Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Friday, 21 February 2020

Women In Horror: Catherine Cavendish on Playing The Devil's Games

Earlier this month, I extended an open invite to any women working in the horror genre to contribute a guest blog. One respondent was Catherine Cavendish, who features today with a piece about her new novel, The Garden Of Bewitchment. Read on...

The Garden of Bewitchment is a demonic toy in my new novel of the same name and those who encounter it have some unpleasant and scary experiences. They get caught up in its devilish devices until nothing is as it appears to be and sanity comes at a premium.
They didn’t have a choice. YOU, on the other hand, do. It’s up to you whether you decide to draw the curtains and curl up on a winter’s evening, with a nice cosy book or movie – or take a walk on the wilder side and go on a supernatural adventure of your own. As I said, it is entirely YOUR choice…
Ah, I see you’re still here, that must mean you have decided to play. Proceed by all means, but remember, the devil extracts a price and he isn’t too particular who pays…or how…and he changes the rules to suit himself.
Red Book
Here’s a nice little fortune telling game from South America. For this you will need a quiet room, a group of trusted friends, and the following equipment:
A red hardback book containing all text – no pictures or images of any kind
One or more red candles
Matches or lighter
A question
Off you all go into your quiet room and draw the curtains. Light your candle(s) and turn off all other sources of light.
Sit in a circle and set the candle(s) in the centre
As leader, you start the proceedings. Your friends will copy your actions, one by one.
Close your eyes and place the palm of one hand on the book’s cover, ask out loud, “Red Book, may I enter your game?”
Keeping your eyes tight shut, open the book at a random page and place your finger somewhere on the page. Open your eyes and read out loud the sentence your finger has landed on. You now have your answer. Interpret it carefully before proceeding.
If the answer is negative or you cannot make any sense of it at all, contact has not been made and you must start over. If the answer is positive, you may proceed by passing the book to the next person who will follow the same instructions. Keep going until each player has asked for and received permission to enter the game.
Now you can ask your question. Close your eyes, place your palm on the book’s cover and ask it out loud.
Keep your eyes closed. Open the book randomly as before and place your finger somewhere on the page. Open your eyes, read the sentence your finger has landed on and do your best to interpret it. Each player will repeat this until all have asked their question and received the answer (whatever they have made of it).
When all questions have been asked/answered, close your eyes and place your palm on the book cover once again. Ask aloud, “Red Book, may I leave the game?”
Repeat the sequence as before, with eyes closed, open the book at a random page and place your finger somewhere on the page. Open your eyes, read the sentence out loud and, if positive, you may leave the game. If negative or nonsensical, you may not leave the game and must repeat the sequence again until your answer indicates that you may depart. Each person in the group then repeats the sequence until each has successfully left the game.
When all have departed, close the book. Blow out the candles and, lastly open the curtains and turn on the lights.
There. Nice and innocent isn’t it? Unless you break any of the rules of course. No, I’m not telling you. You really don’t want to know what happens then.
Ready for another one? Then let’s play…

Yes, I know there’s a film of the same name. But did you know it was based on a real incident? The murder of Ruthie Mae McCoy was carried out by someone entering her apartment through the bathroom cabinet, in the Abbott Homes high rises in the Chicago Projects. It would have been entirely possible for a person to gain access this way as the adjoining apartment also had its bathroom cabinet in the same position. You can read more about this fascinating case online, but for now, let’s play the game. It’s really very simple. You’ll need to be alone. In your bathroom. In front of the mirror. Shut the door, switch off the lights, face the mirror and say ‘Candyman’ five times.
The Candyman will appear – and kill you with his hook. Er – right. Well, goodbye then!
Assuming you survived (somehow), let’s play one last game:
11 Mile Road

