Information supplied by Ayn Hunt

While I was in the middle of writing my first mystery, we had a most unusual visitor who’d appear, then disappear, seemingly at will. At first, he seemed oblivious of us and gave the impression he wanted to be left alone…and we were all willing to let him go his own way. Anyone who could walk through walls the way he could had our utmost respect.

But the more often he appeared, the more curious I became about what we were dealing with here. At the time, I knew nothing about ghosts, wasn’t even sure I believed they existed, so I started researching from scratch. And this is how my mysteries changed from who-dun-its to Gothics.

For example, in my first book, Unwilling Killers, I changed the setting from an old, dilapidated house to an old haunted house which I researched not far from my home. I’d seen it, been in it, knew of its reputation, but never thought much about it. Being a stickler for realism for my books though, I wrote to the local historical society which proved to be a wealth of information about it, even sending me full-color pictures of every room.

The noise the ancient housekeeper hears is consistent with both that of ghosts and humans both. This element was crucial, as I had to figure out the limits of the powers of levitation for ghosts to make it seem realistic, while a skeptic could believe otherwise. Those noise and movement had to satisfy both as being from ghosts and humans. So I found out and I those limits of ghosts by doing research, primarily on the Net, but also using some books I picked up at a second-hand book store.

For the secret passageways, I used the color pictures of the back stairways which the historical society had sent. One of them, in particular, was ideal for what I had in mind.

In my second book, Obsessed, which has the same characters in the first book of two little old ladies who’ve taken to trying to solve old murders with their niece (who tries vainly to keep them out of trouble), I had to figure out the personalities of ghosts, which was challenging. I found out that a person’s temperament doesn’t change after death. So if a person was mean and ornery in life, their ghost would be the same way. Conversely, if a person was laid back and easy-going, they’d manifest the same traits.

For my third book, The Haunting, I used a combination of all methods for the setting, using color pictures, but also how such a house would look when getting ready for the wrecking ball to destroy it, so I had to research demolition techniques to get it set in my mind.

A collection of ghosts, one of whom was a small-time hood, plays an essential role in trying to kill both Jessica, the niece, and one of the old ladies (Emily, the one who’s a physic), so I researched con-artists, which was interesting to say the very least.

Then I featured a killer, also a small-time hood, very much alive, who also wants to kill Jessica and Emily, so I researched methods of murder with things readily available in a house which is about to be destroyed. The transformation however of this live killer to a ghost was the most challenging part, and which, in the end, I used part fact-part fiction.

The part about the ghost chasing Jessica to insert itself into her body in an attempt to reclaim life, I’ve found though, is true. If a soul thinks the body is dead, they’ll often depart, and an unscrupulous ghost can insert itself into that body. I thought I was making this up at the time but I found out later, it can happen.

My fourth mystery which I haven’t finished yet, will use a Doppelganger, which is a spiritual double we all have. Legend has it that if a person sees his Doppelganger, he’ll die, but my research has proven this isn’t necessarily true. Many famous people have seen their double, including a local ghostbuster I talked to recently, and still live to tell about it.

So that’s basically it. Most of us who write mysteries of various types do a lot of research both before writing and during the process as questions come up. Today as never before, realism and checking and double-checking our facts and methods are crucial.

Author Ayn Hunt