A Renovator's Delight

On my home page I mentioned I would be posting some of my short stories for you to enjoy. So I thought it was about time I shared the first one and what better story to begin with than the story  that won first place in a Halloween Contest and ended up in an anthology alongside some other amazing scarey writing. A Renovator's Delight came about after hearing a ghost story in the perfect setting, arounf a bon fire one cold winter evening. I mulled it over in my head, added a little twist or two, shortened the time frame and before I knew it a spine tingling tale was born. So sit back with a hot chocolate, be prepared for goosebumps up your arms and whatever you do, don't forget to leave on a night light. 


Renovators Delight Picture0001Bill was the one who insisted we buy the old English pub. 'A renovator's delight,' he had said. 'Just a little TLC and we would be making money in no time.'  It stood deserted on a lonely corner at the edge of a tiny country town. Run down, it had been empty for many years.

We moved in on the morning of All Hallows Eve, so again, Bill had the brilliant idea to invite the townsfolk to a Halloween party that very evening. Afterall he argued, 'What better place to get to know the neighbourhood than in a spooky looking old pub before we begin to fix it up?'' There were already webs and spiders aplenty. The curtains were faded and shabby, the shutters broken and worn. The floor boards all creaked. The carpets were covered in mildew and stank of must. Not to mention the paint was peeling from the walls both inside and out. Lichen grew all over the broken tiled roof and moss grew through the cracks in the concrete floors in the downstairs bathrooms. Other than supply the food and drinks we only had to add a few candles and pumpkins and the scene was set for a perfect spooky Halloween night. I handed invitations out around town and posted a few on the shop windows.

Darkness engulfed the countryside quickly that evening as thick grey clouds swept across the plains leaving no hint of the moon or stars to guide our visitors down the street. Bill hung a lantern on the pub's verandah  and watched with eager anticipation to greet our first guest's arrival. Gradually they began to file up the stairs, shook hands and entered the bar, all eyes ablaze with curiosity. There were ghosts, ghouls, vampires and witches galore. A mummy and even a zombie or two, it was great to see everyone had come prepared for the occasion.

The party was in full swing when I noticed a group whispering in the corner. I grabbed a plate of chocolate coated noodle spiders, jelly frogs and other assorted treats and wondered over to join them in the pretext of offering them something from the platter. A young girl dressed in the cutest devil's costume stood looking quite horrified as she listened to a tall man in a vampire's outfit.

'Is there anything wromg?' I asked feeling somewhat concerned by the expression on the faces of the entire group now that I glanced at them all.

'You do know the reason why this pub was such a bargain, don't you?' the vampire replied. I shook my head, I assumed it was because it was so run down. The tall vampire figure leant closer to my ear and whispered, 'It's haunted!'

'Don't be ridiculous!' I laughed.

'No, it's true,' he nodded.  'People who stay here overnight hear doors slamming and someone screaming, then there's the constant flooding of the sinks for no apparent reason.'

'Bad plumbing is all,' I offered, after all, what other explanation could there be?

'Just you wait. You'll see!' He grinned, turned and walked away. Either he was a superstitious fool, or townsfolk were playing tricks as they didn't want outsiders buying into their local businesses. I was just about to go and find Bill and discuss my thoughts on these turn of events when I first heard it.

A blood curdling scream came from somewhere in the hotel rooms above us. Everyone suddenly froze. You could hear a pin drop. Another door slammed shut and the piercing scream shrilled out again.

'Stay here!' demanded Bill as he raced up the stairs towards the hotel accommodation that was attached to the pub. No one moved. The only sound we could now hear was Bill's footseps overhead as he ran from room to room. The silence was deafening. Time seemed to stand still.

Gasping he evetually came rushing back down. 'There's nothing up there!" he sounded surprised. 'Someone's playing a very good joke, well done,' he laughed in an attempt to calm everyone down. I looked around at the crowd huddled together at the bottom of the stairs, none of them were laughing. They all looked terrified. 'Come on!' Bill encouraged. 'We're all here to have fun. Start the music back up, let's get this pary rocking!'

Slowly our guests began to relax and enjoy themselves once more when Bill burst back into the room and rushed over to me quite annoyed. 'Damn kids are playing more tricks.'

