Thursday, 22 July 2021

The Floating Sister and Other Apparitions...

 


My latest novel – In Darkness, Shadows Breathe – is largely set in a fairly modern hospital, but one which has been built using material from – and erected on the foundations of – a much earlier structure. It had been a workhouse, hospital and asylum and one in which patients were treated most cruelly.

Of course, two hundred years ago, even methods employed with the best of intentions, designed to cure people of a range of ills would nowadays cause us to shriek and flee in terror. Any doctor employing such (to us) barbaric methods would be permanently struck off, his/her license to practice medicine permanently removed.

Even with our modern science, hospitals can be traumatic places witnessing every human activity from birth through to death and everything in between - surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, pain, suffering and, finally, the slipping away of life itself. Add to this, the sheer design of the buildings themselves – especially the older ones – and you have the perfect breeding ground for spirits of all kinds, from ghosts of small babies, through to spectres of people who have met violent, sudden or traumatic deaths.

Then there is another category altogether. That which you could only find in a hospital – the caring ghost who nurtured while alive and now cannot stop simply because they have passed over.
Glasgow Royal Infirmary – originally built in 1794 – has all the ingredients for a supernatural hotbed. It doesn’t disappoint.

There are many stories. Some of the most commonly cited are:


The Floating Sister

Should you encounter this lady, you will probably initially think she is just a member of staff on her way from one ward to another. Look down and you will see that there is nothing below the level of her knees. She appears to be floating along the corridor. A nurse working at the Infirmary in the late 20th century, greeted her as she walked past, before seeing the strange lack of lower limbs. Through the years, the hospital has undergone many renovations and it is quite possible that at some stage the floor levels were changed. This ghost is walking on an older floor.

Archie The Whisperer

This ghost manifests in Ward 27 and patients in their last days have reported seeing the same person, who whispered to them. They have said his name is Archie and his aim appears to be to ease their passing.

 He has also manifested on occasions and has been reported as being elderly and wearing a hair bun.

The Grey Lady

There had to be one, didn’t there? This lady has been chased by staff as she walked down corridors, apparently oblivious to their presence. She has then vanished through walls.

Dead Man Walking

One of the more recent additions to the infirmary's catalogue, this one was first reported early this century. On the way to treat a patient who had suffered a heart attack, a doctor was approached by a patient who asked him for directions out of the hospital. The doctor obliged and hurried to help the person he had been summoned to care for. Sadly, he arrived too late. The heart attack victim has already died.

But the doctor got the shock of his life when he looked down at the deceased patient's face and recognized him. It was the same man who had asked him for directions.

At least Glasgow Royal Infirmary's ghosts are benign. The same cannot be said for those who haunt the Royal and Waverly Hospital...


You’re next…

Carol and Nessa are strangers but not for much longer.

In a luxury apartment and in the walls of a modern hospital, the evil that was done continues to thrive. They are in the hands of an entity that knows no boundaries and crosses dimensions – bending and twisting time itself – and where danger waits in every shadow. The battle is on for their bodies and souls and the line between reality and nightmare is hard to define.

Through it all, the words of Lydia Warren Carmody haunt them. But who was she? And why have Carol and Nessa been chosen?

The answer lies deep in the darkness…




Images:
Shutterstock
Pixabay

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Jeremy Bentham, a Deadly Picture, and the Ghost of Emma Louise...

 

As with so many hospitals in the UK – including my creation the Royal and Waverly in my latest novel, In Darkness, Shadows Breathe - University College Hospital (UCH), in Euston Road, London has been extensively rebuilt and modernized since it first opened in 1906. The present hospital dates from 2004 but stands right there, next to the cruciform building that has become the haunt of a number of spirits – each with their own agenda.

UCH’s most famous ghostly inhabitant is radical social reformer and philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. (1748-1832) He is best known for his espousal of the theory of utilitarianism – namely: “It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” He decreed that, on his death, his body should be dissected and then preserved as an ‘auto image’ – self-image – for posterity. His wishes were duly carried out and he is still there (at least, his skeleton is, dressed in his clothes and stuffed with straw). His head is now a lifelike wax replica. He is sitting in a chair, his stick – which he had christened Dapple – resting next to him, in a glass cabinet in the Student Centre.

But it isn't merely his skeleton that remains.

A few years ago, a mathematics teacher, Neil King, was working late one night when he heard the sound of a stick tapping along the floor, at first distant, then coming closer. He paused to see who or what was making the noise. What he saw froze him with fear. The figure of Jeremy Bentham advanced towards him. He came so close, Mr King was convinced the apparition would throw him to the ground. But it didn’t. Bentham’s ghost vanished, leaving the teacher reeling.    

