Testimony New Paperback Edition – Out Now

Testimony new cover

After literally hundreds of requests from listeners of the hit BBC Podcast The Witch Farm, I’m pleased to say the new paperback edition of Testimony is now available.

As you can see above, this one features a new cover – a photo of the truly terrifying Heol Fanog from the time when Bill and Liz Rich were reluctant residents. The paperback is available worldwide in all local Amazon outlets. Here’s the link for the UK version.

The excellent The Witch Farm podcast by Danny Robins was inspired by Testimony and digs deep into the investigation. It’s one of those rare accounts of the paranormal that has multiple witnesses – I interviewed twenty-four, many of them unconnected, including a previous resident – all of whom experienced something disturbing in that isolated house just outside Brecon in rural Wales.

Heol Fanog (c) Elizabeth Udall

When the artist Bill Rich and his wife Liz moved into Heol Fanog with their young family it was supposed to be an idyllic hideaway. Within weeks they were afflicted by a series of inexplicable events, including a massive power drain that took their electricity bills to industrial levels.

Then the encounters began.

Bill and Liz Rich (c) Elizabeth Udall

What followed was a terrifying experience that pushed Bill and Liz to the brink.

I first heard about the case through a small piece in The Independent newspaper about the baffling power drain, which had been investigated by the local electricity company and independent experts. As a journalist, I was intrigued enough to get in touch with Bill for a follow-up. I wasn’t prepared for what I found.

The ruined medieval Manor House in the garden with its private cemetery. (c) Elizabeth Udall

If you’re interested in the paranormal, there’s plenty in this book to sink your teeth into. If you’re a sceptic, there’s something here for you too. The debate is the thing.

What really happened?

But at its heart, Testimony is a human story, about two people who found themselves at the heart of something they couldn’t explain, trapped in a place they no longer wanted to be, and preyed upon by those allegedly offering help.

If you like the book, reviews on Amazon would be a great help. And if you can spread the word that the paperback is now available again, please do…if only for the sake of my in-box.

Testimony: A True Story About Terrifying Things

I want to tell you a true story. About ghosts, and things more terrifying than ghosts. I‘m a journalist, fully rooted in the real world. I write about foreign affairs and politics, economics, the arts, science, health, archaeology. Reality and evidence-based. Remember that.

Half of all Americans now believe they live or have lived in a haunted house. Researchers attribute a rapidly increasing belief in the supernatural to the rise of paranormal-related media and a decline in religious affiliation.

I wrote my only non-fiction book Testimony about the most supernaturally-afflicted house in the UK after coming across a newspaper report where a home was experiencing massive energy bills as if the power was being drained away. The owner mentioned in passing some supernatural element which got me interested.

I went in thinking I’d probably at the least end up with a book about the psychology of living in a house believed to be haunted. That view changed pretty quickly. I called the book Testimony because I wanted to build it around the accounts of people who had experiences in that isolated Welsh house, rather than filtering it all through my third party view of events.

Using my journalistic skills, I tracked down lots of people who’d had something strange happen to them. In the end I had 24 interviews. 24 people, many of them unconnected, who’d seen ghosts, dealt with possession, a range of terrifying phenomena, the manifestation of a seven-foot tall beaked figure, more…

In these kinds of accounts, it’s easy to dismiss them if you’re of a sceptical nature and it’s just a couple talking about what they went through. They’re mistaken, deluded, deranged, lying. When you have so many who haven’t had the chance to talk to each other or who thought they were isolated victims, that becomes so much harder. With those kinds of numbers, rationally you have to accept that something out of the ordinary was taking place there…

There’s a BBC podcast out about the case now, The Witch Farm. So far I’m the only person to have written about it because it was unbelievably difficult to track down the people involved, some of whom are no longer with us or who have vanished.

If you want to reach your own conclusions, or dismiss it out of hand, I suggest you read all those first hand accounts first. You might find it harder than you think.

The ebook of Testimony is available in all local Amazon sites globally, but here are the UK and US links.

The Witch Farm and Testimony

The Witch Farm podcast from the BBC starts today (on BBC Sounds and Radio 4 tonight). If you’re interested in what you hear, check out my investigation in my book Testimony (ebook on Amazon).

It includes plenty of people who won’t make it into the podcast because they’ve subsequently died or disappeared.

Overbally I interviewed twenty-four people who had disturbing, inexplicable experiences in that isolated house.

