Life Update: A Personal Haunting?

Things have been rough-going for a while. I have mentioned before how I often feel overwhelmed by personal responsibilities, let alone maintaining any kind of online presence.

I’m trying to keep the blog and YT channel alive until at least Summer, the little guy starts school this Fall so I will suddenly have whole chunks of time to fill. I will miss him, of course, it’s sad to see him leaving such a simple time of life. I do miss my babies, but I also miss my hobbies.

So, naturally, I have started another novel. It began sinking in today just how huge a research project it will be, based on real people and places. But it’s haunting me, following me around and whispering in my ear, and has been for some time, come to find out.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve had dreams set in what I took to be a huge old manor house, a’ la The Secret Garden. Somewhere between Mistlethwaite and my high school, all mossy flagstones with a clock tower and enclosed courtyard. A weird, high-ceilinged dining hall with a wooden balcony. A walled garden with tall sculptured hedges and fountains. All sat atop mysterious, dark nooks and crannies and surrounded by deep, ancient woodland.

Heights New

Heights High, pictured after renovation removed the wing walling off the once-paved courtyard, still looking appropriately castle-like

I’ve searched for it a few times, I have seen the square battlements and leaded windows so clearly. I’ve spent hours poring over pictures of old English manor houses, focusing on Yorkshire, looking for something with a Norman core, Georgian finishes and Victorian landscaping. Deep-set windows and high beamed ceilings. Eventually, I gave up, figuring it had fallen to ruin in the decades after WWII as so many had, and was lost. Or it never existed at all. 

The courtyard and clock tower are so obviously reminiscent of Heights. Ditto the nooks and crannies. Various other elements have always just tugged at me, boxy hedges and walled gardens, mossy grey flagstones. Old buildings in general. I found a way to write off each detail, and that dining hall was so silly it had to be imaginary.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I’m rotting my brain with a countdown of Most Haunted Castles. I look up from my cuticles and see those freaking battlements and my grey flagstone courtyard, totally enclosed and open to the sky.

Chillingham Castle Courtyard

Dreams really can come true…

It’s fucking real, every last detail! I think maybe I’m channeling this discovery into a story in hope of avoiding completely freaking the fuck out about it.

Turns out, I never found it because I was looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. It’s in Northumberland, not Yorkshire. And it’s not a manor house, it’s a goddam castle.

Chillingham is about 850 years old, and supposedly extremely haunted. Thankfully, this has made it a popular tourist attraction, meaning it’s well-kept and there’s plenty of delicious footage, even a Google 360 view. Seeing those walls while I was awake felt like the world fell out from under me, both soothing and feeding a burning need to go, now. To smell the damp air and touch the tree trunks. 

The same family still owns it (sort of), they were the Greys then became the Bennets through marriage. I always had a sense of bittersweet love for the place, as a haven and a prison, safely isolated from the drastic changes between the deep Victorian period to around WWII. Turns out the generations line up perfectly, with five siblings born between 1850 – 1857.

The eldest died young, of cholera in India. A more Victorian death there isn’t. Second inherited the title and the house (I always just think of it as, ‘The House.’) Third became a judge but also died before 40. The youngest married a Scottish nobleman but died at 30, leaving Number Two and Number Four, who reached 89 and 85 respectively.

Georgie was called The Singing Earl for his love of American spirituals, of all things. He actually even married an American, which I also already knew. He mismanaged the estate and it was left to ruin after he died there in 1931.

As for Number Four, her name was Corisande. She was born in 1855 and died in 1941. She had her photograph taken, along with her mother and brothers, as a small child.


She had to hold that gaze for 60 seconds!

…And that’s literally all I can find. It’s strangely vacant for a family with official records of their doings going back centuries. No marriage, no children. No stories, no published works, no more photos. She was born, lived for 85 years and died, apparently leaving no impact whatsoever.

Obviously, this is not the case. My imagination ran away with me and has not let me return since. I was afraid at first that other projects would suffer if I let myself get too into this, but it’s almost like she’s whispering in my ear, insisting I tell her story. 

My cousin suggested some kind of memory-energy transfer was possible, maybe through an object. I tried to think of what I still have from high school that might be connected to such a place. I remembered that packed old antique store on Coventry. Pawing through a bin of skeleton keys. Pulling out the one that reminded me of mossy old flagstones.

I jumped up and dug them out, not far from the surface, not too hard to find. The first one my fingers found is the most delicate of the brass ones, with a stamp that could be dated March 22 18something, but I fucked it up at some point trying to make it into a pendant.

I did make a pendant, a couple weeks ago as part of the initial rush of channeling this information. It’s a silver figure-eight, with a small emerald and a skeleton key charm.

Maybe that’s nothing, those old places are often associated with old keys and that kind of thing. But, help me Great Mother, because I can’t help but feel a gentle guiding force, the story slowly filling in one foggy dell at a time as I step through it. The blog and YT have been stressing me out so bad, and I needed some escapism, but I’m afraid of getting lost.

Except… It’s all real.

Chillingham Castle Front

There’s the clock tower, top left!

I think the oddest one so far has been the little sister’s name. Each sibling has a family name, except little Ida. An unusual name, my mind leapt to baby name trends. Ida probably featured in a popular novel or something.

Indeed – Tennyson published his story The Princess in 1857, the titular princess being named, of course, Ida. But the kicker was that Countess Tankerville, the Lady of Chillingham, was good friends with Tennyson.

I don’t want this. I feel stalked, overcome. She’s here with me, inside my head, just over my shoulder, impressing thoughts and feelings like footprints in wet grass. So clear and real, until the light shifts and you’re not sure they were ever there.

I don’t know where this key came from. It’s older than the others in my little collection, worn and tarnished and compressed. With 31 stamped on it, I figure it’s a room key, maybe from a hotel. Perhaps a memento.


The main suspect

I still can’t believe it’s real. The House. Is real. And it’s a fucking castle. The ‘Most Haunted Castle in England,’ which I had somehow avoided encountering except for a story about the Radiant Boy in a book, years ago. A place too perfect, too eccentric, too specific to be real. Now, most of the research I’m doing is chasing down hunches, invariably followed by several minutes of, “Holy shit, no way!”

Wish me massive luck, Dear Reader. Feminism will never be far from my sight, but it looks like the only way out of this haunted wood is through it.