Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - S is For Secrets, Bram Stoker, Thomas Skelton

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
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suitable for all
Secrets, keeping them and sharing them both make for good plot development. A famous author today, Bram Stoker, of Dracula fame, but he wrote ghost stories too. And Thomas Skelton, jester, is my ghost of choice. Finally, Part 19 of The Burning Web, and keeping secrets gets Tris into trouble.




S is for Secrets
Secrets can be kept, shared, whispered, betrayed. They can be dangerous, or benign embarrassments, and all of them can add to the atmosphere and plot in any genre, including ghost stories.

The restless dead may have their secrets, something in life which haunted them then and causes them to haunt in the present. In Rose Red, a TV mini series by Stephen King, Ellen Rimbauer, the wife of a powerful oil man whose house the parapsychologists go to visit, has her secrets, big secrets. Inspired, I think, by the Winchester Mystery House and Sarah Winchester, who kept adding bits to her house in the belief that if she kept building she would not die, Ellen designs more and more bizarre pieces to her house. Meanwhile, she dispatches her husband, secret #1. The house has its secrets, too, people that it disappear within its walls - including, eventually, Ellen herself. What happened to them and how does the house continue to ensnare people? There are, initially, more secrets than answers at Rose Red, which makes it an intriguing and scary watch.

The living can also keep secrets. Sam Daily in The Woman In Black (yeah, sorry, I couldn't stay away from that one for long), doesn't tell Arthur what is going on, he is in denial about the ghost himself. In fact, the whole damn community, by keeping silent and trying to dissuade Arthur from going to the house without giving him an explanation as to why, are really at fault for what happens later.

So, secrets, use them skilfully and they are a brilliant tool in the writer's arsenal.
by Sophie Duncan


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Tris sat on the chair Xander had brought up from the kitchen and pulled off his shoes. He watched Xander fiddling with pillows as he did so and the atmosphere was awful. It was mainly his fault, he knew that, and the guilt that was tightening his chest was the reason for it. He'd come close to telling his husband what he'd seen so often that day and then backed off. It had raised a wall between them and he needed to break it down. Taking a deep breath, he confessed, "I saw another ghost today."

Xander turned round so sharply that Tris shrunk back in the chair.

"What?! When?!" his husband demanded, crossing to him immediately and taking him by the shoulders.

"I think it was real," Tris carried on, avoiding the questions and defending himself before he was smothered in professional assessment.

Xander made a dismissive noise from the back of his throat and looked right into Tris's eyes. Yet, Tris knew he wasn't looking at his expression, he was examining him and he turned his face away. Xander's hold on him tightened.

"Tris, look at me," Xander demanded, superiority and urgency mixing in his tone.

"There's nothing wrong with me," Tris objected, bristling as he was ignored in favour of his 'symptoms'. "No headache, no dizziness, just real ghosts."

"Look at me," Xander ordered again as Tris avoided the command.

"Listen to me," Tris tried again, but Xander let go of one shoulder and grabbed him under the chin so hard it hurt.

Tris winced, but Xander wasn't letting go.

"How many have you seen? How often is this happening?" Xander asked, still looking through Tris to the body beneath.

"Only once," Tris replied, reluctant now as he realised it was just going to count against him. "And I didn't panic this time, so I'm okay."

"You're not okay, Tris!" Xander chastised, letting him go and gesticulating wildly as he stepped back. "Your brain is injured and I have to make sure it doesn't get hurt more."

Tris knew he'd lost to the anger and fear in his husband, so he just sat and stared up at him, injustice simmering just below the surface.

"These hallucinations could be a symptom of something much bigger," Xander looked stricken at that, which dampened Tris' ire somewhat, but did not salve it completely. "If it weren't so late I'd take us home right now, but you need to rest. I'm booking you in for an MRI tomorrow."

Tris didn't want rest, he wanted to be believed, but that wasn't going to happen, not until he found a way of showing Xander the truth. So he capitulated and nodded silently, getting up and crossing to his side of the bed. Almost immediately he had sat down on the blow up mattress, he found Xander's palm under his nose holding his collection of pills. He recognised them all now, the last week having made him far more alert about his medication. He took them from Xander and put them on the makeshift table beside the bed, reaching for the water as he did so, because he knew Xander was watching.

