I love stories featuring houses with history; stories in which the houses become almost another character as their secrets are gradually disclosed. Houses like Wuthering Heights, Thornfield Hall, Satis House, Northanger Abbey to name just a few become so real in the stories that you feel you could make a pilgrimage to them even today.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, houses have played a significant part in some of my stories, not least my forthcoming release which features Chichester Court, once an elegant Georgian family home but now renovated to make social housing for single mothers and their children. Chichester Court is haunted by more ghosts than one and seems desperate to yield up its secrets to anyone who will listen.
Here's what Joanna (a former resident) tells Anne - a current resident whose young son has suffered recurring nightmares since moving into Chichester Court about the house's history.
"No house is ever just bricks and mortar. It's an extension of the people it shelters and Chichester Court has sheltered a lot of damaged, angry people in the last forty or so years since the scheme began, not to mention those before the Housing Trust took over! Just think of all that negative energy, from all those discordant lines, seeping into the bricks and mortar. Now my question to you is: what do you think happens to it?" Joanna's voice had taken on that melodramatic quality of a teacher acting out an extract from a Gothic story for a class of ten year olds, making Anne smile properly for the first time that morning and then, in an expansive gesture, reaching into the biscuit tin, from which she pulled out a plain digestive.
"Oh yes, Chichester Court has sheltered a lot of angry people. And anger breeds anger, especially in idleness and stagnant spaces, and then spills into this cauldron of resentment and conflicting emotions and simmers and bubbles over the years until all this ill-feeling spills over and leaks into the nooks and crannies, the bricks and mortar of its confinement. Where does it go? Where can it go? There are no channels to release it, only an old tangled web of discordant lines and too many empty spaces in which to breed. Oh, that house is one huge, voracious parasite for the wrong kind of energy."