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28/11/08

Where I left off...

Filed under: Haunting Locations — loretta @ 12:20:52 pm

I’m very glad to say the blog is back, but it doesn’t have all the functionality it’s supposed to, so I ask you to bear with me until it is fixed.

I had a great time at the Fortean Times Unconvention 2008. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the papers but it was nice to speak to people directly and find out what you think about the cards. We were quite busy and I will return next year as long as they don’t shift it to another season, even though this year attendance was down, as were the number of stalls. I took a helper on both days, so I am very grateful to my niece and nephew for coming along. My niece brought her hand made fridge magnets and clip on ‘Skulls’, which went down very well indeed.

A few people said that some images reminded them of pictures they had seen, or the style was reminiscent of another artist. I hadn’t seen any of the pieces they referred to or heard of the artist, although I pick up ideas and motifs like everyone else, without noticing. Sometimes a person would buy a few cards and then hurry off to their friends, start pointing at one and talk excitedly with their friends about it, as if it had some resonance for them.

A few people made enquiries about reproducing the images, I look forward to hearing from them. I was also asked about producing prints and I am happy to do so. I will formerly set up a way of buying direct after I have worked out the options but please contact me if you are interested. All in all it was a positive experience.

I am very grateful to my niece who is going to run a stall for me in Camden market. I hope she does well; she is also selling her own line of spooky knick-knacks and t-shirts.

21/11/08

New Ghosts for Christmas

Filed under: Ghostly Inspiration — loretta @ 06:40:43 pm

Last week all the new Christmas ghost designs were finally sent to the printers and are available from today. There are two new designs similar to last year’s cards and four images based on the writings of M.R. James. It’s been quite an interesting journey and far less straight forward than I would have liked, but I hope you like what’s been produced. As regards the Jamesian cards I have tried to be faithful to the original stories but have used a little artistic license occasionally, I think the images have not strayed too far from those created in the writing.

From top left to bottom right Oh Whistle and I’ll come to you, a portrait of M.R. James plus phantoms, A Warning to the Curious and the Rats.
James\' Christmas Ghosts

The two other images were made to compliment the original set of four cards and I hope you find them pleasing.
Christmas ghosts

Finally many thanks to those of you who have supported me in this strange endeavour, I have enjoyed creating these spectres but it would be impossible to do without your encouragement. I think I will try to incorporate more designs from writers of the supernatural every Christmas, I have already had requests for Sheridan Le Fanu and of course there is Dickens too.

I hope you like this years offerings, perhaps I will see you at this years Fortean Unconvention.

O' Rats

Filed under: Ghostly Inspiration — loretta @ 06:39:27 pm

Bringing a ghoul to life from the pages of a Jamesian ghost story is no small task and I admit to approaching it with some trepidation. His horrors are more terrifying for not being clearly described and leaving more to the imagination of the reader. So you must forgive me if the pictures I have drawn do not exactly match those that you imagined when you read his stories.

I started by briefly sketching the fours scenes I had planned and chose O’ Whistle and I’ll come to you to attempt first: a deserted beach, a dark sky and something else. This was proving to be more difficult that I had thought, the first attempt had the ‘something’ as too small and insignificant so that there was little more to the picture than a dramatic beachscape, nothing forbidding or scary at all. I headed back to the story to check out the scene, and chose a different but similar passage to base the picture on.

Even so, I was driven to distraction and ended up moving on to a simpler sketch. This was an image from The Rats. This might not be everyone’s favourite but M.R. James’ wonderful description of the bogey man made up for a fairly uneventful story line. The sketch I first made had something familiar about it – it took a while for me to realise but weirdly it resembled one of my siblings. Although I am sure he won’t thank me for seeing a resemblance.

My brother Marco?

The final drawing, was not very different to my initial idea and is very simple. I checked back on the story and whilst I cannot promise that I have not used any artistic license at all I hope I have stayed as close to the original as possible. When I showed the picture to friends and family I got some strong responses so I seemed to have captured James’s sense of horror, I just hope it doesn’t put anyone off their Christmas dinner!

Spirits in summer - designs on demand

Filed under: Ghostly Inspiration — loretta @ 06:38:31 pm

The bright sunny days (mostly) of an English summer are definitely not the best time to be thinking about ghosts and the supernatural. I am looking for inspiration for my new Christmas card designs for 2008 as the green Hereford country side rolls by my train. With summer in full swing it is not easy to get yourself in the spooky mood and certainly not a Christmas one.

From my carriage window, the low saddle shape of British Camp stands out on the horizon, a reminder of antiquity and antiquarians. I would dearly love to create Christmas designs based on the stories of the antiquarian academic and writer of ghost stories, M.R. James.

This would be no simple task however. His words have brought terror to millions with subtle turns of phrase that make hair stand on end. Although many images came into my mind when I read his stories, I am not sure they would readily lend themselves to a picture in the real word. With these stories I would want to capture some of the sinister sensibility they give - no easy task.

M.R. James’s stories are popular because they are very good at conveying horror and transfering fear from the page into the mind of the reader. But his ghouls are rarely seen directly or in their entirety, rather their unspeakable nature is hinted at. They are normally half seen, at a distance or hidden and by the end of the tale they may be only half understood. It is this mysterious quality which makes them more terrifying and it is this that makes the designs much harder.

How would you approach creating a design for something like ‘Casting the Runes’? There is not much seen of the actual entity and you might be tempted to just draw the demon. If you have ever watched the film adaptation ‘Night of the Demon’ (or Curse of the Demon) you will know that openly displaying the source of the fear can remove all sense of scary from a viewer.

I think the demon shown in the film (see below) was kind of cute:
Rather sweet monster in Night of the Demon

Still, I intend to create a set of four images based on some of my favourite stories. I have sketched a few design ideas based on events in the following which I hope will be suitable: ‘The Rat’s’ and ‘A Warning to the Curious’ will provide two designs. ‘O’ Whistle and I’ll come to you my lad’ is probably my favourite and I hope to extract two designs from the story.

If the designs look like they are possible and I manage to create something worthwhile then I will post the results within this blog. I rather suspect many will end up being scrapped and I will be casting around for more tales to draw from.
James - The cause of all my troubles
James - The cause of all my troubles

Don't go into the woods

Filed under: Ghost Stories — loretta @ 06:37:12 pm

My father told us many stories when we were young about his life before he came to Britain. He grew up in a little village just outside of Belgrade in Serbia in the earliest part of the 20th century. My favourite stories were the ones that were scary and dangerous involving wolves and bears, and much worse.

When I wrote about the inspiration behind the cards, I hinted at one of these tales. I must have made it sound very intriguing, as I have been asked to reveal more. It’s certainly different from your average spooky story and I have entertained friends with it for many years. I haven’t met a person yet who didn’t experience a shiver down their spine when they heard it – I hope it gives you a shudder too.

My father attended college in Belgrade and it was during a journey home from there that he had a strange encounter. One cold winter evening when the snow was many feet thick on the ground, he was late leaving the college and had to run for the bus home. As he got out of the campus he could see the last bus driving off down the road. There was nothing for it but to walk the several miles to his village. However, it was dark and if he walked along the road it would take forever. There was one other option; it was a much shorter journey if he went through the forest. This was not something he did lightly. It was still a long way, and he could easily get lost if he didn’t stay on the path. There was deep snow and it was dark, which would make it even harder. He was a little nervous too: his Uncle had once gone to Belgrade to sell his geese and had wandered back through the forest late that night. During his passage home he had come across something in there that frightened him and he would never go into the forest again. He warned the family not to go into the woods. - but most of them joked that he must have been drunk and took no notice of the story.

Spooky woods My father didn’t want to be walking all night so he made up his mind and set off into the forest, he just had to stay vigilant and not lose his way. The snow on the ground made a soft “crump” noise under his feet and its whiteness reflected whatever light there was so he could see his way. He was quite alone, or so he thought. The appearance of a black cat surprised him. It crossed in front and gave him a stare before disappearing into the trees; something about it unnerved him, it was a bad omen but he was being superstitious.

