Amelia Cotter is the author of the book This House: The True Story of a Girl and a Ghost, released August 8, 2011 by Black Oak Media. This House is the semi-autobiographical tale of Nora, who finds love in a very unusual place.
The subtitle of your book is “The True Story of a Girl and a Ghost”; is it based on your own personal experiences?
Yes, “This House” is based on my adventures in an abandoned haunted house when I was a child. The main character, Nora, is a teenager in the book, because in many ways this is more accessible and easier to handle for readers than the musings of a little girl who, in a way, becomes infatuated with an adult male ghost. I was 11 at the time most of this occurred. The house, known as “Walter’s House” and named for the ghost who allegedly haunted it, was part of My Lady’s Manor in Baltimore County, Maryland, a large plot of land founded in 1713 by Charles Calvert, the Third Lord Baltimore, for his wife.
The property is very interesting because it spans many acres, but there was a row of abandoned houses, an occupied house, and a busy restaurant (the Manor Tavern) that all stood in a line close to the road. A virtual playground for a young ghost hunter. My dad worked at the Manor Tavern and my mom would supervise as I explored Walter’s House. It was mostly safe. Mostly.
What would you say was the most defining experience for Nora in the way she looked at the paranormal?
Nora grapples with the idea that this ghost, Walter, has reached out to her, but she doesn’t know what he wants from her. She isn’t sure if she should, or can, help him, or what it is about her that has opened this door to their communication (mostly via photographs, EVPs, and a series of vivid dreams and visions). There are many implications on both an ethical and a metaphysical level that make this an uncomfortable situation. Yet Walter never tries to hurt her and certain coincidences make it seem almost like their meeting was predestined, but for an unknown purpose. Walter even appears in her, well, my life years and years later. Nora also goes back and forth, at first, wondering how much of what she is experiencing is fantasy and how much is real.
When she finally encounters the ghost in full form, her notions about who he might have been, when he lived, and her romantic attitude about it come screeching to a halt as she processes that although he is human, he is very DEAD. Funny, because many ghost hunters start the other way around–yes, the ghosts are dead, but it’s easy to forget that they’re also very human.
What is new to “This House” in the Second Edition?
The second edition features a Foreword by Michael Kleen, an Introduction by me, and an updated ending and Eighth Chapter, which kind of clean up some of the elements I might have left untidy in the first book. Hopefully it will be a more well-rounded read, providing more explanation and giving readers who may have also read the first edition some more “aha” moments. The cherry on top is, of course, the preview of Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State featured at the end, with two excerpts from stories that will appear in that book. This House ends somewhat wistfully, on an open note, so the preview sort of gets the reader back in the ghost story-reading spirit, keeps the momentum going.
Some naysayers have raised questions about the “truth” behind this novella – what is some of the evidence you included in this edition to prove those critics wrong?
Well, everyone is entiteld to their opinion. I can see why some people would question the authenticity of some things in the book because a) the paranormal experiences are very strong and told very vividly, and b) I tell them through the eyes of a character before I present the readers with my own notes and journal entries. So some people have gotten to the end of the chapters and maybe not kept going, or didn’t understand and were confused, and said “Aw man, she made it all up!” That’s not true. The journal entries, which I have and take around to book signings and events where people can see them, the objects from the house, and the photos discussed in the book, are featured in the final chapter, more as part of the overall story this time, not separate from it so that people might put the book down before getting to what is probably the most crucial part of it. It’s funny because one review I read said that my journal entries were too stiff and I had no emotion, even though I was a kid writing them all down while it was all fresh in my mind. I find that hilarious because it’s true–I was trying so hard even in those days to be a “professional” ghost hunter. I was trying to be dry and academic. She picked up on that, but didn’t see the humor at all in the nerdy 11-year old me taking myself so seriously.
What do you have in store for us with your upcoming book Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State?
I am super excited for this book and I hope it will be as much fun to read as as has been to write! The idea was to expand on the idea behind This House–telling my own personal story, which took place in my great home state of Maryland–and reach out to others for their true encounters. I interviewed and collected stories from friends, family, ghost investigation groups, strangers, even an editor at my other publisher. These stories take place all over the state, in some legendary haunted locations, random private homes, public places, and even on the sides of highways. I am currently still collecting stories, and will also include a reference section for the counties and landmarks that may go unrepresented but that I think are still essential for the book. But so far, the interviews, emails, and letters alone have scared and sometimes even shocked me. I opened the floor up for any kind of paranormal experience, not just with ghosts, and have some excellent UFO stories, even a few stories about gnome sightings–these freak me out a lot for some reason. I definitely get the ghost thing but am still fascinated by non-human entities and how we encounter them. I’m hoping this will be a different kind of ghost story collection (for anyone who likes ghost stories, not just Maryland folks) because it doesn’t just recall the same legends or folklore with a few quotations, it is only the real words and strange tales from everyday people, from beginning to end.