Book Review: Belle Vue by C.S. Alleyne

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault and Violence

I’m a big fan of atmospheric horror. And nothing screams atmosphere quite like a haunted asylum. Based on the very real abuses of the British asylum system in the 19th century, Belle Vue explores what happens when the horrors of the past reach into the present.

Belle Vue is a horror novel by C.S. Alleyne, published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Claire thinks that she’d found the deal of a lifetime. Finally, she can own her own place, a flat in the beautifully renovated Belle Vue Mansion. So, what if it is reportedly haunted? No ghost is going to scare her off from her dream home.

But the grisly history of Belle Vue is more than just a ghost story and it certainly hasn’t been left in the past. The gruesome fate of Ellen Grady and her sister Mary in 1869 created ripples that affect the tenants of Belle Vue even now.

Belle Vue tells a twisted tale of madness, murder, Satanists, and sex cults.

Alleyne cleverly weaves the past and present together, telling twin stories while never giving too much away. Parallels between the stories are artful without being predictable. Crucial information is revealed at just the right times. Alleyne is a master of twists, reserving them until they are most unexpected. No character is safe in this story.

Belle Vue stars a cast of characters, rather than having one protagonist. These interactions fuel the intrigue and suspense of the novel. Above all, what Alleyne does well is to create characters that are flawed, but compelling.

Claire’s enthusiasm and lust for life immediately drew me to her. Watching the events of the book unfold (and anticipating what was to come) filled me with dread. The tragedy that surrounds Claire throughout Belle Vue is only made worse with the knowledge of how her circumstances reflect those of the past.

Alex, Claire’s boyfriend, makes for an interesting character study. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and misogynistic, though he does seem to care for Claire. He is far from perfect and, in fact, his flaws are what stand out about him as a character. The tragedy of Belle Vue affects him profoundly. More than any other, he displays the most growth throughout the plot.

Poor, sweet Ellen doesn’t deserve all that happens to her at Belle Vue. Imprisoned there by her sister in the 1860’s, Ellen suffers horribly at the hands of the staff. Her loving and hopeful nature persists and her spirit haunts Belle Vue in a subtle way from then on.

Sinister in the extreme, Mary makes for an unconscionable antagonist. Mary pulls the strings for the events at Belle Vue, from the 1860’s through the present day. Though she considers herself the product of misuse, her selfishness and greed are the real cause of her suffering. Though her cunning elevates her to supernatural heights, it also damns her.

Belle Vue is itself a character in this story. The stately mansion holds centuries worth of secrets and Alleyne enjoys teasing them out throughout the story. From the manor home of hedonistic sadists, to a horrific asylum, to a renovated apartment complex, the Belle Vue has worn many faces, and hidden the dark truth in the tunnels below.

Belle Vue was a delight to read, especially if you enjoy historical horror. Anyone who likes asylum horror should pick this up.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Spooky Places You Can Visit Virtually

As we’re all going a little stir crazy (Cabin Fever marathon anyone?), more and more museums and exhibits are moving online. For Horror Addicts, there are some great options. It may not be the same as visiting it for yourself, but it’s the next best thing.

Just try not to get your computer haunted in the process.

The Paris Catacombs

In the 18th century, Paris ran out of room in their cemeteries and undertook the monumental project to move over 6 million corpses into the abandoned mines under the city. The result was the largest human grave in the world and a massive, mesmerizing piece of macabre artwork. I wrote about my experience in the Catacombs for the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest (you can read it here!).

You can take a free virtual tour here.

The Winchester House

The Winchester House is a winding, confusing mess of stairways and rooms with doors to nowhere and ghost traps strewn within. Built by Sarah Winchester between 1884 and 1922, it is said that construction continued around the clock in order to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. Whether Sarah Winchester was genuinely haunted or actually mentally disturbed, we call all agree that her house is truly terrifying.

You can purchase the virtual tour here.

It might be safer than going in person anyway—less chance of getting lost.

The RMS Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is an ocean liner that is now permanently docked in Long Beach California. More importantly, it is considered one of the most haunted places in America. Over 60 deaths have occurred on the ship including a supposed murder in one of the staterooms.

You can watch the tour (the same one given in person!) here.

The Conjuring House

If you’re a fan of the Conjuring movies (and all their many, many spinoffs), you may be interested to know more about the real-life house that the original movie was based on. Supposedly haunted by the ghost of Bathsheba Sherman, the house was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970’s.

You watch some explorers walk through the house here.

The Lizzie Borden House

This house in Fall River, Massachusetts is the site of one of the most famous murders in American history. Though Lizzie Borden was acquitted for the brutal ax murders of her parents, popular culture has remained fascinated by the story, producing dozens of books, movies, and tv series dedicated to the alleged murderess.

You can watch an (unofficial) tour here.

Haunt Jaunts : Voodoo and My First Horse-Drawn Carriage Ghost Tour

With Courtney Mroch

The first thing I spotted as we took a jaunt to scope out the Jekyll Island Club & Resort’s surroundings was the A-frame sign listing all of the horse-drawn carriage tour options. Of course, the ghost tour caught my eye.

“A horse-drawn carriage ghost tour?” I exclaimed to my husband. “I’ve never taken one of those before. In fact, have we ever even taken a carriage ride together?”

“I’m sure we have.”

“Where?” I challenged, pretty sure we hadn’t.

He thought about it for a second.

“I don’t know, but it seems like we did once upon a time.”

“Well, to make sure we do, can we take one tonight if they’re offering the ghost tour? Wouldn’t that be so romantic?”

His expression answered better than any words could. His idea of romance and mine were very different.

Begrudgingly he agreed to the tour, though. Probably for a few reasons.

  1. We were only there the one night.
  2. We didn’t have anything else planned that evening, so he couldn’t very well make excuses for why we couldn’t.
  3. I think he was hoping that since it was past spooky season, as well as being the island’s offseason, there wouldn’t be a ghost tour.

Sadly for him, but lucky for me, there was. We made our reservation and then continued our exploration.

Along the way, we passed a shiny ebony horse pulling a white carriage whose occupants were getting a history tour of the island. I heard the driver call out, “Whoa, Voodoo, whoa!” as she maneuvered the carriage off the trail in front of one of the millionaire’s cottages.

At the same time that my husband said, “Did you hear the horse’s name?” I said, “Voodoo? I hope that’s the horse we get for our tour!”

I’ll save you the suspense. We did.

I’ve taken a few ghost tours in my day. Ones on foot, some by car or bus, but never in a horse-drawn carriage led by a horse named Voodoo.

Jekyll Island is nestled along south Georgia’s coast. It was a crisp late November night that we met the driver (who also served as our ghost tour guide) at the designated pick up point. We climbed aboard where a seat with thick, heavy blankets waited for us to bundle ourselves under them.

Our guide was wonderful. I wish I could remember her name. I thought I had written it down. I guess I was so excited about Voodoo and my first horse-drawn carriage ghost tour that I didn’t.

To my surprise, she had a plethora of stories to tell. I knew the Jekyll Island Club where we were staying for the night was rumored to be haunted. That’s why I’d booked us there.

I also knew from a previous visit to the island that the former cottage that had once housed the bookstore allegedly had a ghost. The last time I’d visited had been with my sister. Like me, she couldn’t pass a bookstore and not stop in.

It had been my sister’s birthday. She loved riding bikes, so my present to her was taking her up to Jekyll, renting bikes for the day and cruising all over the island.

Stopping in the bookstore also allowed us a little rest stop. That’s how my sister got to talking to the owner and somehow it came out the place was haunted.

This was years before I started my site, Haunt Jaunts, but it was another reason why I did. Back then I was always going on unofficial haunt jaunts. Except for that day. Ghosts hadn’t been on my mind. Yet, a story of one still fell in my lap.

I’d forgotten about that until our guide related a story about Phoebe, a little girl of one of the staff members back in the day who allegedly disappeared from the island. Her body was never found, but that’s who some think they see when they spot a child spirit in a couple of places on the Jekyll Island Club’s property. Among them being a small cottage that used to be the bookstore, which had since relocated and its former building now stood vacant.

But before we got to the part about the bookstore, our guide shared a little history about the island and its former inhabitants.

It had started as a private hunting club for America’s elite, such as Rockefeller, Pullitzer, and even the Macy family. However, they soon decided it would make a fine place to get away with their families in the winter, so several of them built “cottages.”

Their idea of a cottage, however, resulted in stunning seaside mini-mansions in a variety of architectural styles.

I have been enamored (and obsessed) with the cottages ever since I first saw them back in the late 1990s. I had only seen them in the daytime previously, though, as I’d never been fortunate enough to stay overnight on the island — until the night of the tour.

Voodoo led us down the live oak-lined trails where Spanish moss created a canopy above us that fluttered in the breeze. One of the first ghost story stops was the Hollybourne Cottage.

It would turn out to be my favorite stop.

Almost all of the cottages have lighting illuminating them at night. Hollybourne was no different. However, when Voodoo circled the carriage around the drive, the light cast a marvelous silhouette of his head against the cottage’s grey tabby facade.

For a moment I felt I had leaped back in time. Except I remembered what age I was in and that we had cameras on our phones. I scrambled to pull mine out so I could capture the sight of Voodoo in the light because it was Gothic and haunting and I wanted to capture that memory.

If ever there was a time for a ghost to appear, that would’ve been it. One did manifest — by way of the ghost tour guide’s tales.

Allegedly a little girl died in the house. Some claim to have seen her face appear when they stand before the home’s glass front door.

I didn’t have time to test it then, but I made a note to go back and try the next morning. (She didn’t appear for me, but that’s okay. Perhaps she sensed I might not have been as impressed by that as I was by the site of Voodoo in the light the night before.)

As we pulled away from Hollybourne, our guide asked, “What room are you in?”

I told her and she said, “I always ask because the little girl’s mother haunts room 3101 in the Annex.”

I think I surprised her when I said, “Darn. That’s just down the hall from us.”

I don’t think she meets many people hoping to stay in a haunted hotel room.

She shared other tales of the island’s ghostly inhabitants, like the helpful phantom bellman who assists wedding parties staying at the hotel.

The island had been abandoned during the Civil War and the animals had all been left behind. After the war, when people returned, they were trying to round up the animals, including a white stallion, but he kept eluding them. While chasing him, he ran into the water and drowned. Some say disembodied horse noises coming from the water belong to him.

She even showed us the photo of a ghost face in the Sans Souci, which was essentially an apartment building Rockefeller built. His quarters were on the top floor.  Some report smelling cigar smoke. He had a penchant for smoking them.

Does his restless spirit still roam there? Our guide believed he does. She showed us a photo of the building. It was taken during the daytime, but she zoomed in to show us a white specter’s face looking out of one of the top floor windows. (I spent a great deal of time the next morning trying to recreate the shot, to no avail.)

But the scariest part of the night was when Voodoo led us around a curve and not even five feet away stood a deer. Not that I’m afraid of deer, and maybe “startle” is a better word, because that’s what happened. It startled me to see the deer appear seemingly out of nowhere.

It was real, though. Not a ghost. It stood contemplating us inquisitively, its ears twitching a bit, its tail flicking a time or two. Voodoo clopped away, leaving the deer to watch us as we drove off.

As ghost tours go, it was short. Only about 30 minutes. But it couldn’t have been more perfect. A chill in the hushed air. Snuggled up next to the love of my life. The gentle glow from the few street lights interspersed with the carriage’s lantern. A perfect romantic atmosphere for listening to ghost stories.

And then there was Voodoo, who added an extra bit of pizzazz to make the evening pure magic.

Paranormal/ Hauntings Month: The Old Charlseton Jail by Violet Tempest

 

Excerpt from: Legends of Old by Violet Tempest

The Old Charleston Jail, located at 21 Magazine Street, Charleston, SC is well known to locals as being haunted. Some refuse to go near this structure while thrill seekers buy tickets from Bulldog Tours for guided tours. The long history of this jail does give creditability to its many hauntings. Having been used as a prison for over 200 years there was a great deal of suffering that occurred on the grounds and in the cells. (pg. 72)

My personal experience of the tour and afterward:

When our daughter was eleven years old, my husband and I decided it would be fun to start a Halloween tradition of going on a different Ghost Tour in Charleston, SC every year. These would allow us to spend time as a family and introduce our daughter to Lowcountry History.

The area goes back to 1670 when settlers landed on the shores of the Cooper River, founding what is now known as Charlestown Landing. Our first tour was a family friendly tour of the old churches and graveyards in Downtown Charleston.

Two years later we decided to take it up a notch. That’s when we took The Haunted Jail Tour.

By this time our daughter was familiar with the lore of the area, and like us she found the old tales intriguing. Little did we know that the tour would change our views on ghost tours.

We booked a tour for the Saturday before Halloween of 2008. It was chilly evening, and the tour didn’t start until after dark. WE made an event of it, like we had done in the past. Going out to dinner, and our daughter invited her best friend to go with us. The four of us were looking forward to a fun spooky filled evening.

We arrived at the Old Jail with about 20 minutes to spare, so we, along with others who were arriving for the tour, had to stand outside while the tour in progress finished up. Standing on the sidewalk we could hear an occasional loud bang followed by a scream or two. The girls moved to the sidewalk opposite the street, and we weren’t too far behind them. Even across the street we could feel the heavy despair that hung around the old building and grounds.

Finally, the tour ended, and it was time for us to take ours. Friendly, joking banter floated around as strangers teased one another. Nothing that anyone in the group took seriously. I mean, everyone knows the noises on these tours are false.

Right?

Before we could enter, we were told the rules; the most important was to stay together, no one was to wander off. Then the tour began. Standing outside the front entrance our tour guide told us that what is now known as the old jail started out in a hospital for the homeless and other impoverished people.

Years later, in 1802 that building was torn down and replaced with the building that currently stands. Over the years the building that was designed to hold 128 prisoners would at times have so many occupants that there was standing room only. Not only inside, but outside as well. The grounds would be packed with barely enough room for the prisoners to move, and men and women were placed together. They did not separate them.

As you can imagine, the conditions created disease, and many died before they were released. The city kept a body cart on the property where the dead bodies were stacked on top of one another.

When the cart was full, it was then driven to the river, and the bodies dumped. Our guide said that there were many times the bodies piled up before they decayed and so another site, further down the river, would have to be used. Her words painted a vivid image and my flesh crawled as my mind carried me back to that time.

That wasn’t the end of the horror she painted for us.

We followed her inside, and she showed us the shackles that are still on the walls. The torture devise varied from room to room. Our guide told us how the prisoners who were considered the worst of the Charleston population were tortured, shackled, and starved.

Next, we went up the narrow staircase and saw the huge rooms where,  in the winter there wasn’t any heat nor, of course, in the summer any air conditioning.

The criminals weren’t shown any kindness.

These harsh conditions made it almost impossible to survive. It is approximated that by the time the jail closed in 1939 over 10,000 people died on the property.

It was in the last room where we heard the tale of Lavina Fisher, according to legend she’s the country’s first female serial killer. And yes, while we were in the room a loud bang sounded out. Where exactly it came from I cannot say. The sound echoed all around us. Now, even though I have experienced the unexplained since I was a small child, I was skeptical.

“But surely it was Lavina?” some may be asking. I do not know. Personally, I feel it was all sound effects the tour company added to give their customers a thrill. I can tell you the despair that bore down on us before we started the tour did not leave me. There were times that it felt like someone was behind me, but when I looked no one was there. Other times a cold reached my bones that wasn’t from the chilly autumn air.

Throughout the whole tour I couldn’t shake the feeling of evil all around me.

No one was injured on the tour, and everyone took plenty of pictures. Nothing unusual showed in ours and driving away we talked about the history that we had learned that night. Little did we know that our experience with the old jail was far from over.

Over the next year our daughter and I could not shake the feeling of something watching us at all times. Even in our sleep. After a couple of months things progressed. Our daughter began staying in her room all the time and was always sleepy and moody. We chalked it up to her becoming a teenager, even though that didn’t squelch our concerns.

Then she started showing me her sketches. They were full of an evil crawling out of the darkness of her closest. It wasn’t until one night while she stayed with a friend that I discovered what was really happening to her.

My dear husband snores, and when I say snore I mean shake the walls snore. So that night I was awoken by what can only be called an Earth-Shattering Rumble, I went down to her room and crawled into her empty bed. The snoring was tolerable down there, and I eventually fell back asleep. How long I was asleep I do not know. But while I lay there on my right side, under her comforter, deep asleep,  I felt something jump on the bed, placing hands and feet on either side of me, startling me awake.

At first I thought it was our dog, and I turned to pet her and get her to snuggle up beside me.

What I saw was not our dog.

From the streetlight that peeked through the curtains, I could make out the thing on my daughter’s bed straddling me was a deep, dark, green. Its skin was slimy in appearance. Its squished face did not have a nose, but instead two slits located where one should’ve been. Two glowing red embers for eyes, and a thin, toad-like mouth. When it saw me, those lips pulled back in a snarl showing me sharp, pointy, yellow teeth.

That snarl told me it was not expecting me to be there. It raised its thin right arm and swung claws like a big cat at me.

I jumped from the bed. My muscles quivering, my heart pounding.

“How dare you! You meant to attack my daughter!” I said. The creature jumped down off the bed, and with a laugh that was full of evil, made its way toward me. I did the only thing I could think of.

I stood there in the room, shaking my head, anger filling every pore of my body. “No! You will not get away with this.”

I placed my right palm in the air, toward the ceiling, toward the universe. With my left hand I pointed at the creature and with every fiber of my being I said the only thing I could think of.

“I call on the power of the one who created me. I call upon the power of the supreme one to send you back to the depths of Hell from which you came from!”

As those words left my lips, I felt a warm energy enter my right palm, surge down my arm, through my core, before shooting out my left arm. A bright blue beam shown from my left hand.

The creature’s eyes grew big. Its slimy face filled with fear as its mouth opened in a silent scream. Then it was gone, and I was left standing alone in the center of my daughter’s room.

Looking around, I realized what had happened. A demon had come to attack my daughter and to its surprise found me instead. My heart felt like it was going to beat its way out of my chest, and my body trembled as fear started to take the place of anger. Finally satisfied it was gone, at least for the night, I turned and walked quickly back to our bed where my husband was still sound asleep, his snores now a sound of comfort. I slid back under our covers and laid there the rest of the night.

Sleep did not return.

Come morning, I got up and went back into the room. The bed was still a mess like I’d left it and in the light of day, the previous night’s experience seemed unreal. My mind quickly brought up the images of my daughter’s sketches and I knew that thing had been after her. And I also knew where it had come from.

For some reason it latched on to us at the jail. Coming home with us; a sort of supernatural souvenir.

I talked to my daughter and husband about what happened that night and that’s when we found out the creature had been terrorizing her. It had thrown her clothes across the room. Even lifted her up and spun her around. I told her what I had done, and that I hoped that took care of it.

She changed rooms to what was the spare room. Who could blame her?

Never again has the creature made an appearance and no longer do we feel like something is watching us from the shadows. I will tell you this, The Old Charleston Jail is one place I refuse to go back to.

If you decide to take the tour remember this, there’s no telling what souvenir you will end up with.

To learn more about The Old Charleston City Jail and other South Carolina Lowcountry legends read Legends of Old by Violet Tempest with Bonus Feature section with short stories never before published.

Available as Kindle Unlimited, eBook, and paperback on Amazon.com. Click link above to purchase.

