Saturday, 5 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - E is For Endurance, Amelia Anne Blanford Edwards & The Enfield Poltergeist

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
This post is
suitable for all
Amelia Edwards, lady Egyptologist and novelist is the subject of my author recommendation today. I'm also delving into a more modern haunting than those which I've discussed so far in the form of the 1970's Enfield Poltergeist. Plus, in my discussion of ghostly tales, I'm talking about endurance, the ability to continue beyond an initial scare.



E is for Endurance

So, what do I mean when I say endurance and what does it have to do with ghost stories? Well, what I'm trying to encapsulate, somewhat clumsily, with my choice of word, is the capability of a character to go back, to carry on after an initial disturbance. Ghost stories are very rarely about one momentary encounter, if the plot is building the tension, usually there are hints, unnerving events, moments of disquiet that lead the way to the main event. Parts of this type of endurance, may be down to bravery, pig-headedness, even self-doubt at what is happening. Whatever is behind it, if characters did not brave these moments for their readers, then ghost stories would be very short! :)

In On Whistle, and I'll Come To You, My Lad, M R James builds the tension  and terror of Parkins, the professor who finds a whistle on the dunes where he is walking. On blowing it, he invokes a creature that makes its body from bedsheets, sightings and events growing more and more unnerving. It is Parkins' rational mind that stops him believing, that creates his endurance in the story, allowing him to be present in the hotel room when he comes face to sheet with the terrifying entity.

If you've read the previous parts of The Burning Web, you'll know that Tris, my protagonist, has already had his first scare. But was it real, or just a consequence of his brain injury? That's the thing, doubt of his own senses that leads this next section of the story.  
by Sophie Duncan


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Tris plodded into the flat, dropped the bag he was carrying, let his stick fall against it and then flopped down onto the sofa. He closed his eyes and yawned, listening to Xander coming in behind him. It had been an unsettled night after the nightmare and he was expecting it when Xander told him, "Go to bed and get some more sleep."

"What about you?" he checked, since Xander often forgot about himself.

"I'll join you once I've put everything away. We can have a lazy Sunday watching telly and doing crosswords."

Tris appreciated the effort Xander was making to be cheerful.

"I'll do the telly watching, you can do the crosswords," he decided, but didn't move from the sofa, since his skin was prickling and his bones were aching with his lack of sleep and it just felt too good to move.

"Deal," Xander replied, picking up Tris' abandoned bag on the way past and heading towards the bedroom.

Tris indulged the need to relax in the familiar surroundings. He was safe here, he knew every inch of their rather poky London flat and there were no corners unfilled that could hide any shadows. Still, the way his new home had spooked him didn't sit comfortably, and as it nagged at his thoughts, he opened his eyes and sat up again. They had been so happy the day before, making plans, thinking of the future, and the night terrors had put a damper on all that. They were just his mind playing tricks, a symptom of the injury as his brain rewired and healed itself, he'd had them on and off since he'd collapsed on the steps of the court building, and he was damned if they were going to beat him now.

Standing up and grabbing his stick, he headed after Xander and announced round another yawn, "I'm going back to the house on Monday when you're back at work."

Xander, who was returning their stuff to their bathroom, leant out of the door into the bedroom and, raising an eyebrow, reminded him, "You can't drive."

"I'll take the train," Tris barrelled on, throwing his stick and then himself onto the bed. "It's only half a mile from the station in the village to the house and Helen's always telling me during my physio sessions that I need to give this bloody leg some more exercise."

"More like a mile, and I refer you back to our discussion yesterday about gentle exercise," Xander objected, but went back to arranging their items in the bathroom, so Tris didn't think he was going to have to fight too hard.

"I'll rest all today and then take it slow tomorrow, I promise, but I want to chat with Bill some more about the surfaces he's going to leave for decorating," Tris pushed and beamed at Xander when he came out of the bathroom, arranging finished.

Xander stood over Tris at the end of the bed, hands on his hips, lips pursed, but he was not looking too serious.

"You, Tristan McCall, are a pain in the arse," Xander bemoaned and lightly kicked Tris' foot.

Tris sat up and slid his thumbs into the back of Xander's waistband. Leaning back a little and looking up at his husband, he made sure Xander could see his sincerity.

"I can't sit on my arse in this flat for another week. I'll go crazy thinking about our house and everything I could be doing. I promise I will be careful and I won't push myself."

Xander sighed, resting his hands on Tris' shoulders, but he looked placated.

"Alright, but I'm giving you a curfew. Leave it till after the rush hour and be back here in time for supper, okay?"

