Teri watches BBC's Most Haunted and SyFy's Ghost Hunters religiously. I was so not surprised which book was her favorite. Wait! Did your that?
Bumps in the Night. A sense that you’re not alone in the house. Whispers on the Wind. Because it’s the Halloween season, it’s a great time to discuss scary stories. One of my favorite scary books is THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson. Although this novel was first published in 1959, this haunted house story still gives me chills today.
The most recent movie adaptation of the book (starring Liam Neeson and Lily Taylor) was terrifying, but it didn’t come close to the spookiness of the novel. One scene that stands out in my memory—and still makes my arms pimple up with chills—is the one where the presence in the house pounds on the doors down the hall from the bedroom in which Eleanor and Theo huddle together in terror.
“…they heard the crash against the door across the hall. It was louder, it was deafening, it struck against the door next to them (did it move back and forth across the hall? did it go on feet along the carpet? did it lift a hand to the door?), and Eleanor threw herself away from the bed and ran to hold her hands against the door. “Go away,” she shouted wildly. “Go away, go away!” There was complete silence, and Eleanor thought, standing with her face against the door, Now I’ve done it; it was looking for the room with someone inside.” (*Jackson, Shirley, The Haunting of Hill House (p. 129, Penguin Classic. Kindle Edition.))
I tried to put some of that heart pounding eeriness into my haunted house story SCENT OF LAVENDER. In my novel, a ghost haunts the house on Black Tree Creek. New tenant Rob Sheridan has seen her, but Lily Graham—who grew up in the house—believes he’s lying. This haunting tale of betrayal, possession and seduction in the Texas Hill Country brings together the lonely war veteran and the beauty from his past…and the ghost that could drive them apart. Here’s a short excerpt:
A sigh sounded again somewhere beyond the milky dimness of his bedroom.
Fine hairs prickled across Rob’s bare shoulders. Shaking off the sensation, he forced himself to push back the sheet and get up. Despite his willingness to believe in ghosts—maybe he was crazy—he knew he’d sleep better if he found a logical explanation for that noise. There was also the possibility that the artists he planned to host at the house wouldn’t find a ghost as acceptable as he did.
Oak planks chilled his bare soles, creaking gently as he neared his closed bedroom doorway. Cold seeped upward along his ankles and shinbones, soaking into his marrow. His pajama pants offered little protection as the chill continued up his body and he hugged his arms over his bare chest in a vain attempt to warm himself.
Opening the door, he paused. The air in the corridor wasn’t as warm as he’d expected. Nor was the darkness as black. He could make out the staircase railing and the pale oblongs of six other doorways that opened off the upper corridor.
As he stood there studying the dim hallway, he heard the sigh again, fainter, coming from the front of the house. It was a shuddery sort of sigh that raised the hair on the back of his neck.
Tiptoeing along the corridor, he looked into each empty bedroom until he reached the one that overlooked the front yard. Pausing in that doorway, he peered inside. Gloom clung to empty corners, driven there by the blue-gray of the dawn coming on just beyond the parted window drapes. The scarred wooden floor gave off a flat gleam and the off-white walls appeared dull and softened by time.
Rob stepped inside. The wood beneath his feet gave out a quiet creak and for an instant he caught a sense of presence. Feminine and sad, it was as fleeting as the soft floral scent that accompanied it, gone just as he became aware of it.
As he stood there wondering if he had imagined that odd sense of presence and the sighs that had preceded it, the light in the room took on a hint of yellow. The sun was rising and what lay before him now was nothing but an empty room.
He stood still, searching the room with his eyes. It was bare of furniture, of personality, and yet he wondered who had lived here over the decades. He wondered, too, if, once lived in, a room could ever become truly empty again.
Slowly, he backed out of it and closed the door.
SCENT OF LAVENDER is available in digital format (print coming soon, I hope). Amazon.com has it at a great price, but my publisher’s price might be lower. Check Ellora's Cave or Amazon.
Thanks, Suzan, for inviting me to talk about spooky books for Halloween.
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