The Haunting of Thores-Cross
*Silver Medal Winner, European fiction - 2015 IPPY Book Awards
*#1 Bestseller in 6 Amazon Categories, including Ghost Suspense, British Horror and Gothic Romance
*Top 10 Bestseller in 8 more, including Historical Thrillers and Occult Horror
*Over 100 5-STAR reviews on Amazon.com
Likened by independent reviewers on Amazon to the Brontë sisters, Edgar Allen Poe, Barbara Erskine and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Karen Perkins' novels are filled with unflinching honesty and an acute understanding of human nature. She explores not only the depths of humanity, but the depths of human motivation behind the actions and pain people inflict upon each other, as well as the repercussions of these actions not only in the short term, but also the later generations who live with the implications of the past.
Emma Moorcroft is still grieving after a late miscarriage and moves to her dream house at Thruscross Reservoir with her husband, Dave. Both Emma and Dave hope that moving into their new home signifies a fresh start, but life is not that simple. Emma has nightmares about the reservoir and the drowned village that lies beneath the water, and is further disturbed by the sound of church bells - from a church that no longer exists.
Jennet is fifteen and lives in the isolated community of Thores-Cross, where life revolves about the sheep on which they depend. Following the sudden loss of both her parents, she is seduced by the local wool merchant, Richard Ramsgill. She becomes pregnant and is shunned not only by Ramsgill, but by the entire village. Lonely and embittered, Jennet's problems escalate, leading to tragic consequences which continue to have an effect through the centuries.
Emma becomes fixated on Jennet, neglecting herself, her beloved dogs and her husband to the point where her marriage may not survive. As Jennet and Emma's lives become further entwined, Emma's obsession deepens and she realises that the curse Jennet inflicted on the Ramsgill family over two hundred years ago is still claiming lives.
Emma is the only one who can stop Jennet killing again, but will her efforts be enough?
I could not look down at myself. I could not bear the sight of Mam’s clothes on me. Both skirt and shawl itched. I knew I would be aware of every thread of wool on my skin all day. More noise at the door, and I followed Mary downstairs. Digger and his son, Edward, had arrived with the cart to take Mam to the church. I let Mary Farmer organise them. It were Mary who urged their care. Mary who gave instructions to John over Pa. Mary who pushed me through the door and out into bright sunlight. It were Mam’s funeral, how could the sun shine? I looked back at the house and, for a moment, pity for Pa mixed with my despair. How long before Digger’s cart came for him?
‘Come on, lass, no dawdling!’
I turned back to the cart and started the long walk behind it down the hill, Mary Farmer at my side. After a few steps I stopped hearing her endless chatter. It became just another sound of the country, like the birdsong. Ever present but meaningless. We passed the smithy and William Smith joined us, then the Gate Inn and Robert and Martha Grange.
One by one, the village turned out, dressed in their best, and fell in behind us. Mary Farmer greeted them all. I hardly noticed. I felt as if my insides had frozen. My heart, my lungs, belly, everything. With each step, they splintered further. I wondered if I would make it as far as the church at the other side of Thores-Cross or whether I would be left on the side of the lane, a heap of cracked and broken ice.
I took it. I had not realised I were crying, but when I wiped my face and eyed the scrap of cloth, it were sopping wet. My eyes and nose must have been streaming since we left the house.
I scratched my shoulder. Remembered I were wearing Mam’s clothes and lost myself in sobs. Mary Farmer tried to put an ample arm around me, but I shrugged her off. I wondered if I would ever stop crying. The cart reached the bridge and turned right. I followed, walking alongside the river, the same walk I used to make every other Sunday with Mam and Pa. We shared a curate with Fewston and would have to make that walk twice a month, unless Robert Grange were making the trip in his dray cart and we could ride the two miles over the moor. I realised with a start that I would not have to do that any more – not if I did not want to. Less than half the village made the trip to Fewston, claiming a variety of ills, and we only went because Mam insisted. I cried harder at the jolt of relief I felt.