I marshalled all the skills I’d learned working as a journalist for national media, sometimes tracking former residents of Heol Fanog half a world away.

Not all the interviews made the Final Cut. I might include some of the outtakes here.

The Witch Farm

One of my most enduring and successful books is Testimony, my non-fiction account of a family’s truly terrifying experience in an isolated Welsh house. Now there’s a podcast coming from the team behind The Battersea Poltergeist through BBC Sounds.

The Witch Farm, an eight-part series by Danny Robins starring Joseph Fiennes and Alexandra Roach, launches on October 17, but there’s a trailer available now. Give it a listen.

You can find a brief extract of Testimony at this link: “An old house in mid-Wales seemed like a haven to Liz and Bill Rich. But within weeks of their arrival, inexplained happenings turned their enchantment to horror. This is their story – the true story of an experience that has defied all explanation.”

If you want to pick up the ebook, UK readers should go here.

And US readers should go here.

When Is A Ghost Not A Ghost?

The Haunting of Hill House, which dropped on Netflix shortly before Halloween, is an amazing achievement, and not because of the scary elements (of which there are many).

Matching the show’s duelling timelines – now and then – it’s gone back to the past, to the age of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, when horror was made for grown-ups, with deep themes and symbolism, where the supernatural was a metaphor for real-world concerns.

And after so many years of dumb, funfair ride horror, it was so refreshing to discover something that had real depth.

What is The Haunting of Hill House about?  Not ghosts, not really.  They sweep by on the surface, terrifying and driving the plot, but it’s what they really mean that is truly horrifying.

A be-hatted spectral figure whose face can never be seen, always a few steps behind you – that’s a scary image.  But as a symbol of addiction, that honestly makes the blood run cold.  Depression, mental illness, family breakdown, childhood trauma, these are the ghosts that really haunt Hill House – and that is why the series is so affecting.  Emotional – sad, uplifting – rather than just creepy.

It talks about the human, not the supernatural.

I could go on at length about Mike Flanagan’s tour-de-force.  It’s a show that people will be talking about for ages, because of that meaning and depth married to a chilling tale.

Some complain about the ending.  I think it’s perfect for a series that is a drama about people.  It’s all a matter of perception, which is one of the themes The Haunting of Hill House plays with so effectively.

And it has an attention to detail in its construction that you rarely see in a tale in this genre (which these days producers cynically think is there for a not particularly discerning audience).  The layering of the mystery, the resonances that leap back and forth across the entire series, the excellent performances (particularly from the three female leads who knock it out of the park in their individual story episodes), these are things you usually find in TV dramas aimed at, well, discerning viewers.

Let’s talk about Mike Flanagan’s amazing direction in the ‘single-take’ (really five takes) episode six.  Or that attention to detail in the clockwork story construction. Ponder for a moment the discarded ‘sinister’ ending and why that choice was made.

But mostly praise the decision to reclaim horror for all those people who prefer a little meat on old bones.

Testimony – An Exhibition Of Haunted Art?

Bill Rich was haunted by terrifying demons. Some that manifested in his isolated home, as I detailed in my non-fiction book Testimony. And some that were firmly embedded in his psyche, as he always admitted.

All of it contributed to the art that he laboured over all his life, all of it, in some way, haunted.  In the book I wrote about the works he completed during the frightening events that swirled around him in his home, Heol Fanog, and which were influenced by the horrors there.  But Bill, who died two years ago, also left a body of work from the years before and after that troubled time.  One of his surreal paintings heads this piece.

Now his widow Liz is keen to stage an exhibition of Bill’s work.

She says, “Bill’s paintings have never been exhibited, which I feel is sad, as he was an unusually talented artist. During his life he dedicated his time to painting what he described as primitive surreal art. Most of his ideas came from dreams or interpretations of what was happening around him. Each painting holds immense emotion and visual stories.

“Bill’s dream would have been that his work could at last be appreciated and understood. I know he would have been overjoyed to see his art work reaching a wider audience.”

I’ve seen some of the art and it definitely deserves a public viewing.  I’m sure Liz would be keen to hear from anyone with gallery space or the wherewithal to make it happen.

If you can help, leave a comment here or send me a message through the contacts page.

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True Horror – Testimony

A quick reminder about True Horror on Channel 4 at 10pm this Thursday April 19, which examines the truly terrifying case that I investigated in my non-fiction book, Testimony.

