31 Days of Halloween – Alison Stuart

Hi everyone and thank you to Brynna for
hosting me in her Halloween special.
I love ghost stories and although
(thankfully) I have never met a ghost face to face, I have had what I call
uncomfortable experiences. This has not stopped me jumping on “Lantern Ghost
Tours” from Port Arthur in Tasmania to Edinburgh in Scotland. Oddly I have yet
to experience the Lantern Ghost Tour of my own home town and being the original
port for the city of Melbourne, I believe Williamstown boasts quite an
assortment of spectres.

Having written a couple of ghostly short
stories, it was inevitable I would turn my hand to a full length novel and
GATHER THE BONES <http://www.alisonstuart.com/gather-the-bones.html>
 is definitely a ghost story.  However, without wishing to reveal any
spoilers, it did raise the issue of ghostly animals.
I first came across a spectral dog on a
trip to England when, touring alone with my young sons, we found ourselves lost
in Wales. By accident we stumbled across a late medieval fortified manor house
called Gwydir Castle <http://www.gwydircastle.co.uk/history.htm>
. It was very much a private home, opened up by the owners to raise the money
to restore it (I believe it is now a B&B). I have to say it was not a place
I would have liked to have lived as it was one of those places that “raised my
heckles” and I am not surprised to see it described on its website as “One of
the most haunted houses in Wales”. When we were talking to the caretaker, she
told us about the ghost dog.  She owned a
dog which came with her to work at the Castle. Hearing barking she looked out
of the window she saw her dog joyfully gambling in the garden with a strange
dog  (a tall, grey dog) she had never
seen before. She went out to call her animal in and at the sound of her voice
the second dog just vanished.

The owner of the house had found some bones
in the cellar during the restoration and had them sent away for analysis. The
result came back saying they were the bones of a dog. Conscious that the bodies
of animals were often used in the foundations of houses to ward off evil
spirits, she restored the bones to where they had been found. The spectral dog
has not been seen since.
Animals do have a sensitivity to spectral
activity. In one of the haunted buildings I worked in, one of the staff members
(who was alone in the building for much of the day at that time) started
bringing his dog into the office to keep him company. The dog was dozing
contentedly by the heater when it suddenly stood straight up, all the heckles
on its back raised.  With bared teeth it
turned to a pillar in the room and started growling. It kept this up for nearly
an hour before settling back in front of the heater as if nothing had happened.
 The resident ghost, Albert, must have
popped in to share the warmth of the heater and have a bit of company. To read
more about Albert, visit my own blog post, The Last Resident of Netherby.  <http://alisonstuart.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/last-resident-of-netherby.html>

Those are my own personal experiences with animals
and the spirit world but on researching this blog I came across other,
wonderful stories, of much loved dogs and cats who stayed on to love and
protect their owners. One of my favourites is the story of Shep.

Jo was returning from World War II. As he
hadn’t told anyone of his arrival, he knew he had to walk home from the train
station in the dark of the night. As he walked down the road, to his delight
his old dog Shep came bounding up to meet him. The two had a joyful reunion and
with Shep beside him Jo continued down the road towards the bridge over the
river. As he started to cross the bridge, Shep started growling and tugging at
Jo’s trousers. The dog set off down a different path, away from the bridge.
Annoyed, Jo followed him, eventually catching up with him further up the river.
He cross the bridge at that point and eventually made it home.  He apologised for the lateness of the hour
and grumbled about Shep delaying him and making him come home the long way. His
father looked at him and said, “Son, Shep died last winter.”  Jo learned that the Spring rains had badly
damaged the bridge and if he had tried to cross it in the dark, he would have
fallen to his death.
In the spirit of Halloween, do you have any
tales of animals and the spirit world?

A little bit about Alison
is an award winning Australian writer of historicals with
heart.  Whether duelling with dashing
cavaliers or waywards ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and
characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of
happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military
and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes.  She lives with her own personal hero and two
needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along
the sea front of her home town.  She
loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, facebook,
twitter and Goodreads.
Her latest book, a haunting love story set in 1923, GATHER THE BONES <http://www.alisonstuart.com/gather-the-bones.html>  is available from all reputable online