As a writer of Scottish romances, I thought I’d blog about a halloween party featured in my latest novel – Girl in the Castle –
I hope you enjoy the extract. I’ve also added some photos I took at a Halloween party last night and, to celebrate Halloween, there’s a FREE download featured at the end of this blog post.
When Henri entered the Great Hall, it had been completely transformed by the purple gloaming outside the windows, strategically placed candles and the roaring twin fires. A harpist was playing a selection of melodies on a clarsach, and in another corner, children were dookin’ for apples in a barrel of water, supervised by nannies or older siblings. The young guisers, dressed as ghouls, spirits or favourite super heroes, took great delight in frightening the grown-ups with turnip lanterns dangling from sticks and fake Dracula fangs.
If Henri had dressed so as not to draw attention to herself, the other guests showed no such restraint. They were celebrating Samhain in style; the men in kilts, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ jackets over matching waistcoats, dress shirts, black tie, and brogues. The women in long plaid skirts/kilts, silk blouses with lacy jabots or, like herself, in simple black dresses worn with clan tartan in the form of a shawl or a sash. Clearly, this was an evening for showing off, because heirloom tiaras, necklaces and bracelets had been taken out of the bank vault. The jewels caught the candlelight and added extra glamour to the evening.
One man stood apart from the rest, and it took several seconds before Henri realised that it was Keir. She’d never seen the Master of Mountgarrie other than in his work clothes. But this Keir, wearing full Highland dress with unconscious grace and style was every inch the laird she’d dreamed about in the library. Grasping her silver caman for good luck, she stepped out of the shadows and into the hall.
If you’ d like to read more about the Girl in the Castle, download it onto your kindle or to buy and keep a paperback copy on your bookshelf.
Here are the photos from last night’s party – (thank you, hostess with the mostess, Adrienne Vaughan)- lots of spooks and demons, but not a kilt in sight. Unfortunately. You might also catch a glimpse of fellow New Romantics Press’s June Kearns behind one of the masks (!)
If you like spooky stories then check out an anthology Adrienne and I contributed to. It’s FREE to download at the moment, then it’s going – going – gone.
And finally . . . check out this blog post I wrote about a real life spooky event which happened to me and my siblings many years ago.
Have a great Halloween celebration whatever you have planned.
** many thanks to Nick Fiddes of Scotweb/Clan.com for giving me permission to use photos from his fabulous website.
This is a true story, verified by my sisters –
Ellen Humber and Phyllis Fell.
KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
– Leicester circa 1964
In 1962, my family –including Granny and the dog all moved from Scotland to live in Leicester in a rambling palisaded villa. Apart from my Granny, all the adults went out to work – Mother in one of the many shoe factories dotted around Leicester and Dad on a building site as a scaffolder. I was thirteen years old and my siblings ranged below me at eight, six and four years of age respectively. We were rarely alone in the house as Granny was there to welcome us home from school and to give us our evening meal before the adults arrived in from work.
There was something spooky about that house in College Avenue, it had a long dark corridor which led from the front door to the breakfast room, scullery and kitchen at the rear. Other doors opened off the corridor giving onto a sitting room and a gloomy dining room in turn. Once, the house must have been splendid, in a Gothic sort of way; high ceilings, marble fireplaces, deep cornices and even bells to ring for the servants in each room. But to us kids it was a scary place and we didn’t like to be left on our own. In fact, there were certain rooms which the dog wouldn’t enter – without its hackles rising.
One day Granny decided to visit her brother in London which meant leaving us alone for several hours until Mother returned from the factory. Granny was very unhappy with this arrangement, but eventually agreed to visit her brother – albeit with the proviso that all four children, plus dog locked ourselves in our parents’ bedroom and stayed there until Mother came home.
Granny left, and I locked us in our temporary prison with food, drink, comics, toys, radio, the dog and a chamber pot in case of emergencies! We watched Granny walk to the end of the street and then settled down for a boring couple of hours until Mother arrived home. Time passed slowly and we tried to guess where Granny was on her journey – Luton, Bedford, St Pancras, the underground . . .
Then, the strangest thing happened.
We heard Granny’s footsteps climbing the stairs and coming along the landing towards the bedroom. The door knob turned once and then sprang back to its original position. Being kids we thought nothing of it. Ours was an old house and things were always sticking and jamming. Then, stranger still, we heard Granny calling out my name: ‘Betty. Betty,’ in her unmistakable Scottish accent. I looked at my sister Ellen for confirmation of what I’d heard and then walked over to the bedroom door and tried the handle. The door was still locked and the key was on our side, just as I’d left it. I went to unlock the door, but remembering the promise I’d made to Granny to stay put until Mother came home, I changed my mind.
My sister and I sat down on the bed and looked at each other, more puzzled than frightened. When Mother came home, we were simply glad to be allowed to run outside and play and didn’t tell her about Granny’s voice, the footsteps or the door knob turning.
Years later I brought up the subject with my sister.
‘We did hear Granny’s footsteps and her voice, didn’t we?’ I asked.
‘We did,’ my sister Ellen replied, emphatically. ‘She called out your name, twice and the door handle turned.’
We exchanged a look and shuddered, knowing that, as adults, we were only just beginning to comprehend we’d seen and heard that day. Had Granny been so worried about us being in the house alone, that she’d projecting her anxiety across the miles from London to Leicester? Or was it something ‘else’; something which wanted us to leave the safety of the bedroom and venture out on to the landing where it was waiting?
The same nameless terror which made us run down the long dark corridor to the safety of the kitchen every time – and the dog refuse to enter the large cupboard under the stairs where we played? Or, was it the old lady my father (the least fanciful of men) purported to have seen on several occasions standing at the foot of his bed looking distracted and mournful?
My sister considers herself a ‘wee bit psychic’, while I consider myself a complete pragmatist. My other sister, Phyllis, told me recently that she’d seen the door handle turn on a couple of other occasions and had been too scared to leave her bedroom. I know there must be a logical explanation for what happened and I’d feel a whole lot better if someone experienced in this field could explain it to me.
Then I could finally lay this story to rest – where it belongs.
Thank you for reading this story. Next year, maybe I’ll tell you another true story … the one where my great-grandfather (who was ‘laid out’ in his coffin on the dining room table) ‘woke up; and joined the mourners toasting his memory with whisky in front of the fire in the next room . . .
Just for fun – work out what your Hallowe’en name is and leave it in the comment box below. Mine is . . . ICY RUNER!!