Wednesday, 21 October 2020

 WRITER'S BLOCK!

Welcome to the first of many in our Writer's Block series! 


Ann Massey is interviewing her fellow Beul Aithris Publishing writers and artists giving you a chance to get to know them and their work. 


First up is our favourite Chicago paranormal author, RICK HALE who has just released Bullets, Booze and Babes, The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois.






ANN MASSEY: You've been around the block in the field of the paranormal, tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the eerie side of life!

RICK HALE: I first became interested in the paranormal in 1982 when I was 8. I witnessed and interacted with an apparition in my grandparent's house in Franklin Park, Illinois a town just outside of Chicago.  I've been hooked ever since. My first investigation was a private home in September 1991, I was 17. 

AM: Long before you put pen to paper for your own books, you were involved in paranormal investigating in Chicago, as an investigator, guide and paranormal media. Which did you prefer and why?

RH: To be honest I love them all. I've focused more on writing the last four years after being diagnosed with cancer and losing my left leg. But I'm much stronger now and I'm looking forward to contributing more to the field.

AM: What made you decide to write books on the weird and wonderful world of the paranormal and why do people love reading about it so much?

RH: Writing is something that always came very naturally to me. I guess I have an aptitude for it. I got my start as a writer with Paranormal Underground Magazine. After that everything just fell into place.

AM: As a paranormal investigator what would be your most terrifying and most strange experiences seeking the supernatural in Chicago?

RH: I can't say I've ever experienced anything truly terrifying. It's like Hans Holzer said, "Ghosts are just people in trouble" and I really do believe that. If anything, my first investigation was maybe a bit more than I was expecting. To this day, I still believe I dealt with a legitimate poltergeist and a thoughtform created by the focus who was a 16 year old girl.

AM: Your book Bullets, Booze and Babes, The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois focuses on a dark and chequered history that have led to hauntings. What is it about Chicago that brings us some of the most infamous tales including Bloody Mary, John Wayne Gacy and Dillinger?

RH: Chicago has a turbulent history going all the way back to it's very beginnings. Not to mention all the violence caused by organized crime. Hell, we can even boast the country's first serial killer, HH Holmes. This mixed with the great fire, the Eastland Disaster and the inequality of the late 19th and early 20th centuries created a perfect storm for hauntings.

AM: You've also widened the net to include other parts of Illinois - what haunted gem stands out for you?

RH: Definitely Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in South suburban Midlothian. Bachelor's Grove never ceases to impress with its myriad of hauntings. It would be easy to dismiss it as urban legend, but I assure you, Bachelor's Grove Cemetery is extraordinarily haunted.

AM: What are personally your top three locations in your book and why?

RH: You want me to pick 3? Frankly, that's damn near impossible. Read the book and see them all.

AM: In your own words "Welcome to Illinois, come for the hospitality, stay for the weirdness - What advice would you give to someone who wishes to explore the locations in your book when better times allow?

RH: Always be respectful of both the dead and the living. We Chicagoans take a great deal of pride in our ghosts and will be less then thrilled if these haunted places are used like a personal playground.

Bullets, Booze and Babes, The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois with artwork by Mark Hetherington is available on the Beul Aithris website NOW! 



Monday, 12 October 2020

Stella by Petula Mitchell

 

Image by marian anbu juwan from Pixabay

 
Petula Mitchell shares how music inspires her writing and a short story:

 
So this is quite exciting. A while back this beautiful song by the Satellite Station popped up purely by chance and as music junkie I listen to as much as I can that comes my way. This is haunting and melodic with a fabulous vocal by Travis Rue.Please check out their page. Anyway, I felt inspired to write a short story after hearing this. It aches with love, loss and longing. So I requested the opportunity to post the song with my story. So here they are as companion pieces and my grateful thanks to the Satellite Station for permitting me to do this with their fabulous song, in the video below:
 
 
STELLA
 
Stella had been alone for such a long time. She was now ninety and had been widowed for fifty years. Now in her autumn years , as her daughter liked to call them, Stella resided in a home. It wasn't quite a care home as she was mobile and capable. Sharp as a tack, her daughter liked to call it, but just recently Stella did wonder if she was losing her grip on reality. 
 
She had brought with her to this reasonably spacious apartment some of the furniture from the old family home. Her dressing table with its large mirror stood in the bedroom. It had been a gift from her late husband when they had their first home and didn't really have a lot of money to buy nice things. He said a lady should always have a nice dressing table. Somewhere to put her personal things do her hair and make up. Something to call her own. It had probably cost him a pretty penny at the time and she had always cherished it. Even more so when he had passed away at the age of 40 leaving her with a ten year old daughter and a broken heart that never quite mended. Now, on sleepless nights, when she looked in the mirror she could see him. He never quite acknowledged her but somehow she could sense that he knew she was there. A half glance, a smile or a tilt of the head when she said his name were subtle signals to her that he knew she was close by.
 
