My eyeballs felt as if someone had tried to peel them like an onion. Actually, it might have been with an onion they were stinging so much. Does terror from staring at a computer screen cause sore eyes? It was no use, it did not matter how long I glazed over at the manuscript of “Mulgrave Castle”, I was not feeling spooky, Victorian or psychic. For a second, I played with the idea that somewhere on the internet there could be a sort of Viagra for writers which instead of making them feel sexy sort of erected the atmosphere they were meant to be in. I didn’t think there would be one and one has to be so careful what one searches for these days.
In a state of desperation, I went from staring at the computer screen to staring out of the window. I overlook a graveyard and a six hundred year church. It all looked spooky and I thought I could stare at that to get in the mood. Not so, suddenly car after car arrived on the car park. The next thing was that a gang of energetic, octogenarian walkers all had their car boots up whilst they took their flasks of coffee out and started drinking and socialising before their walk. It then occurred to me that I could make some film clips of a graveyard and that might be helpful in summoning up atmosphere anytime I am working on “Mulgrave Castle”.
I grabbed my video camera but couldn’t film at the graveyard next to me as the gang had now taken sandwiches out of their car boots and seemed to be settling down for the day. After thinking up an elaborate plan to get rid of them, I decided that dressing up in my Loony Literature gear and brandishing a large bell whilst shouting “plague” might not actually work.
I glared some more out of the window and then decided to go to a nearby market town and film there. I didn’t want to look conspicuous hanging around a graveyard alone so I asked my mother if she fancied going out for hot chocolate. As she is under five feet tall, just under eighty and looks charmingly innocent, I thought she was the perfect lookout for me.
All was going well, apart from my mother complaining about the lack of hot chocolate, until an elderly man with white, curly whiskers around his chin and leading a similar looking dog tried to cross examine me.
“You one of them family historians then?” Both dog and man stared at me whilst they waited for a reply. I was relieved that I didn’t have to lie, after all, I do do family history, I just wasn’t doing it then. I nodded and waited for him to pass by.
“Who you looking for then?” Both the man and the dog moved closer. I would never make a spy, I stammered and stumbled and said “we’ve found nothing.” He shrugged and I expected him to move on but he still watched us. I linked my arm through my mother’s and we slowly walked away from the graveyard and then I slyly turned to see if the dog walker had moved on. He didn’t, he watched us as we walked away but then he bent down to talk to his terrier and at that moment I grabbed my mother by the arm and we hid behind a tree and waited for him to go. He looked up and shrugged in a disappointed manner and slowly moved away.
We hotfooted it back to the graveyard and I quickly did my filming in case the dog walker found me there again on his way back. I was extremely pleased with myself as I thought my graveyard filming was done with, I simply had to put it on the laptop and it was ready for use – until I looked at it. The clip is fine until it comes to second twenty seven and then there seems to be a man only from his torso (legs must be in the earth) with his head bent praying by the side of one of the graves. I examined the clip but could not come up with what it could really be.
A week later, I decided that I would return to the spot to try to see what I had photographed and take some still shots of the spot. Four teenagers, without coats, were sitting right by my spot, hanging out. I had to decide whether to continue with my photography or just pretend to be walking past. I decided to pretend that they weren’t there. I examined the spot from all angles making sure that each headstone was where I thought it was. I could not see what could possibly represent the image on the film. I took my video camera from my bag and somehow it had become as dead as a parish council meeting on a Saturday night. I quickly put it away and tried not to look at the teenagers who, I could see out of the corner of my eye, were all sitting in a line staring at me. Luckily, I had my son’s camera with me as a backup, so I quickly took that out and tried to switch it on – dead. I poked the on button and prodded it frantically. The teenagers had moved closer but I could not contain my enthusiastic and violent prods onto the camera. Nothing happened. I lifted my head proudly and with a majestic air swept past the viewing teenagers with my mother following swiftly behind. How both batteries on both cameras came to be so dead, I will never know. My video camera had one hundred minutes on it when I checked the night before.
The following Saturday I made sure that both cameras were fully charged when I set out. I managed to take photographs without an audience but I cannot find out what the shape is in the video. After all that, I’ve decided that maybe I should try something else to conjure up atmosphere. Haunted castle anyone?