Five years after the death of his wife, MacAoidh Armstrong moves into a smallholding in southern Scotland with the intention of living a self-sufficient existence. In the nearby town solicitor Libby Butler is trying to find peace after her recent deadly brush with the unknown.
On a hill by the steading stands The Ghost Tree: all that remains of the former Ringcroft of Stocking. Local legend says that when the last Ghost Tree dies, the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist will return.
Just days after MacAoidh moves in, he is forced to contend with a number of strange events that distance him from the local community. Turning to Libby for help, they find themselves challenged by a series of bizarre and terrifying occurrences which defy all logical and scientific explanation.
As the phenomena become increasingly violent and lives are threatened, Libby must delve into closely guarded secrets to discover the reason for the present terror…and come to terms with her growing feelings for MacAoidh. Can she save the pragmatic Highlander from an ancient evil, and in doing so will she lose her heart?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I first met the Ghost Tree when researching stories for a running feature on local hauntings for the Dumfries and Galloway Standard. The chilling tale of the ‘Mackie’ or ‘Rerrick Parish Poltergeist’ has haunted me for over a decade and is one of the only officially documented accounts of ‘true’ poltergeist activity in the world. The event allegedly took place in the Parish of Rerrick, Auchencairn, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in 1695.
The old gnarled tree in the picture on the cover is all that remains of the haunted plantation where stonemason and farmer Andrew Mackie contended with a violent noisy spirit that pestered his family for a few months at the turn of the 17th century.
Reverend Alexander Telfair (1654 to 1732), the minister who performed the two-week-long exorcism, published his experiences in December of the year the event took place, giving it a rather lengthy title. This is the abridged and more contemporary version: ‘A True Relation of an Apparition, Expressions, and Actings of a Spirit, which infested the House of Andrew Mackie, in the Parish of Rerrick, Scotland, in the year 1695.’ Telfair’s account was validated by the signatures of fourteen independent witnesses, all either men of the cloth or upstanding members of the community, and who had all personally witnessed the events.
There were three trees in living memory. The locals call them “The Ghost Trees.” The two beeches died some time ago and this enduring oak was more resilient to the sweeping winds of the Solway hills and has survived both the ravages of time and, if Telfair’s account is to be believed, a very noisy ghost.
Local legend has it, when the last of the Ghost Trees dies, the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist will return.
I always wondered what would happen if the ghost tree died and Mackie’s violent poltergeist did return today. Research has taken me to the realms of the fantastical, through religion and to quantum physics, but the answers to the existence of a paranormal dimension remain elusive.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The Ghost Tree is a stand-alone tale in the Libby Butler trilogy, so some of the main characters from the first book, The Sleeping Warrior, are the protagonists in the sequel. The remainder of the characters simply “came along”, including the male hero of the story. Strong characterisation is very important to my writing. I do not tend to write about people I know in my stories but I may take some particular or peculiar traits from here and there to invent a personality. Normally, however, characters just tend to take on their own personalities after I have given them a name.
MacAoidh saw the officer to his car and watched him pull away, the gravel crunching against the wide tyres. He stood for a while, letting the strength of the afternoon sun melt the misgivings from his mind. Across the rolling countryside with its prickly gorse bushes, scattered boulders and stunted wind-warped trees piercing the landscape like giant twisted thorns, he could see the blue cloak of the Solway Firth spreading into the horizon. There was a pinch of salt in the breeze and the faintest smell of wood smoke.
He surveyed the cluster of outbuildings and tried not to think about the amount of back-breaking work it would take to turn this land around and tame it. The barn, stables and outbuildings were all but derelict but he would remain focused on his plans..
‘Home sweet home,’ he said to no one in particular. It wasn’t quite the homely feeling he’d expected, but it was close enough and would do for now.
He would visit James Black and offer a hand of friendship and even affiliation if he would have it.
A few hundred yards away, in the middle of a field, stood a dead oak tree, its skeletal branches flattened to fans from fending off the incessant thrust of a ruthless wind; its great trunk bowed and brittle with the effort. MacAoidh only hoped he wouldn’t look like that after a few years of living at the steading.
He laughed and turned towards the front door, his mind focused on which box he would unpack next.
A high-pitched squealing shrilled from the house and, taking a few paces backwards, he looked up to the bedroom and cursed as he saw a dark wave of smoke creeping from the open window.
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