Monday, 7 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - F is For Friend, Anatole France & Annie Farie

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
This post is
suitable for all
Even plucky protagonists in ghost stories need friends :). Okay, maybe that's a bit flippant, but you'll get what I mean. My author of choice today is Anatole France, and my ghost is that of little Annie Farie.






F is for Friend

Friends come in all sorts of forms: good, bad, ruthless, jolly, patronising, even expendable! And, they're very useful characters to have around in a ghost story.

One of the standard formats for modern horror is the group of friends each getting bumped off one by one by the monster hiding in the shadows. One of the first types of these movies I ever saw was Evil Dead (the original, not the remake), where, one by one, each member of the party isolated in the woods is possessed by evil demons. It's very much on the gory side of horror, but it's not that which attracts me to the story, it's the parts that rely on psychological horror. One of the most unsettling parts for me is where Linda is possessed by the demon and sits on the floor curling her hair with her finger and giggling.

Friends aren't always there to be disposed of though. They are good foils for moving the plot along. Marley is both friend and ghost in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the reason Scrooge must accept the visits from the spirits to save his soul. They can also be voices of reason within the growing strangeness of a haunting, the doubter, the one grounding the protagonist (usually) in the wrong direction. Sam Daily plays this role in The Woman In Black, even though he already knows the story of the evil ghost killing children.

The provider of information can also be considered a friend in this context, and that is why, in my next part of The Burning Web, I am introducing you to a new character, someone to help put the events of the house into local perspective.
by Sophie Duncan


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The sky was slate grey and threatening rain, but Tris was not about to let that deter him. However, his arm was aching a little where he was taking the weight off his leg on the stick, so he was doing as promised and taking it slowly as he walked down the tree-covered lane to Berwick House. Before the aneurysm, a mile would have been nothing to Tris, since he'd run ten on a regular basis, but now he was finding it annoyingly tiring. He was trying to just enjoy the fresh air and take his time, but he was still somewhat consternated about his pace as, eventually, he made it all the way to the gates.

However, as he neared the decayed old railings at the head of his driveway, Tris' mood was diverted by the sight of a stranger standing just inside the boundary and looking towards the house. She was a tall woman, or at least she had been, but she stooped just a little now, that and bobbed white hair suggesting advancing years. Her face, what Tris could see of it, was of an uncertain age, though, anywhere between fifty and eighty. The unknown woman's attention was all on the house. She was standing in the middle of his driveway, hands in the pockets of her Barbor jacket, gaze fixed on his house. Thus, Tris approached unseen. The rubber end of his stick and his trainers made no sound, so it was not until Tris coughed politely that the woman turned.

She looked sheepish and took a step back towards the gateway. Tris, however, was glad of a break to the concentrated effort of walking and he greeted, "Good morning."

"Good morning," the relieved response came back and was then followed by a rushed, "I am so sorry to trespass, but I just had to see the old place again."

"You know Berwick House?" Tris immediately became more interested in his visitor.

"Yes," the woman nodded, smiled and held out her hand, "my name is Julienne Kernod."

"You were our seller!" Tris recognised the name and shook the offered hand warmly.

"Alas, yes," Ms Kernod continued, but she continued to smile. Then she paused, enough that Tris wondered if there was going to be an awkwardness between them.

"You did not want to sell?" he bit the bullet, it was that or dance politely round the point and he had never been very good at that.

Ms Kernod looked back at the grand old lady down the driveway, her expression gaining a wistful quality for a moment, but when she looked back she seemed more sure of herself.

"The house belonged to my husband's family," she continued, but still sounded rueful as she explained, "but they hadn't lived in it since the early sixties. I kept it as long as I could after he died, but it was the right time to sell. After all, what is a house if it is not lived in?"

Tris smiled and nodded like he was supposed to, not quite sure how to take the bright, yet sad look he and the house were sharing from Ms Kernod.

"And I knew Michael would have wanted a young couple to buy it, not some developer," Ms Kernod added.

The fact that this stranger knew who he was perturbed Tris a little, since there was only one reason the woman would know his face. Yet, there was no accusation, no summary decision on his guilt or innocence over the shooting in Ms Kernod's eyes, which is what Tris had come to expect from those who recognised but did not know him. It was refreshing and a little liberating.

"I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw a picture," he admitted, turning to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ms Kernod as they both looked down the driveway together.

"She does have a power, doesn't she?" his companion agreed and Tris was rather glad he wasn't the only one who thought of the house as a 'her'. "Such a pity Michael and I could never live here."