'What's wrong now?' Although I needn't have asked as he dragged me towards the main bathroom fascilities I could see the problem. Water was spilling out over all the sinks onto the floor, out the doors soaking the already musty carpets.

'Someone stuck all the plugs in every sink in every bathroom of the hotel and turned on all the taps full blast!' Without another word or hesitation we ran through the building making sure all the taps were off and collected all the plugs. Bill locked them away in the safe in the office. 'Let's see them try that again,' he said triumphantly rubbing his hands together rather smuggly.

We rejoined the party and tried to calm down but it wasn't long before the blood curdling scream returned. Doors banged and water poured from the bathrooms once more. 'This is ridiculous!' Bill was really getting annoyed now. While I ran to the main bathroom to see what I could do, Bill raced back upstairs to try to catch the culprit in the act. The screaming and banging grew louder and more persisitant uptairs. Whenever I heard Bill at one end of the building, the screaming would start at the other. It seemed no matter where he was the noise harrassed us from the opposite end. Our guests had obviously reached the ends of their limits, they also started screaming in terror and began to pour out the front door.

I found the bathroom sinks had all been blocked again but this time with toilet paper and rags. Shaking somewhat I cleaned up the mess as best I could then staggered back to the bar to collapse. Bill also returned exhausted.

'Nothing,' he shook his head. "I just don't understand. Who could have done any of this or how?'

'Well,' I hesitated. 'I hate to say it, but I was told this evening that this place is haunted.'

'I think I need an energy drink,' mumbled Bill. 'I put a box down in the cellar. Come on. I'm not going down there alone.'

When we reached the bottom of the cellar stairs, Bill stopped and looked around. 'You know, this room doesn't look big enough.' He started to pace it out across the floor. 'The room above is twice the length of this one. Most pubs this age had a cellar the same size as the floor above.' He stepped it out again to confirm his suspicions. Then before I knew it Bill had picked up a sledge hammer and begun slamming into the brick wall in the middle of the room. A thick dusy cloud billowed around us and engulfed the room as brick after brick crumbled at his feet.

It was strange, I hadn't heard anyone come down the stairs behind us, but all of a sudden a young girl stepped up beside Bill. She wore very old tattered clothes and no shoes. Bill saw her at the same time I did and stopped breaking down the wall.

'I'm sorry love,' he gasped a little out of breath while he looked her up and down. The party's over and you shouldn't be down here. It's a bit dangerous. Did all the noises you heard tonight frighten you?' She didn't reply though. Instead she simply stared for a few moments as Bill wiped the sweat from his forehead. Then she turned and to our shock she walked right through the brick wall as if it wasn't there.

'What just happened?' I whispered unable to believe what I had just witnessed. Bill shone a torch to gaze through the hole he had just made. We could see the rest of the cellar stretched out in front of us, racks of old dusty wine bottles lined the cobwebbed walls.

'You're not going to believe this,' he said as he pointed the torch towards the floor. 'There's a skeleton lying on the floor on the other side of the bricks directly opposite where we watched the girl just walk through!'

We put the pub back on the market the next day. We may have found the ghost's body, but we weren't prepared to share the pub with a restless, mischievous spirit.


Note:If you enjoyed this ghost story you may like to read the others in the anthology, however unlike this one, most of them are not recommended for children.



Origins of Halloween

Halloween was not a holiday I grew up practising, nor did my own kids. Although during their childhood it was starting to appear around the neighbourhood. It is only in recent years that it has become more popular here in Australia to the extent where the shops are becoming full of merchandise, media is all over it and kids everywhere have begun to dress-up and prepare to spend their eveings trick or treating. Adult parties have even become the norm as a great excuse to dress-up and have some fun. A few years ago while I was teaching Kindergarten, one of the children's mum's orgainised a Halloween party at their house and invited the entire class, including myself. It was a huge success. The kids had a fantastic evening, everyone dressed-up and joined into the full spirit of the event. We even took them trick or treating through the neighbourhood. I must admit even I had a lot of fun giving the kids quite a scare in my witches costume as it took them quite sometime to realise that the dark haired witch was in fact their beloved gentle blonde spectacled teacher. witch

Over and over again I hear people say that Halloween is an American custom and question whether we in Australia should follow their traditions and celebrate it ? So I decided to look into this festival of sorts and draw my own conclusions.

