Digging up the Dead

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

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

Antonine Wall, Rough Castle

us at the Antonine Wall

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

Antonine Wall, Rough Castle

the anti-picts ditch

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

John de Graeme

John de Graeme’s tomb

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

Callendar House

Callendar House

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

Callendar House

the Scottish Casa Raven

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

Culross Palace

Culross Palace

Culross Abbey

at the top of Culross Abbey

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

St Bridget's Kirk

St Bridget’s Kirk

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

Dalgety Bay watchtower

Capturing a body snatcher

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

Culross

Culross honoured us. Well, Cat.

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

Dalgety Bay

stylish bodysnatchers

This was Halloween

plague doctorsWe’d set our alarms for 6:15 but they betrayed us in the worst possible way. Lynx woke at 7 after a stress dream about missing our train. Way to taunt her, brain, rather than doing something useful and actually waking her. Can’t get the staff these days. We had an hour to get ready and get to Waverley Bridge. We got there with a few minutes to spare but the person in front of us at the ticket machine took ages and the machine to a while to figure out so we missed the 8 a.m. train we wanted. There was another one at 8:15. We got to the platform at 8:05 after Lynx’s suitcase got jammed in the barrier and had to be rescued. plague doctor costumesWe’ve never attempted to master public transport by ourselves (social anxiety makes things like that impossible) but we didn’t have a choice. We had to get to Falkirk. Once again, we rued leaving our glasses behind as we couldn’t read any signs. Luckily, we’d researched it online before we came to Edinburgh, so we knew which Falkirk station we wanted and headed for that platform. A train pulled up not longer after we arrived, ruining our opportunity to take a photo as plague doctors by the tracks. We didn’t get on it because ours wasn’t due for 10 minutes and we didn’t want to get on the wrong train. Everyone else got on it, like they knew it was their train. How do people know these things? We swear that everyone else has been given a manual on how do things – like using public transport, social interaction and how to behave like normal human beings – yet someone forgot to give us the manual so we have to work it out by ourselves. Lynx asked the conductor – it was the right train. The suitcase had to have a seat space to itself, so Lynx sat with it while Cat had a table and four seats for her, the briefcase trolley and rucksack. We donned our masks and hats and took photos of us as plague doctors on the train. The conductor walked past and said “I forgot it was Halloween.” Strangely, we had half the carriage to ourselves. Can’t think why.

C L Raven Callendar Square Halloween fair

our stall

When we arrived at the station, we spotted Julie across the platform. Actually, she spotted us and waved, so we knew it was her (refer to yesterday’s post about people being faceless blurs). We just had to get across the tracks. We eyed the steps leading to the bridge then eyed the suitcase full of books which weighs half our body weight and is half our height. Why must we be the size of pixies? Where are our hunky man slaves? Oh right. Helping the beautiful, Barbie members of the female populace. Sighing defeatedly, we teamed up and lugged it up the many, many steps. It bounced happily down the other side. Sarah, if it’s more battered that when you lent it to us, we’re sorry. But…steps. And books. And no hunky man slaves.

Callendar Square Halloween fair

l-r Lynx, Megan, Imogen, Cat

Julie drove us to Callandar Square shopping centre. We set up our stall then waited for people to arrive. We met Dee who owns Trinity Moon and her daughter, Ellie and a couple of the other stall holders. A woman looked at our stall and said her daughter had one of our books and wanted us to sign it. We then met her daughter, Imogen and her friend Megan. They were lovely and ended up hanging out with us until 2 p.m, which made the day even more fun.

Callendar Square Halloween fair

us with Facebook friend, Amanda

One of the stallholders, Tracey, gave us two glasses with dripping blood as a gift. We bought handmade photo frame and dragon’s eye notebook from a stall holder called Heather. She bought a book. We sold 36 books! 16 The Malignant Dead, 6 Soul Asylum & Disenchanted 5 Romance Is Dead, 4 Deadly Reflections! Can’t believe it! Don’t think we’ve ever sold that many books in a month. At the moment, a good month is selling two ebooks. Yeah, our sales suck.  We suck. Judging by our usual monthly sales, we must be the worst writers in the history of writers. Maybe we should write something involving terrible dialogue, bondage and spanking and earn millions. Think that’s already been done though.

