Friday, 18 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - P is For Pause, Edgar Allen Poe, Pluckley

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
This post is
suitable for all
Edgar Allan Poe, master of the macabre, is my choice of author for today. I'm talking about pausing a plot in writing, and I want to introduce you to a village very local to me, and also very haunted, Pluckley in Kent.
And there's also Part 16 of The Burning Web, in which Tris must concentrate on something other than Berwick House.

P is for Pause
In my opinion, a writer should never be afraid to take a breath and allow his/her readers to have a pause. Good traditional ghost stories slowly build tension - the fleeting glimpse of something unexplainable, the revealing of a phantom's identity, all a gradual rise towards the climax of the story. However, sometimes, it pays to ease back a little, concentrate on another part of the story, a subplot perhaps, to give your readers a small break.

I'm going to use The Woman In Black again: the dinner at the Daily's house is a relaxing of the tension, a chance for the protagonist to ease back a little. The dinner is a time of safety where Arthur can relax a little, albeit with a false sense of security. The plot still progresses, we are finding out more about Sam and his wife and how they are involved in the story, but it gives us, the reader a pause as well, all ready for the renewal of our trepidation when Arthur sets out for Eel Marsh House and an overnight stay.
by Sophie Duncan

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Tris sat shoulder to shoulder with Xander facing Mr Collins, his consultant, across the desk, but he still felt like he was being ganged up on. The headache and associated symptoms had passed during the night, leaving him washed out, but feeling much better. However, he'd still had to follow through on his promise to go to the checkup and that had meant he'd had to come clean about the ghostly vision in front of Xander. His husband was therefore seething silently about the secret Tris had been keeping and Tris knew he wasn't about to be forgiven any time soon.

Mr Collins was being much more stoic about things. After calmly giving Tris the once over, and listening to his symptoms, he was now sitting with his fingertips together and considering what to say. The silence wasn't helping Tris' sense of his bristling partner and he was on the verge of trying to placate him when Mr Collins leant forward onto the desk. Tris was all ears.

"Well, you've pushed yourself far too hard this week, Tris," Mr Collins began with the obvious, but then went into more detail. "Your blood pressure is up, which could account for the headache."

Tris nodded.

"And Abdi's an old friend for us now."

At the mention of his personal demon, Tris reached out anxiously in search of Xander's hand. However, when he brushed his husband's fingers, they were quickly snatched away. Thus chastised, Tris dropped his hand back into his own lap and bit the inside of his lip to stop himself reacting to the horror in his head.

"We've discussed this before, Tris, but I want to reiterate that the night terrors and the glimpses you get of Abdi are just re-runs of the moment you suffered the haemorrhage," his consultant continued with what had always been reassurance before, but this time Tris was not quite so sure of it all. "It's common for people in your situation to relive the trauma that led to their brain injury and you are merely seeing the image that was in your mind at the time of your stroke. As you recover, these symptoms should ease."

 Tris had heard it all before, when he'd first realised the image of Abdi was recurring in his dreams and, more alarmingly, during waking hours as well. Yet, adding in the really detailed vision of Margaret and Kenneth had upset his equilibrium and, following his migraine, it was worrying him.

"So what about the other ghosts?" he asked quietly.

Xander ruffled beside him, but he really needed an answer.

"Such a long and complex hallucination is more uncommon," Mr Collins began, looking down at the notes he had taken when Tris had spilt the beans, "but I would put it down to your associations with the letters you found and the stress of the new house."

Again, Tris didn't quite believe the calm assurance in front of him, but he didn't say anything, instead, he looked down at his hands.

"Look, Tris, you need to rest, both body and mind. I want you to take it easy for the next few days: no plans, no trips out of town and definitely no more research about Berwick House. Are we clear?"

Tris glanced at Xander, who was glowering at him and daring him to do anything but capitulate. He turned back to Mr Collins and nodded meekly.

"I'm going to prescribe you something to calm your thoughts as well, make sure there are no more visions, and to give you a chance to relax properly. I'm also going to increase your prescription dose for sleeping pills, in case you need them."

Tris nodded again and dropped his gaze. He didn't like his reliance on pharmaceuticals, but it was another fact of life and a few nights without any nightmares would be welcome.

"Complete rest," Mr Collins reiterated firmly. "I will be checking with Xander."

Tris, cornered by circumstance and chastened by his symptoms, stood up when his companions stood and then automatically reached out to shake his consultant's hand.

"Thank you."

Mr Collins shook his hand firmly and inclined his head. Tris swapped his stick into his right hand and headed to the door as Xander, in turn, said goodbye to the doctor. He began down the hospital corridor slowly, thoroughly cowed, and he kept his head down. He was not expecting the hand that slid into his and he jumped, glancing rapidly sideways. Xander looked back, face not totally clear of ire, but his husband's eyebrows were raised just a little, creating a furrow of concern in the middle of his brow.

"Don't you ever keep something like that from me again," Xander warned, a rumble in the back of his throat.

Suddenly, Tris found himself in a tight, almost desperate hug that trapped his upper arms by his sides and left no room for breathing. Xander was shaking.

