Tuesday 28 May 2019

The Witches of Pittenweem

It is a story of bloody violence, torture and death – and it all started with a sixteen year old boy.

In scenes reminiscent of the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trials and Salem eighty years later, Scotland can lay claim to another appalling miscarriage of justice perpetrated against the innocent by the superstitious and vengeful. And at least one of the victims might still be around to haunt the place of her execution.

Pittenweem is today a picturesque fishing community in the East Neuk of Fife. Here, in 1705, Patrick Morton, the sixteen year old son of the village blacksmith, began circulating some wild stories about his neighbours. 

He accused Beatrice Lang, whose husband was a former town treasurer. He said she had sent evil thoughts in order to torture him when he had heard her mutter under her breath, clearly angry with him that he could not fulfil her order for iron nails immediately. He said he became ill shortly after - a direct result of a witch’s curse.

 In that superstitious age, no one thought he could possibly be telling malicious lies and she was arrested and imprisoned in a pitch dark dungeon where she spent five long months alone, except for regular visits to the torture chamber. Unable to make any of the charges stick, she was eventually freed, but her health was ruined forever, along with her reputation. No one now believed her innocence and she died soon afterwards, alone in St Andrews.
Morton also accused a man called Thomas Brown. He was also arrested and starved to death in a dungeon.

The third victim to suffer Morton’s vengeance was Janet Cornfooot (or Corphat). She was caught but managed to escape her torturers only to be hauled back when a mob caught her in Pittenweem on 30th January 1705. They beat her and dragged her, by her heels, to the seafront. Special levels of cruelty were reserved for her. She was firstly hung up by a rope tied between a ship and the shore, beaten severely, stoned and finally crushed to death by being placed on the ground, a door laid over her and increasingly heavy rocks placed on top until her bones and internal organs were fatally crushed. A particularly vile method of execution.

Believing witches had power over death the mob had to be sure she really was dead and a man drove his horse and cart over her flattened body several times. She was, of course denied a Christian burial and what was left of her was thrown into a communal pit at a place known as the ‘Witches’ Corner’.

Morton continued his reign of terror accusing women and men of all manner of witchcraft and ensuring they were caught and incarcerated, suffering the most appalling torture.

All the prisoners were held at the tollbooth adjoining the Parish Church in Pittenweem and there, paranormal investigator and author Lenny Low believes he has caught something on camera that could just be one of the tortured women.

There have been a number of sightings of a female ghost there over the years but this time, Mr Low is firmly convinced that his cameras have captured evidence of her existence. He used up entire memory cards on his infra-red and digital cameras at the location, leaving motion sensors running on two floors of the tower of the tollbooth.

Some of the photographs were extremely dark, but something about this one
stayed his hand just as he was about to delete it. He enhanced and lightened it and the image became much clearer. A young woman named Isobel Adam was also tried as a witch at Pittenweem in 1704/05 and he speculates whether it might be her. The photograph was taken on the stairs of the tower, in the exact spot where other visitors have reported seeing a young ghost girl.

Whether it is Isobel or one of the others, we shall never know. But the evidence is quite compelling that it is somebody not of this world. In all, during the Pittenweem witch hunts, sixteen people died by being burned at the stake and one during torture, but the fact that no lessons had been learned from either the Lancashire Witch Trials nor Salem, and that anyone crying ‘witch’ and pointing the finger would still almost certainly have been believed is perhaps the most sobering and tragic aspect to this whole terrible affair.

As for Morton, he was eventually exposed as a malicious liar but neither he, nor the murdering mob, were ever brought to justice or made to answer for their heinous crimes.
(You can find The Weem Witch by Leonard Low here

Click here and scroll down to watch actual footage shot by Mr Low as described above)

Thursday 2 May 2019

Enter the Undead World of Dominic DeChance - and Win!

If you have never read David Niall Wilson's DeChance Chronicles, now is the time to put that right. The first four volumes are available in omnibus edition and the fifth - A Midnight Dreary - will help ease the pangs of withdrawal once you have finished it. If you love tales of the fantastic, magic, sorcery, the undead and dragons, enter the incredible,multi-dimensional world of Dominic DeChance...