Tris nodded and Xander bent down to him. They sealed the promise with a light kiss and then Xander broke away. He didn't look back as he began to pick their clothes out of the overnight bag, but he waggled a finger back at Tris and ordered, "Now, bed."


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Author Info: Amelia Anne Blanford Edwards

Amelia Edwards was an Egyptologist, as well as an author. She wrote a bestselling travellogue, A Thousand Miles Up The Nile and dedicated herself to the subject of Egypt old and new for much of her later life. This meant she largely gave up her novel writing, but she still left us with some memorable ghosts stories.

No 5 Branch Line: The Engineer is a rather tragic story of friend killing friend thanks to a manipulative woman, whom the survivor later tries to take revenge upon. The ending is uplifting, however, when the old friend's ghost intervenes to save a soul. This story is a little drawn out in its style for me, and it is Amelia Edwards' other ghost story, The Phantom Coach, which encourages me to recommend her to you. A traveller is stranded on a snowy moor, and thus has an encounter with strange man and his servant. This is unnerving enough, but that's not the whole story. Anxious to return to where he should be, the traveller begs guidance to the next coach and is shown the way to where to meet it. As you may guess from the title, the coach that stops for him is not all that it seems. The reason I find this story so spine-chilling is that the traveller is then totally immersed in this apparition, surrounded by death, being driven along by death and the total horror of it crept into my head and down my back as I was reading it. He cannot run away, he is trapped - terrifying!

British Hauntings: The Enfield Poltergeist


Enfield is a borough of North London, a thoroughly modern place, and this story took place on a council estate in an ordinary terraced house in the full glare of 1970's media. I think what scared me so much about this story as a child was that it involved an ordinary family, three children and their mother, living in a normal house: in other words, ghosts weren't just for ancient houses and graveyards, they could contact anyone.

In 1977, police were called to this suburban house because the children were claiming there was knocking and furniture was moving. Thus followed over a year of chaos, where evil entities plagued the children, destroyed objects, threw people across rooms, and much of it was witnessed by independent investigators. The reports stopped by 1979, but the Enfield Poltergeist is one of the most documented incidents in the history of British Hauntings.

The case is so famous that it inspired a mockumentary in 1992, made by the BBC, called Ghostwatch, a night of investigations into a supposedly haunted council house in London. I remember watching it live, and it scared me silly. :)

I'd love to hear your own spooky stories, add them to the blog comments. :)

A few of us discovered that we all had supernatural themes for the AtoZ so we got together and did a mini list. If you also have a supernatural theme (ghosts, monsters, witches, spells etc), please feel free to add yourself to the list.

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40 comments:

  1. The Burning Web seems like a fantastic story! I love that Tris has reason to doubt his senses. That makes everything so uncertain and intriguing.

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    1. Thank you :) I spent a while researching conditions that would offer me the opportunity to investigate this kind of doubt.

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  2. Great post and Thanks for sharing it.

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  3. Remember the Enfield Poltergeist well, it was the year I started High School. Although an avid believer in all things unworldly, I'm not sure if I truly believed this happened. One of the times scepticism overtook my belief. But who knows. ;)
    Well, I guess I'll have to wait patiently for Monday to arrive, when I can delve back into The Burning Web again and replenish my daily fix of haunting magnificence. :)
    Have a great Sunday. :D

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    1. There was some suggestion that at least some of the phenomena were manufactured, even if there might have been some minor truths in it. What is special is it is one of the most documented cases.

      Have a great Sunday too!

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  4. The Enfield Poltergeist sounds interesting. I love ghost stories and get obsessed with watching documentaries. I don't believe in ghosts, but I WANT to believe.

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    1. I consider myself a healthy sceptic - I do believe in ghosts, but a lot of the cases reported will have totally natural explanations. It's the few that don't that intrigue me :)

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  5. It's a crucial idea to remember with almost any kind of story, if you don't want it to end immediately.

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    1. Yes, I agree, without it, there would be no peaks and troughs and just one event. :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. How interesting it would have been to follow the documentation of a supposed poltergeist as it unfolded. Pretty exciting. Even if it was debunked, it would have still been interesting to watch.

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    1. Yes, it would be fascinating, whether true or not, what an investigation into human nature!

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  7. I have always loved watching ghost shows on TV and reading horror. Loving your story. Sorry for getting back so late.
    Sania @ Fragile Words

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    1. Thanks :) So glad you're enjoying the story :D

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  8. I'm going to get this book out of the library, thank for the lead. BTW: I tried clicking on your book, and got an error message.

