

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who doubt, no proof is enough.”

I watched him intently and released the DVR. It stayed put. Upstairs a floorboard groaned. Mason glanced up. A door shut. Keys locked it.

“You live alone?” He asked.

“The living don’t stay here very long.”

I stood up and closed the black curtains, blocking out the light. Mason began writing in his notebook. After a few minutes, he asked if I had anything to drink. I fetched him some water then retreated to my seat. He asked how to spell my name so I took his notebook and pen, making him jump. I wrote Phineas Soul on his page and handed it back. I watched a lady collect a bowl from the other end of the table and carry it behind me into the kitchen. The door opened and closed soundlessly, swallowing her into its silence.

“When my editor told me he wanted me to write a piece on Soul Searching, I thought he meant inner peace rubbish, not a ghost hunting tour. When does it start?”

I exhaled deeply. “One hour.”

“When was this place built?”

“Building started in 1844. It opened 1848. It was the only asylum for North Wales. Before, patients were sent to England. Which wasn’t helpful since most of them couldn’t speak English.”

The overhead lights flickered. Mason blinked as they came on. Voices. Whispering. He crossed to the door and opened it. The hall was deserted. He closed it and returned to the table. The kitchen door opened. Faint sweeping footsteps passed behind him. He jumped at the noise of cutlery being dropped on the table. He glanced at the end of the table. Empty.

First impressions – the asylum is huge and creepy. Lights flicker, there seems to be someone else in the house. Footsteps, doors opening and closing, standard stuff, the DVR moved but I didn’t see any magnets. Thought I heard whispering. There’re strange noises like someone preparing the table for dinner, could be a recording. Tour is in 1 hr but there seems to be no preparation.

I watched Mason write. The nurse at the end of the table was laying cutlery in front of the chairs. Dinnertime in the house of wolves. Mason glanced up as the lights flickered then died. Sighing, I opened the curtains. The rain was reflected on the table in large drops. I could feel the storm as though it was brewing in my mind. The thunder comforted me.

“If it wasn’t raining, I’d take you to see the graveyard,” I murmured. “It’s very beautiful.”

He glanced out the window. “You have a graveyard! It’s not an ancient Indian burial ground is it?”

“This is North Wales, not America.”

“Who supposedly haunts this place? The people in the graveyard?”

“Everyone who died in this asylum.”

“I was told there’s a poltergeist.”

I could see the staff and patients but not the poltergeist he referred to. Maybe some things weren’t meant to be seen.

“He’s not a poltergeist. He’s an unwanted guest who refuses to leave.”

Running footsteps upstairs. Somewhere in the asylum’s twisted heart, someone screamed.

Soul Asylum’s book trailer

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