Wednesday 27 March 2019

Venturing Into The World’s Most Haunted Forest...with J.H. Moncrieff

 I love a great ghost story and J.H. Moncrieff writes them. The latest in her Ghostwriters series has just been published and it's an edge-of-seat feast of surprise. Come with us as we take a trip into the very place that inspired her latest spooky tale - and watch out for the trees, you'll meet them again in Forest of Ghosts...

Romania is a beautiful country, a photographer’s paradise: rolling hills, gingerbread architecture, and some of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen in my life. Visiting Bran, Brasov, or Sighi┼čoara is like stepping into a fairytale.
Hoia Baciu, however, was another story.
The legends about the world’s most haunted forest are well known. Hoia Baciu was named for a shepherd who vanished in the forest, along with his flock of two hundred sheep. 
Those brave enough to venture within have suffered strange rashes, headaches, burns, scratches, and nausea, among other ailments. People have reportedly experienced a high level of anxiety while in the forest, along with the sensation of being watched. Electronics often malfunction in the area as well.
The day I was to visit Hoia Baciu began in disaster. An argument with the hotel clerk over a billing issue resulted in me being late to meet my guide, and then I couldn’t find my credit cards. Sweating and anxious, I set off for the forest with a driver appropriately named Vlad.
 At first, Hoia Baciu appears quite peaceful, with plenty of birdsong and happy frogs. But soon you begin to notice the strangeness of it.
All the trees are either oddly shaped (one looked exactly like a harp), or are bent and otherwise deformed, with large growths erupting from them. There was a clearing where a clearing had no business being. An eerie, greenish fog lurked around a single tree. As my guide showed me around, he tucked his electromagnetic meter back in his pocket and admitted the ghost stories are used to entertain tourists. But he did add that it was extremely easy to get lost in the forest, even if you’re an experienced guide. It had happened to him not long before we met.
 Out of nowhere, a bolt of pain shot across my forehead. I’m used to migraines, so this wasn’t completely foreign to me, but I’ve never had one come on so quickly, before or since. Between the blistering agony in my brain, and the fact that my stomach was acting up, I was terrified something truly awful was going to happen in Hoia Baciu, and it would have nothing to do with the supernatural.
Maybe it was altitude sickness? No, my guide said, explaining we were only two hundred feet above sea level. Metals in the soil? No, Hoia Baciu had been tested and retested, with nothing abnormal ever found.
Due to our late start, we didn’t get as much time in the forest as I’d been promised. My guide was apologetic. I was relieved. While I never felt I was being watched, the forest had become suffocating, and my health grew increasingly worse.

           As soon as we broke through the trees, my headache vanished. My stomach was slower to recover, but by the time I caught my flight home a couple of hours later, I was back to normal.
Is Hoia Baciu really haunted? I couldn’t say. I didn’t see balls of light or an apparition, as many people have. All I know is that I was desperate to get the hell out of there.
And that’s good enough for me.

J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.

Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.

But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help. 

When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?

Mysterious Galaxy  Barnes and Noble  Chapters  Amazon

J.H. Moncrieff's City of Ghosts won the 2018 Kindle Book Review Award for best Horror/Suspense.

Reviewers have described her work as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.

She won Harlequin's search for “the next Gillian Flynn” in 2016. Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world's most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

J.H. loves to hear from readers. 
To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.
Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook

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.