There were two new pills with the others, an optional sleeping pill that Xander had decided was anything but optional over the last week, and something Tris was almost sure was an anti-psychotic, the new one Mr Collins had prescribed, although Xander had never actually explained it clearly, it was just 'to help him stay calm'. It had actually made him feel pretty woolly round the edges. Disbelieved and uncomfortable, Tris didn't want either of the extras, so, as he scooped the others back up, he knocked the offending pills down between the mattress and the pile of stuff that was the sideboard. Xander was still watching him from where he had sat down on the either side of the bed, so Tris threw back the rest of his medication with a gulp of water. Then, he rolled over, pecked Xander on the cheek and lay down.

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Author Info: Bram Stoker
Now those of us who have a penchant for the toothy ones will, no doubt, be familiar with Dracula, by far Bram Stoker's most famous work. This, of course, was not his only venture into the supernatural. For those who might not have heard of him, Bram Stoker was business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London and was also personal assistant to actor, Henry Irving. He was Irish and was born near Dublin.

Bram Stoker has many books and short stories to his name other than Dracula, a great many of them to do with the supernatural, such as The Lair of the White Worm and The Jewel of The Seven Stars, which is about an attempt to raise an Egyptian Queen from the dead.

For a short, ghostly dip into his macabre world, I recommend The Judge's House, the tale of a student studying for his exams and wishing to stay somewhere out of the way in order to concentrate on his books. Thus begins a tale of both psychological and supernatural horror which left me glad I didn't have any portraits on the walls of the room I was reading it in!

British Hauntings: Thomas Skelton of Muncaster Castle
Muncaster Castle, like most of Britain's old buildings, lays claim to more than one ghost. Two of whom are linked. Thomas Skelton was the fool to the household of Sir Ferdinand Pennington at Munster Castle in the late 1500s, however, far from being the jovial creature we think of when we think of jesters, Skelton appears to have been a rather unpleasant man, willing to do his master's dirty work. Pennington asked Skelton to get rid of a fellow servant who he suspected of being too familiar with his daughter. Skelton did so, killing the young man and presenting his master with the head. Both Skelton and the headless young man are said to haunt the castle, the young man frequenting The Tapestry Room.

Muncaster also plays host to many other ghosts, a white lady, the sound of a crying child and a murdered young girl who haunts the roadway near the gate. They also offer ghost sits, the chance to spend the night in the most haunted room.


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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36 comments:

  1. A good ghost story always has some kind of secret that keeps you turning the page. My one ghost story I have two characters with a secret, although one gets revealed pretty early in the story.

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

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    1. More than one secret should be good, because readers might not be looking for the second one :)

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  2. Wow that castle just *looks* haunted. Goodness. Wonder what the stories are for the other ghostly beings there.

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    1. They have lit it rather well in that photo, haven't they :)

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  3. Secrets are good for keeping the reader's interest and keep her coming back for more. That castle does look haunted. Living in the UK, you have so much to draw upon. Many haunts and many strange and scary things have happened on your island over the centuries.

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    1. Yes, we do have a surfeit of drama and ancient sites which can conjure up ghosts - I rather like the fact that Britain has opted for collecting ghosts over other supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves (although we have a few of those as well, but not as many as mainland Europe)

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  4. Yes, the UK includes architecture that's much older than what we have in the US. Great for ghost stories.

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    1. We can certainly manage the classic ethereal creature seen moving through darkened, wood-panelled hallways in the UK. I'm rather fond of (and by 'fond of' I mean, I love being spooked by) the hitchhiker ghosts and the stories of haunted railroad crossings from the US, like the one Lexa Cain shared yesterday.

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  5. Um, no, I think I'll pass on the chance to spend the night in a castle's most haunted room. The story of the jester is both sad and creepy. I wonder if he was wearing fool's clothing when he dispatched his victims. That would make it even more creepy.

