Thursday, 24 August 2023

The Ghosts of Baker Street


Say the name ‘’Baker Street’ to most people and their immediate thoughts will turn to Sherlock Holmes, the seemingly infallible detective of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s extraordinary (if occasionally flawed) imagination. Ask them to name anything else connected with this street and many (including me) will mention the haunting and poignant autobiographical song by Gerry Rafferty.

Baker Street is in Marylebone in the heart if the bustling city. It has a busy, major underground station (on the Bakerloo line) and, right around the corner stands Madame Tussaud’s and the London Planetarium, but Baker Street itself is an unprepossessing thoroughfare, with seemingly little but legend to recommend it.



Named after the builder, William Baker, who laid out the street in the eighteenth century, it started life as a high-class residential area but is now comprised mainly of commercial premises; oh, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, situated at – you guessed it – 221B (which isn’t even a real address!). Confusingly, the museum is actually located between numbers 237 and 241.


A number of famous real people have lived in Baker Street –and some appear not to want to leave it. The eighteenth-century actress, Sarah Siddons, is one of them. Her house was where number 228 stands today. She is seen walking through walls on the first floor.

Meanwhile, nearby, the (now closed) two-hundred-year-old Kenwood House Hotel, not only had sightings of an apparition dressed as a Cavalier gentleman, but it also possessed that most fascinating of supernatural entities - haunted furniture. Specifically, the drawers opened and closed by themselves, and the mirror…poltergeist activity has been reported. With no guests to tease or terrify, it is not known if the ghosts still haunt.

At 245-247, the Volunteer Gastropub not only feeds and refreshes its visitors, but guests can also look out for the ghost of Rupert Nevill, whose family owned a large manor house on that site which burned down in 1654. He is said to appear in the cellar – indeed, the cellars are the originals so would be familiar to him. Eerie noises and unexplained, scary sightings have been a feature as far back as when the pub was used as a recruiting station during World War Two. They certainly seem to serve up spirits of a different kind at The Volunteer.

Deep underground isn’t free of apparitions either. Travellers on the Bakerloo line have reported seeing the reflection of a ghostly figure in the window, sitting next to them. But there is no one there… And after dark, track workers have reported a ghostly workman. One worker heard footsteps approaching him as he sat having his break. They crunched the gravel, growing closer and closer until they stopped around thirty feet away from him. But their owner was nowhere to be seen.


Spooky stuff - and enough to make the spiritualist Conan Doyle salivate. So, if you're brave enough, why not don your deerstalker, cram your pipe in your mouth, take a trip to Baker Street and walk with the ghosts...at midnight. Go on, I dare you!

You should also take care if you see a sign to Canonbury Ducis. I would avoid it if I were you. Alli Sinclair didn’t – and look what happened…

The After-Death of Caroline Rand

At a weekend house-party at ancient Canonbury Manor, Alli is caught between fantasy and reality, past and present, in the life of Caroline Rand, a famous singer from the late Sixties, who reportedly killed herself in that house. Alli soon learns that evil infests the once-holy building. A sinister cabal controls it, as it has for centuries. Before long, her fate will be sealed, and she will learn about her role in the after-death of Caroline Rand.

It begins with a chilling greeting: "Welcome to The Columbine, Miss Sinclair. You are expected..."

Available from:

amazon

Bookshop.org

Simon and Schuster

Barnes and Noble

Waterstones

Kobo

and

 wherever you normally shop for books – online or in the High Street

Images:

Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

Shutterstock

Thursday, 13 July 2023

The After-Death of Caroline Rand - Out Now!

  

At a weekend house party at ancient Canonbury Manor, Alli is caught between fantasy and reality, past and present, in the life of Caroline Rand, a famous singer from the late Sixties, who reportedly killed herself in that house. Alli soon learns that evil infests the once-holy building. A sinister cabal controls it, as it has for centuries. Before long, her fate will be sealed, and she will learn about her role in the after-death of Caroline Rand.

It begins with a chilling greeting: "Welcome to The Columbine, Miss Sinclair. You are expected."