‘Here we are, lass. Thee stick with me, I’ll get thee through this.’ Mary Farmer clung to my arm and I peered at the church. Digger and Edward lifted Mam down from the cart, ready for various men from the village to carry it inside. Robert Grange, William Smith, Thomas Fuller and George Weaver. Our closest neighbours. I took a deep breath and followed them into the plain single-storey stone building with the steps so worn they were more like a ramp. It were cold inside, despite the July sun. Or maybe that were me. Still ice, still cracking, but still in one piece.
Jennet's here. No one is safe.
A skeleton is dug up at the crossing of the ways on Hanging Moor, striking dread into the heart of Old Ma Ramsgill - the elderly matriarch of the village of Thruscross. And with good reason. The eighteenth-century witch, Jennet, has been woken.
A spate of killings by a vicious black dog gives credence to her warnings and the community - in particular her family - realise they are in terrible danger.
Drastic measures are needed to contain her, but with the imminent flooding of the valley to create a new reservoir, do they have the ability to stop her and break her curse?
Thruscross, North Yorkshire
7th August 1966 – 11:30 a.m.
‘Right, tea break over, lads, back to work. Rog, Steve, you’re up on Hanging Moor in the bulldozers. As soon as they’ve gone through, Paul and Simon, you get the chippings down. And take care – don’t go past the markers, that drop’s lethal.’
The road crew groaned, threw their dregs of tea to the ground and refastened their flasks before clambering into their machines to dig out the access road to the new dam spanning the Washburn Valley. The valley would be flooded in a month’s time, creating the new reservoir for the Leeds Corporation Waterworks to supply half of Leeds with drinking water, and the road should have been completed last month.
Rog led the way, the large bucket scraping heather and peat, then dumping it into the waiting tipper truck.
Steve followed, making a deeper cut. Together they gouged an ugly scar over the pristine Yorkshire moorland.
‘Bugger,’ Steve cried out and jolted in his seat, knocking the control levers. The big digger wobbled, teetered, then slowly toppled over towards the edge and a sheer wooded drop of a hundred and fifty feet to the valley bottom below.
‘Steve!’ Rog cried. ‘Lads, help!’
The rest of the crew downed tools and diggers and rushed to the stricken bulldozer. By the time they reached it, Rog was already clambering on to the cab, desperately trying not to look at the vista that opened up before him only a few feet away.
‘Steve?’ he called again. No answer. His mate lay unconscious, twisted in his seat. ‘No!’ The digger slid a foot or two in the wrong direction.
‘Rog, get down; she’s going over!’ Andy, the foreman, shouted.
‘No – Steve’s out cold.’
‘You’re no help to him if your weight pushes it over the edge – get down! We’ll get help, but we need to secure the digger somehow, keep her steady.’
Rog took a last look at his mate then nodded. He realised he couldn’t get into the cab without destabilising the digger further and he had no idea how serious Steve’s injuries were. He climbed down carefully, just as Simon drew up in the tipper truck. Half full of soil and rock, it was the heaviest vehicle there.
Andy got on the radio to inform his boss at the dam where there was a telephone to call for help, while Paul ran over with a chain. He secured it round one of the digging arms, and Simon backed up – slowly – until the chain was taut.
The digger shifted, turning around the pivot point they’d created. The back end now hung off the edge of the cliff.
‘Keep it there, Simon,’ Andy called. ‘And keep it in reverse – if the edge fails, you’ll need to pull him backwards.’
‘Can’t he just do that anyway?’ Rog asked.
‘We don’t know how badly he’s hurt. If he’s broken his back or neck, moving him could make it worse. We don’t want to move him unless we have to – not until the Fire Brigade and ambulance get here. What happened anyway?’
‘Uh.’ Rog pulled his attention away from the downed machine. ‘I don’t know – he shouted out, then rolled it.’
‘He shouted before he rolled?’
‘Andy, Rog. Come and have a look at this,’ Paul called and beckoned them over to join him where Steve had made his last cut.
