Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Normally, I would say a resounding, No! Writers use their imaginations, the memories of their own pasts, and also of other stories heard - of books, and films, and of those tales told by friends and relatives.

But today, well today, I might feel a little bit different and that's because of something decidedly strange that happened to me yesterday.

I am currently writing a novel which is set in the Victorian era - mostly the early 1860's - and as the story takes place in Windsor, which happens to be where I live, I decided to use my Victorian house as  one of the novel's main settings. 

In that house lives a woman called Mercy, who is a spiritualist medium, whose mother died many years before in a bedroom that is now closed off, almost as if it is a shrine. Another of the characters used to live in India where his English father, a clergyman, had gone to do Christian missionary work among the Maharajahs.

Yesterday morning, I was doing a Google search, looking up the local town council regarding a mundane neighbourhood issue. But, when I typed in my address, the first thing to come up on the screen was a question from a local History forum in which someone was asking about my house with regard to  research being carried out about a lady who was something of a local saint - even being known to Gladstone for establishing a refuge for homeless and unmarried mothers; all those 'in moral danger.' She was also aided in that work by the group of local nuns she formed, who also spent a great deal of time doing missionary work in India; known there as the Sisters of the Raj.

But here is where it gets really interesting because, at some point, at the end of her life that lady came to live in my house (I will do more research here, but the house is opposite a church and I think that some clergymen lived here, although it is not a vicarage). She lived here and she died here, in the year of 1860, in one of my very own bedrooms - and also in a bedroom that belongs in my fictional Mercy's house - in which my Mercy spends much of her time claiming to protect her orphaned niece from the 'dangers of immorality'. 

And what was the Windsor refuge called? Well, it was The House of Mercy.

If you also write, have you had any spooky experiences that you would like to share?


  1. Yours is a really interesting story. So many threads all tying together to form a compelling, mysterious, wondrous picture. Some kind of power is at work here, I'm sure. No doubt you feel energised by it all - rather than scared. Which is just how I have felt after my similar experiences.

    One has had a big impact on me, the way I live my life and my creative life i.e. helping me to take myself and my writing seriously. The key moments of this made up the opening gambits of my first ever stab at a novel - it didn't get anywhere but it got me into the writing habit. It's a long story - too long perhaps for here - but involves postcards and coins appearing out of nowhere.

    Another experience led me to another idea for a novel. Local artists had created installations in the park based on aspects of its history - one of which was that it used to be the location of the public gallows. The artist had filled out a luggage label for each victim, giving their name, crime and date of execution. The labels (hundreds of them) were then tied to a pergola some 20 feet long.

    I walked beneath the pergola and picked a label at random. At the other end of the pergola I picked another one at random. The dates of the executions matched. As did the crime. I felt my skin tingle.

    What guided my hand to those two cards out of the hundreds there? Chance? Coincidence? Maybe. But I felt such a connection, as if I'd been directed to those two people and to tell their story. I didn't know what their story was and set about imagining it - then researching it - then re-imagining it. I felt these two people with me every step of the way.

    Reading, TOUCHING, their actual death warrants at the public record office in Kew was an intense experience. I have been telling other stories since then - but I know I will come back to theirs at some point. They will tell me when. I hope it will be soon.

  2. Oh, that sounds such an incredible and intense experience. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  3. I just got chills up and down my spine and the hairs on my arms prickled madly! What a fantastic story/post to share and one that obviously involved a higher power. Somehow you've chanelled the spirit of your past resident because she was ready to have her story told. Almost like the house has been waiting patiently for you to notice.
    I've found many little "coincidences" in my writing as well, as though the story is begging to be told because it's meant to be. Good luck with it all Essie, I love the concept of your new novel! :-) xx

  4. Great story! I do think some people are more sensitive to vibrations in a house and can absorb a 'story' from its past. Look forward to the new book. Spiritualism is a fascinating subject which has interesting things to say about gender issues and power in Victorian Britain.

  5. I do so agree, Suzie. It was a way for women to speak out and achieve some independence - personally and financially, and of course politically.

  6. This is truly spooky. So many connections... Sounds as if the spirits are with you which must be a good thing!

  7. You're talking about the Logosphere: most "ideas" are not endogenously created but rather tuned in from the Logosphere - in this way, our brains are like radios.

  8. I suppose that in a sense writers do act as mediums but not, in my opinion, in a supernatural way. Rather, coincidence works in mysterious ways and writers have a keener imagination than most. And they find meaning in events because they tend to be more alert to and aware of what is happening around them. And, apparently it's much more common that we think -- coincidence and synchronicity -- and yours is a strange and interesting example. As you say, writers channel memories; however, I do like the idea of writers as spiritual mediums, even if it is considered hooey.

    Some say buildings absorb energy from the people that lived in them -- the so-called stone tape idea. The tape may play back providing footage from the past, ghostly apparitions and so forth. It's a great idea, though from a scientific point of view there is no mechanism by which this could work. Still, writers don't have to find scientific explanations for anything. They just need to writing a compelling story.

  9. Thanks for all the comments - and Dee, believe me, I am in agreement with what you say. But this coincidence felt so odd that I simply had to set it down.

  10. Hi Essie

    What a fascinating post! It's exciting to think that somewhere, something is urging you to complete your novel. It's sounds as if it's going to be quite a story and I love all things Victorian. I've written two contemporary novels so far, but I'm itching to dig into Victorian history. Good luck with you book.

    Ange x

  11. Thank you Ange - and I hope you enjoy digging into the Victorian era. It has such a wealth of fascinating material.

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