A handful of writers in a haunted mansion: what could possibly go wrong?

Rock 'em - Sock 'em Robots with S.G. Browne

Last week, I snuck into a Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat in lovely Mill Valley, California. The view was fabulous, the company sublime, and I had to walk home to Virginia to work off all the food the retreat supplied. What I didn't go much into detail about were my experiences with the house itself. As Dan, Steve and I drove up into the mountains overlooking the small town, I couldn't help thinking of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House:
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”   -- Shirley Jackson
Since this just happens to be my favorite book, I was all set to face whatever floating heads came my way and hoped they would be as scary and jaw-droppingly awesome as I've seen in the past. I've been researching and writing about ghosts and the paranormal for over twenty years, this would be a piece of cake. I know, I know -- famous last words. 

The first night in the house was accompanied by very good wine and conversation. Writers from around the United States and Canada had come to poke the paranormal and see if it giggled... and do some writing. Pffft. Writing. I was there to chase down a phantom. I went to bed around 11p PST (2a my time) and waited. My friend, Scott Browne (author of Breathers), had switched from our shared bedroom to the third floor, leaving me alone in a lovely - yet spooky - bedroom where he had his own ghostly experience two years before. Scott had been awoken by a ghost they had called Gretchen, whose named they'd learned from electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings in the room. Early one morning, something had grabbed his shoulder and shook him for several minutes, while leaving him unable to turn his head and see exactly who had strong hands and an attitude. Awesome. And I was alone with this bad girl now.

I ended up moving down the hallway to a cozy room where no one would wander through on route to the communal bathroom. I kept having visions of random ghostly flushing and decided I wanted to sleep more than scope out the showers all night. That night, among the nightly wanderings of writers, I waited - and dozed - and waited some more. I took an EVP that needs a bit more break down before I share it, and posted on facebook in the middle of the night. It was perfect.

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