The Witch Who Isn’t There

Imperial War Museum

Bethlem Hospital, London (Photo credit: Secret Pilgrim)

I’m almost 2/3rds of the way into my new project, a dark mystery set in Victorian England – both London and St Mary’s Church in Chesham. I wanted to touch many themes, not the least being the puzzle of insanity in an age where such things were attributed to the length of ones nose. It’s the story of a man thought to be mad, his doctor, a kidnapped South American boy, and four dead young girls.

What surprised me most about writing this story was the voice my brain, my energy, my muse, chose to speak in. From the beginning it told me what kind of story this would be. How?

By giving me a poem.

It is a children’s poem, recited as a sort of talisman to ward off evil by those who feared they might be next.  It appears on Page 2 of the novel.

A man with long black hair once came

To fill the clergy’s cup with shame.

He took the girls to ring the bell

And sent them on their way to hell.

Jonny Thatch ate out their eyes,

A Florin each to leave them by.

St. Mary’s calls for those who dare,

Behold the witch who isn’t there.

I Must Know

English: A view of Bethlehem Royal Hospital, L...

English: A view of Bethlem Royal Hospital, London, from Lambeth Road, published before 1896. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately I’ve been reading about readers “preferences” when it comes to a particular genre. For example, mystery readers prefer the Victorian era, and horror readers prefer things to be set in modern times. I’m not sure if I agree… but my opinion in this doesn’t really matter.

I write horror, not because I am a dark, brooding person obsessed with death, but because that seems to be what comes out most of the time. I have to admit, though, so far I haven’t written anything in a present setting. My stories occur in the 1800’s. One novel involves pioneer settlers in a lonely mountain outpost, and the other regarding a man held in Bethlem Hospital in London.

So here’s my question – according to the “reliable sources” I’ve  encountered, no one will want to read these stories, because they’re most likely going to fall into the Horror category, and neither are set in a year 2000-something. Are they right?