Incidentally, Bentham’s real head still exists – but, after it was stolen as part of a student prank, only to be returned later – it was decided to put it out of harm’s way. Now, it only comes out for special occasions.

he ghost of a student provided a lesser known haunting. She is reputed to have been called Emma Louise and she also haunts the old building. It is said if you call her name three times she will appear. (Now, where have we heard that one before?)

The story goes that there used to be underground tunnels linking the old hospital building with other parts of the campus, including the accommodation quarters of Arthur Tattershall Hall. It is along those tunnels that Emma Louise would travel every day. One day however she never arrived at the hospital for her shift. She was later found dead. Murdered. The crime appears never to have been solved and her spirit wanders.

Years later after Emma Louise's tragic demise, a group of students who also resided at Tattershall – in the very room the poor girl had occupied - decided it would be fun to test out the theory of summoning the former roommate and, having duly assembled, called out her name three times. Shortly afterwards, they heard laughter. But no one in their party was responsible. Despite their best efforts, they failed to trace the source. All through the night, a girl’s voice called out at intervals, even after the students had moved into a friend’s room to escape it. They never discovered who that voice or laughter belonged to.

A couple of nights later, duly returned to their own room, they found the door open. Someone – either of this world or beyond – had painted the words, “HELP ME”, “DIE”. “MURDER” and “RIP” across the wall.

A painting of famous and much-lauded 19th century surgeon, who was also a professor of surgery at University College, London, Marcus Beck, started its own tradition of supernatural activity. It seemed that, if anyone fell asleep under this picture, they would quite likely become ill and possibly even die. As a result, shutters were fixed around it and so began a nightly ritual of closing them to hide the picture from view. It became the night sister’s first duty to secure them and the day sister’s first duty to open them. If this ritual was not carried out, someone would unexpectedly die. The painting in question was stolen in 2001. Its whereabouts are still unknown.

No hospital of this age would be complete without its own version of the ‘grey lady’. In UCH’s case, it is a nurse in a blueish-grey uniform who is seen only when the screens go up around the bed of a really sick person. It is generally believed that the ghost is of a nurse who unwittingly administered a fatal does of morphine and is spending eternity regretting it.

You’re next…

Carol and Nessa are strangers but not for much longer.

In a luxury apartment and in the walls of a modern hospital, the evil that was done continues to thrive. They are in the hands of an entity that knows no boundaries and crosses dimensions – bending and twisting time itself – and where danger waits in every shadow. The battle is on for their bodies and souls and the line between reality and nightmare is hard to define.

Through it all, the words of Lydia Warren Carmody haunt them. But who was she? And why have Carol and Nessa been chosen?

The answer lies deep in the darkness…





Image credits:

Shutterstock

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Dare You Enter The Garden of Bewitchment?


Terrifying things have been happening to Evelyn and Claire, mostly following Claire’s discovery of a strange and mystifying toy called The Garden of Bewitchment…


Extract 1:

Evelyn’s head swam as consciousness returned. She lay curled in a fetal position on damp grass – the only patch of grass in a sea of heather and gorse. She struggled to lean up on one elbow, squinting at the pale sun as it emerged from behind a dark cloud. The dampness had penetrated through her clothes, chilling her to the bone, but she must get up. What had happened to her?

Memory swirled back. A strange house. Her sister tall as a giant. The man who had grabbed her. At least… But Evelyn could not remember any distinctive features. Just a shapeless form that grabbed Claire and tossed her aside.

Everything seemed perfectly normal now. The peaceful, bleak moorland. The curlew crying to its young. No sign of the house and garden or of the trees that seemed to have a will of their own. Could she have dreamed it? And where was Claire now? She prayed her sister had made it safely home, waiting for her, probably wondering what had happened to her.


Evelyn struggled to her feet. Her dress – stained with grass and mud. Her hair had come loose, and she had lost her hat. She must get back home. As she set off, she prayed she wouldn’t see any of the neighbors. How would the normally well turned-out Miss Wainwright explain her current state of dishevelment?

She hurried as fast as her tired feet would allow, reaching the cottage in a few minutes. When Evelyn had shut the door firmly behind her, she breathed deeply and called out to her sister. No reply.

Evelyn tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Something had tangled itself up there. She tugged at it, wincing as strands of hair came out at the roots. After a few more tugs, she examined her hand. Lying in her palm lay a small twig. Not heather or gorse. This was unmistakably pine. And there were no pine trees on the moor.

But there were in 'The Garden of Bewitchment'...


