Published November 21, 2022 LAYERS OF INSPIRATION BY KEITH ANTHONY BAIRD Living as I do in England’s Lake District area, I’m immersed in a ...

Guest Post || Layers of Inspiration by Keith Anthony Baird

Published November 21, 2022


Living as I do in England’s Lake District area, I’m immersed in a truly inspiring region which is matched in its beauty by a rich history going back into antiquity. Quite aside from the breath-taking scenery which includes rugged mountains, sprawling lakes, lush forests, and rolling hills, there’s a lore which permeates every glade and valley. The Romans were here, as evidenced in their lasting marks upon the landscape. The Celts too, with numerous stone circles dotting the moors and fells which speak of druidic rites and a shadowy nature we’ll never fully understand.

As a writer in the sphere of dark fiction there’s much in the way of inspiration to draw upon. Just about every major town here has some trace of its glorious past still intact. Castles, inns, and manor houses litter the countryside, each with a story dating back centuries. And it’s in these settings we find tales of the supernatural which provide yet another layer of interest to an already overflowing pot. With its annual visitor numbers in the millions, the district plays host to tourists from all corners of the globe. Many experience encounters with what can only be described as the ‘otherworldly’. 

One well-known spot is Kirkstone Pass. The gateway to Patterdale valley, the pass is often closed in harsh winters due to its lofty position. In days of yore, it would have been treacherous for those travelling on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, and one such tale has given rise to a particular haunting which has become synonymous with the inn there. It is the story of Ruth Ray, who was on her way from Patterdale to see her sick father with her small child in tow. As so often happens, the weather unexpectedly took a turn for the worst and snow quickly fell, making it impossible to walk in any direction with certainty. When Ruth had not returned home, her husband set out to look for her, only to find her frozen and lifeless. The baby was wrapped up heavily and survived. To this day, Ruth still haunts the Kirkstone Inn. It is thought she warns walkers of the weather and the dangers of the pass.

Another tale tells of a young boy who was killed by a coach outside the inn. It is reported that a photograph of a 17th century coachman was captured while he was lurking in the bar. The ghost was apparently the great, great grandfather of the family who took the picture, and it’s said that his spirit followed the visiting family home. There are accounts too of a grey lady and the ghost of a hiker who once worked at the inn, who is believed to be the culprit of poltergeist activity there. Another restless spirit is that of a woman who was hanged nearby for the murder of her child. It’s said she haunts the tree on which she met her end.

Tales of the Kirkstone Inn are just a few of the many which are commonplace in an area steeped in such a rich heritage. The aforementioned castles and manor houses have their fair share of hauntings too, and even the very hills themselves, according to a number of sightings. If legend is to be believed, the fellside on the edge of Blencathra mountain is home to a ghostly procession that has been witnessed on a few occasions at Midsummer. The first time they were seen is said to have been during the evening of Midsummer's Day in 1735, where a servant claimed to have watched a line of soldiers, both on foot and horseback, marching their way across the fell.

So it’s easy to take inspiration from everything around me here in the Lake District. I sincerely hope my fellow writers, wherever you are, have an equally wonderful setting in which to thrive in your writing.

Keith Anthony Baird is the author of The Jesus Man: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale of Horror (Novel), Nexilexicon (Novel), And a Dark Horse Dreamt of Nightmares (Book of Shorts), This Will Break Every Bone In Your Heart (Novelette) and Snake Charmer Blues (Short), and a psychological/horror novella titled A Seed in a Soil of Sorrow. His works can be found on Amazon and Audible.

The Diabolica Britannica horror anthology was his brainchild, in which you will find his own contribution Walked a Pale Horse on Celtic Frost. 2021 saw the release of the Diabolica Americana and HEX-PERIMENTS anthologies, the latter in partnership with author Ross Jeffery.

His dark fantasy novella In the Grimdark Strands of the Spinneret is coming from Brigid’s Gate Press in November 2022.

He is currently querying a dystopian/cyberpunk novella titled SIN:THETICA and writing a vampire-themed novella called A Light of Little Radiance in collaboration with fellow British author Beverley Lee.

He lives in Cumbria, in the United Kingdom, on the edge of the Lake District National Park.