Monday, April 18, 2011

Inspiration: A Haunting In Maryland

[This post first appeared on Lindsay Below's blog on April 15, 2011.)

My first two novels have something in common – ghosts. The first one, An Unexpected Guest, was inspired by Vita Sackville-West's short story An Unborn Visitant, about a stick-in-the-mud woman in the early 19th century visited by the spirit of someone important to her who changes her life. I took that story to heart, ran with it, and An Unexpected Guest was born. This book takes place in the fictitious town of Norwich, Massachusetts, which is on the northeast coast between Rockport and Ipswich. I imagine it sitting next to Innsmouth, the fictitious town H. P. Lovecraft created for his horror story A Shadow Over Innsmouth. No, there are no fish people in Norwich. J

Here's a blurb from the book:

Annie's life is in crisis, and it's time for her to change things. She is determined to be controlled no longer by her arrogant boyfriend and overbearing mother: for the first time in her life, she is going to follow her dreams and do something she truly wants for herself. Her dreams lead her to a picturesque Bed and Breakfast by the ocean that is rumored to be haunted. As she throws fear to the wind and opens up to life's new possibilities she meets Jason, whose long blonde hair and cheeky attitude she cannot resist.

The bed and breakfast is called the Abigail Blackburn House, and I based it on a haunted bed and breakfast on Maryland's Eastern Shore. This B&B dates back to the Revolutionary War, and it sits on a river. I had heard about it several years earlier, and after much planning finally stayed there when I was in town for a theater stage crew convention. The story behind the haunting is as follows: British soldiers came up the river and proceeded to set the small town on fire, destroying most of it. Soldiers threw torches on the porch of this B&B, which was originally a brothel. The proprietress swept the torches off the porch with her broom. She made a deal with the soldiers. She would house them, feed them, and allow them to use her services as long as they didn't burn the place down. They agreed, and this B&B was allowed to stand whilst homes around it burned to the ground.  The haunting involves the ghost of the proprietress wandering the halls in the dead of night, checking on her clientele and the women to make sure everyone was comfortable. There have been other sightings as well. The B&B itself is absolutely beautiful, decorated in Victorian splendor. It includes a lovely bar and discounted dinners every Friday night. The rooms are beautiful, spacious, and very homey in that Victorian style I liked very much.

The first time I stayed it was off-season in mid-winter. I was in a room overlooking the river. What a view! I enjoyed a delicious meal and the company of a man I met in the bar. He came to the B&B several times per month to enjoy dinner when in town on business. No, I did not take him to bed, although he was very handsome. We ate dinner together. That night I slept well until about 3 am when I heard a party going on in the room next to me. There was a lot of noise. I managed to go back to sleep. At about 4:30 am I heard heavy footsteps walking up and down the hallway. I immediately thought of the ghost of the proprietress stalking the halls checking on everyone and went back to sleep. I wondered whys she wore combat boots, since her footsteps were very loud and heavy. I felt very safe, secure, and comfortable. Not the least bit scared.

The next day, when I went down for breakfast, I told the clerk about the party and the footsteps. She told me I couldn't have heard anything because I had been alone in the building all night. Yeeeahhh!!!!! The party! The footsteps! None of it could have happened!!!

Of course,  I had to return. J

The second time I stayed I was with my husband. While we slept, someone turned on the overhead light in the middle of the night. I was a very light sleeper and I snapped awake the moment the light turned on. He snored away next to me. I was far too tired to get up and turn off the light, so I went back to sleep. When I woke up shortly before dawn, the light was out. I asked my husband later about the light and he said he had turned it off before going to bed. He didn't get up during the night at all.

So who turned on the light? And who later turned it off?

I heard those footsteps in the hallway again, and felt as safe as I did the first time.  No party this time, though. At least this time there were other guests in the place. I wasn't alone in the building again.

My experiences affected me so much I wrote about them later in An Unexpected Guest.  This book includes information about the flu pandemic of 1918 and how it affected the region. Plus it's a very romantic and haunting love story. The town of Norwich is based on the Massachusetts coastal town where I live. It has all the homes that date back to the 1800s, the ocean, the cliffs, the beaches, and the rustic romance.  If you love a good and romantic ghost story, you'll love An Unexpected Guest. Once you finish it, read my second haunted B&B book, The Haunting Of The Sandpiper Inn.

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