Today’s special guest is Simon Clark, multiple award winning author of over twenty horror novels, among them: Nailed By the Heart, Blood Crazy, Darker, Vampyrrhic, Night of the Triffids, King Blood, In This Skin, The Tower, Ghost Monster and Whitby Vampyrrhic. Most recently, he won a British Fantasy Award for his novella Humpty’s Bones, and has just released a digital edition of his critically acclaimed first collection, retitled Blood & Grit 21, which boasts new material, including photographs, a making-of article, a new introduction (by Andy Darlington), a new story “21 Skinner Lane”, and a reprint of Clark’s first professional sale.
Here, Simon reminisces about a particularly creepy churchyard from his youth. Be sure to watch the video (below), directed by Clark himself, for a walking tour of the location…
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LET’S GET SCARED
‘Let’s get scared.’
‘When it gets dark we’ll go to the cemetery. The old one at the church.’
‘Why do we want to get scared?’
‘It’s Halloween, that’s why.’
We were ten years old at the time. Getting scared on Halloween seemed like a brilliant idea. So, me and my friend, Tom, headed off to the medieval church. You can find some terrifically strange gravestones there. Just the perfect venue for two young boys who are eager for a Halloween adventure. You see, Badsworth Church* was routinely used by local kids when they were in the mood for something on the eerie side of frightening.
So as dusk fell we arrived at the church. With perfect timing a thick mist ghosted in from the surrounding fields to engulf the cemetery. To our delight we discovered the fog had become so thick that we couldn’t see each other if we were separated by just a dozen yards. What was even more brilliant (for a couple of ten year olds) was that the gloom and the mist made the tombstones resemble strange, motionless figures – as if the dead had risen from the earth and now stood silently in the dusk.
Perhaps waiting for two reckless adventurers to happen by.
Well, two reckless adventurers did happen by.
Tom and me.
We ran along the graveyard paths hooting out ghost sounds.
Dusk darkened into night.
The mist grew thicker. We could now barely see ten feet in front of us.
Our laughter began to sound forced. We decided – as the last of the daylight died – it would be a good idea to go home now. In fact, it would be a good idea to get right away from this forlorn field of the dead.
We hurried along one of the paths that led to the churchyard gate.
‘Someone chucked a jar at us,’ declared Tom.
‘What would they do that for?’ I asked.
‘To scare us.’
‘They didn’t have to do that, I’m already scared.’
My heart beat faster. Suddenly the cemetery seemed vast. The quicker we walked to the gate the less progress we made. It seemed as if the cemetery pathway had become uncannily elongated.
We headed through the mist and the darkness, determined to get out of that suddenly frightening realm.
By now, we could hardly see anything at all. So when the figure loomed out of the darkness we nearly ran into him. We stopped dead.
An old man turned to look at us. His eyes were almost colorless. In truth, they seemed as white as the mist.
‘Wait,’ he grunted. Then he pointed at a headstone. ‘What does it say there?’
Tom was a polite child. So he obediently read from the stone, ‘Alfred Kellett. Died 1st November, 1936.’
The old man sighed. ‘That’s what I thought it said.’ He stared into the fog. ‘This cemetery is bigger than it looks. I can never find my way out.’
Tom pointed along the path. ‘That’s the way to the village.’
When you’re ten, when you’ve reveled in the mist-swirling weirdness of an ancient cemetery, that’s when you’re prepared to believe the impossible. Right then, we believed that Tom had had been asked by the old gentleman to read what was written on his own tombstone. And now, the ghost was trying to find his way home.
‘Let’s get scared,’ Tom had suggested.
Well, in my book, we’d succeeded in achieving exactly that.
We fled from the graveyard. We ran all the way home. When we felt safe we started screaming. Of course, we were laughing and screaming at the same time, as if it had all been a big joke, and we weren’t really scared, were we?
Of course, with mature hindsight, I can just claim it was coincidence that a short-sighted gent asked Tom to read what was on the gravestone.
But, if all these years later, I walked into the same churchyard at dusk, and I found an old man staring at the gravestone, trying to read the name carved there, I might well turn round.
And I just might run as fast as I did when I was ten years old.
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*If you’re feeling brave… if you can handle more eerie stuff, try ‘A Child’s Dominion’. This pint-sized horror movie features Badsworth Church’s atmospheric graveyard in ‘Let’s Get Scared’. Take a deep breath, clench your fists, and watch…
Simon Clark’s latest book is Blood & Grit 21, an e-collection of hard-hitting horror fiction, complete with photographs and an afterword that reveals the story behind the stories. See bloodandgrit.com
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