What Reviewers Have Said:

‘A chilling tale filled with secrets and time jumps that slowly reveal the darkness that’s lurking deep within Canonbury Manor.’ – Erica Robyn Reads

The After-Death of Caroline Rand is surprising, ingenious and very atmospheric. A great supernatural tale to listen to with a 60s sidetrack alongside it watch out for the darker shadows. Highly recommended!’ - Runalongwomble

‘The currently reigning queen of gothic horror’ – Daniel Robichaud, Considering Stories

‘If you are looking for a novel that will challenge your perceptions and force you to question reality while taking you on a rollercoaster of a ride through time, The After-Death of Caroline Rand is the novel for you.’ – A Reviewer Darkly

'The best Catherine Cavendish yet.' - Russell James, author of Demon Dagger

‘I was completely chilled and hooked from the very first page’ – Daisy Blacklock @_the_book_reviewer_1

'Dream sequences, time travel, spooky monks, and an attic area to give you nightmares-  - Silkybookloverfun

'If spooky is your type of genre, you need to pick yourself up this book.' - Twoladiesandabook

‘I do love the way Catherine tells her stories, and it’s no different here. She had me enraptured, all the while trying to figure
out what the heck would happen!- Zooloo’s Book Diary

‘Great for fans of slow burn horror and multiple timelines/points of view.’ – Stephhorrormama

‘Throughout the book, we have lots of twists to keep us guessing, with dark details to keep the tension high.’ – Naturalbri_books

‘The book is very strong and definitely is a strong contender for book of the year. It also has made me want more by this author as she has such a great ability to make her concepts come to life.’ – Crazy Canadian Writing

‘Reminded me of Rosemary’s Baby, The Haunting of Hill House, Come Closer (by Sara Gran), gothic horror fans would enjoy! - The Vampire’s Library

The After-Death of Caroline Rand is available here:







and all good bookshops - in the high street or online

And - while you're reading (or contemplating reading) why not listen to this playlist to put you in the mood:

Sunday, 9 July 2023

The Wickedest Man's Wicked House

Do you believe that buildings have the power to retain the imprints of past events that took place within their walls? It’s a theme I have explored on a number of occasions – including in my latest novel, The After-Death of Caroline Rand. Canonbury Manor is a prime candidate for one such house. and, while that is fictional, the one I am talking about here is entirely real and was once owned by the infamous Great Beast himself – Aleister Crowley.

Boleskine House, with its secluded setting in Scottish countryside near picturesque Loch Ness was the perfect place for the man dubbed England’s wickedest man, to set up residence and practice his darkest of dark arts.

Crowley bought the house at the age of twenty-three, in 1899 and during his residency was said to have summoned some 115 spirits, including the devil himself. He also conducted an elaborate six month ‘power-giving’ ceremony there called Abra Melin. It is said that the grandmaster of the Order of the Golden Dawn – effectively his ‘boss’-  interrupted him during the time of this ritual with an urgent summons to go to Paris. As a result Crowley left, having not shut the ritual down properly. So, the spirits he summoned to Boleskine stayed there. These are hardly insignificant ones either – Abra Melin demands the summoning of the Twelve Kings and Dukes of Hell.

Not that they were alone. Boleskine had a bizarre reputation for sinister bewitchment dating from long before Crowley’s time.

Boleskine Kirk, which used to stand on the shore of Loch Ness, appears to have been one possible source of the cursed land round and about. Evidently an early minister of that parish was forced to fend off a wizard who was raising the dead and getting up to all sorts of mischief. The minister – Thomas Houston (1648-1705) - had to lay the disturbed ghosts to rest again. But sometime later, fire destroyed the entire church, and all who were in it, during a sermon.

Fire seems to play a recurring part on Boleskine’s history – even up to recent times.

In 1762, a visiting bishop noted the dilapidated state of the church and graveyard, remarking on the lack of walls of the churchyard and the plethora of human bones scattered everywhere, including on the floor of the kirk itself. Dogs were witnessed running off with them.

Soon after this, a committed Jacobite – Colonel Archibald Fraser – bought the land and built Boleskine House on the charred remains of the kirk. He also managed to acquire land thereabouts which had belonged to Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, who switched sides from Jacobite to Stuart and lost everything including his life (he was beheaded).

