Why castles and ghosts? My writing partner, Donna Helmedag and I have found ghosts to be wonderful characters in our books. We love the havoc and riotous mischief they can create in the lives of modern heroes and heroines. And where better to find ghosts than in ancient castles that have withstood attacks from enemy armies. But ghosts, no matter how fun, need historical precedence.
Creating a story with pair of warring ghosts who are haunting a medieval castle and who are driving its current owner to seek a ghostbusting bride sounds far-fetched. However, the list of ghostly sightings at www.medieval-castles.com/english_haunted_castles.htm presents tantalizing possibilities to twist.
The abundance of ghostly sightings gave Donna and me so many wonderful ideas, we couldn’t choose just one type of sighting or behavior for our novel, Wanted: Ghostbusting Bride. So we did what all good fiction writers do. We invented composite ghostly characters. Both Lady Anne and Desdemona possess specific characteristics of historically known ghostly sighting. We added to fictional personalities and backgrounds set in England’s turbulent times after the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Since we needed a periodically recurring ghostly war, we took our example from Kilkea Castle, Ireland. The 11th Earl of Kildare, Garrett Ogg, decided to practice his magic in front of his wife. He told her to show no fear otherwise he would vanish forever then proceeded to turn himself into a bird. A cat entered the room and Garrett’s wife panicked as cat attacked the bird. The bird vanished, and now the ghost of Garrett Ogg is seen every seven years searching for the attacking cat. Instead of appearing every seven years, Lady Anne and Desdemona resume their ghostly war whenever a new earl claims the fictional castle of Ryne.
Our ghosts needed to move freely in the castle and the surrounding country side. Our inspiration came from Anne Boleyn who is said to haunt seven different places. See Nancy Smith’s research at www.theanneboleynfiles.com. Desdemona and Lady Anne also needed to be seen by the earl’s family. We borrowed from the experiences of the current royal family when they inhabit Windsor Castle. They sometimes encounter Elizabeth I in the library or hear her footsteps on the bare floors in other parts of the castle. This reference came from Haunted Castles Around the World by Gregory Branson-Trent. We added the limitation on our ghosts that only family members could see the ghosts.
When it came to giving our ghosts behaviors, we integrated ghostly encounters from many sightings throughout Europe. For moving furniture, especially chairs, our example came from Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire where witnesses hear furniture moving yet no one is in room. When we decided that Desdemona ought to have the capability of tossing large objects at people, our source came from the Woodchester Mansion in England where visitors tell of encounters with stones hurdling across the room.
Finally, our ghosts’ presence must be shown throughout the book. We used colors, moving specks and full images of the two ghosts in period clothing so our hero and heroine could come in contact with the ghosts. The idea of colors and moving specks come from many visitor sightings at the London Dungeon were strange lights and orbs are often reported. The descriptions of the fully clothed images of Lady Anne and Desdemona came from a reference to the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. This ghost is described by one witness as “a noble woman who wore a brown satin dress. Her face seemed to glow, which highlighted her empty eye sockets. See Haunted Castles Around the World by Gregory Branson-Trent.
Although our ghosts have historical precedence, they are definitely figments of Donna’s and my imagination. So is the castle they haunt.
www.wantedghostbustingbride.com where readers encounter fiery lovers and feisty ghosts