My new novel – The Devil’s Serenade – mostly takes place in an imposing Gothic style mansion built by Victorian industrialist Nathaniel Hargest. When Maddie Chambers inherits it from her Aunt Charlotte, she soon discovers she has acquired far more than mere bricks and mortar. From the strange appearance of tree roots growing in the cellar to the manifestations, noises and a nostalgic wartime song played again and again, Maddie’s fears grow and intensify. What is going on here – and who, or what, is seemingly hell-bent on driving her insane?
Of course, my novel is just that – fiction. But, in real life, there have been numerous reports of houses cursed, or possessed by demons. Sometimes these emanate from the ground on which the house was built. Other times, the builder of the house has somehow managed to impart his – or her – evil into the fabric of the place so that it becomes irrevocably woven into the walls.
Sometimes the activity seems to start spontaneously, only to stop just as abruptly. In these cases, poltergeists are often blamed – quite often linked to the presence in the house of a girl entering puberty. One such case has been reported by Daniel Simms, a Paranormal Investigator from Staffordshire, England.
He writes of a twelve year old girl called Tegan – a child of strict Catholic parents who had been taught that lying was a sin. She and her two sisters attended their local church at least twice a week and were devout in their beliefs.
Back in 1999, Tegan kept a diary, which she still retains to this day. In it she reported the strange events that took place then.
It all began one Saturday morning as the sisters were eating their breakfast at the kitchen table. Tegan reached across the table for the salt cellar. Before she could pick it up, it moved. By itself. The sisters watched it, mouths wide open in disbelief. Tegan reached for it again. This time it jerked away from her.
The girls were shocked and scared. They told their father but he remonstrated with them, accusing them of lying to him. They weren’t able to convince him and tried to put the whole incident behind them.
But just two nights later – Monday, May 10th – Tegan recounted in her diary a night she would never forget.
A thunderstorm brought lightning and hail and, when it had passed over, the air felt “strangely static” in their home. By now it was their bedtime and the girls made their usual preparations and settled down to sleep in the room they shared.
But sleep would not come that night. Within minutes a scratching noise circulated around the floor. The sisters sat up in their beds. The noise grew louder and moved closer to the girls’ beds. By now, Tegan was crying silently, too scared to make a noise. She hugged her legs close to her body, trying to make herself as small as possible and to keep away from the invisible intruder.
The noise moved directly towards her, stopping at the foot of her bed. Then silence.
She waited. Still nothing. Tegan moved to get out of bed sideways in order to escape to the relative safety of one of her sisters’ beds. As she did so, her bed started to shake violently, throwing her around as if she were a rag doll. She screamed and the bed stopped shaking.
The terrified sisters told their father what had happened and this time, seeing how scared they were, he believed them and called in the services of the local priest. He performed an exorcism and, since then, there have been no further instances of poltergeist activity.
But to this day, Tegan maintains her story is true and that she still feels the fear when talking of what she went through. Where this particular phenomenon emanated from, who can say? But, In Daniel Simms’ opinion, there is no doubt that Tegan believes she was subjected to some kind of supernatural force that no one has yet has managed to satisfactorily explain.
Now, to give you a taste of The Devil’s Serenade, here’s the blurb:
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…
“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.
She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room.
As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.
Here’s an extract:
A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.
The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.
I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.
I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.
I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.
You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:
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About the author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She was the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits in the Shadows. Other titles include: The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.
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