‘What is it?’ Andy came hurrying over.
‘Uh, looks like a skull.’
‘What? Oh Christ, it’s a bloody skeleton! Well, that’s us finished, lads, no more work here for at least a month while they sort this one out,’ Rog said.
‘Forget that, we’ll just go round it,’ Andy said.
The three men looked over at Steve, then back into the grave. Only the skull and shoulder girdle were visible. As one, they shuddered as a worm pushed its way out of the compacted earth behind the jaw bones, for a moment looking as if the skull had stuck an emaciated tongue out at them.
‘Jennet will have your heart and your fear in equal measure’
‘Through Jennet we see how cruelty can drive even the most ordinary people to hatred and, in Jennet's case, evil’
Yorkshire is in the grip of a heatwave, and Thruscross Reservoir has dried up to reveal the remains of the drowned village of Thores-Cross beneath.
Playing in the mud which coats the valley floor, four-year-old Clare Wainwright finds an old inkpot, and can’t wait to show it to her best friend, Louise. But when Louise’s mother, Emma, sees it, her reaction is shocking, and both families are plunged into their worst nightmares.
Emma knows what the inkpot portends:
Jennet has woken.
Now she wants the children.
This is not a gore-ridden, jump-scare horror story. This is more real than that. Jennet is a story about the horrific things that people do to each other, and the way we react to that maltreatment – which does not always end with death.
Jennet’s story is a horror story because it’s not necessarily fiction. It reflects the way women were treated in the time that Jennet lived. It reflects the psychology of the abuse cycle. And it reflects real life. All of it.
If, as I believe, the spirit does not die when the physical body dies, then how many spirits are looking for vengeance today?
What wrongs will you want to right when you pass through that veil? What will I?
This is the conclusion of Jennet’s story, which began in The Haunting of Thores-Cross. I hope she finds peace. I really do.
Ma pulled her coat tight around her body and, head bowed to the wind, pushed forward with as much strength as she could muster. No wonder Spencer hadn’t wanted to shift.
‘Sensible hoss,’ she muttered, but knew she had to push on.
With the headwind she could not hear anything from behind, and forced herself to stop and turn to check the others were following.
Biddy hooked her arm in Ma’s as she reached her, and Winnie took her other arm.
Elsie Grange and Babs also linked arms, and together they fought their way into the headwind, Nell and Rachel carrying lanterns on the flanks of the group.
Winnie came to a sudden stop, pulling on Ma’s arm, and Babs bumped into her back. ‘Listen!’
The women huddled together.
‘I can only hear the wind,’ Elsie complained.
‘Hush. Winnie’s right, there’s summat else,’ Ma said.
This time they all heard the low growl, and Babs squeaked. ‘That’s what I heard at the fairy spring!’
‘Hold the lanterns high,’ Ma instructed.
Nell and Rachel obeyed, and the seven women peered into the darkness. They jumped when it was split by a streak of bright light.
‘There, something moved!’ Rachel exclaimed.
‘Come on, hurry,’ Ma said as a loud growl competed with reverberations of thunder.
The women got moving once more, their steps quick and purposeful along the lane.
Even Ma jumped at the next growl. It came from right behind them.
Babs hurried to the front of the pack, her terrified tears blending with rainwater on her cheeks. Ma took pity on the young lass, and hustled forward to join and calm her.
They paused at the stile in the wall bordering Ratten Row. Wolf Farm lay a few yards beyond.
Ma turned to Babs. ‘Nearly done,’ she encouraged.
The wind tore at their coats, and the two women crouched down by the wall for a little shelter, then froze. There had been another sound; more a snarl than a growl, Ma was sure of it. Was Jennet here? Was she in the form of the black dog or wolf which had been the cause of so much recent grief?
They listened hard as the rest of the women joined them, but could hear little over the shriek of the wind, the pounding of the rain, and the rumbles of thunder. The church bell tolled once more and Ma shivered. Had she taken on too much? Was the witch too strong for her?
