This week we went to our local Odeon to see Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built and loved it. Before I went, I kind of knew I would. It had all the elements that get me going (in a good way). An eccentric – some might say, veering on the mad – central character, a Gothic house of extraordinary design and stairs leading apparently nowhere, candles, long dark hallways with plenty of polished wood doors, shadowy corners, things moving all by themselves and sudden, scary apparitions.
Set in 1906, the film purports to be inspired by true events. The ever-excellent Helen Mirren plays the real-life reluctant heiress to the Winchester repeating Rifle Company fortune - Sarah Lockwood Winchester – who built rooms to house restless spirits in an effort to help them move on. The result is a most extraordinary house with rambling corridors, precariously perched rooms and building work that continued twenty four hours a day for years.
The acting, atmospheric set and the whole cinematic experience gave me a riveting 99 minutes entertainment, and I rather think the rest of the audience loved it too.
It gave me the same delicious chilling thrills as the excellent film version of Susan Hill’s classic The Woman in Black.
But what is it about that dark Gothic atmosphere that is so compelling to those of us who are aficionados of the genre?
For me, I became hooked at an early age. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridan le Fanu, Mary Shelley to name but three, had me hiding under the blankets on cold winter’s nights as the harsh Yorkshire wind howled around the house adding to the ghostly creepiness I had just read. It felt thrilling, frightening - but in a good way. A safe way. This horror was supernatural. It didn't threaten me. It made me want to write stories like that. Shirley Jackson, M.R. James, Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray) and Susan Hill absorbed me. I devoured Dracula, the Turn of the Screw, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde… The list kept on growing. It still is.
If you love a Gothic ghost story, my novella Linden Manor is now available on Audible as well as the usual ebook formats. You can also find my Gothic-inspired novels - Saving Grace Devine, The Devil's Serenade and The Pendle Curse too. Just click on the link for more details on all of them: