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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ghostly Research with Candace Morehouse


The crisp fall air swooshed through the pines as Candace scampered up the rickety old steps to the Haunted Saloon. Bats hurled about the steeple of the bell tower, flapping their wings. A ghost of a moon skittered across the midnight black sky just as a coyote howled from the nearby woods. And when the bone-chilling wind billowed through her red satin dress, flipping it up to reveal her corset, fishnet stockings and garter belt, the sheriff keeping vigil in the graveyard smiled. The wild horses lassoed to the post whinnied, kicking up their hooves.

Hanging on to her feathered headpiece with one hand, clutching her flimsy black lace shawl with the other, Candace sauntered through the swinging doors of the haunted saloon, her satin dress rustling.

The lights were dim and the sultry vocals of Patsy Cline floated through the room, the bitter-sweet lyrics laced with heart-wrenching pain. Legendary outlaws sat around card tables, shuffling decks of cards while doing shots of whiskey. The smell of tobacco singed the air. As Candace sacheted her way up to the bar, Jessie James looked up and gave her a wicked wink before resuming his card game with Frank, the brothers Cole and James Younger. Candace’s high-heeled boots tapped rhythmically on the hardwood floor as she joined Mae West at the bar.

“Howdy, Candace,” Mae smiled, crossing one leg. Dressed in a black satin dress with red ruffled bottom, she raised her wine glass to the bartender. “Another one here, darlin’ and one for my friend.”

Posters of wanted outlaws framed the walls and empty whiskey jugs lined the scarred surface of the mahogany bar. Peanuts in cowboy boots were on either side while the cactus candles flickered, displaying bullet holed walls.

The bartender placed two glasses of shiraz down and smiled. “Courtesy of the James brothers, girls.”

“Thank you, Oliver,” Mae winked, turning to smile at Jessie and Frank.

“Aren’t they something,” she turned to Candace.

Candace: “Sure enough. But I’ve got my eye on that hunky sheriff prowling about. He can do a strip search on me anytime, Mae.”

Mae: “So tell me, surely you are aware of the ghosts that haunt this saloon. Why, the brothers James and the brothers Cole and James Younger are all dead and gone. But their ghosts come by every night to drink, play cards and socialize with the saloon gals, just the way they did back in the days of the Wild, Wild West. So why are you here, m’dear?”

Candace: “Research, Mae, research. One cannot write effectively about a topic like ghosts unless one has experienced it for herself.”

“Do you really believe in ghosts?” Mae swiveled around on her bar stool to openly gawk at the outlaws, noticing with a gasp their images are not reflected in the mirror above the bar.

Jesse throws his deck of cards down and stands up and approaches the bar, walking straight through the table where two cowboys sit doing shots.

“Did you see that? Mae gasped, chugging down her shiraz in one gulp. She holds it up to the bartender. “Another round, Oliver.”

Oliver obliges.

Jesse James materializes behind Mae and Candace, his handsome face a tad pale up close. But his beguiling smile is dazzling. “Even’, ladies. Me and the boys would like to request the pleasure of your company. Come join us at our table.”

Mae and Candace join the outlaws, drawn into the scene of the Wild, Wild West.

“So what brings you ladies to the Haunted Saloon tonight?” Frank asked, the wooden legs of his chair squeaking on the floor as he moved closer to Candace. “How’s about you, sugar?”

Mae adjusts herself to reveal her legendary bosom. “Well now honey, I belong here, being dead and gone myself. But my friend Candace is an author and she’s doing research on her book Suspicion of Love. And in one of her scenes, a ghost appears to her main character. Go on, tell them about it, Candace.”

“Sure, sugar,” Frank winked, ordering more shiraz. “Tell us all about it.”

Candace: “Well, this is what I came up with for a scene in an old, drafty English castle. Tell me what you think.”

Jacqueline was now lying abed, a thick wax candle dripping into its heavy pewter holder on the table next to her, a mountain of fluffy bed linens piled up around her body, and a book open in her lap that she’d barely read two lines from. There was a listless fire burning in the grate of the fireplace; it, along with the thick wool rug on the wood floor, the soft shine of the highly polished oak paneled walls, and the fine linen drapings about the canopied bed, should have made the room comfortable and cozy. It did not.

Although she was well acclimated to the bitter cold winters in Wisconsin, the castle’s brisk humidity and the cool, dank air seeping in beneath the door and around the windowpanes of her room brought on a chill that Jacqueline could not seem to shake.

She was tired enough to yawn continuously, but her mind refused to follow suit, replaying, instead, the events of the day over and over in an unending loop: Hayden avidly taking the role of tour guide throughout the long coach journey, Stephen standing rigid and stony-faced before the immense fireplace in the priory parlor, the somber view of the gray-cloaked river and churning sea visible beyond the heather and nettle-covered cliff as seen through the castle’s lead-paned windows. Abruptly Jacqueline tossed the book to the side of the bed and blew out the sputtering candle, drawing the fine bed linens up tight beneath her chin and closing her eyes, willing sleep to come quickly and cease the pictures in her mind’s eye.

She must have slept for some time—how long she was unsure. Something had awakened her with a start. Disoriented, Jacqueline slowly opened her eyes and strained to make out shapes in the unfamiliar chamber by the dim light of dying embers in the stone fireplace.

It was the odor that had first awakened her, she thought, waking up fully. She sniffed at the air, and the scent of lilacs in the room became suddenly overwhelming. It didn’t make sense. Where could it possibly be coming from? How could there be lilacs blooming in a castle next to the sea?

As her eyes adjusted to the dark, Jacqueline propped herself up on her elbows, recognizing the shape of the bedside table, the rocking chair, the embroidered ottoman next to the fireplace, and the massive bureau with wide mirror above on the wall opposite her bed. As she peered at the far wall of the room between panels of soft green linen draped over the bed’s canopy, a flicker of movement was reflected in the looking glass opposite. She squinted her eyes and swiveled her head left and right, trying to determine what might have caused it.

There it was again—a wisp of white curling about the edge of the mirror. She looked behind her, finding nothing and knowing it could not be her own reflection. There was no movement of any kind save for the strange white miasma in the mirror.

Goose pimples freckled Jacqueline’s arms, and the hairs at the back of her neck danced with fear as Jacqueline lay frozen in one spot, the wisp of white swirling and twirling alongside the bed now, elongating and dangling just inches from the floor. The smell of lilacs was even more pervasive, wafting about on the breeze created by the white wisp. The temperature in the room plummeted, and Jacqueline shuddered with the cold.

Although she was frightened, Jacqueline found she could not look away from the scene unfolding before her. The smoky tendrils started to bond together and lengthen into something more substantial, although she could see right through the mist clear to the fireplace beyond. A face began to form, a woman’s face surrounded by a cloud of white-colored hair. A pair of ethereal hands fisted at the sides of the white mist, but then the image trailed off into nothingness.

“Stay…help…,” it whispered, the transparent mouth opening and closing with each syllable, “help…please…”

One of the ghostly white hands reached out to touch hers, and it was when she felt the ice-cold mist across her hand that Jacqueline finally found her voice. She cringed, hunching back against the headboard and let out a scream, the likes of which would surely disturb any lingering occupants of the room.

Mae West: How ‘bout it, boys. Think she’s come to the right place for research?”

A low chuckle erupts as Frank and Jessie exchange a wicked wink.

Suddenly Oliver appears, costumed in a sheriff’s costume. And as the Monster Mash blasts on the CD player, he handcuffs Candace, but not before frisking her. As the ghost of the headless horseman gallops through the saloon, the candles flicker once then go out. And when the lights come on, all the Halloween guests have arrived, masquerading as characters from the Wild, Wild, West.

To read the entire Suspicion of Love to learn more about Jacqueline’s ghost, visit Champagne Books at:
http://www.champagnebooks.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_28&products_id=287

Or visit Candace Morehouse at her website:
www.candacemorehouse.com

Tell us your favorite ghost story. We’d love to hear it!

23 comments:

Sharon Donovan said...

A warm welcome for Candace Morehouse, author of Suspicion of Love. Howdy, Candace! How've ya been girl? Grab a seat here at the Haunted Saloon and belly up to the bar! And here comes Oliver with a few glasses of shiraz. So tell me the truth, Candace. Do you believe in ghosts? Do dish with us!
Sharon

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Do I believe in ghosts? Well...I write novels but also for magazines and wanted to do an article for a magazine in Amarillo about the wild horses in Palo Duro Canyon that I had heard one night while camping out. But I wanted to do a little research before I wrote the story. Turns out there were no wild horses...only the ghosts of Indian ponies chased off the cliffs by the soldiers in an effort to stop several Indian tribes from fighting back and these lost spirits were witnessed by several visitors to the canyon over the years.

Hywela Lyn said...

Oh this is a wonderful post Sharon, loved it , loved it - and a great excerpt Candace. So atmospheric it fair gave me the creeps - but in a good way!

And Terri - what a sad story about those poor Indian ponies, and what a haunting novel would could make from it.

