Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Northamptonshire Witches - Settling The Score 17th Century Style

 If you were a witch, you had better pray you weren’t around in the 17th century and that your King wasn’t James I (James VI of Scotland). His hatred of - and determination to eradicate - witches knew no bounds. In truth, such a toxic atmosphere led to many false claims being made against people whose only crime had been to fall foul of someone vindictive enough to seek revenge in the most heinous way.

My novel, The Pendle Curse, is partly set against the history and subsequent trial of a group of Lancashire witches, but other similar - perhaps less well known – events took place at a number of locations throughout the country.

Less than one month before the Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster, and around 200 miles to the south, Northampton Castle’s Lent Assizes saw four women and one man hanged for witchcraft. At least seven others were spared, although the exact number remains debatable, as records differ. The condemned died at Abington Gallows, but what were their alleged crimes?

As at Lancaster, a whole group was accused, not just one person. The methods used to test the witches differed though. The Northamptonshire Witches were ‘dunked’. This is one of the earliest recorded instances where this cruel method was employed. The hapless accused was tied to a rope, rowed out to the middle of a river and then tossed over the side. The belief was that witches floated because they had renounced baptism or because they were lighter than good Christian men and women. Either way, so the theory went, if the victim sank, they were innocent. Needless to say, some ‘innocent’ people drowned. Others were pulled in, just in the nick of time and revived. They were, by every stretch of the imagination the lucky ones.
 According to one account of the trials Agnes Browne, her daughter Joan Browne (or Vaughan), Jane Lucas, Alce Harrys, Catherine Gardiner and Alce Abbott were indicted for putting curses on Mistress Elizabeth Belcher and her brother, Master William Avery. Three women of the ‘Wilson family’ were also implicated. William Avery is said to have marched down to the prison cell and beaten up Agnes Browne, cutting open her eye and causing it to bleed. He did this because making a witch bleed was believed to lift the curse they had inflicted. The Belcher/Avery trials caused a major sensation at the time as the victims were well-born, but afflicted. William Avery seems to have been a determined character and he made some highly questionable – if imaginative – accusations. He claimed to have seen Harrys, Abbot and Gardiner travelling on a sow’s back. Two weeks before they were captured, Avery said he saw Agnes Brown, Catherine Gardiner, Jane Lucas also riding on a sow’s back to visit another old woman, regarded as a witch. 

 The other main account (The Witches of Northamptonshire, published in 1612), detailed the immoral lives of the accused, in sharp contrast to the godliness and spirituality of their victims. This time, other alleged witches were named, along with their supposed crimes. These included Arthur Bill, who was accused of bewitching Martha Aspine to death, Mary Barber, who apparently bewitched a man to death and harmed many cattle, and Helen Jenkenson, charged with bewitching a child to death. Jenkenson was searched for the infamous ‘witch’s mark’ – a mole or other blemish which, when poked with a sharp stick or ‘sticker’ failed to bleed. When such a mark was found – as it was on Helen Jenkenson – this was deemed proof positive that the accused was a witch. The mark would be where the devil’s imps would come to suck out the blood.

Those who hanged for their alleged crimes were: Arthur Bill, Mary Barber, Agnes Browne, Joan Browne and Helen Jenkenson. There is no evidence that the others were convicted or executed. There were other tragedies in connection with these trials. Arthur Bill’s parents were dunked and both floated, ‘proving’ them to be witches’ Rather than face a trial, they committed suicide.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Dark Avenging Angel

Don’t hurt Jane. You may live to regret it.

Bullied by her abusive father, Jane always felt different. Then the lonely child found a friend in a mysterious dark lady who offers her protection—a lady she calls her “angel”. But that protection carries a terrible price, one to be paid with the souls of those Jane chooses to suffer a hideous and eternal fate.

When Jane refuses to name another victim, the angel reveals her most terrifying side. Payment must be made in full—one way or the other.


I am delighted to announce that my latest novella - Dark Avenging Angel - will be published by Samhain on August 4th. As its title suggests, this one focuses on the theme of vengeance. 

The chance to 'get even' with people who hurt us badly is something many of us must have wished for at some stage in our lives. 

All I can say is - be careful what you wish for...