But she could not waver now. ‘Come on,’ she shouted, and turned to drag herself over the stile. She felt hands helping her up, and swung her leg over the capstones. She nearly overbalanced as a gust hit her, but her friends kept her upright and she was soon over.
Biddy, Winnie and Elsie followed, then the younger women clambered across, Nell once again at the rear, brandishing her lantern, which Rachel took off her while she made her climb.
‘Come on!’ Ma bellowed, but her leg slipped from under her as she stepped forward and she skidded into a painful fall.
Babs and Rachel tried to help her up, but lost their own footing on the drenched ground.
Biddy joined the heap.
‘Ground’s too wet!’ Winnie cried. ‘Whole hillside’s a bog!’
‘Oh God!’ Nell shoved her lantern at Elsie as the moon appeared through a break in the clouds. ‘Stan! Alfie!’ She ran towards the farmhouse, falling to her knees more than once, but concern for her husband’s young brothers pushed her on.
A rectangle of light appeared in the front wall of Wolf Farm as another crash of thunder accompanied a blaze of lightning.
Stan reached down, his hobnailed boots helping him keep his footing, and pulled Nell back up to her feet.
She gesticulated, her words incomprehensible in the wind, but a flash of understanding hit Ma as she realised the young farmer’s wife was pointing uphill.
‘Get back, get back, it’s a trap!’ she shouted at the other women. ‘That beast wasn’t stalking us, it was herding us! Get back to road before the moor slides!’
Nell, flanked by Stan on one side, and his younger brother Alfie on the other, joined them, Nell’s words echoing Ma’s.
The mud-covered, straggly group struggled back to the boundary wall, and heaved themselves over as the ground they had been standing on slipped.
Stan hurled himself forward, his feet carried away. Rachel and Nell caught his sleeves as he fell.
Alfie looked up from his position on the wall, anguish clear in his eyes before clouds darkened the moon once more. He could do nothing to help his brother – his hands were full of Elsie Grange as he heaved her up and over the wall, Winnie hot on her heels.
Elsie screamed, and Alfie rose up, a capstone held in both hands which he flung with a strength borne as much from terror as from years of hurling bales of hay and contending with maddened ewes about the farm.
An inhuman screech followed and Alfie held his arms up in triumph. The women did not need to hear his declaration of triumph to know he had hit the wolf-dog.
A louder rumble than even the thunder which roared overhead deafened the group, and they turned as one to see a river of peat and heather hit the back wall of Wolf Farm. It found at least one means of entry as seconds later a dark, muddy mess spewed from the front door on its journey downhill.
The nine bedraggled villagers stared in disbelief.
‘That settles it.’ Nell’s voice was audible between gusts of wind and furious clangs of the church bell. ‘You two boys are coming home with me. Billy could do with your help on the farm, and there’s plenty of room for you in the house. You’re not spending another minute here.’
About the author:
Karen Perkins is the author of eight fiction titles: the Yorkshire Ghost Stories and the Valkyrie Series of historical nautical fiction. All of her fiction has appeared at the top of bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic, including the top 21 in the UK Kindle Store in 2018.
Her first Yorkshire Ghost Story - THE HAUNTING OF THORES-CROSS - won the Silver Medal for European Fiction in the prestigious 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards in New York, whilst her Valkyrie novel, DEAD RECKONING, was long-listed in the 2011 MSLEXIA novel competition.
Originally a financial advisor, a sailing injury left Karen with a chronic pain condition which she has been battling for over twenty five years (although she did take the European ladies title despite the injury!). Writing has given her a new lease of - and purpose to - life, and she is currently working on a sequel to Parliament of Rooks: Haunting Brontë Country.
When not writing, she helps other authors prepare their books for publishing and has edited over 150 titles, including the 2017 Kindle UK Storyteller Award winner, The Relic Hunters by David Leadbeater, and has also published a series of publishing guides to help aspiring authors realise their dreams.
Karen Perkins is a member of the Society of Authors and the Horror Writers Association.