If you have an all-consuming desire to get something, you may choose this game but you have to have nerves of steel and/or be a complete idiot to try it. You’ll need a car or motorbike of some kind – and you can’t take anyone with you. You’re well and truly on your own, mate.
To find 11 Mile Road, you need to wait until the streets round and about you are deserted, very late at night and drive to a back road inside a forest or dense wood (no, not outside it. Inside.)
Drive around the empty roads or lanes until you know you’ve found 11 Mile Road. Don’t ask me. You’ll just know. Your instinct will tell you. Just keep alert.
Now you’ve found it, think carefully. This is your last chance to turn around and get the hell out of there. Still want to continue? Right:
Don’t listen to music or turn the radio on, don’t open your windows or doors or stop the car - whatever you see or whatever happens - and keep your speed below 30 m.p.h.
You’re now on your eleven mile drive and each mile is significant. Remember, whatever happens, keep driving.
Miles one and two – you may feel a little cold and, if so, you can switch your heater on.
Mile three – movement will begin all around you. Ignore it and don’t take your eyes off the road.
Mile four – voices. Ignore them.
Mile five – the countryside may start to change and become beautiful – a lake with moonlight shimmering on the crystal waters, the forest becoming less dense. It’s so tempting to stop and look. DON’T.
Mile six – the trees become denser once more, any stars will disappear. Your headlights might flicker, the radio may start up, and appear to talk directly to you. Ignore anything and everything and don’t turn off the radio. Remember, you didn’t switch it on.
Mile seven – the voices may seem to be coming from your own back seat. Ignore them. Don’t turn around.
Mile eight – whatever happens, keep driving. If your headlights dim, slow down but never, ever stop.
Mile nine – this is when your car may stall. If it does, do nothing except close your eyes and keep them shut as you wait for the car to start again. When it does, foot down, open your eyes and drive.
Mile ten – don’t look in your mirrors and don’t turn around. This is critical.
Mile eleven – Your vehicle will stall again. This time in front of a red light. Close your eyes. Do not look at the red light. Ignore the voices. Ignore anything that grabs hold of you. Ignore everything, no matter what and keep those eyes shut. Your vehicle will restart and when it does, open your eyes, drive on a little further until you reach a dead end. Stop.
Make your wish. But don’t just wish it, see it, feel it, imagine you already have it. If it is a small item, check your pocket. You can open your eyes so, if it is a larger item, check your back seat or the trunk of your car. If your wish is for something bigger than that or something that isn’t material, drive back home and it will come to you very soon.
And that’s all there is to it. Of course, there is always a price. The flashbacks you keep having for the rest of your life and the demonic presence that comes home with you are quite a hefty price to pay. If you’re happy with that, I wish you good fortune.
Don’t play the game.
In 1893, Evelyn and Claire leave their home in a Yorkshire town for life in a rural retreat on their beloved moors. But when a strange toy garden mysteriously appears, a chain of increasingly terrifying events is unleashed. Neighbour Matthew Dixon befriends Evelyn, but seems to have more than one secret to hide. Then the horror really begins. The Garden of Bewitchment is all too real and something is threatening the lives and sanity of the women. Evelyn no longer knows who - or what - to believe. And time is running out. 

About Catherine Cavendish

Cat first started writing when someone thrust a pencil into her hand. Unfortunately as she could neither read nor write properly at the time, none of her stories actually made much sense. However as she grew up, they gradually began to take form and, at the tender age of nine or ten, she sold her dolls’ house, and various other toys to buy her first typewriter – an Empire Smith Corona. She hasn’t stopped bashing away at the keys ever since, although her keyboard of choice now belongs to her laptop.

The need to earn a living led to a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance but Cat is now the full-time author of a number of supernatural, ghostly, haunted house and Gothic horror novels and novellas, including The Haunting of Henderson Close, the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients, Damned by the Ancients - The Devil’s Serenade, Dark Avenging Angel, The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine and Linden Manor. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Haunted Are These Houses and Midnight in the Graveyard.

She lives in Southport with her long-suffering husband and black cat (who remembers that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt and sees no reason why that practice should not continue).

When not slaving over a hot computer, Cat enjoys rambling around stately homes, circles of standing stones and travelling to favourite haunts such as Vienna and Orkney. 

1 comment:

Catherine Cavendish said...

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Simon!