When Bill and Liz Rich moved into an isolated farmhouse, it already had a reputation locally for being haunted. What they found there was far, far worse than their wildest imaginings…and it threatened their sanity and ultimately their lives.

If you like what you see in the True Horror drama-documentary, read the book for the full story.  You can get it here.

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True Horror On TV

I’ll be popping up on Channel 4 next week in the drama-documentary series True Horror. The first episode on April 19, 10 pm, is a chilling account of the Rich family’s terrifying experiences in an isolated farmhouse, which I wrote about in my non-fiction book Testimony. (You can read about it here.)

Far more than a haunting, this story goes to some very dark places indeed.  Some have called it the British Amityville, but it’s more than that.  I decided to investigate because it wasn’t simply an account of the family at the heart of the disturbing events.  Many other people, all of them unconnected, experienced disturbing, inexplicable events in that place.

Worth a look.

The 21st Century Writer

(Or: I am not a lazy git.)

It’s probably fair to say that about 80% of a writer’s labours are hidden from public view.  They’re the projects that never quite come together, or never get picked up, for a whole variety of reasons.  The pitches that seem to be going somewhere, and then die at the last – and this is particularly true of the TV world, where only a tiny fraction of what is written actually makes it to the screen.  The articles that get bumped from magazines, or websites, or newspapers, because something more newsworthy has just surfaced.

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I work at my writing constantly.  Five days a week, sometimes more.  It’s my job, it’s my life.  A book with my name on it may crop up once a year, sometimes with even longer breaks, so it’s easy to think I while away my hours drinking in the local pub or wandering the world, watching the clouds pass by.  (I do both, just not all the time.)  What you don’t get to hear about are all the pieces of work that never break surface, because: what’s the point?  But here’s what I have been doing:

No ‘Mark Chadbourn’ book recently?  That’s because I’ve been writing a series of books under the pseudonym I’ve reserved for historical fiction (to avoid confusion among readers, booksellers and marketing people) – James Wilde.  These books have made The Times best-seller list, so as people are keen to keep reading them, I feel an obligation to keep writing them.  I’ve just signed a three-book deal with Penguin Random House for a new series which will be of interest to James Wilde readers *and* Mark Chadbourn readers (particularly if you liked Age of Misrule).

I also work extensively as a screenwriter – 26 hours of produced work for the BBC under my belt to date.  I’m currently developing several new series for broadcasters around the world, and working on a film script.  My near-future SF series, Shadow State, is in the hands of a US network.  My book, Testimony, an investigation into a British Amityville, is being developed for UK and international TV.  I have a political thriller and a crime series also in development.  It’s a long road from here to any of these projects appearing on a screen near you, and they all might fall at any one of the numerous obstacles.  But, you know: paid work.

One of my favourite TV writers is Nigel Kneale, the creator of Quatermass, and I’m writing an extended piece about him for We Are The Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale, a new book looking at his life and work in TV and film.  This will be a great book with some fantastic contributors, so definitely check it out if you have any interest in F/SF/H, TV, film, or just the work of a quality writer.

And on top of all the writing and the endless, endless meetings, I do various talks, lectures, and signings here and there.  The next one is a screenwriting workshop at the Derby Book Festival Writers’ Day.

All of which makes an interesting point about what it takes to be a full-time writer in the 21st century.  Only a very,very few writers make a good living from novels.  A publishing industry on the ropes has slashed advances, and the black arts of publishing accounting means royalties sometimes take a while to surface in your bank (most authors don’t even make any royalties).  The choice for many is to hold down a full-time job and scribble away in the evenings.

But I like my freedom.  It’s been a long time since I was a wage-slave, working as a journalist on the national papers in London.  I’m pretty much unemployable now.  But I also like to eat.  And, you know, have an amazing time travelling the world and being louche in new locales.  So the wise thing is to cast my net wide and put my writing to work in different media.  Eggs/baskets etc.

But then, if you’re a writer, why wouldn’t you?  Story telling is the same all over.  Once you’ve mastered the new skill-set for a new medium, you’re drawing on the same natural ability wherever you’re employed: your ideas.

A film script is a palate-cleanser after a novel, and vice versa.  Journalism and comics and TV all have their particular joys, and they all complement each other.  In the multi-media, cross-platform, constantly mutating 21st century, why would any writer want to limit their storytelling to only one area?