Part of the manuscript in The Devil’s Missal deals with astrological alignments. I thought I’d share this chart of celestial bodies from Volney’s Ruins of Empires 1852 edition. To the left, signs of Heaven of Summer or of Ormuzd and the reign of good. To the right reversed (or adverse) signs, Heaven of Winter or of Ahrimanes and the reign of evil.
In The Devil’s Missal there is mention of a hidden mural depicting Büderich as a Nazi-idyll in one of the town’s administrative buildings. The mural is said to be covered by plaster now and only an old photograph is known of it. In fact there is evidence that such a mural exists – or existed – as there is indeed a photograph of it in the town’s records.
The building where the mural is said to be hidden is the former Hitler Youth building on the main square.
By the end of the war, most of the surrounding buildings had been destroyed during heavy bombardment. Since this picture was taken, many of those empty spaces have been built on.
Part of the attraction for using the setting of Schloss Pesch for a ghost story lies in the surrounding woods. In The Devil’s Missal, the sinister atmosphere of the surrounding woods can be felt even on a bright sunny day. There are multiple paths leading off into the trees which disappear into dark undergrowth. It feels as though eyes are watching you from within the darkness.
In The Devil’s Missal, the main character, Holda, spent her early childhood around Schloss Pesch. When she returns as an adult, revisiting those scenes sparks some strange memories… conscious and subconscious.
I realised that the photos on this blog so far have only shown Schloss Pesch from the front as you enter through the main gate. Holda, the main character in The Devil’s Missal used to enter the grounds from the Herrenbusch, which was easy to do in the 1990s, but the path has now been blocked off and a thick hedge blocks the way from the field at the rear.
As you enter the Herrenbusch by Haus Gripswald there is the obligatory information board for visitors complete with map and basic local history. This one has a rather lovely sketch of Haus Gripswald which gives a much better impression of the place than any photograph can, as so much of the house is masked by trees.
One of the characters in The Devil’s Missal is a collector of stories. He travels around the various villages of Meerbusch talking to residents, gathering their tales of times past and present, trawling through old photographs, letters and diaries.
As a rural community, many of the anecdotes will have been about life on the land, which has seen great changes in the past century. It seems strange to think that only eighty years ago there were still farmers ploughing with oxen or horses in the area.
When I picked the Teloy windmill as the setting for a particular scene in The Devil’s Missal, I was particularly looking for somewhere which looks rock solid – a safe port in a storm, so to speak.
I was in Lank today and thought I’d drive past the windmill to take a photo for this blog, but then the same thing happened as always seems to happen to me when I go there. I couldn’t find the windmill. I know, I know, how can you lose something the size of a windmill? In my defence, it is hidden by trees and other buildings until almost the point where you’re walking into it. Anyway, the elusive mill couldn’t evade me in the end. Here are a couple of snaps to prove it.
One episode in The Devil’s Missal is set in the historic city of Bruges in Belgium. What really inspired me was the atmosphere among the backstreets and canals. Most of the houses are still lived in by local people. The buildings almost all date from the late middle ages and even those which are dilapidated exude a unique charm. But even in the sunshine, the silence is eerie. It is almost as though ghosts are watching you from those empty windows.
Of course true lovers of ghost stories should visit Bruges by night. Then Bruges is at it’s spookiest, with its old street lamps and narrow alleyways. Echoing footsteps falling on cobbles reflect off the walls in strange way, so you never can quite tell whether or not some invisible presence is following you.