Catherine Cavendish is the author of several novels and novellas, including The Devil's Serenade, Dark Avenging Angel, Saving Grace Devine, and The Pendle Curse. Today she's here to talk about some rather unsettling imaginary friends.
When you were growing up, did you have an imaginary friend? Did they seem real to you? Maybe sort-of-real. You could talk to them, imagine their responses, play with them - but you probably kept the ‘relationship’ within certain boundaries, however young you were. In my case, I invented an entire family of siblings – three sisters (two older, one a few years younger) and an older brother who looked out for us girls. Being an only child, I found them comforting, and fun, but I never imagined them to be real. They, in turn, kept themselves firmly lodged in my own mind and never attempted to cross any boundary into the real world.
In my novel, The Devil’s Serenade, my central character also had an imaginary family when she was a child. Scarily for her, they now start to appear in her real adult world.
Of course, my story is fiction, but there have been a number of accounts of small children making ‘friends’ with most unsuitable imaginary friends – who then cross the line.
One such story concerns a woman called Layla who lived with her four year old son, Ryan and her partner in a suburb of Stoke-on-Trent in England called Trentham. Although an only child, Ryan was a good mixer, socialising well with other children and enjoying a normal childhood. He had no history of talking to himself so his mother was surprised to hear him doing just that – quit loudly - as she passed his room one January evening.
On entering his room, she found her son sitting cross-legged on the floor. She asked him who he was talking to and he replied that he had a new friend, “Fred.” They had been talking. Ryan described his new friend as, “silly.”
Layla decided there was no harm in this new imaginary friend and left him to it. For the next few weeks, Ryan could often be heard chatting and laughing and his parents thought nothing more of it, putting it down to his lively imagination.
Then, one unforgettable night, Layla and her husband were woken by an earsplitting scream. It was Ryan.
They dashed into his room and found him curled up in the corner, white-faced, his hands over his face. Layla tried to comfort him, asking him what was wrong.
Ryan sobbed. He said Fred had got angry with him and shouted at him when Ryan said it was too late to play. Then Fred had screamed at him and scared him.
It took some minutes to calm the terrified little boy down.
The next day, Layla was cleaning out Ryan’s room while he was out with his father. She had a sudden urge to warn the imaginary friend and told him to keep away from her son. “If you ever scare my child again I shall have you removed. I will take Ryan to the doctor’s if I have to.”
She felt rather silly issuing such a warning to nobody, but a strange sense of satisfaction spread over her.
Ryan came home and went immediately to his room. Shortly after, he emerged and asked his mother why he had to go to the doctor’s. “Fred says you are taking me.”
Layla stared at her son, uncomprehendingly. How could Ryan have known about her tirade in his room? She had been alone in the house at the time and told no one else about it.
Ryan continued, each word chilling Layla’s blood. "He says you told him off today when you were alone. He says he's sorry for shouting at me and he won't do it again."
Layla didn’t take Ryan to the doctor and, although Ryan continued to play with ‘Fred’ for some months, nothing further happened to make her concerned. Then, Ryan stopped playing with his imaginary friend altogether.
Forever afterwards, Layla was never able to explain how Ryan could have known about her warning to Fred. Ryan could throw no light on the matter either. It remained an unsolved, intriguing mystery.
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she's about to remember…
When Maddie Chambers inherits her Aunt Charlotte’s gothic mansion, old memories stir of the long-forgotten summer she turned sixteen. She has barely moved in before a series of bizarre events drives her to question her sanity.
The strains of her aunt’s favorite song echo through the house, the roots of a faraway willow creep through the cellar, a child who cannot exist skips from room to room, and Maddie discovers Charlotte kept many deadly secrets.
Gradually, the barriers in her mind fall away, and Maddie begins to recall that summer when she looked into the face of evil. Now, the long dead builder of the house has unfinished business and an ancient demon is hungry. Soon it is not only Maddie’s life that is in danger, but her soul itself, as the ghosts of her past shed their cover of darkness.
You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:
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Other books by Catherine Cavendish include:
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About the author:
Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and ‘trainee’ black cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-18th century, which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV. Cat has written a number of published horror novellas, short stories, and novels, frequently reflecting her twin loves of history and horror and often containing more than a dash of the dark and Gothic. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.
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