The House That Threw Them Out
by Catherine Cavendish
by Catherine Cavendish
My new 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.
Around five years ago, in Hollyhill on the north side of Cork in Ireland, a family fled their house after being terrorized by a supernatural force. They summoned exorcists to try and cleanse the house of its unwanted and uninvited ‘guests’.
According to Ritchie Hewitt and Laura Burke who lived in the house with their son, Kyle, the strange phenomena started off quite slowly with holy pictures and icons being thrown around. They heard screams in the night, and then their son was lifted off the bed and hurled to the floor while he was still asleep.
The family also reported seeing orbs flying around, in mid-air, from room to room.
They were left convinced that their house was possessed by an evil force that wished them harm. When they tried praying for it to leave, all they heard was the sound of furniture being moved around upstairs. Drawers were turned out, clothes tossed around the bedrooms.
They asked local people for any help they could give in tracing the possible cause of all the disturbances, but drew a blank. It seemed the house did not have any prior reputation for hauntings or poltergeist activity.
Mediums have reported strong impressions of a young man hanging himself in the house and they believe it is his negative energy that has infected the household. On stepping over the threshold, one such medium – John O’Reilly – had an instant impression of “Someone who is very angry.”
The house itself is owned by the local council and they refused the family’s request for a transfer. Neighbours were reported as having turned on the family accusing them of a “scam” – that the family’s claims were a ruse to get them moved off the estate and into more ‘salubrious’ accommodation. This is a claim the family have vehemently denied. Furthermore, they continued to pay rent on the property even after fleeing from their home to live with relatives.
As for the house itself, its previous owner, Adam Payton, lived there for 26 apparently poltergeist-free years prior to selling it to the council. Other people living on the estate said the property was empty for several months, during which time it had been frequented by gangs of youths. There were even reports of séances being held there, often involving Ouija boards.
A local radio station facilitated a visit by Shaman Paul O’Halloran who detected the presence of hundreds of spirits trapped within the house. These included children and famine victims.
The family have never returned there and the house has not been re-let. At the time of writing, it remains boarded up and empty.
Now, to give you a taste of The Devil’s Serenade, here’s the blurb:
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…
“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.
She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room.
As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.
Here’s an extract:
A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.
The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.
I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.
I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.
I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.
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About Catherine Cavendish: Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She was the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits in the Shadows. Other titles include: The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.
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