Win a signed ‘Witchfinder’!

26 07 2010

A signed copy of ‘Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide’ that is, not an actual signed witchfinder! They’re pretty hard to come by these days and certainly don’t appreciate being scribbled on! Anyhoo, if you want to enter the comp all you have to do is find me on twitter – I’m ‘WitchfinderBook’ – and tweet me a ‘hello’.

The winner will be selected at random on Friday (30th July). Good luck!

Right, I must get back to work, I’m busy trying to help Jake Harker out of a sticky situation. He’s presently surrounded by 243 hungry vampires and need to catch a bus… Ooo, cryptic! Oh, and for no particular reason, here’s a picture of Matthew Hopkins, the real-life Witchfinder General – you’ll be meeting him very soon…



25 06 2010

Wow! That’s all I can say. Wow!

Why am I ‘wowing’, I hear you ask – well, I’ve been nominated for the Brit Author of the Year Award for ‘Witchfinder’! This is an especially huge honour as the other nine finalists are all such talented writers. Indeed, one of them is Sir Terry Pratchett – one of my childhood heroes! The finalists were whittled down from hundreds of books published over the last two years. The Brit Writers organisation is a fantastic intiative to encourage new and unpublished writers with advice, practical assistance and access to publishing professionals.

So, here’s the thing, if you’ve read Witchfinder and enjoyed it, why not pop over to the Brit website and cast your vote? It will only take two minutes – all you have to do is email ‘Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide’ to or text the title to 07772 311901. The winner will be announced at a gala ceremony at the O2 arena on 15th July – my BIRTHDAY! 

Thanks, guys!

The Werewolf of Lincolnshire

21 06 2010

Following on from the story of Black Shuck, the demon hound, here’s another hairy character from the folklore of my home county…

 This story was uncovered by Roger Parsons and dates from 1926:

A young archaeologist living in Langrick Fen near (the appropriately named!) Dogdyke one day discovered a set of possibly Neolithic remains in a peat bog. The curious thing was that the skeleton uncovered appeared to have a large, canine-like skull. A wolf’s head, in fact. The young scientist carried the skull to his cottage and set about a minute examination of the bone structure. After several hours of work, he admitted defeat. The wolf’s head would not submit to any rational scientific explanation, and so he decided it was a hoax, possibly in the same vein as the famous Piltdown Man. In that case the lower jaw of an orangutan had been used to fake the preserved skeleton of an early species of man. In this case, the Langrick Fen archaeologist believed that the monstrosity he had uncovered may be a hoax got up by a travelling fairground to excite the crowds. Having served its purpose, the thing had been dumped in the Fen when the fairground passed by.

That night our scientist friend found it impossible to sleep. A scratching noise, as of a large animal pawing at the ground, came from the back of the house. He got out of bed, and was on the point of investigating further, when he heard a sharp rat-tat on the window. His head snapped in the direction of the sound and, to his amazement, he saw a dark shadow watching him. This image began to define itself into the form of a human being… with the head of a large wolf!

Transfixed with terror, the man could do nothing but stare as the thing’s thick black lips drew back into a snarl and its hot, fetid breath steamed the windowpane. The creature howled in fury and pulled back its muscular arm, ready to break the glass. In that instant, the scientist recovered his wits and ran for the door. As he fled to the kitchen he heard the shattering of glass behind him and the padding of paws upon the bare boards of the bedroom floor. The scientist locked himself in the pantry and curled up in a tight, quivering ball. All through the night he heard the clicking of long, uncut claws and the shuffle of questing nostrils.

At last, the first hint of dawn crept under the pantry door and the scientist eased back the bolt and stepped outside. There was no sign of the uncanny visitor of the night before, and the man began to believe that he had suffered some kind of brain fever. On entering his bedroom, however, he found evidence of the supernatural visitation. The table, whereon he had placed the skull, was overturned and the window of the room was shivered into fragments. He wasted no time in snatching up the skull and hastening to the burial site. He threw the strange head back into the hole and covered it over with several layers of peat. From that day the werewolf of Dogdyke has been at rest.

Folklore of the Fens: Black Shuck, the Devil Hound

7 06 2010

A Demon Hound

Last year Lincoln Book Festival invited me to give a talk on the ‘Folklore of the Lincolnshire Fens’ – that large marshy area on the east coast which was drained for farm land in the 17th Century (incidentally around the same time that Matthew Hopkins was busy hunting witches in the counties just south of Lincolnshire). 

Although the Fens have a rich and varied folklore, full of creepy monsters and puckish faeries, it is not as well-known as the folk tales of, say, the West Country, Wales and Ireland. But don’t be fooled – there are many strange creatures that the walk these beaches and byways, these fens and marshlands… 

One of the most colourful of these supernatural characters is Black Shuck or, as he was more commonly known in Lincolnshire, Hairy Jack. Black Shuck was a goblin dog or hell hound. He has haunted Lincolnshire since the days of the Viking invasion, and some believe that he is a true Dane hound – a monstrous beast that was brought over by the Vikings, transplanted from their Nordic sagas and re-settled on the coast of Lincolnshire. He is a welcome, if somewhat disturbing, immigrant. 

Shuck on the prowl

Eyewitness accounts have described a great black dog, the size of a horse, with flame red eyes and dripping jowls. Like many devil dogs in mythology, Black Shuck has been identified as an omen of death. A portent of disaster. He has often appeared to travellers on lonely stretches of road, teeth bared, eyes blazing, only to disappear into the shadows. Days later, the unfortunate witness is found dead, seemingly from natural causes. 

When seen around marshes, Black Shuck appears to float on the mist. On the Norfolk coast, he is most often seen rising out of the sea – again a reference to his Norse seafaring roots. 

Sometimes, in churchyards and at crossroads, he is headless. However, he is not always portrayed in such a terrible light: sometimes in the Norfolk legends Black Shuck is a guardian spirit that will offer his protection to any defenceless maid walking home alone. 

Lincolnshire has the dubious distinction of being the county with perhaps the most sightings of devil dogs. By 1958 it was recorded in Theo Brown’s book ‘Folklore’ that there were 47 separate black dog haunting grounds in this locality.  

The Devil's Fingerprints?

Often these legends have little respect for county borders, and it is in Suffolk that Black Shuck makes his most notable and grisly appearance. In 1577, the same year in which Sir Francis Drake set off on his round-the-world voyage, Black Shuck was making mischief. 

In the old church at Blythburgh, the congregation had just settled down for the priest’s Sunday sermon when, without ceremony, the demon hound burst through the heavy oak doors and ran headlong down the nave. The beast stopped only once, in order to wring the necks of an old man and a young boy, before bounding towards the terrified clergyman, its eyes fixed and flaming. A few feet short of the altar table the infernal creature simply disappeared into the ether. The congregation had hardly regained their collective breath when a great rumble sounded from the foundation of the church. Cracks splintered along the walls and the steeple gave way. Crashing through the nave, it finished off most of the Blythburgh parishioners. If you go to the church you can still see the scorch marks at the north door where Black Shuck’s paws burned into the consecrated stone floor. 

In another version of the legend it was the devil dog’s master that visited the church. The story runs much the same except, in this case, it was Satan himself that destroyed the church and left his infernal fingerprints on the north door. 

A very famous writer picked up on the legend of Black Shuck and turned it into one of the most terrifying novels of the 19th Century. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle transplanted the spectre from the wilds of Lincolnshire to the Devonshire Moors for his most celebrated Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Many famous writers have been inspired by the legends of Lincolnshire, including Alfred Lord Tennyson and Dorothy L Sayers. Sayers made use of the well-known Lincolnshire legend of ‘talking church bells’ in her Lord Peter Wimsey detective story ‘The Nine Tailors’. Bells that ring out by themselves in protest against murderers and evildoers are not unheard of in the Fen churches of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. 

But back to Black Shuck and his literary appearances. Those of you who enjoy a bit of Harry Potter might recognise old Blacky from his appearance as The Grim in ‘The Prisoner of Azkhaban’, but it is definitely in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ that he makes his most significant bow… 

Coming soon… more terrifying tales from the Fens!

Winners of Witchfinder Competition!

4 06 2010

Hello All!

I’m snowed under with work on Witchfinder 3: The Last Nightfall, but just have time to announce the Winners of the Win a Signed Witchfinder Competition! Thanks to all those that entered – some really cool, creepy and intriguing choices. Check them out at the comments section below. 

Good news, I’ve stretched to 3 signed books! The winners were selected entirely at random and they are:

Jim Mcleod

Jon Mayhew

Bev Humphrey

Sorry to all those that missed out – I’ll probably run another signed Witchfinder comp in the near future so do keep popping by. Winners, could you leave me a comment here with your address – I won’t publish it on the blog – or send me the address via DM at my Twitter page – William Hussey Witchfinder.

