There’s a scene in my archaeological mystery/romance The Five-Day-Dig where the excavation team comes across nails, hinges, locks and braces scattered on a floor among the ruins. “That’s what’s left of furniture after the wood decomposes,” one of the characters explains. “These fittings were parts of chests, cabinets or shelves.” In Pompeii, most wooden items decomposed centuries ago, but there are some cases of 2,000-year-old wood surviving in the ancient town and in nearby Herculaneum, which was buried in the same eruption.
The bedside table you see here is not from Ikea (har!) — it’s from Herculaneum. Wandering through the small fraction of the town that has been excavated, you can see plenty of wooden beams, window and door frames, railings, bed frames and the large folding wooden screen that gave the House of the Wooden Partition its name. For more pics of ancient Roman wooden furniture, see this very cool blog post from Bensozia.
Pompeii doesn’t seem to have as much surviving wood as Herculaneum, but archaeologists have made plaster casts (like the plaster body casts you’ve probably seen) of some of the decomposed wooden items. When Hubby and I went, we saw casts of wooden doors and shutters, but we missed the casts of furniture in the House of Julius Polybius. Something to check out next time — because we totally need another trip to Pompeii.
As I mentioned in my last post, the ghost in my contemporary paranormal romance Eternally Yours, isn’t all that scary — especially not in his mind. Geoffrey Vereker, late poet and a womanizer in his day, still thinks of himself as a ladies’ man.
The trouble is that ghosts are inherently scary to most of us living ladies, and on the few occasions when Geoff has come across other ghosts, they can’t see him, nor he them. What is a would-be womanizing ghost to do?
At one point in the story, he is hovering around one of his haunts, admiring the beauty of the book’s main character, Lara Peale, and he tries to get a little a closer to her. She starts and says to the other living person in the room, “Where is that horrible chill coming from?”
Horrible? Geoff balks — then, recalling what he is, he glides away from her, his shoulders sagging. Poor Geoff!
As the story continues, Geoff learns that he has connections to Lara’s house, to the annoying (in his mind) local historian who keeps coming around to keep an eye on her, and to another ghost on the premises. Creepy!
To read the first couple of chapters (or the back-cover blurb), please spirit over to the book page here and scroll down to the web reader.
My mom has always liked ghost stories (though my dad can’t suspend his disbelief), so as a kid I saw my share of scary movies. One old black-and-white one gave me recurring nightmares, though for years afterward I had no idea what film it was. In the scene that stuck with me (as I recall), a woman is lying in bed in a spooky house. Her friend, also scared, gets in bed with her, and they hold hands to comfort each other. Then … she hears her friend call her from the other room. She’s been holding hands with a ghost!
Ugh. After seeing that, I spent my whole childhood with fists clenched at bedtime.
When the book group I was in a few years back read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, I recognized the scene that had haunted me as a child. Hubby and I discovered that there was a newer 1999 version of the film starring Lili Taylor and Owen Wilson (a fave of ours), so we rented it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very scary or very good. I should try to watch the old one from 1963 for this Halloween (if I dare) and see how it holds up. Wikipedia tells me that the director, Robert Wise, is the same guy who directed The Sound of Music. In any case, the book is good! In the story, you’re not sure whether the house is really haunted or the main character is crazy.
In my own ghost story, Eternally Yours, the ghost — late Victorian poet and womanizer, Geoff Vereker — isn’t very scary (I think!). In fact, he’s my favorite character in the book. The main romance plot revolves around an artist who wants to renovate her Victorian house and a local historian who wants to keep her from “ruining” it. For the blurb and same chapters, please click through to the book page here. Happy haunting!