Dark Avenging Angel is available for pre-order now:

and, from July 5th: Samhain Publishing

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Uninvited

We’ve all seen those photos that regularly do the rounds on Facebook and other social media. You know the ones, the dead airman who mysteriously turns up on a group photo, the unknown guest whose legs appear in a wedding picture. There are shedloads of them. Most are faked – some quite obviously so. Some, especially in the old days before digital cameras, were simply created by forgetting to manually wind the film on, so that one photo was superimposed on top of another. Instant ghost!

 One of the most recent has been making its own splash. First on the social media site, Reddit. According to the person who placed it there, the photographer is the child’s father and the picture (one of five taken within a one-two minute time-frame and all posted on the site) is the only one to feature the anomaly.

At first glance, the picture shows a little girl, posing for her photo, but when you look closer, there’s something very odd about it. Look at her left elbow and you will see a bit of blue – like a shirt sleeve or similar. Look behind her legs and you will see a pair of (probably) man’s legs and booted feet. Yet the photographer swears there was no one behind her (and if there was, where is the rest of him?). He further asserts that the child is very shy and wouldn’t have stood there if there had been someone close up behind her. 

While he took this rapid series of shots, no one came past. The location was Zushi, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan and the place was pretty deserted. The mystery continues…

Meanwhile, here are three others to ponder on:

The Soldier Ghost.

This photo was taken during World War II and may indeed have been faked. Bit elaborate – but basically, a long exposure would be necessary and all the other soldiers would have needed to remain completely static while the ‘ghost’’ soldier moved out of the frame. Only, in that way could this ‘ghost’ effect have been achieved, or so I’m told.

The Ghost of Freddy Jackson

 This photo was taken in 1919 and first published in 1975 by Sir Victor Goddard, a retired RAF officer. It’s a group picture of his squadron and was taken on the same day as the funeral of one of their fallen comrades. When the picture was developed, they were astonished to see a familiar face they thought to have buried that day. Freddy Jackson had been an air mechanic, accidentally killed by a propeller a few days earlier. All the men recognised him instantly.

The Uninvited Wedding Guest

This photograph was taken by a professional photographer in Paisley, Scotland in 1972, commissioned to take photographs of people arriving for a wedding reception. This group appears to have been joined by someone lurking behind the man on the right, yet no one had been there at the time the photograph was taken. Even if there had been, the man had his hands behind his back. Wouldn’t he have felt someone so close up behind him?

Look closely between the two people on the right – next to the woman’s white glove. See that face? Looks like a child, peeking directly at the camera.
Curiouser and curiouser…

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Novellas - A One Night Love Affair, with Glenn Rolfe


Glenn is one of my friends and fellow authors at Samhain and, following hot on the ghostly heels of his last scary novella, Abram's Bridge, he has a new book out on April 7th called Boom Town. I've read it, loved it and you can read my review later, but for now, I asked Glenn to share some of his thoughts with us, so here is his take on novellas in general and the genesis of his latest work:

My latest piece with Samhain Publishing is called Boom Town. 

Boom Town is a Horror/Sci-Fi story based off the strange underground “booms” the town of Clintonville, WI experienced back in 2012. The story is centered on a UFO sighting over the fictional town of Eckert, WI. Thirty years after the strange craft blasts a hill in town with a large blue beam that caused an earthquake felt for miles, the nightly booms begin. Residents, waiting on an explanation, are on edge and may soon discover that there is reason to fear. Two pre-teens are the first to discover the blue ooze when they stumble upon a busted water pipe poking up from the ground at the sight of the latest tremor. Horror ensues. 

Boom Town is a novella (my second for Samhain Horror). There’s something special about taking a story that could be much bigger and keeping it packaged in such a short, tight format. That’s not to say there’s not more to Boom Town…but that’s for another day. I wanted this to be a novella, because novellas are fast becoming one of my favorite things. Novels are still the best, but let me talk about this a little more. 

For me, the novella has replaced the short story. I used to read short stories between novels; sort of a breather before entering that next grand adventure. Now, with a number of independent publishers releasing so many quality novellas, I’ve found these bigger short stories. 