Extract 2:

Evelyn awoke to darkness. The migraine had lifted, leaving the familiar feeling of physical tenderness. She heard voices and sat up, straining to listen. Claire’s room. Talking to herself again. The words were indistinct, but she recognized the timbre.

Another voice. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Her breathing came fast and shallow.  Claire was talking to a man. There could be no mistake this time.

What was he doing in Claire’s room in the middle of the night? Evelyn made to push the sheet off her, but her head started to throb again. She lay back, praying for the pain to subside.

She heard the scrape of her door as it opened.

“Good evening, Evelyn.”

The man’s voice. Distinct. Directly in her ear.

Evelyn screamed.

© Catherine Cavendish




Images: 
Shutterstock
Photofunia




Monday, 22 March 2021

The Ghosts of Newsham Park Hospital


Image: Tom Tom - Shutterstock.com

My latest novel – In Darkness, Shadows Breathe – spends a significant amount of time in the frighteningly haunted Royal and Waverley Hospital whose walls conceal many dark secrets. Although a fairly modern hospital, my creation is built on land formerly occupied by a hospital, asylum and workhouse and is fairly typical in this. Many of today’s hospitals had multiple functions in their past – or are built on the foundations of earlier institutions whose practices would not be considered appropriate in this day and age.
 
Image: Shelly Jensen - Shutterstock.com

Liverpool’s Newsham Park Hospital shares this murky heritage. Situated not far from the city centre, this crumbling and derelict building once housed an orphanage, hospital wards, a Bell Tower, an attic lined with 18 punishment cupboards where children who misbehaved would be incarcerated alone in the pitch dark, a schoolhouse, mortuary, nurses’ accommodation and chapel. Built in 1869, it variously served as an Orphanage, Psychiatric Hospital and finally an Old People’s Home before closing and being finally abandoned in 1992 when it quickly fell into disrepair. Plans to redevelop it into flats fell through, owing to local opposition, but, since then, stories began to circulate. Strange ghostly phenomena were reported. It wasn’t long before word got around and numerous haunted event companies began organising night time vigils and trips around its desolate corridors which are still littered with broken beds, commodes, wheelchairs, peeling walls and tons of rubbish and detritus – a kind of decrepit Marie Celeste of the medical world.

Image: Artfully Photographer - Shutterstock.com

One of these event companies is Haunted Happenings. Newsham Park is a regular venue for them, and Philip Barron is one of their most experienced ghost hunters and guides. In more than twenty trips around the former hospital, he had witnessed his fair share of the unusual and unexplained and become accustomed to the many individual different experiences members of the same party might report But, on one fateful night, something happened that he had no way of explaining. It all started when, at the beginning of the all-night vigil, the group posed for the obligatory photograph.

The vigil passed off spookily as usual. Everyone had a great time and went home satisfied.

The next morning, Philip uploaded the photograph – again, as usual. What happened next wasn’t usual. The photograph quickly went viral. There were all the smiling, happy faces. The problem was there was one too many smiling faces. No one – and I mean no one – remembered the additional member of the group, a smiling girl. She wasn’t on the tour, well, not officially anyway. Maybe she had somehow sneaked in, and gained entry for free. Except...the simple fact was, she lacked substance somehow. The team tried to find a logical explanation and failed. Equally no one else has come up with one either. It remains one of the many mysteries of the stubbornly haunted Newsham Park Hospital.

Maybe she’s one of the former orphans, or a nurse from its psychiatric hospital days – maybe a patient. Whoever she is, she doesn’t seem too upset by being there.

The mystery ghost joins an ever-expanding collection of phenomena that includes: mischievous poltergeist activity such as workmen’s tools being moved and objects being disturbed when essential work was being carried out on the premises, the sighting of a small child in the attic along with voices heard coming from there, shadowy figures seen in one of the former wards, dragging noises coming from the former dining room, eerie screams and crying coming from the basement and other parts of the building. Then, there’s the overall heavy feeling of dread experienced by many visitors from the minute they cross the threshold. Only to be expected, I would have thought!

Want to see more? Here’s a clip to whet your appetite:



You’re next…

Carol and Nessa are strangers but not for much longer.

In a luxury apartment and in the walls of a modern hospital, the evil that was done continues to thrive. They are in the hands of an entity that knows no boundaries and crosses dimensions – bending and twisting time itself – and where danger waits in every shadow. The battle is on for their bodies and souls and the line between reality and nightmare is hard to define.

Through it all, the words of Lydia Warren Carmody haunt them. But who was she? And why have Carol and Nessa been chosen?

The answer lies deep in the darkness…