Callendar Square Halloween fair

us with Julie

We also met our Facebook friend, Lauren. Apparently, we’re her favourite authors after Margaret Atwood, which is one hell of a compliment we’re not worthy of. It surprises us that people actually bother to read our books, let alone enjoy them, rather than just buying them out of obligation because we’re friends/family/they feel sorry for us. Lauren was joining us on the overnight ghost hunt, so after the fair, we went back to Julie’s to dump our stuff and meet her dogs, Penny and Roxy. If we’re honest, we were just as excited to meet the dogs as we were for going ghost hunting. After a quick stop for food and dog cwtching, we all headed to Culross Palace.Culross

The village of Culross is a fantastic place! It’s a historic village with cobbled streets. We wandered up to the abbey before everyone else got there. There were 13 people in total. We did a group walk around with Lee, the medium, doing his spiel. Then we had a break then split into 2 groups. Us, Julie, Lauren and 3 other women were with Lee in the north block. We went into a room by ourselves. but didn’t get anything. We then went downstairs by ourselves. And heard dragging on the ceiling. We shouted up to see if anyone was moving.

Culross

vigil in the north block

Nobody was. We heard it again a few more times, along with fast tapping. We shouted up – nobody was moving. No idea what caused it. There are bats there so maybe they had something to do with it – tapping morse code and dragging the corpse of a tourist who refused to pay. Hopefully the cameras picked it up. Cat also got really itchy in that room on her side, back and round her right boob. Lee said one of the ghosts had a skin condition, like eczema. The itching stopped once she left the room.

Culross Palace

in the laird’s room by the curtain that moved

We had another break then went up to the family room to do glasswork. We never participate in glass work or ouija boards with people we don’t know or trust implicitly. It’s too easy to fake it, whether consciously or unconsciously. So when we do public ghost hunts, we never volunteer to take part. The glass was extremely active. We would’ve like time to use it by ourselves. We then all separated. We went into the laird’s room and sat by the bed. Schofield and Linus (Lynx’s back and Cat’s bad knee) weren’t happy so we had to keep sitting down.

Culross Palace

upstairs in the north block

Lynx was attaching her bracket to her camera, as it had come undone when Cat asked for the curtain to be moved. It moved. Cat “that was Lynx moving the curtain.” Lynx “no it wasn’t.” She hadn’t touched it, or at least wasn’t aware she’d touched it. Her arm couldn’t reach so it may have been the bracket or it could’ve been shadow play creating the illusion of movement, as Cat’s torch was pointing at Lynx at the time. Hopefully the camera can tell us what happened, as it was on a chair, filming us and the curtain. We then went into the adjoining strongroom, but didn’t get anything.

Culross Palace

downstairs where we heard dragging & tapping

We regrouped, had another break then everyone went to the family room to use the glass with a ouija board. Again, we didn’t join in. So we napped through it instead. Bear in mind, we’d only had about 6 hours sleep the night before, from being down the vaults. We’re great at napping sitting upright. We went back to the north block and did an EVP session in the upstairs room. A woman, Morag, did the calling out. They played it back and Morag and Lee claimed to hear responses, but we couldn’t hear anything other than the static. Her voice was quite muffled on it. Another of the team, Helen, played it back on her DVR.

Culross

Culross village

Her recorder was much clearer, the voices were louder and sharper during the calling out, but it picked up nothing. Morag played hers again and again claimed to hear responses. Lee commented on how the expensive Panasonic ones, which she had, seemed good at capturing EVPs. But we believe a muffled DVR can sound like responses in the static when it is really just static. If there were responses, why hadn’t Helen’s DVR picked anything up, when it was obviously better quality?

We finished the night in the townhouse. We didn’t do anything in there, but it was cool to see it, as it’s where the old tollbooth was and where a witch tried to commit suicide. We left at 3:15 and dropped Lauren off. Julie made up the couches for us to sleep on. We had a surprisingly good night’s sleep, even if it was only 4 hours.

Culross

with Lauren and Julie

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.”