Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Strange and Sinister Tale of Major Weir

It is a strange story indeed. An upright, seemingly godfearing Presbyterian – a pillar of Edinburgh society – suddenly confessed to being a witch. Not only that, he implicated his own sister, Grizel, and she confirmed it!

No-one could fathom out where the confession had come from. Major Weir of all people - a black-hearted witch, guilty of the most heinous crimes and satanic rituals. And he confessed to his crimes during a church service in 1670. The congregation could not and would not believe his confession and doctors were summoned. Sure enough they concluded that Weir was mentally unstable but not insane. Nevertheless, the Major was having no one of it. He was a witch, so was his sister and they must both pay the penalty which, in those days meant death.

Apparently these two, while living in a smart house in West Bow, had regularly met with a ‘dark stranger’ who escorted them to meetings in Dalkeith in a fiery coach drawn by six horses. Weir and his sister had indulged in an incestuous relationship, they said. Their confessions became wilder and wilder. They had inherited their practice of the dark arts from their mother and Weir claimed to derive supernatural powers from a black staff he used which had been given to him, so he said, by the devil himself.

Weir admitted to bestiality and all manner of sexual acts with servant girls as well as devil worship. As if that were not enough, the Major claimed to have only listed some of his crimes – the others being too awful to recite.

Grizel said that a horseshoe-shaped mark on her forehead had been put there by the devil and he had given her the power to spin yarn at an astonishing rate but this yarn would break if anyone else tried to use it.

The Major and his sister claimed to be able to commune with the dead. Still no one would believe them but they insisted that every claim they made was true. They demanded to be tried and punished.
Eventually they got their wish and both were found guilty as a result of their own confessions. Grizel was hanged (after first slapping the executioner) and the Major was initially strangled and then burned. Witnesses reported that their executions took far longer than usual. Evidently the devil didn’t want them to die.

Their home in West Bow became the stuff of legend. Children were warned not to go near it and it lay empty for many years. The fiery coach was reportedly seen stopping there, strange shapes could be seen at the windows and their victims were said to haunt the building where the Weirs had tortured them. Candles would flicker even though there was no one there to light them, and the sound of music emanated from the closed and increasingly derelict house.

The house seems to have dropped out of sight for many years and was presumed demolished in 1878, along with a lot of property in the vicinity. Now, however, it seems at least some of it may have survived. In 2014, historian Dr Jan Bondeson concluded that it had been incorporated into the current Quaker Meeting House in Upper Bow. Ironically, the manager of the Meeting House told the Edinburgh Evening News that one of his staff, some years previously, had witnessed Weir’s ghost pass straight through a wall. In the toilet.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Anxiety - with Russell R. James

I have been a fan of Russell James's work for a number of years now and we have shared no less than three different publishers over the years. We just keep on following each other around!

Russell's latest novel - The Playing Card Killer - is fresh out this week from Flame Tree Publishing. Not only is it a great story, it also enters the dark and misunderstood world of anxiety disorder. I'll let him explain:

Anxiety is a good thing. A rational concern about an upcoming event focuses you on being ready for that event when it happens.

In The Playing Card Killer, Brian Sheridan has too much of a good thing. A victim of his mother’s prenatal drug use, he was born with an anxiety disorder. His fears are not rational, sometimes not even definable. And when one of these panic attacks strikes, they are practically debilitating.

Brian’s fictional mental health issue is all too common in the real world. Sometimes people are born with the problem, sometimes events trigger it. The uninitiated may wonder why the victim doesn’t just “get over it” and see that the fear is overblown. It’s not that easy. People suffering from this disorder frequently require a combination of counseling, self-help techniques, and medication. Brian has been doing all three. It’s when he decides to stop them all that his world spins out of control.

If you have a loved one that suffers from anxiety, it can be a very frustrating experience. Many of the victim’s coping mechanisms can be hard to handle. The Canadian Mental Health Association recommends these tips:
· Remind yourself that the illness is the problem—anger, frustration, or behaviors related to anxiety are nobody’s fault.

· Be patient—learning and practicing new coping strategies takes time.

· If your loved one is learning new skills, offer to help them practice.

· Listen and offer support, but avoid pushing unwanted advice.

· Set boundaries and seek support for yourself, if needed.

· If other family members are affected by a loved one’s anxiety disorder, consider seeking family counselling.

In my new novel, Brian Sheridan has no such support. And he pays a heavy price because of that.

In The Playing Card Killer, a serial killer stalks Tampa Bay, Florida. Brian Sheridan is plagued by dreams of women strangled with a red velvet rope, their corpses left with a signature playing card. And while awake, he’s hallucinating a strange man who appears to be stalking him. Brian hopes all this is driven by his sudden withdrawal from a lifetime of anti-anxiety medications.

Then the victim from one of his nightmares shows up on the news. She’s been murdered and Brian immediately fears he may be the unwitting killer. Detective Eric Weissbard thinks the same thing, and starts to build a case to get Brian behind bars and stop the string of horrific murders by the man the press have dubbed The Playing Card Killer.

Can being proven innocent be worse than being found guilty? That may be the case as the truth about The Playing Card Killer sucks Brian into a whirlpool of kidnapping, torture, and death.

The Playing Card Killer is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers in hardcover, softcover, and ebook formats.

About the Author

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching late night horror. After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including horror thrillers Dark Inspiration, Q Island, and The Playing Card Killer. His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King. He resides in sunny Florida. His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Visit his website at, follow on Twitter @RRJames14, or say hello at