A day in a dusty Asylum is much better when started with a shower. Even though I used the other shower this time, in a completely different room, I still had that uneasy feeling of company when no one else was there. It was a very quick shower. Croissants again for brekkie and a strong cup of Leah coffee and I was ready for the workshop.
The second formal writing workshop was about character building – a bit like what we were doing staying in an abandoned haunted lunatic asylum.
Who are your characters? What are their flaws? What do they look like? How do they respond when locked in a cell in a haunted…? I mean, how do they respond to others?
What does your character need?
All great questions prompting more great questions and providing plenty of lively discussion.
Mini quiches, sausage rolls, pies and a variety of delicious sandwiches arrived after the workshop. There was no shortage of yummy food on this weekend. For those still wanting, there were biscuits, fresh fruit and plenty of pizza slices left from the night before.
I’m not sure what everyone else did around now but I went back to bed. Perhaps it was a time other attendees sought out Geoff’s feedback on their current WIPs, or did some writing. Maybe they had another look around.
I awoke mid-afternoon. Nothing was scheduled until dinner so we were free to wander the complex or talk some more.
We carpooled and went to the pub. There is something about the counter meal that brings us Aussies a little closer together. We all shared a laugh and talked a bit about ourselves over a delicious meal and, for those inclined, a glass of wine or beer. When we returned some settled into chatter, others back into their writing, and a few off to bed.
Then, before we knew it, it was 11pm and time for the Beechworth Ghost Tours Paranormal investigation.
After donning hats, gloves and scarves a small group of seven walked to the Bijou theatre to meet Stuart – our guide for the evening – who proceeded to hand out a wide array of ghost hunting gadgets to use in the investigation. They came in all shapes and sizes but all worked from a similar principal. They were meant to pick up electro-magnetic fields, or EMFs. Even though EMFs are commonplace in natural and man-made surroundings, it is a belief that ‘entities’ can manipulate these fields to manifest or interact. Usually, a baseline reading is taken in each area so as to be aware when something unusual happens.
After a brief instruction session we were on our way. Basically, if the equipment lights up in a strange manner, there’s probably something there. Maybe a ghost. Then we ask questions and the ghost responds by lighting the equipment. Simple.
The evening went like this.
We sat in several dark and dusty rooms with the only lights the investigation equipment. The equipment would be placed on the floor, including torches and a variety of other objects from Stuart’s backpack, and he would ask if anyone was present.
“Once for yes, twice for no,” he would say.
Then he would say “slam a door”, “make a noise” or “turn on one of the torches or gadgets placed around the room”. At other times he would ask the unseen presence to flick someone’s hair or touch them. This went on room after room with many a chill feeling, but no flicking hair or pats on the arm, and certainly no slamming doors. There were stages where the equipment would light up and torches seemed to flash in response to questions. There were other times in which several of the instruments lit up at once.
Maybe I am too conditioned by television. I was waiting for cold draughts, sudden and dramatic drops in temperature, ice breath or perhaps an eerie howl. Even something to go flying across the room.
Just after midnight we sat in another room forming another rough circle. Equipment was placed in the centre and torches (turned off) were scattered around the room.
Stuart began again. “Is anyone here?”
“One for yes, two for no.”
I sat yawning, thinking how even though I’d had an afternoon nap I was still tired. My mind started to drift back to the common room and my bed. I wondered who would be still awake.
Then my eyes focused on one of the pieces of equipment in the centre of the room. It was a black rectangular box, probably the size of two cigarette packets sat side by side. It looked to be moving. Knowing I was tired I did the good old trick of validating what’s in front – I closed one eye and picked a point to align the box to against the wall. Once I had a focus point I opened both eyes for a few seconds, then did the exercise again. The box had moved – about an inch across the carpeted floor. I looked cautiously about and no one else was reacting. I chose to do what any normal person would do and pretended it hadn’t happened. Denial is such a wondrous thing.
The tour finished not long after and a few of us sat up and had a warm drink before bed. In the manner of a brave sceptic I mentioned my silliness in that room – how the box had appeared to move and then how I’d done the eye thing to measure it. Ho-ho-ho. It was all very funny, until one of the other attendees confessed to have seen and done the exact same thing.
The last Day
It was Sunday morning and time for more coffee and croissants. I could have had cereal, but, croissants.
I slept in so it was straight to the workshop on Plot and Pace. The bathroom voyeur would have to share a shower with someone else.
It was another great workshop. A lot of what Geoff discussed was information I had learned in my fiction classes in TAFE but, with one major difference. Back then I did not have the same WIP or the same level of understanding to relate it to. Before long we had an engaging discussion on how to use plot and pacing to enhance or tell your story.
After the workshop, the guests started leaving. By lunch there were only the staff and two attendees remaining. We had another Beechworth Bakery lunch before gathering our things ready for the car.
I looked around the almost-vacated communal space and that same heaviness I had felt on the first night wrapped around me like a cloak. It was as if something was stepping back out of the shadows.
“Did you feel the energy change?” I said to Geoff’s wife, Dawn.
“Yes,” she said without any further explanation.
“I don’t envy you two staying here on your own. Have a good night’s sleep.” And with a hug, I too was on my way.
And I have to say, it was really nice sleeping in my own bed that night, untroubled by restless spirits. Well, untroubled by those in the afterlife. After all I hadn’t seen my husband in over four days…
But as for Dawn and Geoff and their night alone at the asylum… well, I did hear something about a shadow person hovering around the room. And about electrical cables being unplugged, and moved several metres away from their connecting ends… when it was just the two of them there…
And the Practical information.
If you are considering attending an Asylum Creative Retreat, all the details can be found here: http://asylumretreats.com/
You can read all about Geoff Brown and Cohesion here: http://cohesionediting.com/
I did make it to the lolly shop in Beechworth township – three shop-fronts of lolly goodness. I can also recommend Beechworth Bakery for lunch and the Hibernian Hotel for great service and a good pub meal. http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/ http://www.hibernianhotel.com.au/ http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/
Next time I go to Beechworth I’m going here: http://beechworthcemetery.com.au/cemetery-layout.html
And definitely, do the tours. http://www.beechworthghosttours.com/
And once you have been to this retreat, you get to join a community of fellow attendees…
Uh, uh, you have to do the weekend first!
Thanks again to Geoff Brown and Cohesion Editing and Proofreading for a super weekend. I learnt heaps, made new friends (real living ones, that is) and had a blast.