SAMHAIN STORIES AT ABNEY PARK CEMETERY promised to be a very special evening. I’d like to thank Dawn Martin and the Samhain Publishing team for supporting the event, and John Baldock and the Abney Park Trust for providing such an amazing backdrop for our storytelling. When selecting a venue for the first ever UK Samhain Horror event, I knew the location had to be as atmospheric and eerie as the stories themselves. Abney Park Cemetery was the perfect fit, with its avenues of overgrown tombs and gravestones and beautiful, tumbledown Chapel. The weather forecast was for clear skies, and the day before the event, the temperature in London was a balmy 13 degrees celsius. Then, as the big night arrived, the clouds started rolling in… I will now hand over to the Samhain Stories guest authors, Peter Mark May, Len Maynard and Mick Sims, to recount the rest of the tale in their own words:
the Chapel…on a clear day! pic: Frazer Lee
It had all the ingredients of a perfect horror night fest, a near pitch black candlelit rundown chapel, set slap bang in the middle of an eerie rain lashed cemetery, in the middle of Olde London Town under a full moon.
There were chills aplenty and not due to the bones freezing cold either as the British Samhain Boys did what they do best giving a reading surrounded by a thousand strong interned and long dead.
The lack of electricity gave it such an atmospheric feel, that only the reader could be seen and the audience were reduced to mere dark shades in front of us.
We gave our all, each author sending our words of horror for all ears to hear, whether they had blood still pumping through their veins or not.
I was glad to be the first ever British Samhain reader on this Sceptred Isle of ours and hope it will not be the last.
A chilling evening of darkness and decay that will be long held in the mind of those were braved the night to be there.
A reading at Abney Park Cemetary, to celebrate the publication of Peter Mark May’s novel, Hedge End, Frazer Lee’s debut novel, The Lamplighters, and our own book, Nightmare City, our first for Samhain Publishing. On paper a brilliant idea: the spooky atmospherics of the ruined chapel in the grounds of the cemetery lending itself perfectly to the dark and horrific subject of the readings. What’s not to love?
Answer? The British Weather.
Yes, we knew an outdoor reading in the autumn was a risky proposition, but we hadn’t counted on torrential rain and freezing winds. And this happened to be the day the British Weather decided to unload its full prelude to winter just to give us an idea what to expect over the coming months.
To make the day more memorable for our invited audience a guided tour of the cemetery had been planned, the idea being, I think, to take them on a twilight walk amongst the gravestones to completely unsettle them before bringing them to the chapel, where Peter, Frazer and ourselves would regale them with our macabre tales and send them home totally freaked out.
As we waited in the chapel waiting for our audience to arrive, we tried to protect ourselves from the icy wind gusting in through the ruined doors and glassless windows as we lit candles to give some illumination – this was, after all an evening gig; there was no electricity for light or heat but we thought we’d manage. I don’t think any of realized just how cold and dark it was going to be in there.
Wine was opened, nibbles were prepared, seats were set out. We were ready.
The rain was now torrential, turning the cemetery paths into mud tracks and we heard voices as our audience approached. I must admit to being surprised that anyone had bothered to turn out in such appalling conditions, but then I had forgotten the indomitable Dunkirk spirit Brits have in times of crisis. After all, these are the type of people who brave the annual mud-fest that is the Glastonbury festival.
So our wet and bedraggled audience take their seats in the dark and, by torchlight, we begin.
Frazer, the irrepressible organizer of the event is up first. He welcomes the audience and thanks them for braving the elements to be there. He gives us a short introduction, an interesting talk on the meaning of Samhain, and then leaves the floor to Peter who reads atmospheric excerpts from the excellent Hedge End.
After drinks and nibbles, Frazer Lee returns to give us a chapter from The Lamplighters; an accomplished piece of work that belies the fact that it’s his first novel.
We’re up next. There are nerves. It’s our first public reading in almost forty years of writing together. Mick’s reading. I’m holding the flashlight.
I can’t swear I heard knees knocking and teeth chattering throughout the evening, but if I did I’m sure it had little to do with the readings but everything to do with the weather.
There was applause for the readers and some kind comments.
And then it was over, and the audience departed, some heading towards the local pub, others back to the warmth of their cars.
They came and suffered in the cold and wet to hear our tales. I thank them from the bottom of my heart and salute their spirit for helping us make Samhain Stories at Abney Park Cemetery, a very British horror event, an evening to remember.
photo by John Baldock
A full moon, a wind swept cemetery at dead of night, rain lashing the sentinel trees. All the elements combined to make our reading debut in a ruined chapel lit only by flickering candles and a single flashlight a memorable experience.
With Maynard holding the torch, Sims read an excerpt from Nightmare City, and Maynard Sims did their first reading after almost forty years writing together, a full size poster of their next book, The Eighth Witch as backdrop.
Samhain do a fantastic job with their books and the cold but attentive audience enjoyed the readings from the three UK based authors, Frazer Lee, Peter Mark May and Maynard Sims. We all agreed we would love to do it again, perhaps in a warmer month, in a luxury hotel!
(All Photos by Gareth Bellamy except where indicated)