Have you ever been to a haunted place? What was it like? 

Yes. I’ve lived in haunted houses, and my first home when I was married was an undertaker’s home and workshop!  

My high school was also very old and haunted. I disliked one long corridor because footsteps always followed me there, even though it was empty apart from me.  Haunted places are often very damp with high electricity bills perhaps because a spirit’s psychic energies drain the electric current. Drying out the damp, for example, with a dehumidifier, often results in a drop in hauntings (and lower electric bills!).  I’ve even known spirits and ghosts to drain ordinary household batteries.

My young granddaughter once told me of a woman who used to come to her bedroom at night, and complain there weren’t enough cats in the house! We made a Fascinator for her.  This is a box containing shiny discs, glitter etc., and the idea behind it is that ghosts are distracted by the contents. It’s a very old remedy, but it worked. 

Some places really ooze nastiness, especially if a chthonic entity has taken up residence there. This is usually bound to a place, you won’t see or hear it but you might feel it grab at you. Eventually, it becomes too sluggish to move on. Cellars and even attics are well known for this. The energy there feeds on fear, so these sometimes deliberately try to scare us just in order for them to feed themselves.  It’s a bit gross but the answer is to break up the atmosphere because this weakens it. 

My favorite method is to ring a bell loudly although I have known the odd occasion where the bell simply will not ring. When that happens I’ve been known to strike the bell with a spoon – anything to make a noise.

Much the same applies to burning candles. There is some evidence of badly infested places where candles will not burn properly, or if they do, they don’t give off any light.  If that happens try a torch or even a lighter. The important thing is to have a backup plan and don’t panic.

Tylluan Penry

What are cemeteries like in the country in Wales (Britain) you live?  

There are many stone angels in my local cemetery in Wales (Britain), and also graves of men and boys killed in mining accidents. At the start of the 20th century, 120 were killed in the next valley over from me, and the funeral procession was four miles long. You can’t forget traditions like that, and the sorrow just oozes from the landscape.  The cemetery is on the side of a mountain so the graves at the top have a brilliant view.   

On the other hand, my husband’s grandmother was buried in a pauper’s grave in Somerset (in England, Britain) with three strangers. No markers, nothing to separate one grave from another, just a large expanse of scrubby grass.

There’s a very different type of cemetery right in the middle of Cardiff for St John’s Church.  A walkway cuts right through it leading to the covered market. There are still brass numbers on the ground there to mark the graves. When I was young, the walkway (which is always busy with shoppers) was always cordoned off on Good Friday. Every other day was apparently ok!

In the Valleys, Palm Sunday is known as Sul y Blodau (flowering Sunday) and people take daffodils to decorate their family graves. It looks like a sea of gold.

What kind of headstone would you like on your grave? What inscription would you love? 

Nothing at all. One of my aunts actually had the opening line of one of the cursing psalms on her headstone. (Yes, there are seven psalms in the Old Testament that  are regarded as cursing psalms, and for that reason are rarely read in church nowadays.) Whenever I saw it, it made me shudder. 

An uncle wanted a headstone that said, ‘My wife says I’m feeling better,’ but unsurprisingly, that never happened.

Sadly, in my family headstones were sometimes a way to settle old scores. Putting wrong dates to make someone seem like an unmarried mother, deliberately opening a grave for burial without the permission of other family members… One uncle even tried to push his brother-in-law into the open grave at a family funeral.  Sometimes a headstone was never put back on a grave because nobody would pay for it. My worst memory was my husband and I digging into my father’s grave at sundown to put a wooden cross there because nobody else would put any sort of memorial for him.  It was a horrible experience.

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What scared you when you were a child

My mother terrified me. I always feared she would kill me and bury me under the cabbages. She put me in hospital once with a hex (a type of curse).  I literally felt it burning into my back. 

She liked to tell everyone how powerful she was, how she could make things happen.  

I remember once she was sitting overlooking a garage near the back of our garden and she pointed to a man crossing the forecourt. He wasn’t bothering anyone, but she had singled him out for some reason.  

‘See him?’ she said, ‘I’ll make him fall.’ 

And she did. Several times over the next few weeks.  

I don’t know what he thought was going on.  The thing about hexing is that it’s easy to do, but hard to give up. I was so frightened. Even other people could see what she was like.  

For example, about nine days before my father died, my husband was in a serious car accident and at the funeral, his mother remarked, ‘I’m sure that was meant for you.’  She really believed my mother had meant him to have a fatal accident. That’s the sort of effect a real, dark witch can have on people. I can’t describe the fear it brings. 

