Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Evil Black Widow Sisters

(Margaret Higgins)
 I first ran the story of these two notorious women around six years ago but, in the light of something I have been working on, their names cropped up again. Here is their gruesome tale:

Two sisters living in a rundown part of Liverpool decided on an easy way of improving their meagre circumstances - and paid with their lives.

In 1881, Thomas Higgins took his wife and ten year old daughter to take lodgings in the house of Catherine Flanagan who, along with her recently widowed sister, Margaret, lived at 5 Skirving Street in the Vauxhall area of the city. In doing so, Thomas had unwittingly signed the death warrants of his wife, child and, ultimately, himself.
 
(Catherine Flanagan)
Not long after they moved in, his wife died, and he must have sought solace in the arms of Margaret, for, on 28th October, 1882, the couple married. By the end of the following month, Thomas's daughter had joined her mother. On 22 October 1883, having recently increased his life insurance cover, Thomas died, apparently from dysentery, not uncommon in those days of poor sanitation and public health.

But Thomas's brother Patrick, believed something much more sinister was going on and contacted the doctor who had signed the death certificate with his suspicions. The coroner was alerted and Thomas's body was exhumed and examined. No trace of the disease was found and arsenic was proved to be the cause of death. Amazingly, this deadly poison could be found in most homes in those days - as one of the constituent ingredients of flypapers.

Motive? Simple. Money. Thomas was worth far more to the sisters dead than alive.

Following this gruesome discovery, three more bodies were exhumed. All had died recently, all had life insurance, and all had resided with the sisters. Catherine's own son, John, had netted his mother £71, a young female lodger had added £79 and Thomas's little daughter had returned a quick profit of nearly £22. Not inconsiderable sums in the 1880s. Post mortems revealed that every single one of them had died from arsenic poisoning.

Catherine Flanagan and Margaret Higgins were hanged on 3rd March 1884 for the four murders, but this may only have been the tip of the iceberg. It was found that four other women were involved in the scam (although not convicted of any involvement in the poisonings) and there may have been as many as seventeen victims.

The moral of this gruesome tale? Life insurance may not be good for your health!

You can read more about this fascinating story of dark deeds in Victorian Liverpool in Angela Brabin's book, The Black Widows of Liverpool:


For evil of a different kind: 

  Infinity in Death

Vienna, 1908

Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .

Vienna, 2018

The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.

Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .

Damned by the Ancients is available from:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple
Google
Kobo
Kensington Publishing

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

(Text) Messages from Hell and Other Smart Devils


 
In my novel, Damned by the Ancients, a child’s doll becomes possessed and, indeed there are many well documented cases of toys and furniture seeming to have been appropriated by dark forces.

However, now, it seems the devil has taken to using technology to get his message across. Yes, really! Take this strange case in Poland.

In 2014, priest Marian Rajchel carried out an exorcism on a teenage girl. It failed. Instead of leaving her soul, he somehow managed to drive the demon into the girl’s mobile phone whereupon he started to receive threatening text messages from it.
He replied and received the response, “Shut up, Preacher. You cannot save yourself. Idiot. You pathetic old preacher.” Even more sinister, one message said, “She will not come out of hell. She’s mine. Anyone who prays for her will die.”

Father Rajchel is convinced the author of the text messages is the same demon that possesses the girl’s soul and, furthermore, asserts that this is no isolated incident. He believes many such cases like this are going undetected because people don’t realise they are being used in this way.

He has gone on record saying that the young girl is in need of further help to rid her of the evil inhabiting her.

But Father Rajchel is not alone in his belief that the devil is working through technology. In Savannah, Georgia, Reverend Jim Peasboro has written a book entitled, The Devil in the machine; Is Your Computer Possessed by a Demon? In his view, any computer built after 1985 has the memory capacity to house a demon. He believes ‘one in ten computers in America now houses some type of evil spirit.” He quotes as evidence for this, many instances of formerly happily married men unable to stop themselves from visiting pornographic websites and of women drawn into internet chat rooms where they behaved totally out of character, using foul language and debasing themselves in a way that would hitherto have been abhorrent to them. One such woman wept as she told of feeling that whenever she was using her computer, someone else was controlling her actions.

 When challenged that this is simply the result of the easy availability of so much unsavoury – and worse – material on the internet, Reverend Peasboro insisted that he knew for certain demons were at work – because he had come face to face with them.

He told a story of inspecting a computer believed to be possessed by an evil spirit when it began openly ‘talking’ to him. It typed out, “Preacher, you are a weakling and your God is a damn liar.” It then started to go berserk and printed out what looked like nonsense. He then consulted an expert in dead languages who studied it and reported back that the text contained a stream of obscenities written in a 2800 year old Mesopotamian dialect.

So, what do you do if you suspect your usually friendly PC or tablet starts behaving in a disturbing fashion? According to Reverend Peasboro you should contact a member of the clergy for help and, if that doesn’t work, call a computer technician who will change the hard drive and reinstall all the software. This, he assures us, will get rid of the spirit permanently.

 If only things were so simple for the Mortimer family. But Dr. Emeryk Quintillus isn’t going to go quietly… Here’s what to expect in Damned by the Ancients;

INFINITY IN DEATH

Vienna, 1908

Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .

Vienna, 2018

The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.

Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .

Damned by the Ancients is available from:






.




Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Dark Doings in Deepest Berkshire - with Shehanne Moore


My guest today is historical author Shehanne Moore. I love her books, which combine adventure with feisty characters, humour and a flavour of the Gothic:
  
    "As God is my witness, this property shall ne’er be inherited by two direct successors, for its sons will be hounded by misfortune." 


                                                                                By Shehanne Moore.

As God is mine I must say I was heartily glad to read the following….

‘Berkshire is a place of mystery, myth and legend. The county abounds with strange tales of ghostly phantoms, ferocious creatures, kings & knights, witchcraft, treasure and more.’

Why was I glad? Because it’s never easy coming to the wonderfully chilling blog of Gothic horror writer, Catherine Cavendish. Certainly NOT when you write romance,  even when it's slightly Gothic romance.  Thank you so very much Cat for inviting me. despite this.  

Not only is my recently re-released book Loving Lady Lazuli set in Berkshire - phew-there was a ton of tales to choose from. 

So it said online anyway which was why I was initially drawn to the ‘most haunted’ Shaw House but the most interesting thing there I could find was the true story of how the Duke of Chandos took as his wife, a beautiful chambermaid who was being sold off by her husband in an inn yard with a halter round her neck.  

Not just shades of Thomas Hardy’s, The Mayor of Casterbridge but proof that the business of dukes marrying what might be construed as women who were well below their social status….as happens in Lazuli and indeed in a lot of historical romance… is not as daft as all that.

 Moving on though, through covens of witches and headless men, I came to the story of Bisham Abbey...I guess apposite again as Barwych Hall in the book is based on Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire.  However, the Bisham monks were so furious at Henry VIII for ‘dissolving them,’ they cursed the ancient building.  

And indeed…as in another follow through from the book, sort of anyway…the sons of Bisham’s many different owners didn’t just fall down dead, they were beheaded, they died young, they were killed in world wars—and, as in the case of young William Hoby, they had some help from their mother. In this case, the widowed Lady Elizabeth who had such high standards of education,  she not only beat young William to bits and locked him in the Tower Room to do his lessons all over again, she quite forgot, despite being so brilliant herself, that she’d done it, clearing off to Windsor for several days of dancing and banqueting. A very merry widow to all accounts.  After all, weren’t there servants for tiresome things like children after all? 


At least Lady Elizabeth thought so, so she was really quite astonished on returning home to find that everyone thought William was with her…. 

I think we all know what’s coming next.

But did William exist at all? There’s documented evidence for Anne, the Chandos' chambermaid bride. But William? 

Well, firstly the fact that there’s no genealogical evidence to show he did exist, doesn’t always mean a thing. Not all records survive.  And the Hobys had other estates where his birth could have been recorded. 

"Proof" of William’s existence is sort of provided by the discovery in 1840, during renovations, of copy books containing blots on every page, corrections by the ‘wicked lady‘ herself and the name, William Hoby. Alas, I say ‘sort of’ because these copy books sort of then disappeared. Maybe Lady Hoby stole them...? a bit like my jewel thieves in the book. 

However 1840 was the point where the son first became known as William. Till then he’d just been a nameless son, like you get these nameless, headless horsemen. Lady Hoby did indeed have a son…Francis…who died young in unknown circumstances, at the time she had remarried and her surname was then Russell. 

You pays your money you takes your chances, I’d say on truth and legend mixing to become one…or the other.

Whether or not Lady Hoby caused her son’s death as said,  the Abbey is known to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain, certainly the most haunted in Berkshire and that haunting is done by her apparently grief-stricken self, dressed in black lace and white, washing her hands  a la  Lady Macbeth.   She tears curtains, throws things. But mostly she just sobs and leaves lights up in the Tower Room. Some people think she causes the mists that wreath the Abbey and until 1936 she especially liked to come out for coronations.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little venture to the darker side and won’t be afraid to visit the Abbey… 

Talking ghosts… here’s the blurb for Loving Lady Lazuli.
 

A woman not even the ghost of Sapphire can haunt. A man who knows exactly who she is.

Only one man in England can identify her. Unfortunately he’s living next door.
Ten years ago sixteen year old Sapphire, the greatest jewel thief England has ever known, ruined Lord Devorlane Hawley’s life by planting a stolen necklace on him.  Now she’s dead and buried, all Cassidy Armstrong wants is the chance to prove she was never that girl. 

But her new neighbor is hell-bent on revenge and his word can bring her down. So when he asks her to be his mistress, or leave the county with a price on her head, Sapphire, who hates being owned, must decide...  

What’s left for a woman with nowhere else to go, but to stay exactly where she is?

And hope, that when it comes to neighbors Devorlane Hawley won’t prove to be the one from hell.


About the author

 When not cuddling inn signs in her beloved Scottish mountains alongside Mr Shey, Shehanne Moore writes dark and smexy historical romance, featuring bad boys who need a bad girl to sort them out. She firmly believes everyone deserves a little love, forgiveness and a second chance in life.

Shehanne caused general apoplexy when she penned her first story, The Hore House Mystery—aged seven. From there she progressed to writing plays for her classmates,  stories for her classmates, plays for real, comic book libraries for girls, various newspaper articles,  ghost writing, nonfiction writing, and magazine editing.  Stories for real were  what she really wanted to write though and, having met with every rejection going, she sat down one day to write a romance, her way. 

You can connect with Shehanne here: