Friday, June 15, 2007

Spooky House Stories Needed

I seldom mention specifics here about what I'm writing. However, I need your help on my current project, so let me tell you a little bit more.

It's a suspense called Jordan's Shadow. I took a shot at writing it last year but I'm starting over, and I've decided I want it to be very atmospheric and Gothic. You know those books, right? The covers usually feature a dark, stone mansion perched on a cliff, with the angry waves crashing below.

Mine's going to be like that--only in a brick ranch house in Georgia. Seriously. Instead of cliffs and waves, the house will be perched between acres of piney woods and a shadowy pecan orchard. But I am going for that same sinister, Gothic thing.

So I'm wondering. Do any of you have stories about "normal," non-mansion type houses that gave you the creeps for some reason? Here's a couple of my examples.

I grew up in a brick ranch house, sort of like the one in my novel. When I was about six, we added a large living room onto the house, which was mainly used for big family gatherings or when we had guests. It had a separate entrance from the porch and French doors that closed it off from the rest of the house. When I was a child, that room gave me the willies. To this day, when I visit my parents, I'm not thrilled if I have to go into that dark room by myself.

I was telling my sister about this recently, and she tried to guess the reason for my fear. Was it because of all the windows in that room, which made it easy to feel like someone was watching me? Because it was so separate from the rest of the house? Nope. It was because--and I hope no one takes offense at this--of the picture of Jesus that hung on the far wall, and which still hangs there today.

I've never seen another picture of Jesus quite like this. It's a portrait, and He looks very stern. Almost angry. It's also extremely lifelike. To use a cliche, the eyes seem to follow you all around the room. Sometimes one of my parents used to send me into that room to fetch an encyclopedia from the bookcase. I'd have to open the French doors, cross several feet in sheer darkness, then fumble for the light switch. I tried very hard not to look over at that portrait, because I was certain that, some night, one of two things would happen. (Or possibly both.) Number one, the eyes would be glowing in the dark--and still following me. Number two, it would come to life.

She swears she doesn't remember this, but I told my sister all this when I was a kid. She said I must have a guilty conscience. That did NOT make me feel better.

DISCLAIMER: I promise I have a very healthy and loving relationship with the REAL Jesus. It's just that picture I don't do so well with.

My next creepy house example: When my husband and I were house-shopping a few years ago, we looked at a home in a very nice, older neighborhood. It was a small, brick, single-level house except for an unfinished basement. Here's the weird part. Right in the middle of the living room, there was an opening in the floor with a narrow staircase going down into that dark basement. Right there in the living room! It was a nice house otherwise, but I knew I had WAY too much imagination to put up with that. I tried to picture myself lounging in that room at night, watching TV, with an open hole down into a dark pit a few feet away. Yeah, right.

I'm definitely using the weird basement entrance in my Gothic ranch house.

Have you seen other things in houses, or had spooky experiences, that I could blatantly steal from you and help build the atmosphere in my story? If so, please share! You can leave it in a comment or email me at robing8300 at gmail.com. Also, if it's a really good story, let me know if I can pass it along to the other readers.

Thanks so much for your help. Have a great weekend!