Colonel Fraser’s family retained possession of the house right up until the time they sold it to Crowley. The house now entered its darkest time. Crowley had few, if any, redeeming qualities and took great delight in the suffering he caused the local people by his sinister practices, which drew in the unwary as well as those with equally sadistic and perverted preferences. He boasted of how an employee on the Boleskine estate who had been sober for 20 years was enticed into getting drunk one night and ended up attempting to kill his wife and children. Then Crowley’s lodge keeper, Hugh Gillies suffered a series of tragedies. His ten-year-old daughter died suddenly at school and the following year, his fifteen month old son suffered convulsions and died on his mother’s knee.

Crowley may have sold the house in 1913, but the tragedies didn’t stop there. In 1960, the then owner Major Edward Grant shot himself in Crowley’s former bedroom – an event that the 78 year-old housekeeper, Anna MacLaren said had been revealed to her in a premonition exactly seven days earlier when she had been picking vegetables alone in the garden and heard a shot from inside the house. On investigation, she found no one there at that time but when the real shot happened, she was the one who found the Major, lying on the floor with most of his head shot off. The family dog was laying with a bone from the deceased man’s skull.

After that a young couple moved in. The wife was blind. Within a few months, her husband abandoned her there, alone in the house.

In 1969, film maker Kenneth Anger lived there during the summer. He saw a heavy painting seemingly detach itself off the wall, and float down gently to the floor.

A new buyer acquired the house in 1970. Jimmy Page, legendary guitarist with rock group Led Zeppelin, was fascinated by Aleister Crowley so much so he had to acquire his house. Yet for all his enthusiasm for it, he probably spent no more than around six weeks there during his twenty-year ownership. Instead, Page’s longtime friend Malcolm Dent moved in with the aim of restoring it. Dent loved living there and raised his family. A confirmed sceptic when he moved in, by the time he left he acknowledged that there were some things about the house that he couldn’t explain.

One such instance involved a female guest who woke up screaming that she had been attacked by some sort of devil. Another time, Dent himself was woken by what sounded like a wild animal snorting and clawing at his bedroom door. He was too scared to open the door until morning whereupon he found nothing there but remained convinced of what he had heard.

Doors opened and slammed shut in the middle of the night. Rugs would be found in a pile. All of this he put down to Aleister Crowley – by now long dead.

Seven chairs acquired by Jimmy Page from the CafĂ© Royal had each belonged to a famous person and had the associated nameplate attached to them. These comprised: Aleister Crowley, Marie Lloyd, Billy Butlin, James Agate, Rudolph Valentino, William Orpen and Jacob Epstein. Crowley’s chair was always placed at the head of the table but, when the chairs returned after restoration, Crowley’s chair was forever being switched with Marie Lloyd’s, even though no one could possibly have done this. Dent only found an explanation of sorts when he discovered that the restorer had erroneously switched the nameplates of the two famous people.

The next owners, Ronald and Annette MacGillivray would have nothing to do with Crowley’s legacy and frequently painted over his occult symbols. Sadly, as soon as the paint dried, the symbols allegedly kept reappearing. In 2000, a BBC film crew working on a documentary entitled, The Other Loch Ness Monster were attacked by a plague of beetles, suffered a variety of unexplained equipment failures, and some photos taken just down the hill (above a purported tunnel leading to the house) were ruined by a ‘strange halo of fog’ which could not be explained as lens flare or a camera fault. The producer said he had never seen anything like it. Exploding lights and falling camera stands showered the crew in broken glass, a crew member’s phone rang intermittently for no reason and another colleague’s alarm went off at the same time each day – even though it wasn’t set. All of this took place despite the best efforts of a priest and clerics who blessed the project.

In 2002, new owners bought the house. Fortunately, they weren’t there in 2015 when a devastating fire gutted the house. It started in the kitchen although there was no one there. and the actual cause was never determined.

Following that fire, the owners put the property up for sale and it was bought by the not-for-profit Boleskine House Foundation which set about restoring it. But it seems, the curse of fire wasn’t done yet. In December 2019, only a week after the purchase, another fire raged through the building. This time, though, the cause was believed to be arson.

