The HauNTED HOUSE
The Spook takes all his apprentices to a haunted house in Horshaw and tells them to go down to the cellar at midnight and face what’s lurking there. Some run shrieking into the night, others like Tom Ward pass the test and begin their apprenticeship.
The haunted house is based on the one in Preston where I lived until I was eleven years old – Number 1 Water Lane. It had two small rooms down stairs, two bedrooms and an attic which we never used. For some reason the door was nailed shut. As far as I know the house wasn’t haunted but it is where I had the recurrent nightmares that are featured in both ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’ and ‘The Spook’s Tale’. It didn’t have a cellar (I added that to make the story more interesting) but it had a dark space under the stairs in the kitchen – what we called the ‘coal-hole’. Cobs of coal would be delivered by horse and cart and the coalman would carry his bags through our small front room filling it with coal dust.
It was a house originally built for mill workers and Water Lane even had its own ‘knocker-up’, a lady who would walk down the street early in the morning and rap on the upstairs windows with a long stick to wake you up for the early shift.
The picture is of me sitting on the front-step of that house. I’m either four or five years of age and it must be Easter because I’m guarding a chocolate egg.
The Stone Graves at Heysham
The stone graves are featured in Book Two, ‘The Spook’s Curse’, and they are small enough to be the coffins of children (that’s where I got the idea for the ‘little people’). People probably were smaller in those days but one theory is that each grave was an ossuary, containing bone fragments rather than full skeletons.
At one time each had a stone lid but they are missing now and they fill with water after rain. They are very old and it is difficult to estimate a date for their construction. The ruin of St Patrick’s Chapel nearby (also used in the ‘Curse’ narrative) dates from about 600 AD. In the 1970’s an archaeological dig by Lancaster University found 85 sets of bones in the area of the chapel. They dated from around 11200 AD.
If you stepped across the road towards the canal and looked back towards the house you could see beyond it St Walburge’s Church Steeple. At almost 310 feet, it’s the third highest spire in England and the tallest steeple of any English parish church.
It’s an icon of Preston and as a young child I attended the church school, ‘Talbot Road Boys’. In ‘The Spook’s curse’ I transformed St Walburge’s into ‘Priestown Cathedral’ and imagined a labyrinth beneath it, a system of tunnels where the daemonic Bane was confined behind a silver gate
Hidden from view at the top of the hill is the church. There is more than one version of the following story and in one the chambermaid at the inn was a local witch.
In another story, the young woman in question was engaged to be married. She glanced out of her window one morning and happened to see her intended young man walking from the parish church with a new bride on his arm.
Distraught, she decided to hang herself. As a suicide she would not be allowed a churchyard burial, so she first wrote a note expressing her wish to be buried under the path leading up to the church. In that way she got a revenge of sorts. For the rest of his life her betrayer would have to walk over her grave on his way to the Sunday service.