Please welcome special guests Cindy Brown and Alexia Gordon! Last year, unbeknownst to us at the time, all three of us were writing books set in theaters. Not just theaters but specifically opera houses. And not just opera houses but haunted opera houses. We must have been plugged into the same cosmic channel while we were drafting…or perhaps the spirits had a little something to do with it. Today, we’re pulling back the curtain on each one.
Cindy Brown: The Phantom of Oz (Ivy Meadows Mysteries #5)
“Any theater worth its salt has a ghost. There are famous ghosts, like “The Man in Gray,” who’s made his home in London’s Theatre Royal since the eighteenth century; “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City,” a Ziegfield Follies showgirl who haunts NYCs New Amsterdam Theatre; and even Judy Garland, who’s said to appear at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. But in general, the ghosts are known only to those of us who work in the theater, who are there when the lights are off and the stage is dark and the dressing room doors creak open by themselves.” — from The Phantom of Oz
I’ve never worked in a theater that didn’t have a ghost. Ghost lights still burn at night in most theaters, although people like to say they’re lit for safety as opposed to superstition (I’m betting on a combo of the two).
Phoenix’s Orpheum Theater, which partly inspired the theater in The Phantom of Oz, is haunted by several spirits, including a cat that leaves tiny footprints backstage. Most of the stories in Phantom are ones I’ve been told, and I may have experienced a few of them myself. Okay, okay, I did experience some of the ghostly goings-on in the book. Does that mean I believe in ghosts? It means I’m not going to discount their existence, and if it’s up to me, the ghost lights will always be lit.
Alexia Gordon: Killing in C Sharp (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries #3)
A soft adagio, notes so low that Gethsemane strained to hear them, intensified into an eerie allegro, reminiscent of a danse macabre. Gooseflesh pimpled her arms. She shivered and tried to convince herself the faint strains of Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” that played somewhere deep inside her head weren’t warning her of impending disaster as they competed with Aed’s ominous melody.
Aed shifted back to the bone-chilling adagio, then stopped. “The overture.”
“Good Lord, Aed.” Riordan, pale, pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped his forehead. “If the overture’s that unnerving, the rest of the opera must be positively demonic.” –from Killing in C Sharp
I write a paranormal mystery series starring Gethsemane Brown, an amateur sleuth who’s also a classical musician so a haunting in an opera house made sense. The theater world is notorious for paranormal associations, from cursed plays—you know, the Scottish one—to performers’ ghosts returned to the stage for a final curtain call. An opera seemed a perfect vehicle for a curse, as operatic scores overflow with lust, unrequited love, murder, and revenge—prime ingredients for a proper hex. I read an Eastern European legend about a bride who was immured in a castle wall after being tricked by her brothers-in-law who sacrificed her to ensure successful construction. The story disturbed me. The bride had no say in her fate. She wasn’t even walled up as punishment for some crime. She died only because she brought her husband his lunch. I thought the murdered bride deserved her revenge. Why not have an opera based on her tragedy be the catalyst for her ghost’s retribution?
Cynthia Kuhn: The Spirit in Question (Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries #3)
“No. Not a sound. I know it sounds crazy but I’m positive there was no one else on the stage. It was empty. Except…we do have a ghost here. I mean, that’s been proven.”
I didn’t know about the proven part. “It’s certainly been repeated as a possibility.”
He rearranged the skull-patterned scarf around his neck. “Well, I don’t know how else to explain it. I’m an open-minded man. And even Sherlock Holmes recognized that sometimes the truth can seem improbable.” — from The Spirit in Question
I never set out to write a (slightly) paranormal story. When I began The Spirit in Question, all I knew was that it would involve Tolliver Ingersoll, a character with a big personality who had been cut from the first two books. My editor had been right about that—he didn’t serve any necessary purpose in those stories, but he just kept walking into scenes while I was drafting! So I decided to give him his own book.
Since Tolliver is a playwright, the book needed to center on a play. As I began to imagine the theater in which it would be staged, I remembered a tour I’d taken years ago at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado. It was the kind of unsettling visit that sticks with you. As soon as we entered the theater, my senses went on high alert. Although it is a beautiful space, the shadows loomed and the air was charged. And when we went below the stage, all I can say is that it was full of presence. Instant goosebumps. Ice-rolling-up-your-spine type of thing. Creepy. Weird. Uncanny. Wonderful. So of course that’s what emerged in the book too…in the form of a haunting.
Have you ever been in a haunted theater? Or…what is your favorite theater? Your comment will qualify you to win an ebook from Cindy, Alexia, or Cynthia. Winners will be announced tomorrow here in the thread.
Wishing you a spirited Halloween, everyone!
Cindy Brown writes the Ivy Meadows Mysteries. For more information, please visit cindybrownwriter.com.
Alexia Gordon writes the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries. For more information, please visit alexiagordon.net.
Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.