Not to be deterred, the Foundation aims to restore the building to its former glory and open it to the public. Let’s hope Aleister Crowley lets them get on with it although their aims to promote ‘heritage, education, health and wellness’ seem somewhat at odds with his philosophy.

I wish them well.

Meanwhile, at Canonbury Manor…


 The After-Death of Caroline Rand

At a weekend house-party at ancient Canonbury Manor, Alli is caught between fantasy and reality, past and present, in the life of Caroline Rand, a famous singer from the late Sixties, who reportedly killed herself in that house. Alli soon learns that evil infests the once-holy building. A sinister cabal controls it, as it has for centuries. Before long, her fate will be sealed, and she will learn about her role in the after-death of Caroline Rand.

It begins with a chilling greeting: "Welcome to The Columbine, Miss Sinclair. You are expected."

The After-Death of Caroline Rand

Available from:

amazon

Bookshop.org

Simon and Schuster

Barnes and Noble

Waterstones

Kobo

and

 wherever you normally shop for books – online or in the high street


Images:

Shutterstock

Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

Author’s own

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 6 April 2023

Diabolus ex Machina

In Damned by the Ancients (part of the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy)a child’s doll becomes possessed and, indeed, there are many well-documented cases of toys and furniture seeming to have been appropriated by dark forces.

These days, though, the devil has added technology to his arsenal. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Deus ex machina’ (‘God from the machine). Well here is the evil counterpart – ‘Diabolus ex machina’ (‘Devil from the machine’).

Take this strange case in Poland.

In 2014, priest Marian Rajchel carried out an exorcism on a teenage girl. It failed. Instead of leaving her soul, he somehow managed to drive the demon into the girl’s mobile phone whereupon he started to receive threatening text messages from it. He replied and received the response, “Shut up, Preacher. You cannot save yourself. Idiot. You pathetic old preacher.” Even more sinister, one message said, “She will not come out of hell. She’s mine. Anyone who prays for her will die.”

Father Rajchel is convinced the author of the text messages is the same demon that possesses the girl’s soul and, furthermore, asserts that this is no isolated incident. He believes many such cases like this are going undetected because people don’t realise they are being used in this way.

He has gone on record saying that the young girl is in need of further help to rid her of the evil inhabiting her.

But Father Rajchel is not alone in his belief that the devil is working through technology. In Savannah, Georgia, Reverend Jim Peasboro wrote a book entitled, The Devil in the Machine; Is Your Computer Possessed by a Demon? In his view, any computer built after 1985 has the memory capacity to house a demon. According to him, ‘one in ten computers in America now houses some type of evil spirit.” He quotes as evidence for this, many instances of formerly happily married men unable to stop themselves from visiting pornographic websites and of women drawn into internet chat rooms where they behaved totally out of character, using foul language and debasing themselves in a way that would hitherto have been abhorrent to them. One such woman wept as she told of feeling that whenever she was using her computer, someone else was controlling her actions.

When challenged that this is simply the result of the easy availability of so much unsavoury – and worse – material on the internet, Reverend Peasboro insisted that he knew for certain demons were at work – because he had come face to face with them.

He told a story of inspecting a computer believed to be possessed by an evil spirit when it began openly ‘talking’ to him. It typed out, “Preacher, you are a weakling and your God is a damn liar.” It then started to go berserk and printed out what looked like nonsense. He consulted an expert in dead languages who studied it and reported back that the text contained a stream of obscenities written in a 2800 year old Mesopotamian dialect.

So, what do you do if you suspect your usually friendly PC or tablet starts behaving in a disturbing fashion? According to Reverend Peasboro you should contact a member of the clergy for help and, if that doesn’t work, call a computer technician who will change the hard drive and reinstall all the software. This, he assures us, will get rid of the spirit permanently.

Or maybe, your IT technician will simply ask the age-old question, “Have you tried turning it off and then turning it back on again?”

 
An obsession beyond reason. A passion that transcends the grave…

“The tension ratchets up until the end of the book, and it ends in true horror fashion.” M.K. French- Girl Who Reads

“I always feel when reading her books that I am right there with the characters and experiencing everything that they are going through” Book Nook Retreat

  Available from:

Weird House Press

Amazon

 

 Images:

Cyrus Wraith Walker and Weird House Press

Shutterstock