Sharon Donovan said...

Welcome to the Haunted Saloon, Terry and Lyn. Belly up and order up while we wait for Candace to join us. Ohhh so many types of ghost stories. That one sounds like a work in progress for a Western novel, Terry. Now what can Oliver getcha?

Sharon

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Hywela, I so agree. I was so happy thinking they were wild mustangs running free, but to think they were driven to their deaths was horrifying. And it would be interesting to write a story about it.

Sharon, I agree...hmm, my favorite...ghostly time travel. :)

Sharon Donovan said...

Terry, the more I think about those spirited ponies being driven to their death, I can all but hear their hooves thundering and their pathetic frightful wails of panic. So very haunting indeed.
Sharon

Candace Morehouse said...

Hi All!
Sorry I'm late to the party - but I'm on PST - it's still early here!

Terry - when I lived in New Mexico my step family all lived in Arenas Valley and swore that there was the ghost of an old Indian inhabiting the property. My stepmom says she saw him several times. Of course, she claims to see my mom's ghost, as well as her dead husband, on a regular basis.

Your story about the Indian ponies is quite eerie. Thanks for sharing.

Candace Morehouse said...

Hywela, Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. What a lovely name - Welsh as I understand? Don't the Welsh have some spooky legends? I'd love to hear one!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Candace! So what can Oliver bring you? A cup of bold rich coffee or are you ready for a shiraz? And while he's getting that, tell us about this ghostly image in Suspicion of Love.
Sharon

Kimber Chin said...

I've seen ghosts before so yep, I believe in them!

Candace, three words for Full Throttle - Steamy, van, Steamy. Motorcycles and men, how can you go wrong?

Candace Morehouse said...

Ah, Sharon, you know how I love my shiraz - and your Oliver!

If I tell you more about the ghost in Suspicion of Love I'd give away the ending of the book, m'dear! You will just have to read it to find out more.

Candace Morehouse said...

Kimber - Thanks for stopping by and giving me another plug for Full Throttle, which just released last week from Champagne Books. Ah, I love that book - but there's no ghostly excerpts I could include here. There is a shooting and someone gets killed, but there's no ghost who comes back afterward!

Tanya Hanson said...

This was fantastic. Thanks. Now I know Frank and Jesse and those Younger dudes were all very bad boys, but they've always fascinated me. As well as the women who loved them.

I have no actual ghost stories to report but I do believe in them LOL.

The US Cavalry shot 1000 ponies at Palo Duro. It took 8 hours. Many of them wanted to refuse, as the Cavalry loves horses, but followed orders. I am sure the place is haunted.

Great post!!

Sharon Donovan said...

Oliver fills the shiraz glasses. Sharon raises hers to Candace as they clink. Congratulations on the release of Full Throttle! Sounds like a hot read! Kimber and Tanya, glad you could join us here at the Haunted Saloon to share ghostly tales. What a shame about all those horses! No wonder the hills are haunted. What can Oliver get you?
S

Stacey said...

What a fantastic way to segway into your excerpt, Candace. I loved it and could picture myself right there in the Haunted Saloon. I believe in ghosts, too, and have had a few experiences with them.

Stacey

Candace Morehouse said...

Stacey - I can't take credit for that creative segue into the post, that's all Sharon's doing. Isn't she fantastically imaginative?

Stacey said...

Yes, she is. Good job, Sharon!

Stacey

Patricia said...

Wow! This is a wonder post. Thanks Candace for sharing it with us. I know Suspicion of Love is a well written novel and I'm glad you decided to point things out on research - and ghosts! TTYL

M.Flagg said...

May West AND the James Brothers here? Wow, Sharon!! I too believe in ghosts, Candace. Restless spirits need closure too. Great excerpt. It gave me the tingles. Best of luck with your books, Candace.

Candace Morehouse said...

Thanks for coming by Tanya, Patricia and M. Flagg!
I appreciate your support and so glad you like the excerpt.
Have a spooky Halloween!

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks for dropping in Stacey, Patricia and Mickey. And thanks for the comp, Stacey! Ooooh and here comes the funeral dirge again on the organ and Sheriff Oliver, handcuffs at the ready, heading for Candace at full throttle!
Sharon

Sharon Donovan said...

A warm thank you to Candace Morehouse for sharing her ghostly excerpt from Suspicion of Love. Best of luck with sales on this book and all other books, Candace!
Happy Halloween!
Sharon

Angelica Hart and Zi said...

We so enjoyed this, Candace. So very visual with just the right blend of ghostly chills. As for believing in ghost, does Casper go boo!