    I have a fiction section of my blog that contains ghosts, murdered victims of the pedophile who kidnaps my heroine, Alaina. I haven't added a section in some time, but you may find it of interest.

    I'm going to fish around your site and see if there's another way to access your book as I am very curious. Also, I'm going to read the comments above to see if there's morr info about the other ghosts you reference.

    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Sorry that the links don't work, and thanks for pointing it out - I better go fix that!

      I will check out your blog :)

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  9. I'd not heard of Amelia Anne. That would really get in my head too. Creeptastic for sure!

    Hmm I've had a couple incidents. First was in highschool I was babysitting for my grams while she was out of town. It was just me and the kitty. Sitting in the tv room watching tv and the water in the kitchen turned on full blast with no one there. They had a special set up so you could get boiling water right at the sink and it was going everywhere. I had a friend (not knowing this incident) that wouldn't step foot in their house because it felt off to him.

    Then on vacation with the family we took over a hotel on an island for a reunion. My BFF and I took the attic room. Locked our door, removed all the creepy photos of old people from the walls and hid them in the closet then had a a night of just visiting and such until a knock on the door. Opened and no one there and you could see down the stairs to see no one was there either. Locked up again and went to bed and woke up the next morning with my mom in the room. Door had been unlocked during the night by something. And it was an inside latching so not something that a random key would have done. Eek!

    Happy A to Z-ing!
    ~Anna
    herding cats & burning soup.

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    1. A tap starting up by itself would freak me out. How did you get by the rest of the time? I'd have been so spooked.

      Hotels have so many vibrations with all the people that have been through them and I have been known to sleep with the light on in hotel rooms because I don't feel comfortable. You, however, with phantom knockers and door-unlockers have succeeded in giving me the creeps. ;P

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    2. Oh both definitely creeped me the heck out.

      The running tap-- I slept the rest of the week with a knife and an antique silver mirror that was heavy as heck. What I thought that would possibly do against a ghost I've no idea but man I was totally wigged out. lol Other than that time and hearing footsteps down a hallway once nothing much else happened. House has been in the family since the early 60s with no tragedies or anything so no idea what it was all about.

      The hotel-- Apparently has a haunting so not just us though when we went had no idea. It's a mansion turned hotel that's on an island so very secluded and old. Found a girls name etched into the glass window that had lived there at some point. Maybe it was her. Who knows. But yeah we were a mite freaked. lol

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    3. Wow - you're braver than me, staying in that house.

      I'm not sure if I'd want to know a hotel was haunted before I stayed in it, or not. I did know once and it was one of the times I slept with the light on - ;P

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  10. A really interesting post, thanks Sophie x

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  11. I love how hard you're working on these posts, Sophie.Your efforts really show – and shine. Loving the Tris story and all the ghosty tid-bits you're posting.

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    1. Thank you :) I've really been enjoying writing them.

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  12. Yikes! Poltergeists have always fascinated me.

    Your story is moving along well!

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    1. Poltergeists are definitely one of the scarier types of haunting :)

      Thanks for the feedback on the story :)

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  13. Best wishes with the A to Z challenge!

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  14. I like the way you describe endurance. That's exactly what's needed for a good ghost story!

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  15. The intensity in a good build up makes a story so much more interesting. I'm not big on dragging a story out, but when a story intrigues a reader, so they can really get into it, I thoroughly enjoy the book.

    MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Writing Tips
    Effectively Human
    Lots of Crochet Stitches


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    1. You're right about not dragging a story out beyond its limits, that can lead to awful pacing - I see it a lot in TV when they stretch a story over 2 episodes and the first ep has no pace, it just drags on and on towards the inevitable cliffhanger. We can be freer in out book formats, but yes, there has to be something in it to draw the reader in and sustain the story.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

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  16. A great anf interesting "E "Post. just passing by as one of Arlee Birds Ambassadors for the challenge. Good luck.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Thank you for stopping to comment :)

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  17. Thank you for yet more ghost story recs, darling sibling of mine :) and I know what you mean about the poltergeist.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZ (Vampires)
    FB3X - AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)

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  18. I'm visiting from the A to Z Challenge and I love your theme. Your posts are so interesting! I'll be coming back this month to learn more!

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    1. Thank you :) I'm enjoying the A to Z, I hope you are too. I'll pop along to your blog as well.

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  19. I'm not much for poltergeists but you do tell great and interesting stories. I'll be back!

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Thanks for stopping by - I'd love to hear from you. :)