Horror is my favourite genre – it always has been, always will be, but it can become tiresome. The reason? Horror is often dealt with by authors and filmmakers gratuitously – therefore, the gorier, the more outrageous, the more ‘in your face’ the material, the better. Well, yeah, every now and then, one of those is fun but I thought it was time for something a little more down-to-earth. And before you scream ‘but surely that defeats the object’ – I don’t think it does.
For me, the best ghost stories are the ones that deal with the spiritual world more subtly. The Haunting with Claire Bloom is a great example – all through the film the suspense is built but you don’t actually see anything frightening – it’s all left to the imagination, and mine ran riot after that one! The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, not the film but the book, was also very subtle, building suspense beautifully right up until the end. The Others with Nicole Kidman springs to mind too, which relied on a good story rather than effects.
Inspired by these I wanted to write a paranormal that largely dispenses with theatrics and relies on characterisation, plot and mystery instead. Ruby Davis, who owns Psychic Surveys, a high street consultancy specialising in domestic spiritual clearance, is young, modern and accessible. She doesn’t go round in tie-dye clothes or smelling of incense, she wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. It’s only her job that’s out of the ordinary – to make contact with grounded spirits in your home (ghosts to the layman!) and encourage them towards the light – or ‘home’ as she and her team call it. Her team, too, are down-to-earth, there is the young and vibrant Corinna (a sensitive rather than a psychic) and more mature ladies, Theo and Ness, the latter who also works as a psychic for Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove Council. Throw in IT Consultant, Cash Wilks and an attachment in the shape of ghost dog, Jed, and you’ve got the dream team. Keenly aware of how people feel towards ‘psychics’ – sceptical at best, frightened at worst, they deal with ‘assignments’ in a no-nonsense and practical way – charging a sliding scale of fees depending on the client and the problem.
Their reputation is spreading, largely via word-of-mouth, and cases come flooding in. The team may want to play it cool, sometimes, however, the ghosts don’t…
The Haunting of Highdown Hall