About the books:

Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. This Omnibus Collection includes books I, II, III, and IV of the series. Included are Heart of a Dragon, Vintage Soul, My Soul to Keep (The Origin story of Donovan DeChance) and Kali's Tale

Also included are the bonus novellas The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature, and The Preacher's Marsh, both of which provide background on settings and characters that appear in Kali's Tale

If you enjoy this book, you should read Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe, which follows on Kali's Tale, has a cameo from Donovan DeChance, and leads into Book V - A Midnight Dreary

  Heart of a Dragon 

When a local houngan begins meddling with powers she may not be able to control, a turf war breaks out between the Dragons motorcycle club and the Los Escorpiones street gang—a war that threatens to open portals between worlds and destroy the city in the process. With his lover, Amethyst, his familiar, Cleo – an Egyptian Mau the size of a small bobcat –the dubious aid of a Mexican sorcerer named Martinez and the budding gifts of a young artist named Salvatore, DeChance begins a race against time, magic, and almost certain death.

 Vintage Soul

When, despite the finest in natural and supernatural security, a sexy and well-loved, three hundred year old lady vampire is kidnapped right out from under her lover's nose, Donovan is called in to investigate. There will be no ransom for the kidnap victim, and if Donovan doesn't prevent an ancient, forbidden ritual from reaching its culmination, far more than a single vampire's undead existence will be at stake.

 My Soul to Keep

Donovan DeChance is a very private man, and he is in love. When he invites his partner and lover, Amethyst, for a quiet dinner, she has no idea of his true intention. Donovan has planned a sharing - a vision that will give her the keys to his early life - the origins of his power - and a lot more than she bargained for. Join young Donovan as he fights to keep his soul, save a town, and learn the roots of his teacher and guardian - and meet his familiar, Cleo.

Here is an excerpt, from Chapter Six:

Cleo and the Nightmare 

The carriage shuddered as the door closed behind Donovan.  He gripped the doorframe from the inside and rode it out.  He knew the creature harnessed to the front was aware of him.  He didn't think it could release itself from the harness, and he didn't think it could get to him as long as he was inside the carriage.  What he was afraid of was that it would raise enough of a fuss to alert its master.  Whatever was going on inside the saloon had everyone busy for the moment, but how long could it last?

He glanced around him and got the lay of the strange vehicle.  There were no windows, for one thing.  He'd never seen a carriage with no windows for the passenger to peer out through.  There was a single seat, dead center, and it was oddly placed and sized.  It didn't seem as though a man could sit in that seat comfortably.  His feet would dangle off the floor, and the angle of the back was very rigid.  There was no upholstery.  The seat was the same hard, black polished wood as the carriage exterior.  He studied it for only a moment, and then began scanning the rest of the vehicle's interior. 

The light was dim, but he found that his eyes had adjusted well enough.  He saw there were several doors in the back wall of the chamber, and he went to them quickly.  He opened the first.  He saw a row of books and small cases, an array of pouches, cups, and braziers, and a dagger in a long, slender leather sheath.  He had no idea what he was looking for, but nothing in this cabinet called out to him, and he felt that whatever held Silkstone's "power" would leap out at him – that he would know it.

He opened the right-hand cabinet that stood farthest from the wall.  He thought, maybe, that what he sought would be there, because it was the farthest, and so the most protected.  This door hid blankets, clothing, candles, and a variety of odd grooming implements that Donovan neither recognized, nor understood. None of it seemed important.  Not in the way that the boy, Bones, had intimated.

He stood before the center door for a moment.  There was a bumping sound, and his heart nearly stopped.  He stumbled to his feet, and could not, in that second, tell whether the sound came from before him, behind him, inside or outside the carriage.  He cried out then, abandoning caution, and flung the center door open wide.  There was a low growl, something warm, soft, and heavy launched from the cabinet's interior and struck him dead in the center of his chest.  He gasped and closed his eyes, certain he'd breathed his last, but when nothing further happened, he opened his eyes and stared.

