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. Room 309 is Chad P. Brown’s contribution to the collection and he has agreed to step into the past with us and tell us what made the story speak to him. But before we get to his inspiration, let’s take a moment to get acquainted…
Chad P. Brown was born in Huntington, WV. Once he outgrew his childhood fears of haunted houses, clowns, and toy monkeys with cymbals (although the monkeys still creep him out a little bit), he discovered a dark love for writing and an affinity for macabre and eldritch matters. He is an Affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association and holds a Master’s in Latin from Marshall University. He has appeared in such anthologies as SPIDERS, Gothic Blue Book 2: Revenge Edition, and Fifty Shades of Decay. You can find him on Twitter at @chadbrown72 and on Facebook.
The Inspiration Behind Room 309
The Trans-Allegheny Asylum, located in Weston, West Virginia, is one of the most haunted mental institutions (if not places) in the United States. The hospital opened in 1864, originally designed to hold 250 patients. Like most mental institutions, it became over-crowded and housed close to 2,500 patients in the 1950s. Due to unfit conditions, cruel treatments, and violent deaths, the hospital’s doors were closed in 1994. Because of the strong paranormal activity within its walls, the owners of the former asylum offer ghost hunt tours.
One of the more well-known ghosts at Trans-Allegheny Asylum is a little girl named Lily. If Lily is in the mood, she will play with visitors by rolling a ball across the floor. There have also been incidents of visitors hearing giggling and the sound of a music box coming from her room. Lily has also been reported to dislike men.
Rumors abound about who Lily was and how she died. It was not uncommon for unwed, pregnant women to be housed in mental institutions at one time, their “condition” deemed the result of a mental ailment. Such was the case also for alcoholics, drug addicts, epileptics, and others at the time who today are thankfully not considered mentally ill.
When I saw the call for submissions for Sirens Call Publications’ Mental Ward: Echoes of the Past, I immediately knew I wanted to write a story for this anthology. I also wanted to draw inspiration from a local mental asylum and ghost story if possible. The Trans-Allegheny Asylum and Lily were the perfect motivations for my story.
However, all the reports of Lily are innocent and harmless in nature. I wanted my story to be dark and sinister. The end result was the ghost of a little girl who is much more deceptive, malicious, and cruel than the original impetus.
The main characters in my stories are usually very personal, based on people I know. Around the same time as I was preparing to write my story, a friend of mine passed away suddenly and without warning. A few years ago, another friend of ours had also passed away. Both of them were two of the kindest and good-hearted people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, always embracing life and a smile constantly on their face. The main characters in my story were inspired by those two friends.
The hardest part in writing Room 309 was the ending. As a writer, I was torn between how I wanted the story to end and between writing the ending for a story whose main characters were based on my two friends, an ending which would probably be horrendous. Sometimes, just as in real life, a writer has to say good-bye to characters, no matter how painful it is to let go of them.
So, Anthony and Scott, Room 309 is dedicated to the both of you and the impact you made on my life, however unknowingly and however brief.
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