For your story in the anthology Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard, where did you get the inspiration?  

I wanted to write a story that was light-hearted, but dark enough to chill. I incorporated local myths, bits of conversation I’ve heard over the years, and of course, the part about someone hitting an angel and breaking its wing. My husband used to work in local cemeteries that were full of adders when he was a student.  Someone who mended our drains a few years ago told me about accidentally digging up Roman skeletons that had been buried face down.  I keep notes of things that strike me as interesting, most end up in stories eventually.

The style of my story, ‘Merv the Swerve’ follows Welsh storytelling traditions. I chose a Valleys narrative voice because it lends itself so well to storytelling. I live in the Rhondda Valley and my husband is a ‘Valleys Boy’ so I’m used to the rhythm it brings. I was brought up in Cardiff however and there is also a distinct ‘Kairdiff’ voice, which would have produced quite a different story. 

What do you like about the Gothic Horror Fiction genre?

I love the way it draws us into a world of ivy, old stones, vulnerable and wicked main characters… madness, passion, cruelty, and hope. A heady mixture.  I never realized how much it attracted me until I read Rayne Hall’s Book, Writing Gothic Fiction’, and realized that all my favorite authors wrote in this genre! And, to an extent, so did I.   

What’s the scariest story you’ve written?  

Of my published stories, it is probably The Dead Sleep Better although Silent Night, Deadliest Night comes a close second. Both are available on Kindle, published under my earlier pen name, T. P. Penry. I actually frightened myself writing Silent Night, Deadliest Night. No ghosts or ghouls, just human evil plus a very sassy narrator who brought plenty of teenage sarcasm to the tale!  I kept looking over my shoulder while I was writing it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, TYLLUAN PENRY

Tylluan Penry is a pagan solitary witch who has devoted much of her life to teaching about the Craft. She was born and brought up in a family of witches (on her mother’s side) although all they ever did was hex, i.e. they cast curses, which made childhood a horror story in its own right! When she managed to leave this tradition (and her family, though it wasn’t easy) she moved on to develop her own solitary path which she called ‘Seeking the Green.’ Over the years she has developed this further and written about many topics including Ice Age spirituality, the Anglo-Saxons, Knot Magic, and Magic on the Breath. 

She is married, has a large family, including grandchildren, dogs, and lives in a rather ramshackle home with an overgrown garden, together with ghosts, spirits, and the Gentle Folk. There is a huge cemetery opposite her home which ought to be scary but is actually very serene and peaceful. She has always loved writing, and wrote her first (very) short story when she was six, soon progressing to full-length stories. She has now written and published almost 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Most can be found here: https://shop.thewolfenhowlepress.com/   This is the indie press she set up back in 2011.

Some of her fiction is on Kindle under the name TP Penry. Her chapter in the anthology, ‘Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard’ is based firmly in Wales, with a smattering of golf balls, gravestones, and the Highway Code. She has always believed that creepy stories need a good pinch of humor in order to work well (at least, in her experience.)

Tylluan also has a YouTube Channel, with over two hundred videos about solitary witchcraft here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC48MN8sa7_lFsBX9v2ZAeAg/videos

She can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tylluan.penry/ and Twittter https://twitter.com/TylluanPenry

ABOUT THE BOOK 

AMONG THE HEADSTONES: CREEPY TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD

This anthology, edited by Rayne Hall, presents twenty-seven of the finest – and creepiest – graveyard tales with stories by established writers, classic authors, and fresh voices.

Here you’ll find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.

You’ll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa, and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.

Now let’s open the gate – can you hear it creak on its hinges? – and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.

But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement… They may be right behind you.

Purchase Link: mybook.to/Headstones 

The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2022. (After that date, the price will go up.)  

The paperback is already published.

Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall

Author

I’m Rayne Hall, and I help good writers become great.

As the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft guides, I answer writing-related questions on Twitter, post articles online, coach authors, edit books, speak at conferences and teach online classes.

I’ve been working in the publishing industry for three decades, as a trainee publishing manager, editorial assistant, magazine editor, investigative journalist, production editor, literary agent, and publishing consultant. In between, and often at the same time, I’ve been a museum guide, adult education teacher, development aid worker, apple picker, trade fair hostess, translator, belly dancer, and tarot reader.

Now I’m a professional writer, with more than sixty books published under several pen names (mostly Rayne Hall), in several genres (mostly fantasy, horror, historical, and non-fiction), by several publishers, in several languages.

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