On his legs, staring at him intently, was a cat. It made no move to escape, nor did it attack.  It was almost as if it were waiting for him to speak, or to make the first move.  He sat up slowly.  The cat didn't budge, and a moment later, they were face to face, the cat on his lap as he sat, facing the open cabinet behind it.

"Move on now," he said softly.  "I have to find something, and there's not much time."
He picked the animal up gently and placed it on the floor beside him.  Then he dropped forward to his knees and peered into the interior of the cabinet.  There were three jars inside that were filled with something dark and grainy, like dirt – or sand.  Behind them, there was another row of similar jars stretching so far to either side that they disappeared into the shadowy compartment's interior.  In front of all of it sat what appeared to be a brass clock.  It had a glass dome covering its works, and inside were four heavy brass balls that spun back and forth slowly, beating like a heart.
He glanced at the jars, but his gaze was drawn back, again and again, to the ticking, mesmerizing motion of the clock.  Could that be it?  Could it be that simple?  Was it – in fact – simple, if time itself was involved?

Donovan leaned forward and reached for the clock.  The cat, watching intently from where he'd placed it at his side, leaped.  It crashed into his hand, and instead of touching the clock, he struck the one of the front three jars.  It tilted, wavered for a moment, and then spun out of the cabinet.  Donovan tried to catch it, but he was too slow.  It crashed to the floor and shattered.  He cursed, started to turn to the cat, and then cried out as something spewed from the broken jar, whirling and filling the air with a dark miasma of grit, sand, dust, and something more.  There was sound, like a long, agonized scream.  Donovan fell back, and the force, ignoring him, whirled in the air and battered at the carriage door.  It struck once, recoiled, and then with an incredible burst of power, shot straight through the wood.   The door exploded outward in a wash of splinters and shards.  The horse reared and the carriage tilted up on two wheels.

Donovan tried to stand, but the jerk of the carriage swept him off his feet again and he tumbled back.  The cat, caught off guard, also tumbled.  Without thinking, Donovan reached out, caught it, and tucked it against his chest as jars tumbled from the cabinet, crashing against one another, into the floor and against the walls, and jostling the clock.   Each time one of the jars was broken, the screaming, whirling grit filling the carriage increased in volume and power, driving Donovan against the back of the strangely designed seat.

The cat dug its claws into his shirt, but not his skin.  It clung tightly, and Donovan curled around it protectively.  As he did, he felt an odd sensation creep over him.  His own screams quieted, and his mind, which had threatened to spiral out of control into darkness, or madness, calmed.  He glanced up carefully and took in the small space with new clarity.  He saw the clock.  It teetered, and somehow, just in time, he realized that he could not allow it to fall, or to break.  He didn't know why, but he knew he had to protect it, as he protected the cat, and that he had to get it out of that carriage. Without any further thought, he acted.

It wasn't easy.  Whatever was breaking free of the jars was powerful.  It was also angry, and he was the only thing in range.  He sensed he was not a target, but that this did not mean there was no danger.  He plastered himself to the far edge of the carriage from the door and began, very slowly, to work his way around to the cabinet once more.  Not all of the jars had broken open, and though the carriage still shivered and shook now and then, the horse seemed to have realized its mistake and quieted.  Something in Donovan's mind made him bypass the clock once more.  He ripped at the jars.  He drew them forth and flung them out the door of the carriage, hearing them explode and scream and feeling the buffeting power of whatever – whoever, he thought – was escaping. 

He didn't stop until the cabinet was free of everything but the clock.  Then he reached for it again, but the cat – once again – knocked his hand aside.  He turned toward it and glared.

"I have to get it out of here," he said.  "I…"

The animal leaped past him to the first cabinet he'd opened.  It scrabbled inside, dragging things free with its paws in a mad scramble, until a dark, folded sheet of silk spilled free.  It spun, claws piercing the material, and leaped back to Donovan, though the silk was nearly torn free by the escaping energy.  It was lessening.  With the final jars tossed free of the carriage, and the dust whirling up and out and away, the sound, and the power that had blasted Donovan's senses was dying toward silence.  He wanted the clock in his hand and his feet on solid ground before that silence was complete, though again, he had no idea why he wanted it.