Unsure how to respond, Tris just murmured breathily, "I'm sorry."

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Author Info: Edgar Allan Poe
I could not let a theme of ghosts go by without mentioning Edgar Allan Poe. American author and poet, he had a morbid fear of death and he put that fear onto every page of his macabre tales. Although many of his stories are gruesome murders, there are those which have supernatural aspects. The Facts In the Case of M Valdemar is one. A mesmerist hypnotises a man on the instant of his death, thereby holding back the veil. He keeps the man in this state for some months, communicating with a disembodied voice and a cadaver that does not decay, but cannot move either.

The Fall of the House of Usher, although, again, not explicitly mention ghosts, is a haunting and macabre tale. A man visits his ill friend, Roderick Usher, who, along with his twin sister are both in nervous states. The sister dies and she is laid in the Usher vault. However, when a storm lights up the atmosphere, Roderick becomes increasingly alarmed and claims that shrieks he can hear are his sister, who is not dead, but entombed alive. I shall reveal no more, but the horror of this story is not only the people, but the house itself. Roderick claims it is alive and Poe does bring it to life in vivid detail.

Unlike other horror writers, I've always found Poe an uncomfortable read. I have always had the feeling he was more sincere than other writers in his genre.

British Hauntings: Pluckley, Kent
Pluckley is a charming village nestled in the countryside of my home county of Kent. You might have seen this rural idyll on TV if you watched The Darling Buds of May. However, Pluckley has an entry in the Guiness book of records as the most haunted village in Britain.

Countless ghost hunting shows have visited Pluckley: Ghost Hunters International, Strange but True?, and Most Haunted have all gone investigating the ghosts of Pluckley. To name a few, there is the ghost of a highway man, killed by a sword and pinned to hollow oak tree. His ghost re-enacts his death for unwary passersby. Don't drive round the back lanes near Pluckley alone after midnight, either, because a phantom coach and horses has been seen careering round them. Plus, some people have heard the sound of the horses hooves on cobbles late at night. And finally, a story concerned with a place I used to pass a lot when visiting my Aunt in the Kent Countryside, a crossroads bridge, where the misty form of an old lady has been seen. It is said she used to pick and sell watercress there during her lifetime and was burned to death by accident. I've never seen her, but she and dozens of other ghosts haunt Pluckley, including the local pub and the church. For more information, there's a good run down of the major ghosts here.

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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  1. Poe's writing is so deliciously macabre. I read a number of his stories in my English classes in junior high, and possibly sixth grade as well.

    Curiosity compels me to want to visit Pluckley, but I wouldn't want to go there alone. It's the same kind of morbid curiosity that makes me interested in visiting America's most notoriously haunted cemeteries.

    1. He has a knack for the macabre that not many authors do, it gets into your bones when you read Poe :)

      I agree, I'd love to go ghost hunting there, but NOT alone! It's also a very beautiful village by day :D

  2. I definitely agree re pausing in our writing. I often feel like I'm supposed to pack "action" into every scene, when what's often needed is a quiet moment - one filled with tension perhaps but still. :)

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex's Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

    1. That's a good point - a pause doesn't always mean a release in tension. :)

  3. Absolutely couldn't pass P without Poe! And poor Tris. AND Xander! Such troubles.

    1. I'm glad everyone likes my choice of author today - but then, that's not difficult with the macabre master himself :)

      Xander worries and Tris has given him reason this time,

  4. Thank you for mentioning Poe! Love him.

    Even with Xander by his side, I feel like Tris is all alone in this. I guess since these hauntings are his, that won't change, huh? Enjoying this. :)

    1. The great Poe, always deserves a mention :D

      You hit the nail on the head, Tris is the only one experiencing the hauntings, so he's isolated by them. Glad you're enjoying it :)

  5. I totally agree about letting readers pause. However, along with pure suspense (like sneaking around a haunted house without seeing anything), I'm not very good at pausing or delayed gratification. :P

  6. When you figure how ancient is the land of the UK, it's not surprising to know of "haunted villages"-- underneath that charming exterior!

    1. You have a point there - in fact, it's surprising there aren't more :)

  7. This is the 2nd Poe post I've read today, and liked both. Loved the tale of the haunted town. Trish needs to communicate more with Xander and stop hiding things from him. Nasty habit of his.

    1. Poe deserves all the posts he can get :)

      Yeah, Tris does need to talk to Xander, but we don't always do what's good for us...

  8. I have always loved Poe's work. Great creepy stuff. To bad he was such a tortured soul.

    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches
    Ask an Atheist Day

    1. yeah, it's a pity his own life was so troubled, maybe that's what made his work so damn creepy, though.

  9. Pauses are important. A gateway to a sense of normalcy that breathes life into the characters. As you did with Tris' visit to the doctor.
    I like Poe, but he makes for heavy reading. And as for Pluckley ... sign me up. Would love to experience the phantom coach careering around the lanes! ;)

    1. I like your turn of phrase, yes, that's it exactly for a pause :)

      Poe's grasp of atmosphere is second to none, and, for that reason, I have to take him in small doses.

      So many ghosts in such a small village - it would make a great ghost hunt :D


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