Q&A with Stacey Graham
1. What was your dark inspiration behind assembling a book of Haunted Stuff: Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls, and Other Creepy Collectibles?
I've been researching and writing about ghosts for over twenty years, and while I love a floating head story, I wanted to look into the creepier side of hauntings: things that may be watching from something familiar and blending in. Haunted objects were a natural. Anything could be haunted: a potato peeler, a chair, a mirror -- and what do you do if it is?
2. Would you share a few of your scariest stories with us about demonic dolls?
One of my favorite stories in the book is about the Island of Haunted Dolls. Deep within the twisted canals of Teshuilo Lake, south of Mexico City, a child drowned in the 1920s near a small island. Thirty years later, Don Julian Santana Barrera escaped to the island to live out his life in solitude. He soon realized he wasn't alone. Hearing the legends of the girl's death, Barrera began to hear a child call to him from canals. In an effort to still the voice, he tried to please the spirit by fishing discarded dolls out of the canal. For fifty years, Barrera collected the toys until small plastic bodies mutilated by the sun and their clothes rotting away, overran the island itself. He hung them in trees, their still bodies swaying in the soft breezes that skipped over the lake, until building a shack for his more prized dolls. In 1990, the area was declared a national heritage site and the waterways were opened to allow boating. Passersby would report of hearing voices calling to them as they passed La Isla de las Muñecas (The Island of Dolls) and stories spread of the dolls now tormenting Barrera instead of placating the drowned girl. Eleven years later, Barrera's nephew found his uncle's body in the canal that had claimed the life of the girl so long ago; she had found her final playmate.
3. Will you tell us the story of The Screaming Skull of Chilton Cantelo?
Theophilus Broome had had enough of seeing his countrymen killed in the name of the king, Charles I, during the English Civil War (1642-1651). Once a Royalist, he defected to the Roundhead cause but feared that he would suffer the same fate as many -- his head impaled upon a spike after his death as a warning to others who flouted the king's cause. After his death many years after the war, Broome insisted on having his sister keep his head separate from his body after the burial -- just in case. After her death, there was one condition to keeping the house, the new tenants would have to keep the skull within the boundaries of the walls or face the consequences. Anyone who attempted to remove the skull was met with loud resistance until they eventually moved away from the creepy thing. One tenant tried to reunite the head with its body in the church graveyard. As the sexton began to dig up the grave, the spade broke in half. He was convinced it was a sign to not disturb the remains, so returned it to the house.
After a brief stint as a beer mug in 1826 by a repairman, the skull now sits in a cupboard in the cottage and is carefully looked after by the current owners.
4. So what is your perception on haunted items with a spirit attached? Why would a spirit be attached to an item so obsessively?
I think the possibility for anthing to be haunted is real. How, though, is the question. Since energy cannot be created nor destroyed, where does the energy go after we die? Some theories say it can adhere itself to an object it was closely attached to such as something they used or saw regularly. Imprints of a last moment may be left as a sort of residual haunting, such as hearing a ghost walk up a staircase late at night, or seeing a phantom car drive by. Haunted houses are simply large objects that have a ghostly residue. Why some things and not others? We don't know that they don't, that's why we wait and watch.
5. How about a story of haunted furniture that our readers might find bone chilling?
A lovely gentleman whom I interviewed for the book told me of his experience with a trunk he believes was haunted by the spirit of his neighbor, Helen. His wife was worried that Helen hadn't been seen for a few days, but he didn't want to disturb her things by poking into her business. Daily, he would sit on the trunk in their shared garage, having a smoke and pulling off his snow boots before heading into his house. A week passed before he came home to find his wife being questioned by the police about Helen's disappearance. She had called to finally find out the truth. As the police searched the house, Mr. McKavanagh heard a loud voice telling him to open the trunk. Telling the police, they found Helen's body in pieces stashed inside. Her boyfriend had murdered her over a financial dispute and reaching out to Mr. McKavanagh was her last hope.
6. Could you tell us a tale about a haunted ship from the spooky seas?
You bet! The tale of the Lady Lovibond's final voyage mixes my favorite story elements: new love, revenge, and a rockin' party. In 1748, the ship left from the River Thames to travel to its destination in Oporto, Portugal, carrying a heavy cargo of wine, meat, flour, and gold. The ship's captain was newly married and taking his bride and the wedding party on the excursion, and as they cast off from England, a party was in full swing below deck. The bride, however, had a jilted lover aboard. John Rivers, the first mate, had never forgiven the pair for his heartbreak and revenge was now at hand. As they neared the deadly Goodwin Sands, which had taken the lives of so many ships before, Rivers bludgeoned the seaman steering the ship while the captain was below. Sailing the vessel directly onto the sandbar, the ship was lost and all aboard drowned.
Fifty years later, Captain James Westlake of the Edenbridge reported a near collision with a strange ship that had disappeared right before making contact. He said that as he steered the ship sharply away, he could hear the sounds of a party coming from below deck. That same year, a fishing boat reported seeing the ship as it ran aground. Sending rescue boats, they found nothing but silence -- no timbers, no tattered sails, and no survivors. On the hundredth anniversary of the wreck, the Lady Lovibond was once again seen running aground. The alarm was sounded and rescue boats again hurried to the scene but found -- nothing. The last reported case of seeing the ship was in 1948, when the captain of the ship reported he'd seen a vessel glowing green before fading from sight. There was no official sighting in 1998, but we'll keep our fingers crossed for 2048.
7. This is a wild card question. What would you like to share with us from the book that we have not spoken of yet?
In Haunted Stuff, I share a quick and dirty guide on how your readers can do their own ghost investigation, plus where to find (or avoid) possible haunted objects and how to look out for fakes.
8. What are you up to next book wise or projects wise and also any links you'd like to share with us? Thank you for this interview.
I have another book release on September 1, 2014, called The Boxcar Children Guide to Adventure: A How-To for Mystery Solving, Make-It-Yourself Projects, and More. It's a little bit different than scaring the pants off of adults with tales of haunted things, but just as much fun. I’d love to chat with your readers! Find me online at staceyigraham.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.