The first two companies that come to mind are Dark Fuse and Samhain. Authors like William Meikle, JG Faherty, Hunter Shea, and more are taking the time to craft these special little pieces. They’re packing fully developed characters into intriguing situations and cutting out all of the filler material that some novelists tend to get carried away with. Don’t get me wrong, there are still novellas that miss the mark altogether, but the ones that get it offer a spectacular mix of all the things we love about a novel without the “come on, get back to the story” bit. There’s no space to waste and you can read them in one sitting.

If you’ve been reluctant to try one of these babies I would suggest getting over it and diving in to one tonight.  Let me make some suggestions:

by William Meikle

by Hunter Shea

by Jennifer Loring

by Jonathan Janz.

I strongly advise you to give the novella a try. Writers too…take the Pepsi Challenge! Can you give us a bigger story without the fat?  I bet, if you put your mind (and red pen) to it, you might surprise yourself. 
I hope you’ll start your novella adventure with Boom Town, but if ghost stories are more your speed, maybe start with my first novella, Abram’s Bridge.

 Here's some more information about Boom Town:
Terror from below!
In the summer of 1979, Eckert, Wisconsin, was the sight of the most unique UFO encounter in history. A young couple observed a saucer-like aircraft hovering over Hollers Hill. A blue beam blasted down from the center of the craft into the hill and caused the ground to rumble for miles.

Now, thirty years later, Eckert is experiencing nightly rumbles that stir up wild rumors and garner outside attention. The earthly tremors are being blamed on everything from earthquakes to underground earth dwellers. Two pre-teens discover a pipe out behind Packard’s Flea Market uprooted by the “booms” and come into contact with the powerful ooze bubbling from within. What begins as curiosity will end in an afternoon of unbridled terror for the entire town.

"...Stephen King-lite. (Boom Town) is quick, punchy and goes places you may not see coming before the final page is swiped or turned." - Horror After Dark

"Boom Town is quick and entertaining read that harkens back to the 1980's brand of small town (or intimate invasion) alien pieces. Like a reader’s digest version of Late Night Horror Television presentations (every region had one, for me it was "Fright Night Theatre") of "Invaders From Mars", "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Night of the Creeps" or "Xtro"” – Zachary, Mouths of Madness Podcast

“Rolfe weaves a wonderful tale of big, bad things happening to a small, good town. A sure winner!” – Hunter Shea, author of Island of the Forbidden and The Montauk Monster

Now, here's my promised review:

"Alan Packard lives in a ramshackle house with his higgledy piggledy Flea Market on the ground floor. His is an unfulfilling life, more of a difficult day to day existence in a town which achieved notoriety among ufologists back in 1979. Now, the town is back in the news. There have been unexplained seismic rumblings, apparent mini earthquakes and a feeling that all is not right with the Wisconsin town. However meaningless Packard’s existence, it didn’t need the invasion of the awful blue slime that took over his house…and more.

Kim and Brady are two pre-pubescent kids. Best friends. Both from homes that have known tragedy and heartbreak. These two will grow up together. Probably date soon. That is until the day Brady discovers the broken pipe and the bubbling blue ooze…

I love horror and I love sci-fi. Put them together in a well-crafted blend and I am a happy reader. Boom Town proved to be just such a blend. I read the story in one sitting as I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened. It contained all the elements of mystery, suspense, scares, cliffhangers and a cast of characters who worked. I believed them. I rooted for them. I feared for them. This is a fast, satisfying read and I highly recommend it."

You can find Boom Town here:
About the author:

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author of the ghost/mystery/thriller novella, ABRAM'S BRIDGE (Samhain Publishing, Jan. 2015) and his latest novella, a Horror/Sci-Fi mash-up, BOOM TOWN (Samhain Publishing). A full-length novel, BLOOD AND RAIN, will come out this Fall from Samhain Publishing and THINGS WE FEAR, a novella, is set to publish from Samhain in 2016.

His debut novel, THE HAUNTED HALLS (James Ward Kirk Publishing, 2014), is available now, as well as his short story collection, SLUSH (Alien Agenda Publishing, 2014).

Look for his punk rock band, The Never Nudes, on Amazon and Facebook.
Check out his website: www.glennrolfe.com