Here is the last of our Scary Six posts for Halloween. I'm pleased to welcome debut author, Matt Ralphs onto the blog. Matt published his first novel, Fire Girl earlier this year.
If you had to spend Halloween in a scary place, where would it be?
Abandoned, derelict places where the past lingers amid the rust, dust and shadows fascinate me.
A tumbledown castle with roofless towers and dark dungeons, or a long-abandoned mansion, half-swallowed by ivy, where the floors creak and the servants’ bells toll in the breeze, or a disused factory filled with broken machinery, gantries and empty rooms.
At dusk I would light a lantern, enjoy a flask of tea, and wait for the ghosts to come say hello . . .
What story used to frighten you as a child?
‘Uncle Lubin’, illustrated and written by William Heath Robinson. In the story, a wicked Bag-bird steals Uncle Lubin’s beloved infant nephew. Upset but undaunted, brave Uncle Lubin gathers his belongings in an air-ship and sets off in search of his nephew.
One of the pictures in the book shows a horrible, laughing giant sitting cross-legged on the ground. That image frightened me so much I dreaded turning the page to reveal it. There are also dragon-snakes, fish that eat people in one swallow, and homicidal, sword-wielding old men.
What used to frighten you as a child?
When I was young I lived in a rambling three-storey house with a cellar. I loved it – there were winding stairs, long corridors, and little rooms with no clear purpose. It was the perfect place to play in and explore. But at night my imagination would run wild. Who’s creaking about in the attic? What’s that hunched shape in the corner of my bedroom? Is there something hiding in that odd little cupboard at the top of the stairs?
The house was old; I knew lots of people had lived in it before me, and I also surmised that some of them might have died there too. And perhaps, in one form or another, they were still around. I loved that house, but boy, did it frighten me!
What book would you recommend reading on Halloween?
I recommend the short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, by W. W. Jacobs. It’s creepy, leaves the most gruesome bits to the readers’ imagination, and is a master-class in succinct and suspenseful storytelling. The end is breath taking, and it still lingers in my mind.
And, if you still have time, follow it up with ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ by M. R. James. No one, but no one, wrote better ghost stories than the Victorians and Edwardians.
Who do you think is the scariest fictional character?
Annie Wilkes from Steven King’s novel ‘Misery’ is terrifying. She’s a lonely, depressive, homicidal woman who is obsessed by an author and his fictional heroine. So when she finds this author badly injured in a car accident, she takes him to her remote house and keeps him prisoner.
King ensures that the reasons behind the terrible things Annie does are explained by slowly drip-feeding information about her to the audience. The more we learn, the more we understand her, and the more we fear for her prisoner.
Annie is a three-dimensional character, utterly convincing, and all the more frightening because of it.
What would you dress up as to Trick or Treat?
I’d go as the scariest villain of all: death, the Grim Reaper. Give me a treat, or else!
Twelve-year-old Hazel Hooper has spent her whole life trapped in a magical Glade created by her mother, Hecate. She's desperate to meet new people and find out about the world. And, more than anything, she wants to be a witch. But when her mother is kidnapped by a demon - everything changes.
Suddenly Hazel is alone in the world. Well . . . not quite alone. For it turns out that Hazel does have magic - she's just not very good at controlling it. And she may have accidentally created a grumpy familiar in the form of a dormouse called Bramley.
Determined to rescue her mother, the young witch and her mouse set out to track down the demon and find Hecate. However, it turns out that life outside the Glade is far more dangerous than Hazel ever could have imagined. Witch Hunters are everywhere - and the witches are using demons to fight back!
Luckily for Hazel she manages to enlist the help of a handsome boy called David, and his drunken master, Titus White, who are expert demon hunters.
And witch finders...
To find out more about Matt Ralphs: