After yesterday’s introduction, it makes the most sense to start off this series of interviews with the contributors to the Haunted Mansion Projects with the woman who started it all off.
Rain Graves is an armed fictionist at large. Publishers Weekly described her work in Barfodder (Cemetery Dance, 2009) as “Bukowski meets Lovecraft,” and she is a Bram Stoker Award winning poet (2002). Her latest book, The Four Elements (Bad Moon Books, 2013), is written with Charlee Jacob, Linda Addison, and Marge Simon. Some of her short fiction can be found in Zombies vs. Robots: Women on War! (IDW, 2012), Tales from the House Band 2 (PlusOnePress, 2012), and High Stakes (Evil Jester Press, 2013). She is the hostess of The Haunted Mansion Writer’s Retreat.
In The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One, Rain wrote an introduction to the book, a poem, a short story, and her “Journal of a Paranormal Mind,” which collected the running posts she wrote for the group blog we kept during the first retreat. She reprised all these contributions, simply swapping an afterword for her introduction for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two.
Q: How did the idea for the Haunted Mansion Retreat occur to you?
RG: I was working in the Mansion back in 2009 and had some experiences there that left me wanting more. First I saw a full-bodied apparition of a maid dressed in Edwardian clothing manifest in front of me. Later, one of the staff members was with me making up the guest rooms on the 2nd floor, about 20 beds. Just as soon as we replaced the extra clean linens in the closet down the hall, we walked back through the rooms—and every single bed had been messed up, as if someone came along and threw the covers halfway down on each one. I also noticed strange smells I couldn’t explain: beeswax candles on the second floor landing, where no candles were kept or burned. And there was being touched. My ear was touched at the same time another girl’s ponytail was pulled.
I kept thinking that, as a horror writer, the ultimate experience would be spending a weekend retreat in that house, and writing about my experiences…but I didn’t want to do that alone. I wanted plenty of friends with me! So I mulled it over, and put the idea out there to the folks I normally see at conventions and good friends. People liked the idea, so we had our first retreat in 2010.
Q: Had you ever had a paranormal experience before you came to the Haunted Mansion?
RG: Yes, many times. As far back as I can remember, I have seen and heard spirits.
Q: Did anything spooky happen to you at the Mansion during the retreats?
RG: Yes. The first retreat, Sephera and I had a terrible time in a tiny little room at the end of the hall on the second floor. I don’t think we slept much in 2010… We kept experiencing icy cold spots, followed by seeing a giant, opaque black mass, which was also caught on infrared video at one point. But that wasn’t the spookiest thing. The spookiest thing was a disembodied voice whispering the word “God” in my ear, twice.
2012 had its own set of scary things. Our friend Dan had a harrowing experience after “letting in” an entity that had been following him around. We got rid of it, but I think it shook everyone up to see an over-six-feet-tall man of Dan’s size and stature being dragged under a bed by something we could not see. Had we not gotten rid of the thing in the appropriate ways, it could have attached itself to Dan permanently.
Q: What inspired the pieces you wrote for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two?
RG: The experience with Dan. The feeling and knowledge that something can come from nothing and haunt you forever: that made me think what it would be like to be an entity trapped in time, waiting for its chance of being free. I thought of the location of the Mansion being up a mountain and the Hall of the Mountain King. That was my inspiration for “Underneath the Ravens.”
Similarly, the poem “Ten Thousand Eyes” came from that dark place Dan went and his description of feeling thousands of eyes upon him outside the house. It came from the forest…and that’s also where the words for the poem seemed to find me.
Q: What do you hope will happen when you come back to the next Haunted Mansion Retreat in 2015?
RG: I hope that all the knowledge that we gained from the scientific investigations Nikki and the GhostGirls have helped produce will help us communicate better with the spirits that are there. I’d like to eventually understand the mystery of Gretchen and the mean, bossy ghost that seems to try to control them all and what they do. It’s clear the ghosts are trying to reach out to us, because we get intelligent responses to our questions. Understanding who they were and where they are now would be paramount. It might help us to understand why there are so many of them in that place, too.
Q: What’s coming up for you next writing-wise?
RG: I’m working on a few little projects and things for anthologies, but the next big project will be a book of poetry based on gods and goddesses. I can say no more than that!
You can keep up with Rain here:
Haunted Mansion Writer’s Retreat: http://hauntedmansionwriters.blogspot.com
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