What was it that prompted the penning of certain stories? Read on to discover what lies behind the seven ghostly tales now gathered together in A Ghost Story Omnibus. In this first instalment, we take a look at 2018’s The Ghost of Scarside Beck.
A newly-wed Cumbrian vicar and his wife experience a night like none they could ever have foreseen. He may have answered his calling, but who, or what, is calling her?
So runs the blurb, but what inspired its writing? In short, this is the only story that I have written that was prompted by a real life experience. My wife and I were staying in a remote Lake District hamlet that some of you may know as the location of the ‘famous’ phone box that features in cult comedy Withnail and I (‘Where’s my cigar commercial? What happened to my agent? Bastard must have died!’). Unlike Withnail, we hadn’t exactly ‘gone on holiday by mistake’, but the weather was so unforgivingly wet and stormy that at times it felt as if we had. However, it was during one of the brief dry interludes that it happened.
We decided to take a stroll to the neighbouring hamlet of Bampton Grange, where we called into the Church of St. Patrick. It’s a modest and unexceptional building of relatively recent provenance, so far as English churches go, but we decided to venture inside out of a combination of curiosity and a desire to find shelter from the rawness of the wind. We stayed within for no more than five or ten minutes, but it was what happened just before we left – something quite out of the ordinary and unlike anything that either of us had ever encountered – that prompted the idea for The Ghost of Scarside Beck, one of the scenes of which accurately recreates what we experienced. Try as I might, I have not since been able to unearth any reports relating to purported hauntings or supernatural activity at the church. An additional element of the story was inspired by some rather characterful vulpine carvings in both stone and wood that may be viewed in Hexham Abbey and St. Michael’s Church in the Somerset parish of Brent Knoll.
Now, whereas when something of this type happens in either film or literature we normally say ‘there’s no way I’d go back after that happened,’ we did go back. The church, alas, was locked.