He took the silk as the cat backed away, watching him again with bright, glittering eyes.  This was another thing he was going to have to look into shortly.  In his limited experience of cats – they did not communicate on a human level.  They did not save people from killing themselves over magical clocks.  They did not dig around in cabinets.  He didn't allow himself to question it, or even think about it.  He knew he had only moments, and he acted. 

He slipped the silk over the clock, wrapped it tightly, and lifted.  It was heavy, and he nearly lost his grip as it slid off the shelf, but he grunted, dug in his nails, and managed to lower it to the floor.  He quickly knotted the silk about it, being careful to cover every inch of the brass and glass.  Then, thinking it might be important to have his hands free, he knotted the loose ends of the silk tightly to his belt.  It banged against his hip as he moved.  There was a walking stick by the door.  It was topped by a black stone.  He grabbed it and clutched it tightly, thinking it would make a decent club, and he had no other weapon.

He jumped down from the carriage to the ground, and he turned toward the saloon.  In that moment, the horse struck.  It spun, tilting the carriage and ignoring the weight pulling on it.  Its eyes flamed and its jaws were open wide.  With a screech of rage it lunged.  Before it could strike, a blur of spotted fury launched from the interior of the carriage.  It struck the horse on the side the head, clung, and its claws dug into the soft skin of the snout, and the nearest eye.  Donovan cried out and fell back.  The carriage tilted, teetered, and then toppled over, dragging the horse back with it.  The cat leaped free, landing at Donovan's feet. 

Before either of them could move – the back door of the saloon blew outward and darkness poured out after it.  Through the sound, somehow, Donovan heard Rathman's voice. Or maybe, he thought, he heard the words in his mind.

"Run, boy!  For God's sake run."

He scrambled to his feet, gathered up the cat in his arms, and did as he was told.


 Kali's Tale

When Donovan is asked to follow in secret as a hot-headed group of young vampires set out on a 'blood quest' to kill the ancient who created the young vampire Kali against her will, he learns that - as usual - there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Through the juke joints of Beale Street in Memphis, to the depths of The Great Dismal Swamp, Donovan and his lover and partner, Amethyst, find themselves drawn along on one of the strangest quests in their long, enigmatic lives as they delve into the world of the undead, the magic of The Blues, and the very heart of alchemy both to protect their young, vampiric charges - and to prevent an ancient evil from destroying the balance of power in the universe.

 A Midnight Dreary

The long-awaited fifth volume in The DeChance Chronicles, picks up outside Old Mill, NC, when Donovan, reminded that he has promised his lover, Amethyst, and Geoffrey Bullfinch of the O.C.L.T. a story, draws them back in time to a vision of the final chapter of the novel Nevermore, a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe. At vision's end, they realize that they have to act, to free Eleanor MacReady from the trap that holds her on the banks of Lake Drummond, in the Great Dismal Swamp.

These novels directly cross over to the original series O.C.L.T. - where Donovan is a sometime consultant. It features appearances by Geoffrey Bullfinch and Rebecca York, O.C.L.T. agents, as well as Old Mill, North Carolina's own Cletus J. Diggs.

  Your chance to win!

(1) Ten dollar Starbucks Card and a David N. Wilson Book Collection, and (5) Books from the author, winner's choice

My Review of Heart of a Dragon:

The fantastical happens every day to Dominic DeChance, but then he is no ordinary Private Investigator. He can see things others can't and move where they are unable to. He is part of the other-world that co-exists with the world as we know it.

The story begins with a motor bike roaring into life. A  gang war between two rival factions - The Dragons and Los Escorpiones. But this is no West Side Story and these are no ordinary gangs. Supernatural forces are at work and only someone with DeChance's special powers and abilities can stop the mayhem that threatens the very fabric of existence.

This was a great adventure complete with dragons, timebends, voyages into other-worldly dimensions and plenty to make this reader want to keep reading the subsequent books in the series. 
Purchase links: