A lot of really smart people will tell you unequivocally that ghosts do not exist. Accredited professionals will nod knowingly as they assure you that demons are merely products of the imagination. But here’s the truth: the world is filled with mysterious and inexplicable events, and many of those have even the most expert of experts speechless. Suffice it to say that there is a great deal that we do not yet understand and it is unfair to question our own sanity when confronted with the unknown.
With this in mind, when you finally pick up the pen to write, one of the first mantras you’ll hear is to write what you know. In The Dark Side of the Cross, and in my newest novel, Relic of Darkness, I’ve tried to do exactly that, writing supernatural crime novels. In both books our hero not only comes up against intensely dangerous bad guys, but also battles with dark and shadowy unseen forces. My background in criminology helped a great deal in writing these books. But what about the supernatural part, how does that fit in with “write what you know”? In that area I draw from the greatest teacher there is, experience.
My front row, in your face experience with the supernatural took place when I was a senior in high school. Prior to this happening I, too, was one of those who would scoff at the absurdity of such a thing. Fortunately, when this did happen, I was not alone (I’m not the bravest guy alive). I was with several professional people when this event occurred, including the police. It took place in Kentucky, in an old mansion that pre-dated the Civil War, and had been converted into a nursing home. My mom, a nurse, worked there. When first hired, her employers told her they weren’t going to say that the place was haunted, but people had reported seeing and hearing things. All of us laughed when she told us.
Famous last words.
One night they kept hearing someone walk across the third floor, which was not in use, and come down a closed-in stairwell where they waited for the door to open. A friend and I agreed to drive over and spend the night with them. The police had already been there twice. Not too long after we arrived we heard it and if it was a mouse, it was wearing boots. The police came again and this time brought a K-9 unit. Just as they were getting ready to leave, the footsteps started up again. The police quickly moved to the door. One gripped the doorknob with his gun drawn, the other held the collar of the dog. When it reached the bottom of the stairs they flung open the door and released the dog. There was nothing there. The dog backed up into the wall, whining. To this day I can feel the fear that dominated me at that moment.
I believe that almost all of us, at some point in time, will have what I lovingly call an “X Files” moment. It may be pleasant, or it may be terrifying, as it was for me. Either way it will make an impression. My advice – don’t let some know-it-all, no matter who it is, tell you you’re crazy. You’re not. You have simply become experienced.
Thankfully, my experience helped me to write stories I’m proud of, stories that readers seem to love as well!