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    1. Oh jees, that would make him terrifying - I am scared of clowns anyway and a murderous jester would be heart-stopping!

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  6. Ah, secrets. They have a way of returning to bite a person in the butt!

    Shelley Munro

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  7. So totally not up for a ghost sit, unless I can have a large pillow to hide behind and Rob to cuddle up to :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZ (Vampires)
    FB3X - AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)

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    1. Well, there are bonuses to having a husband/partner to cuddle with on those sort of occasions :)

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  8. The only thing I knew about Stoker was that he wrote Dracula. Definitely going to make a note of some of his other work, especially The Judge's House. :)

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  9. I see both sides of this story, but I wish Xander wasn't pushing the pills so much.

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    1. He really is clinging to his medical roots.

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  10. I sometimes forget that Stoker wrote ghost stories. He's too often only associated with vampires. That's a well kept secret, one it's good to share.

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    1. I like the fact that quite a few writers famous for other genres wrote ghost stories :)

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  11. I'm really enjoying your posts. Secrets are a terrific hook for readers. The more the better! Is it bad I'm highly amused that there's a real "Munster" castle? Haha!

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    1. I'm a dunce, I knew the name rang a bell, but I hadn't put two and two together with the name 'Munster' - and now, yeah, it is funny! ;P

      Glad you're enjoying the posts :D

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  12. It's so much fun to give characters secrets. I especially love to do it in my thriller and supernatural stories. :)

    Yay for Bran Stoker! Ghost and vampire stories would be vastly different without Stoker.

    Muncaster Castle is gorgeous! I would to go there despite the ghosts. :)

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    1. Secrets certainly are fun - thrillers have to have secrets, it's compulsory :)

      That those stories would be!

      It does look lovely, I just wouldn't walk about there on my own ;P

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  13. That has to suck, being stuck for eternity with the guy that beheaded you. Sometimes I think becoming a ghost is not all that rewarding, as far as the afterlife goes...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Tales of colors
    MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

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    1. That is a good point, it wouldn't be fun having to put up with our murderer for ever after!

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  14. I'm up for a 'sit in', wouldn't it be great! As to the jester however, I'll pass. They creep me out as much as clowns do.
    Never knew Stoker wrote ghost stories, another snippet of information I've learned from your posts. :)
    As for Xander, he really needs to back off a little with the medical checks and tablets, and listen to what Tris is telling him for once. I know he loves him, but boy, is he a smotherer! ;)

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    1. It would be so much fun to do a 'sit in' :)

      Yeah, Xander's coming from a place where he's watched his husband nearly die, so it's understandable, but he needs to listen.

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  15. Ahh, poor Tris.

    And the ghosts in that castle are mega creepy!

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    1. Tris is going through it atm!

      They do sound creepy, don't they.

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  16. The story of Muncaster Castle reminds me a bit of one of the Decameron stories from the fourth day, about doomed lovers. The overprotective brothers of Isabetta murder and behead her lover, and present the head to her in a pot of herbs. The story ends by saying this tragedy inspired a popular song that starts 'Who was that wicked man/Who stole my pot of herbs.'

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    1. That's a really sad story - she didn't want them to kill her lover did she? Very Game of Thrones :)

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  17. After the AtoZ challenge ends, I intend to go through your posts with a few other bloggers, and write the names of books and movies that escaped my attention. I found this post interesting.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it - I had planned a summary post of reference and other books I've used for these posts at the end - I hadn't thought about adding the movies, but that's a good idea :)

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  18. The poor servant boy, that's... sad. Though in that day and age, what do you expect of fooling with the lord's daughter? XD

    I may have to check out some of Stoker's short stories. I tried to read Dracula a while back and just couldn't get through it. I find it ironic how so much of classic literature is... fairly poorly written when it comes to the technical side of fiction writing. But I guess it just goes to show how quickly our craft evolves!

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    1. I know what you mean about much of the classics - I have to admit i can't get through Lord of the Rings - great story, but the execution leaves me cold. The Hobbit on the other hand...:)

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