I have always known that Halloween is short for All Hallows Eve, but what I was rather delighted to have confirmed was that All Hallows Eve is a Scottish term for the evening before All Hallows Day. A day to honour all saints, which occurs on November 1 and is followed by All Souls Day on November 2. There is much that can be read on these topics suffice to say, these days celebrate the souls of both the good and the bad that have since passed on,  in the hope that with prayer and blessings they may rise to heaven and live out their days in peace. All Hallows Eve became the night to begin the feast in celebration of the dearly departed. This also happens to tie in with the ancient Celtic or Gaelic harvest festival that occured in Ireland on the same date, 31st October, to mark the end of one season and the beginning of the next, that is, winter, the shortest and darkest time of the year.  This is referred to as Samhain (pronounced sah-win) where the Celts also believed it was the time of year where the spirits or fairies worlds and ours overlapped causing havoc or possible damage to crops and even ill health to the people of the village. Being the beginning of the winter season it was critical to ensure the crops survival through the long harsh season. Thus a bonfire was prepared and the festival began. Villagers would wear masks and dress-up to disguise themselves in the hope of tricking the spirits so that they could not be recognised.  Although souls of "kin" were encouraged to return to rejoice in the festival, food and drink were left aside to help include them. As the villagers rejoiced they would also sing and chant as they visited one neighbour to the next (in thier disguises known as guising)) in return for food,.

Considering my Irish and Scottish anscetry, I tend to rather like this historical take on Halloween and now have a rather favourable outlook on it. I realise there are more suggestions of Halloween's origins from other cultures but as my origins are also Celtic, I felt this was where my heart preferref to stay.

Halloween is only once a year afterall and as long as children understand that it is not just a celebration of all things evil or a way of gathering an abundance of treats, I don't see the harm in having a bit of fun. I understand that some may say we are sending mixed messages by allowing treats like this in this way when we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid them, but everything needs to be in moderation and children need to be allowed to have a childhood. Dress-up with them, get some exercise and walk with them, you might have some fun too! :)

If you don't like handing out too many sweat treats, you can always try this great recipe for "Soul Cakes" originally made for All Souls Day.

Soul Cake Recipe


Makes 14 large ‘cakes’

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 340g plain flour (sifted)
  • 170g sugar
  • 170g butter (softened & diced)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 tsp of white wine vinegar

Traditionally Soul Cakes simply have a cross imprint on them as a decororation however they would be easy to add icing, sprinkles etc to. For the full recipe photographs and further information on their history please go the the link above.

If You Have Never Read Good Horror Now is The Time

If You Have Never Read Good Horror Now is The Time.

Horror, spooky and spine tingling scary stories are not my usual choise of genre to read as I snuggle down to bed each eveing, but sometimes it is just as good to find yourself out of your comfort zone in a different style of book as it is in other more energetic activities.

Yvonne Mason gifted me two hard copies of "Satan's Holiday" as a thank you for my contribution to the anthology. As I read the chilling stories within I became even more honoured to be included amongst such incredibly creative authors. Some of the stories are so creepy you'll find yourself glancing over your shoulder or leaving on a night light,..... just to be safe! Satan's Holiday cover0001

One had such a great twist I didn't see coming that I re-read the story with delight once the truth was revealed.  Another almost brought me to tears, it was written with great intrigue and historical facts but also with tenderness and sincerity. Set in ancient Scotland in the early days of Samhain I found this story fascinating especially as I am always captivated by all things to do with my Celtic heritage. I would love to tell you more about this amazing story but no "spoilers" here! :)

This is not a book for the faint hearted and certainly not for children. Even though by choice I am a Children's author, I wrote my ghost story to challenge myself in an alternative genre and am pleased it has been so well received. "A Renovator's Delight" won its first award in an online writng competition for Halloween in 2012 and is now published in this amazing anthology alongside so many other inspirational wonderfully frightening short stories. Renovators Delight Picture0001

If you are interested in a good spooky Halloween this year, or a great scare any other time of the year, why not give "Satan's Holiday" a try.......you might just be surprised!

Available as an ebook at http://www.amazon.com/Satans-Holiday-ebook/dp/B00FJOYLRK/ref=sr_1_1?s

For hard copies please contact me directly.