Paranormal/Hauntings: Guest Blog by Violet Tempest

 

by Violet Tempest

Since I’m an author, I view stories as a platform to speak out about experiences I have gone through in hopes my experiences may help others. If for no other reason than for them to know they are not alone. 

That is why I would like to share the following experience with you. 

As far back as I can remember I have seen things others don’t. Felt things others seem oblivious to. In almost fifty years I have had more than one experience with the supernatural and paranormal worlds out there. One such experience happened about eleven years ago. My family and I had moved into a house in a new subdivision. Since the place was new, I’d hoped that we would be left alone by those other worlds. 

My hopes would soon prove wrong. 

We’d lived there for about a year when one night I awoke about two in the morning. My husband was fast asleep. I couldn’t figure out what caused me to wake up and as I lay there, I looked about the room. At first my eyes landed on a shadow form. I kept looking at it, expecting that the longer I looked at it the more my eyes would adjust, and it would just be a trick of the eye. 

But that’s not what happened. 

The black form seemed to move closer. Was this a trick of my eye? Were my eyes being fooled by the outside light that filtered in between the curtains? Still, on my back I just watched as this form seemed to float until it stood at the foot of our bed. There what had been dark forms just moments before took the shape of a woman. 

I sat up, leaned closer, astonished by what I was seeing. Clearly, I was imagining it.

I reached over with my right hand and began to shake my husband, urging him to wake up. As I did so the woman’s features became crystal clear. No longer was she just shadows but before me, at the foot of our bed stood a woman about five feet in height, average build, long dark hair that seemed to shimmer with non-existent light. Her straight hair so long it went past her waist and seemed to disappear behind her. Around her there appeared this glow that allowed me to see her in detail. Her skin softened with age, tanned as if she spent a lot of time out in the sun, and her clothes, well her clothes seemed to be from an earlier time. Say hundreds of years earlier. Around her shoulders she wore a blue shawl that she clutched with her right hand, her dress appeared brown and it was hard to tell if it were made from leather or cotton. 

As I continued to shake my husband awake, pleading with him to wake up, she began to move along his side of the bed. 

“I really need you to wake-up!” I cried out. By this time the figure was at his feet and began to pat the bed with her left hand. 

“Huh, wha?” He mumbled.

“Wake-up. There’s someone in the room with us!” I demanded. Now the woman was at his waist, still patting his side of the bed as if she were trying to make him lay back down.

“What? Where?!” He sat straight up, looking around him. 

At this point this woman stood right beside him, looking at him. 

“Right there!” I pointed at her. 

He jumped out of the bed and turned the light on. 

But by that time, she had disappeared. As if she had never even been there. 

My heartbeat against my rib cage. My hands shook. My whole body trembled.

My dear husband looked under the bed, in the closest, anywhere he could think of. But I knew he’d never find her or anyone else. 

Then he checked the windows and doors. All were locked.

He never got mad at me. He never called me crazy. He believed me when I said I saw something and to this day he still believes me. And that’s why I love him. Because when I see a ghost he doesn’t question me or make me feel stupid. He accepts that I experienced something he didn’t. 

Which is what happened that night. I saw a ghost. Even though the house and subdivision were new, the land wasn’t. Land can become haunted just as buildings do. I don’t believe what I saw was a poltergeist or a ghost that meant to do harm. I believe what I saw was more of an imprint in time. A spirit doomed to repeat a moment of their life over and over for all eternity. 

I never saw her again. Why? Well, for one thing, the very next day we moved the bed to the opposite wall. If what showed itself was a spirit passing through a gateway, I didn’t want another experience like it so we moved the bed. If that’s why I can’t say. I do know for the rest of the time we lived in that house I didn’t see another ghost despite strange things that happened. Items moved. Lights and water turn on by themselves. Things of that nature. 

It took nine years, but we finally moved from that house. Where we are living seems to be free from the paranormal visitors. But I have a feeling that I will experience something else again. Like I said, I’ve seen and felt things from the Supernatural and Paranormal worlds all my life and expect to until the end.

When will be the next time? I don’t have a clue. 

 

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