A short while later he noticed something else was with him. In among the trees he could see a lamb or sheep. He wondered how it could have found its way this far into the forest; it wouldn’t last long in the snow. He thought he would try to catch the sheep and take it home to the farm. He walked quietly up to the animal but when he got close it ran away. He chased after it but it could run faster over the snow than he could. It skipped off into the trees and he thought to give up but then it reappeared, and so he tried again. He persevered but it was always just out of his grasp. Eventually he grew tired; it didn’t want to be caught and it was very late, time he was on his way. But where was the path? Whilst he was pursuing the sheep they had gone deeper and deeper into the forest together and now he started to worry.
Trees are alive

He turned and tried to follow in the general direction of the tracks he had made but they went in all directions. As he jogged back over the snow he hoped that the path would be this way. Moving through the trees, he was startled to see the same sheep again, appearing some way ahead of him. He was sure he had left it far behind. He ran on past, there was no point trying again. He trekked some distance through the wood but whenever he looked round the sheep was somewhere in view. It was strange but the sheep looked more like a goat now - could he really have been mistaken before? He zigzagged between the trees. This was no ordinary animal, it seemed to have deliberately led him deep into the heart of the forest and no matter how far he ran it always seemed to stay with him. He was starting to feel very frightened.

Eventually he was relieved to see the clearing for the path in front of him. He looked behind to where the animal stood a little way off through the trees: it was clearly a goat. Then it did something very frightening. The goat stood up – ‘like a man’ but most of it was still very much goat. And then… it beckoned to him. My father insisted that the very hairs on his head stood on end.

He didn’t wait to see what would happen next and took to his heels as fast as he could without daring to look back. He ran through the forest until eventually he arrived out of the trees and at his home. He was hysterical with fright, so much so that the family member who waited up could get no sense out of him and had to throw a bucket of water over my father.

Whenever my mother told us ghost stories around a fire, my father would say mockingly: you think these “ghosts” are scary. I will tell you something really frightening…

Ghosts of Nunhead

Filed under: Ghost Stories — loretta @ 06:23:56 pm

I noticed that some visitors to my site were searching for information on hauntings in Nunhead Cemetery. I don’t know of any publicly recorded cases although I am sure the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery may be able to provide you with more information on that. I had a brief search of the web myself and I came across a ‘Vampire incident’, this was reported at a similar time to the Highgate Cemetery Vampire story in North London in the 1970’s although one suspects a more human hand behind the desecration of graves. Indeed I have been told that the cemetery was rather notorius in the 1970’s with disinternments, vandalism and ‘midnight rituals’ taking place. It was supposed to have been the location for some filming by Hammer Horror productions - although I haven’t found any information on that.

Since then it has become a more pleasant location and a nature reserve in the middle of London’s inner city. The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery and Southwark Council have worked to clean up and restore much of the monuments and environs. Personally, they may have slightly overstepped the mark as I quite enjoyed some of the more ruinous views of the Victorian funerary monuments - although enough still remain for now.

I have never felt ill at ease there - except perhaps at dusk. My family and I have been frequent visitors and often take photographs. On a couple of occasions there appear to be strange things in the images. The clearest and most convincing photograph is included here for you to view. This was taken in the South West area and shows a figure in the background, at the edge of the trees. The photographer insisted that there was no one else present at the time she took the images - certainly visitors to the graves are not that common away from the path and they do tend to be noticed. The figure appears to have something or someone at their shoulder or is holding something in their arms. Have a look and make your own mind up.

Figure in the photo

A close up shot:
Close up

The ‘figure’ appears in more than one image but the resolution of the photograph is not very good so at first we wondered if we were actually looking at a tree or headstone which by a trick of the light was made to look like a person. However, other photographs taken on different occasions show that there is nothing normally located at that point.

Now you see me, now you don't

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