I just recently returned from a trip to Great Britain. As an American, I was impressed with the vast amount of history crammed into the country, especially within the city of London, itself. Kings, traitors, plagues and prophecies greeted us from the tube stations (which were supposedly built over plague pits) to the tourist destinations.
At the Tower of London, I’d expected gory tales of treachery and beheadings, the royal crown jewels, and a dungeon full of torture devices. What I hadn’t expected were the ravens. At least six ravens are lodged at the Tower (their attendance enforced by clipping their wings).
Legend has it that an early British King, King Bran Hen of Bryneich (born c.485) was killed in battle and requested that his head be buried, as a talisman against invasion, on Gwynfryn (the 'White Mount') where The Tower of London now stands. Bran is the Welsh word for raven, which is where the legend gets translated to reality. It was Charles II, according to the stories, who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be protected. Legend has it that should the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the White Tower will crumble and a great disaster shall befall England.
Today, these winged guardians of the Tower are cared for by a Yeoman Warder (more commonly known as a Beefeater) designated as The Ravenmaster.
In my own stories, I enjoy weaving bits of history into my ghost stories, as can be seen from this excerpt from Wild Ghost Chase.
Enigma had taken the book Malcolm had been reading a week ago. She had a digital copy on her desktop at work, but it had been a breezy history of the Harringtons. More touchy-feely than historical.
Three shelves down and she still hadn’t found anything of substance. She resisted the urge to pitch the books on the floor as their titles refused to yield anything of substance. She moved three books of sermons to one side. They were large and thick, full of sanctimony and morality. If things didn’t go well, their lessons might be needed as she prepared to meet her maker. However, she wasn’t giving up.
A small volume had fallen behind the heavy tomes. Trying not to let hope soar in her chest, she pulled it out. Please don’t let it be another one of Amos’s diaries. The man was a cheapskate and took great pleasure in listing pages upon pages of expenditures and costs.
She flipped open the book, recognizing it as a diary; however, the name on the flyleaf wasn’t familiar. To MaryBelle Swan from her loving mother. To Monica’s amusement, the date listed was today’s date, September 13th. The year was 1849. Remembering some of the historical facts Malcolm often spouted, she knew gold had been discovered in this area sometime in 1848. MaryBelle must have been a forty-niner.
The first page read:
I’m to be married today.
Lucky girl was Monica’s thought. She read further, and immediately took back that sentiment. The author of this diary was little more than a child, but had lived a horrific lifetime in eleven short years. One passage in particular chilled Monica. The girl had written of a recurring dream, a dream MaryBelle suspected was not so much a dream as a memory.
“Hands grasp me, pulling at my limbs, tearing the clothes from my body. Rank smelling men paw at me, their faces distorted with lust. I scream, try to fight them off, but the more I struggle, the harder their fingers dig into my flesh. They seem to celebrate my pain.
One man, in particular, is especially mean. His caresses are slaps; his kisses more like bites that draw blood. I try to scream, but the words are trapped in a throat closed from panic. I am passed from one set of arms to another. When I awake, I realize my dream has become my reality for the man I am to marry, Jack Wild, is one of the men from my dreams.”
Monica turned the page, but there was nothing more. The rest of the journal was blank.
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