My novel The Devil’s Serenade mostly takes place in an imposing Gothic style mansion built by Victorian industrialist Nathaniel Hargest. When Maddie Chambers inherits it from her Aunt Charlotte, she soon discovers she has acquired far more than mere bricks and mortar. From the strange appearance of tree roots growing in the cellar to the manifestations, noises and a nostalgic wartime song played again and again, Maddie’s fears grow and intensify. What is going on here – and who, or what, is seemingly hell-bent on driving her insane?
Of course, my novel is just that – fiction. But, in real life, there have been numerous reports of houses cursed, or possessed by demons. Sometimes these emanate from the ground on which the house was built. Other times, the builder of the house has somehow managed to impart his – or her – evil into the fabric of the place so that it becomes irrevocably woven into the walls.
Sometimes the activity seems to start spontaneously, only to stop just as abruptly. In these cases, poltergeists are often blamed – quite often linked to the presence in the house of a girl entering puberty. One such case has been reported by Daniel Simms, a Paranormal Investigator from Staffordshire, England.
He writes of a twelve year old girl called Tegan – a child of strict Catholic parents who had been taught that lying was a sin. She and her two sisters attended their local church at least twice a week and were devout in their beliefs.
Back in 1999, Tegan kept a diary, which she still retains to this day. In it she reported the strange events that took place then.
It all began one Saturday morning as the sisters were eating their breakfast at the kitchen table. Tegan reached across the table for the salt cellar. Before she could pick it up, it moved. By itself. The sisters watched it, mouths wide open in disbelief. Tegan reached for it again. This time it jerked away from her.
The girls were shocked and scared. They told their father but he remonstrated with them, accusing them of lying to him. They weren’t able to convince him and tried to put the whole incident behind them.
But just two nights later – Monday, May 10th – Tegan recounted in her diary a night she would never forget.
A thunderstorm brought lightning and hail and, when it had passed over, the air felt “strangely static” in their home. By now it was their bedtime and the girls made their usual preparations and settled down to sleep in the room they shared.
But sleep would not come that night. Within minutes a scratching noise circulated around the floor. The sisters sat up in their beds. The noise grew louder and moved closer to the girls’ beds. By now, Tegan was crying silently, too scared to make a noise. She hugged her legs close to her body, trying to make herself as small as possible and to keep away from the invisible intruder.
The noise moved directly towards her, stopping at the foot of her bed. Then silence.
She waited. Still nothing. Tegan moved to get out of bed sideways in order to escape to the relative safety of one of her sisters’ beds. As she did so, her bed started to shake violently, throwing her around as if she were a rag doll. She screamed and the bed stopped shaking.
The terrified sisters told their father what had happened and this time, seeing how scared they were, he believed them and called in the services of the local priest. He performed an exorcism and, since then, there have been no further instances of poltergeist activity.
But to this day, Tegan maintains her story is true and that she still feels the fear when talking of what she went through. Where this particular phenomenon emanated from, who can say? But, In Daniel Simms’ opinion, there is no doubt that Tegan believes she was subjected to some kind of supernatural force that no one has yet has managed to satisfactorily explain.
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…
The strains of her aunt’s favorite song echo through the house, the roots of a faraway willow creep through the cellar, a child who cannot exist skips from room to room, and Maddie discovers Charlotte kept many deadly secrets.
Gradually, the barriers in her mind fall away, and Maddie begins to recall that summer when she looked into the face of evil. Now, the long dead builder of the house has unfinished business and an ancient demon is hungry. Soon it is not only Maddie’s life that is in danger, but her soul itself, as the ghosts of her past shed their cover of darkness.