Stella put this all down to an old lady having vivid dreams or maybe the start of her rational functions slipping away. She hadn't mentioned it to anybody. She wanted to keep her last bit of independence for as long as possible. The flat had alarm cords in every room and a cheery warden either knocked on the door or rang her three times a day to ask if she needed anything. Help, shopping, tea and chat were all offered and sometimes gratefully received. More and more though Stella just sat in front of the dressing table watching and waiting.
 
Bill had been the love of her life. He wasn't classically handsome. His nose was a little long and he had hair that refused to behave no matter how much brylcreem he used on it. When they had married in 1955 the short back and sides was falling out of favour with the young men of the day and Bill sported an unruly quiff in an effort to look fashionable in their wedding photos. She always kept one on the dressing table. It was quite stiff and formal. A frozen tableau of them smiling as he held her by the arm. It didn't indicate in any way how they felt about each other. Two young innocents setting out together, to learn about life and love. On that wedding night neither of them had known exactly what to expect. They certainly hadn't expected to wake the next day connected at the soul. Fifteen years later he was gone. 
 
She spent the first few years of widowhood concentrating on her daughter. She had money, he had left her provided for, but the day came where her girl headed off to university and Stella was quite alone. That was when strange things started to happen. She would wake in the night for no reason, the room cold, the lights flashing when she switched them on. There was the feeling that she wasn't alone but fleeting glimpses of something in the corner of her eye never materialised into anything more. Sometimes she called his name almost hoping that whatever it was would turn out to be his shade.
Her life moved on however and she got a job, even met another man. He was nice enough but she never had the same connection with him and steadfastly refused to marry him. They had a long relationship until he too passed away. She often thought he must have died a disappointed man as right up to the end he harboured the hope of marriage. But how could she when Bill was just a whisker away?
 
Now it seemed to her he was even closer and so she sat by the mirror and waited. She had his old letters in the drawer beside her and hadn't read them for years. He always started them the same way.
 
'My own darling Stella, my love, my guiding star....'
 
As she took one out and unfolded it, the paper yellowed at the edges with age, she heard his voice. 
 
“Stella.”
 
It was a whisper but made her look up with a start. There he was, in the dressing table mirror with his hand against the glass. He was looking straight at her.
 
“Bill?” she exclaimed, convinced that either madness or dementia were now going to be her constant companions.
 
“You look well, and still so pretty.”
 
“I'm ninety Bill. I'm old and wrinkly.”
 
“Not to me my love.”
 
“How come you can speak to me now? Is my time up? Are we going to be together?”
 
“It's coming close my love. It's time to move on. I have waited such a long time for you and I know your heart has always been mine. I tried to let you know before that I was watching over you but I think I just annoyed you.”
 
“No, I thought it must be you. It was strange but I wasn't afraid. When it, you, stopped I was sad. But I had to move on and make a living. Make a life.”
 
“I know you did Stella and you did it well. Why did you not remarry?”
 
“I have a husband.”
 
She put her hand against his on the glass and the surface rippled like water. She could feel him, and with the gentlest push her hand and then her lower arm passed through the once solid barrier. He raised her hand to his lips to kiss it. Stella felt herself rising from the stool she was sitting on and pushed the hairbrushes and trinket boxes to one side as she climbed onto the dressing table. She stepped through the now permeable barrier and into his waiting arms, yet somehow she was still watching. The woman in the mirror was young and still had dark hair. Bill swept her up in an embrace and kissed her just as he had done in life. Stella gasped as she watched. She could feel his hands, his warmth, his breath, but she had not left the chair. Then it happened. A searing pain in her head and she slumped forward.
 
The banging on the door was frantic now. 
 
“Mum, mum! Are you ok?”
 
The warden hadn't been able to raise an answer so had left it for an hour in case Stella was having a nap. It wasn't unusual. She didn't sleep well at night. But when a second attempt to raise her failed she rang Stella's daughter . Now as the daughter knocked the door, the warden fumbled for her pass key. Finally they were in and could see through the open bedroom door the frail figure of the old lady slumped across her dressing table. The strangest thing though was that she had a mysterious smile on her face and was still clutching one of the letters from her late husband. Through her tears the daughter took the letter and read the opening lines.
 
“My own darling Stella, my love, my guiding star. I can't wait until we are together again.....”
 
“You won't have to wait any more dad.” she thought, and folded the letter up neatly before putting it back in the drawer.