I grew up in Solomons Island, MD in a three-story house that was built in the mid to late nineteenth century. My grandmother inherited it from an eccentric uncle on his death and she lived on the first two floors while my father, mother, sister and myself lived on the top floor, the former servants’ quarters. My grandmother’s friends would come to visit around once a week to socialize and play cards and as a child, I would often be in the vicinity.
It was there that I began to hear tales of Solomons Island being haunted, of most of the houses having supernatural events occur in them. There were tales of beds levitating, pictures being thrown off the wall, and sheets ripped from the beds. In my own home, my grandmother’s friends claimed to have experienced hearing talking in the walls.
When I was about eleven years old, I felt I had outgrown my childhood room which I shared with my sister and so I asked my grandmother if I could move down to one of the bedrooms on the second floor. She agreed and I was set up in a room facing the Chesapeake Bay. The room itself had three windows and was furnished in its original Victorian manner. The furniture was absurdly heavy, ancient and dark. My bureau still had wood screws. There was a large wardrobe that sat in the far-right corner of my room, and it was where I was told to hang my clothing. This wardrobe had locks on each door and one key which no longer worked. I was able to shut the left-hand panel firmly in the casing, but perhaps due to the warping of wood over the years, the right-side door would simply not close. I could push it and for a while it would remain slightly closed, with a tiny crack of darkness showing. However, if the wind picked up and the window was open, the door would bang open, colliding against the twin bed nearest it.
The wardrobe was huge; two people could easily have fit inside it, and there was just something really unnerving about the door that wouldn’t close. Anything could be peeking out from that crack in the darkness. I began to grow quite frightened of the wardrobe as I would imagine the door slowly slipping open in the night. It did not help that friends who slept over refused to sleep in the bed nearest the wardrobe, complaining that the hangers would rattle at night, even though there was no wind.
My grandmother’s room connected with mine, however there was a divider put in the door to keep it separated. There were two other large bedrooms on that floor, including the room I had taken to calling “the haunted room.” When I would walk in, I would feel a heavy, oppressive feeling in the space and it seemed that the light that came in through the window died directly at the bottom of the window, never lighting the entire room. In my mind’s eye, I would see an old woman pacing back and forth behind the bed, confused and angry.
I told my mother this once and she told me that my grandmother had once had a psychic investigate the house and the psychic described the exact same thing I did. My grandfather, who believed he had seen his grandmother’s ghost as a child, refused to sleep in the room when my grandparents came to visit. Instead, he would sleep in the twin bed in my room and refused to enter the room at all.
When I was twelve, my grandmother passed away, leaving me as the sole occupant of the second floor. At night, I would go around closing all the doors, desperate and terrified of what I thought could come out of them and walk along the long dark hallway. My wardrobe became even more sinister, the crack seeming to widen every time I tried to close it.
This was my inspiration for my novel, Where the Briars Sleep. That wardrobe remained in my mind, stuck there like a parasite in my brain. I would dream about the wardrobe and the other rooms of my house once we had moved to a brand new one. Sometimes I would wake up in absolute terror, thinking I was still in the room.
I became quite obsessed with the idea of ghosts and hauntings, and in college, I developed a deep love for the strange, otherworldly atmosphere of gothic romance. My deepest fears and my greatest love intertwined in my mind and eventually became Where the Briars Sleep. Even now, I tend to prefer a creepy gothic romance to modern horror as it takes me back to the place where my fear was born.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!