Right, I’d better get back to Witchfinder 3 – the DREAM agents are gathering in the playground….

Win a Signed Copy of Witchfinder!

25 05 2010

Hi guys

A little competition for ya – I’ve got a signed copy of Witchfinder to give away. All you have to do is send a comment to this page or direct message me on Twitter (@WitchfinderBook) or send me a message at my Facebook page (William Hussey Witchfinder). I want to know the title and author (if known) of the FIRST book or story that really scared you. And I’m not just talking about a little tremor of terror here – I’m talking full-blown didn’t-sleep-for-a-week-think-I-may-just-have-done-a-little-bit-of-wee-bone-rattling horror!   

For me that story would be the Brothers Grimm fairytale ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ – it’s not one of the bros more gruesome efforts, but it has that haunting melancholy common to many of their stories. Anyway, I have a vivid memory of being four years old and my grandfather reading it to me and putting on the most terrifying voice for the evil dwarf.

So let me know the first story that really scared you! I’ll randomly select one and a signed Witchfinder (the book that is, not an actual graffitied witchfinder) will be in the post before you can say ‘Boo!’

As promised… Sherlock Holmes in…

21 05 2010

The Adventure of the

Exsanguinated Sleuth

 by William Hussey

Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the article our visitor had left behind him the night before. Embossed in crimson upon the calling card was a gothic letter ‘D’.

“Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”

Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation.

“I believe you have eyes in the back of your head,” I remarked.

“I have at least a well-polished, silver-plated coffee pot in front of me,” said he.

As my eyes shifted to the pot, Holmes reacted with lightning speed and threw his napkin over it. Still, I had a fancy that I had glimpsed something curious before the napkin descended. I had the strange idea that, although the chair in which he sat had been reflected, the face of Sherlock Holmes was missing.

“Watson,” he said, dragging me from my reverie, “would you have any objection to drawing the blinds?”

“None at all.” I crossed the room, all the while keeping a concerned eye on my old friend. “Tell me, Holmes, are you afraid of something?”

“Well, I am.”

“Of what? Not air-guns again?”

“No. I no longer fear air-guns.”

The detective gave a dry chuckle and curled up in his chair. Despite his good humour he was even more gaunt and pale than usual. I crossed the room, took hold of his wrist and attempted to gauge his pulse. I could find none. Similar difficulties had perplexed me when examining him after one of his cocaine binges, the soporific effect of the drug having depressed the rigour of his circulatory system. He did not protest as I rolled up his sleeve and checked for the telltale signs that his miserable addiction had been indulged. Again, I could find nothing. And then I noticed something very strange: there were two puncture wounds, but not upon his arm.

“What have you been doing to yourself, old fellow?” I exclaimed.

“Peace, Watson,” Holmes muttered. “You will be pleased to hear I have no further use for the cocaine bottle.”

“Humph. Well, something very odd has happened since I saw you last. Perhaps it is all to do with your visitor of last night. I am sorry I could not be at your side. My practice is busy of late, you understand. But come, tell me about him.”

Holmes stretched his long legs towards the fire. A great shiver ran the length of his body.

“Can’t get warm for the life of me,” he said. “As to my client: he was a nobleman of eastern extraction. A Count, no less.”

“Indeed? And what did this Count want with you?”

“A trifling business of persecution. He had arrived in Whitby some weeks back and was immediately set upon by a ragtag band made up of a wild frontiersman, an asylum psychiatrist and the eldest son of one of our noble families.”

“Good God, what had the man done to attract the hostility of such an unlikely crew?”

“That is somewhat unclear. He is a foreigner, of course, and that may have been against him from the first. The Count is of the opinion that, as dangerous as these men are, their leader poses a far greater threat to his safety.”

“Who is this other man?”

“A Dutch professor with a very particular idée fixe that borders upon insanity. He is, however, a brilliant man with half the letters in the alphabet after his name.”

“Hmm. Well, it seems a most interesting case. Shall I leave you to ruminate upon it?”

“No, Watson. I should like you to stay and give me your assistance in certain matters.”

Holmes’ eyes glowed with a sudden fire. He rose and slipped across the hearthrug. Within three steps he was at the door of our Baker Street sitting room, turning the key in the lock. Then he spun around and, fixing me with a peculiar smile, he said:

“Indeed, I fully expect this to be a three pint problem…”

With sincere apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Bram Stoker!

First published at Horror Reanimated (