Tris didn't need to ask 'why', because he glanced at Ms Kernod and she continued, "Michael lived here with his parents until he was in his early teens, but then there was a terrible accident, his father died. His mother and he moved into the village and Michael always said he could never come back here after that. But he couldn't bear to be parted with the place either, just refused to sell."

"I am sorry," Tris offered his sympathy.

However, Ms Kernod shook her head and reached out, patting Tris' arm.

"No, no, you have nothing to be sorry for, Mr McCall."

"Call me Tris."

"Then I am Julienne, Tris. No, you should not be sorry, you are bringing life back to Berwick House. That is what Michael would have wanted and I couldn't be happier about it. It is what she wants."

Julienne waved her arm out down the driveway towards the house and grinned at the view. Such joy being shown over his new home buoyed Tris' spirits, which had been waning after the struggle of a walk, and he decided he liked Julienne.

"Do you want to come inside for a cup of tea?" he invited. "It's all a bit humble at the moment, no mains water or power, but we can manage to boil a kettle."

Julienne looked across at him, opened her mouth and Tris thought she was going to accept the invite. However, then she glanced swiftly back at the house and her mouth closed into a knowing kind of smile. Returning attention to Tris, Julienne then shook her head and replied, "No, not today, thank you, I have to be somewhere else."

"Another time, then?" Tris offered, a little disappointed.

"Another time," Julienne agreed and began to rummage in her pocket. "Look, let me be very forward and give you my address and phone number. Maybe you would like to visit me as well. I still live in the village."

"That would be great," Tris replied and watched his new friend scribbling on an old receipt.

He took the paper when it was offered out and they shook hands again.

"I am sorry I can't stop, I would love to see what you are doing to her," Julienne carried on, shaking hands for rather longer than was necessary.

Tris didn't mind, though, in fact, Julienne's enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air.

"We must talk properly soon. I'll give you a tour of the works," Tris concurred with a chuckle.

"I look forward to it, Tris," Julienne finished and let go of his hand.

With that, Julienne set off back down the road at a considerable pace. Tris watched her go, but when she waved a final dismissal over her shoulder, Tris turned back to the house. Re-energised by Julienne's clear love for her, Tris dug his stick into the gravel and headed down to his day's work.


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Author Info: Anatole France

Anatole France is a French author whose story, The Mass of Shadows, I came across in The Second Ghost Story Megapack. It's a whimsical story, told matter of factly without fear and the terrors of other writers of the same era. A tale of an old woman, who loved in her youth one whom she shouldn't, but who was a honest lace maker in her old age. She is called to church by the bells for a mass. It is the middle of the night and she finds herself surrounded by people wearing clothing from bygone times. As I said, she is not afraid. She meets her old love, shares a few words with him and understands that she is standing with souls from purgatory who have been given this chance to meet with their loved ones.

There is not really any pace to this story, nor any real direction. There is no dramatic conclusion. Yet I like it. It has character. The old lace maker is a good woman and her discourse with her one-time lover is intimate and composed.

British Hauntings: Annie Farie


The Cartland Bridge Hotel is located one mile from Lanark in Scotland. However, the place was a private house, home to the Farie family called Baronald House, when little Annie, 7 year old daughter of the family, became a ghost there. The story is that she was killed in a riding accident. She is buried in a private burial ground nearby and her tiny ghost can be seen in the chamber that was once the room where she housed her dolls. Of course, if you're planning on staying there, the question is, which number room is that? ;)

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.

get the InLinkz code to add to your blog

39 comments:

  1. Interesting post and it does not matter who we are ghost or human we do need friends.

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  2. Evil Dead is a freaky movie. Another great post!

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    1. I love the original, used to scare me silly and there are still the odd bits that keep me scared. The remake was awful though! :)

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  3. What a "hotel"! I can't imagine living in a place like that and calling it home. So massive! I don't know. For some reason child ghosts wig me out way more than adult ones. Hrm.

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

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    1. I think for me with child ghosts, it's the innocence mixed with the supernatural that gets me.

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  4. Is Evil Dead the one where they end up in a cabin? Sorry, memory's not that good with this one!
    That hotel looks beautiful, with or without a resident ghost. And probably a little too beautifully priced for my pocket!
    The Burning Web. Is there an element of misdirection in play, or are we awaiting a kick in the tale somewhere along the line? Either direction is fine with me I might add. ;)

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    1. Yes, that's it, Evil Dead is where the group of college students stay in a cabin, find a cursed book and the translation of said book on a tape recorder - when they play it - all hell breaks loose, literally!

      I know, it does look like a great place, doesn't it.

