Before I left London to go travelling around the world, my good friend and fellow writer, Joe Butler, asked me if I would like to join him on his Haunted Hotel project as I'd be staying in a fair few hotels along my way. All I would have to do is write an eerie tale in the way of flash fiction, and leave it in the hotel room, usually in the bible, or somewhere it can be found but not thrown away by the cleaning staff.
I was excited and honoured. I've been following Joe's hotel stories ever since he started the project. We both have a passion for ghost stories and folklore and often share works and inspiration within these themes - we especially enjoy creating our own.
My favourite so far is a lyrical tale written during his recent stay at a hotel in New Zealand:
Hotel St Moritz
The lady of the room must be fed.
She comes on the whiff of laudanum and the sail boat’s blast.
Dragging the foul fruits of her fetid orchard.
The children who hide neath the bed.
Oh yes, the lady of the room must be fed.
The man of the house seeks the door of thirteen.
He dines on those he deems unclean.
Yes, the man of the house is worse by far.
I asked Joe how he came up with the project:
"I had the idea a few years ago, when I was staying in a hotel on my own for work. I travel around for my job a lot and often stay away from home and I am often the victim of my own imagination and tend to scare myself senseless, waking in the dark, convinced there is some ghostly apparition in my hotel room standing at the foot of my bed.
I think that is partly because I believe in ghosts, partly because I have an overactive imagination, but mostly because hotels are inherently scary places with a lot of deaths and bloody history hidden behind their doors.
I also love the idea of creating new folklore stories that people might just believe. I hope that if i do enough of them, maybe one might escape into the collective consciousness of a place that I have stayed and become a local legend or tale. People might even say that they've seen the thing I've written about. Which is why, when I write them, I love taking inspiration from the hotel and local area. Actually having it right there, in the room or captured in the view from the window, or even a recurring noise in the story makes it feel far more real and allows the setting to do some of the legwork for you in terms of storytelling. For example, I was staying somewhere near the mountains in New Zealand, so the story I left in the in the room was about the view of the mountains from the window, and how the person writing the note was the only person who could see these ghostly hikers approaching the hotel from the mountainside.
I think The Haunted Hotel Project rewards and punishes curious travellers with a worm of a story that may just stick with them and play on their mind when the the lights are out."
I wrote my first Haunted Hotel story while staying at a Premier Inn and tucked it into the bible on the bedside shelf:
The silence on this side of the building does not mean all sounds are kept away. For in lieu of planes and suitcase wheels comes the hooves of horses that tread back and forth. The lady sits on the purple chaise longue, awaiting her carriage still.
This project is going to be a lot of fun, I'm already very excited to write the next one.
Follow The Haunted Hotel Project and other writings by Joe Butler at Write Like a Shark