At the end of September, Sirens Call Publications released Mental Ward: Echoes of the Past. Twelve authors wrote stories that will take seat in your mind and chill you to the bone. As with all of our anthologies, we like to learn why the authors wrote their particular stories and invite them all to write something that speaks to their inspiration. Denzell Cooper, author of The Rose Wing has agreed to step into the past with us and tell us what made the story speak to him. He’s even taken some pictures of the actual site to share. Before we get to that however, let’s take a few moments to learn about Denzell…
I live in Cornwall, England. When I’m not working as a maths specialist tutor or writing weird horror/fantasy stories I can often be found wandering around old mortuaries, castles and graveyards late at night in the hope of catching a glimpse of the lingering dead.
Rose Wing will be my first professionally published story, and is an idea that I had kicking around in my cluttered cranium for about 7 years before I wrote it down. It also represents one of very few attempts to write ghost stories, despite my fascination with the subject.
And now for a few words on The Rose Wing –
The original Rose Wing story
The version of Rose Wing that appears in the Mental Ward: Echoes of the Past anthology is a completely rewritten version of a story I wrote many years ago. The original was much shorter, and in some ways darker, with one of the main characters – both of them children – disappearing forever into the bowels of an abandoned hospital. When I wrote that original story, I had one place in mind above all others: St Lawrence’s Hospital near my home in Cornwall served as my inspiration for the hospital in the story.
Stories of St Lawrence’s Hospital
St Lawrence’s Hospital was built in 1906 as an asylum for the mentally ill. In some parts of Cornwall the name of the hospital became a byword for insanity in the latter part of the twentieth century. The oldest Victorian buildings on the site have been disused for many years and recently secured against entry, but such high security is a recent development. As a child growing up in the vicinity of the hospital, I heard many stories from my peers of the dark interior, the peeling paintwork, the sounds of movement when nobody else was supposed to be around, the spirits that would communicate through Ouija Boards or appear in dimly illuminated mirrors.
The hospital in my story is a combination of my imagination, the pictures that formed part of my research and the stories of the old buildings at St Lawrence’s. The site now boasts several modern hospital buildings that stand alongside those older wards. Treating illnesses from minor injuries to minor surgery, there is none of the dark foreboding that is present in my story. The new hospital buildings have no reputation for being haunted or frightening in any way. But not all of the modern buildings are entirely new, and those that have been renovated have new stories to tell.
The former mortuary, where Cindy and Jason enter the hospital in my story, stands on the edge of the grounds of St Lawrence’s hospital. Now a modern office building, I have been inside it on many occasions, though I haven’t seen the tunnels that reputedly still connect it to the main site and were used for transporting corpses without distressing the patients. Few people who work in the renovated mortuary have any doubt about the existence of ghosts, such is the frequency of the hauntings that take place. I have heard stories of people’s names being called out by disembodied voices, footsteps outside the toilet cubicles when nobody is there, and even the reflection of a woman who turned out to be nowhere in sight. All of the stories are eerily reminiscent of the ones I heard from my classmates when I was growing up. Personally, I have heard odd noises within the mortuary building and seen a man in blue overalls walking through the grounds, who vanished in plain sight when I came closer.
Echoes of the Past
Sadly the oldest remaining buildings at St Lawrence’s are scheduled for demolition in the near future. When that happens, the majority of the inspiration for both versions of Rose Wing will be nothing more than memory. But while the site continues to be used, in whatever capacity, I hope that the spirits of those who lived and died there will continue to make their presence known to all who dare to enter.
In places where unspeakable atrocities occurred sometimes ‘something’ lingers, stuck between the worlds of the living and the dead. Those who believe in the grey area behind the veil will tell you that those places can become eternal cages that hold the souls of the deceased captive.
Mental Ward: Echoes of the Past is a collection of twelve such stories; tales of hauntings taking place in asylums. The places where the crazed, the insane, and sometimes the different were hidden away from society’s view.
Follow the winding path crafted by the talented, and in some cases, twisted imaginations of the storytellers who would taint your peaceful world with their echoes of the past.
Brent Abell, Chad P. Brown, Sarah Cass, Alex Chase, Denzell Cooper, Jason Cordova, Lindsey Beth Goddard, Sharon L. Higa, Lockett Hollis, K. Trap Jones, Joseph A. Lapin, and Kimberly Lay