      I hope there's enough in the story to keep folks considering a number of possibilities without them wanting to kill me at the end because there was nothing in the story to foreshadow the ending. :)

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  5. I recently read a book that had no real direction, pace or dramatic conclusion either... kind of like background music, that I surprising enjoyed. I noticed a typo in your story - When Mrs Kernod looked at the house she seemed more sure of 'himself' - just thought I'd point it out. with so much to read during this challenge I'm going to skip the temptation to spend my morning tracking back to the beginning of the story, but have bookmarked it for late... All sorts of friends have all sorts of lessons to teach us - some not so friendly :)

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    1. Thanks - I and my editor completely missed that one - I'll correct it :)

      Oh yes, you are right, those we think of as friends do not always have our best interests at heart and others can bring baggage :) That's why they're so interesting. Friendship is always a risk.

      Thanks for stopping by - and I understand about the story - I knew I was asking a lot of folks to invest in a part work with so much going on during the challenge and that's why I'm going release it as an eBook after the challenge is finished :)

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  6. What do you mean friends aren't just for killing off? ;)

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    1. You have worrying thoughts - sometimes I wonder if I'm glad you're my sister or not! ;P

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  7. Friends are the ones who can mock you without offending you! Nice post :)

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    1. That is so true - I wonder when that actually happens in a relationship, when you go from acquaintances to friends, it's an indefinable moment, but yes, mocking without offence is definitely part of it :)

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  8. I agree we need friends, in all stories not just horror. They can add so much depth and even provide subplots!

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    1. Yes, they are needed in all genres - where would Harry be without Ron and Hermione, or indeed the whole Fellowship of the Ring? You're right, they do add depth and colour.

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  9. It's always fun to pick out at the beginning which friend won't be there at the end.

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    1. I love doing that with teen horror movies - guaranteed the nice guy who wants to be more than friends with the heroine is going to sacrifice himself for her sometime in the middle of the movie :)

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    2. One movie that kept me guessing, though, was Mindhunters, which is based on the classic, 'And Then There Were None' plot, but is a bunch of FBI trainees on an island who are supposed to solve a fake murder but end up having to try and get ahead of a mystery one of them who is killing them off one by one.

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  10. I love ghosts in literature, PARTICULARLY in Christmas Carol and The Woman in Black. Wonderful post and happy A to Z!

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    1. Thank you - and Happy A to Z to you too :)

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  11. Love Ghosts and the Evil Dead! So I love this post.

    Great work, just really enjoying all you are posting this month!

    Tim
    --
    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

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    1. Evil Dead is a classic :) I'm loving this A to Z :)

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  12. I love stories told in matter-of-fact voices. One of the best short stories I have ever read was called "Later" (can't for the life of me remember the author, unfortunately). It was a pretty creepy and sad story, but I love it so much because it was narrated with such a dead-pan voice. That somehow made it even more sad, really. "The Mass of Shadows" might be one I need to seek out. :)

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    1. Sad and creepy - interesting combination. Pity you can't remember the author...

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  13. I love the original Evil Dead. And wow, a child ghost. hmmm I don't know how I'd feel about that if I saw her! lol!

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    1. Children and the supernatural are an unsettling combination.

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  14. Everyone needs a friend, which can make for an interesting plot twist when one isn't what they appear to be.

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    1. That is true - I also like seeing friendships put under strain in classic horror situations, like in Boo, trapped in a haunted hospital. In some cases, the strings of friendship unravel, and in others, they are strengthened :)

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  15. The Faries' house has beautiful architecture. I'd be very tempted to spend a night there, though I wish I could know beforehand which is the haunted room.

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    1. Yeah, I think I'd want to know which one it was too :)

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  16. I'm loving the haunted places you're featuring. Very cool.

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    1. Thank you - I've been obsessed with hauntings in Britain for a long time and this seemed a great opportunity to share. :)

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  17. Friend or fiend? It's often a very fine line... I saw the Woman in Black and watched the last third through my fingers while clutching the cat! What a scaredy-cat I am! Great theme! (http://www.hjblenkinsop.com)

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    1. Oh now, I totally know where you're coming from when it comes to watching TWIB through fingers - I tend to hug a cushion. :)

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  18. I enjoyed that. I'm going to bookmark so I can go back and read the rest of your posts now!

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    1. Thank you, I am glad you liked it :)

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  19. I'm in agreement with Karen. I like trying to figure out which friends will be there in the end. :) Cool post.

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    1. That is fun :) A bit like trying to spot the murdered in a crime story :)

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