Congratulations to our winners. This was a wonderful competition to judge with many fabulous submissions. We hope you enjoy the winning entry.
1st Prize: £500 Sarah Martin
2nd Prize: £300 Joan Hall
3rd Prize: £200 Tony Bell
4th Prize: £100 Alice Roberts
Insanity ran through the family. It had crawled through the generations like an evil serpent spreading its poison. From the safety of an alcove, Gareth peered nervously at the figure of the young girl hanging from the beams, her white body, translucent as the shards of moonlight pierced through the stained-glass window highlighting her frame. She’d been just one of the victims of Henry LeMonde, the former bullyish landowner, a tortured soul himself, his madness legendary, he’d ruled with a rod of iron but, the voices in his head, some, direct from God, had led him to abuse and kill indiscriminately. This girl, if legend was correct, had worked as a serving maid in the big house.
He blinked and the apparition had gone but, he didn’t dare move from his concealed position. His spine tingled, waiting for the next one. It was as if they were frozen and captured in a sequence, one after the other, a haunting display of tortured and vile souls parading their death for all to see. It was like every horror film rolled into one, he felt repulsed and yet, drawn to those sharing their terrible fate. There had been twenty innocent deaths, locals who had paid the price of straying too close to the landowner’s lair. But that was nothing compared to the other bodies found in various places of the house.
The manor house was huge with separate wings. From perusing family journals, Henry had mainly stayed in one wing, that had become his sanctuary, but in other parts of the house, they’d discovered decaying bodies, stacked one by one. Family members, including Henry’s own mother, his sister, an uncle, and even, one son. All had been tainted by the madness but all had been viciously murdered driven by the dark demons within Henry. Unable to stop himself, he’d slaughtered most of the family and, probably many other bodies were still hidden in the grounds. After slaughtering each one, the legend stated that Henry, covered in blood would pray at the altar of this church declaring he had done God’s work.
The history of the LeMonde’s was fascinating but deadly dark.
The church within the manor grounds had long been abandoned by honest, god-fearing folk. The strange noises, the sudden violent and disturbing apparitions had been too much to bear. The cleaner had fainted when something grotesque had growled behind her, the organist had vowed never to return as the face of Henry himself had leered at her through the church pipes and in the last week, Gareth had been driven out by the fear of evil coming to claim him. He was sure that they meant him harm.
Could the ghosts reach out and cause true bodily harm in this world? He didn’t think so, yet, the air was thick with intent. it was as if evil crawled through the air. This time, a shriek and then, laughter pierced the darkness, no body, just a trapped soul reliving a moment of life. He swallowed hard and shrunk lower in his alcove. Through his research, he understood the shrill laughter belonged to the mother or demented sister. Had they been inflicted by the same illness? He knew that some of the family members had left at the first sign of Henry’s madness. They’d left the area and had survived fairly well but were then outcasts of the family home.
Had there ever been peace and happiness within these walls? Now, as he gazed around the corner, another body, long flowing gown hiding a tiny frame, her neck at an unnatural angle on the end of the rope, she bobbed in the cool breeze as Henry himself manifested, a cold chill descending and sweeping through the church aisles before he vanished, his grotesque face twisted as if in pain.
He’d seen enough. Senses tingling and his stomach churning, he’d made this midnight vigil each night for the last seven days and like clockwork, the spirits manifested as if on a timer. Well-rehearsed, they were ready for the public stage, trapped here for eternity each reliving their own hell. Gareth raced down the aisle and escaped, slamming the heavy church doors behind him. As the sultry summer night air greeted him, it chased the chills from his bones and he sighed in relief. It was going to be okay.
With his back leaning against the door, he viewed the land, green and lush, almost paradise. His land he thought, with a wry smile. There seemed to be very little evidence of the tortured souls that had once lived here, for some reason, the manifestations all took place in the church. He’d been so lucky that his ancestors had escaped. He was direct lineage to Henry’s brother but now, with no other living family members, he’d inherited it all. Some called this placed cursed and yes, he knew he might not escape the torments of Henry himself or, the madness that sometimes-skipped generations. But, he had plans. He would restore the manor gradually but the ghosts caught in the church, held prisoner by God would bring visitors to his door. He was still trying to think of a name for his new business, that of ghost tours and in time, would provide accommodation for ghost hunters the world over. Finally, his insane family and blood-laden history would do some good, bringing him the money he so deserved. Smiling, Gareth walked away unaware of the ghostly face, angry, distorted and pressed up against the glass just watching.