Introduction by the author and creator:
What springs to mind when you hear the phrase ‘classic ghost story’? A spooky old castle? An empty Victorian house? Translucent maidens, beckoning you towards the cliff edge? A frightful pale faced spectre with gaping jaw? Mists rolling in off the sea, or moor? A graveyard, lit by a pale winter moon? A wizened old hag, searching for a lost love? An isolated train station at midnight? The list could go on, and on, and on...

It seems the ‘classic ghost-story’ is a little harder to define than some would think. The recent success of Eastern horror has also brought much success to the supernatural section of the video store, while expanding the established mechanisms of the genre. So, are there any traits, either old or new, which can help define a work as a ‘classic ghost story’? It was this very question that inspired me to create The Lost Crown: a ghosthunting adventure. I’ve always been a fan of the ghost story, whether old or new, believing that something ‘unexplainable’ surrounds us, influences us and, if we are lucky, scares us into realising there really are ‘more things in heaven and earth’ than the absolute sceptics would like us to believe.

Do 'ghosts' exist?
I have no idea, but I would love to find out! It was for this reason that I joined a group of lively, dedicated and fun individuals to seek out the paranormal in my home county of Cornwall, England. Some would call us ‘ghost hunters’, but I prefer to think of us as patient observers. Our investigations have taken the group from the damp, dark crypt-like passages of Bodmin’s Napoleonic-era Jail to the wind swept Druidic Circles of Dartmoor, famous for it’s glowing Baskerville Hound.

Ghosthunting in Cornwall with This Haunted Land.

Some case files have seen members faint from fear, vomit through nerves or run screaming from the scene, others have resulted in utter boredom, damp clothes and over indulging on the tea. Either way, the experience has been an interesting one, to say the least. My adventures with provided much food for thought, all of which I have poured into my latest game...

Behind the scenes: The making of the game....

As a one-man-band game writer/creator, the challenge has been to create an entire game world, then populate it with myths, legends and ghosts! Throw in a little murder, mayhem and deception and you have the screenplay for The Lost Crown, but realising the world has been the greatest task. Many of the locations, you will explore, are real places, augmented, decorated or transformed to serve as the fictional town of Saxton, in Anglia. Many months were spent seeking appropriate locations in which to shoot, film or record, with Polperro and Looe (on Cornwall’s coast) proving more than up to the task. It has been a pleasure to exhibit my home in such a way, although I’m sure some would question my motives, and bring to life what has been a true labour of love, and an epic task for one dedicated individual.

Creating Saxton: Re-designing reality:

Polperro is a quaint, small, traditional fishing village on Cornwall’s South-East coast. It boasts an ancient harbour, complete with hand built rock walls, famous smugglers pubs and Innes, a tunnel or two, as well as haunted caves and eerie winding back streets and lanes. The town offered, to me, the perfect tableau in which to suggest that the past, present, and even future, can collide, mix, merge and manifest themselves right before our eyes. I have always been interested in archaeology, especially from the time of the Anglo Saxons and Bronze Age, believing that many treasures are still waiting to be found in our haunted landscape.

Polperro Harbour Panorama

Many books have been written over the passing centuries, which explore stories from the town’s past and present; from legendary pirates to today’s crimes and disasters. Polperro is a truly fascinating place, but my photographs of the town would need significant changes to capture the spirit of the town that I call Saxton. Modernity has taken its toll on Polperro; gaudy shop signs, endless road markings and precariously parked cars are a necessary evil in a modern town, but are an ugly distraction from the real beauty of an old town; it’s subtleties, hidden charm and secrets.

Creating The Bear: The Lost Crown.

The fictional town of Saxton, a combination of places seen in my imagination and with my eyes, needed to exude an atmosphere of eerie quietness; a town in which anything, or anyone, could be expected to arrive at any time. The streets should feature signs of classic modernity (the train station, the phone box, the shop), as well as ancient, untouched pockets (such as the caverns, the fens, the endless estuaries).

Locations from The Lost Crown.

The aim of the town/land design being; to create a whole world which was both familar, but precariously perched on the edges of a wild world; a world the Anglo-Saxons themselves may have found, when they first disembarked from their long ships, back in the 4th Century. Using actual photographs of ‘real’ places to conjure up the town of Saxton means, in truth, that many of the buildings are honest to history; antiquities, built from ancient rocks, timbers and tile. Like many old villages, Polperro was constructed, painfully slowly, using local materials and that which washed up on the beach and coastline. So, rest assured, when playing The Lost Crown, that you are looking at human endeavour, perhaps far older than my fictionalised world of Saxton could depict.

A haunted land:

I do like to think that my collection of ghost stories, from many ages and many places, influences my writing. I've always been a fan of the spooky story, whether presented as real or imagined. In fact, my interest in the supernatural story has always been greater than my interest in the ghosts themselves. So, the screenplay to The Lost Crown features many influences from both eye-witness accounts of supernature, as well as tonal references to some of my favourite ghost stories, and supernatural writers; from Charles Dicken's 'The Signalman', to Helen Creswell's contemporary set 'Moondial', also genre fave M.R.James's 'A Warning to the Curious', and J.L.Carr's 'A Month in the Country'. These are but a few works, and authors, that have influenced my work, over the passing years. Many of these influential stories are often vividly set in a pocket of the English Countryside; whether it be Dicken's shadowy railway Signal Box, or J.L.Carrs crumbling, neglected church, buried in the York shires.

Part of my aim, when creating The Lost Crown, was to present a melancholy, pastoral lament. A world that is both recognisable, but invisibly threatened by 'progress' and time itself. Perhaps I fear the landscape itself, something which I like to feel I know and love, could become a ghost of its former self, under-appreciated by modernity.

A stage is set, the players await:

Populating the town of Saxton, and aiding you in your quest to find The Lost Crown, are the characters themselves. My aim, when creating the characters and writing their scripts, was to present a peculiar, almost sinister, group of individuals, each with their own back-stories and agendas. Many of the Saxton folk are not what they seem, with dual identities, to be uncovered by gamers as they progress through the story.

Characters from The Lost Crown.

From working class white witches to snotty archaeology professors, my hope is that the characters capture some essence of what makes a genuine English eccentric; both interesting in life as well as highly likely to become famous ghosts, once they have passed. Chatting, observing and learning from these characters is essential to move the play forward, but I hope no-one ever feels too bewildered by Saxton’s strange inhabitants.

The Ghost, the phantom, the wraith and the lost soul.

Of course, I can hardly round off this text regarding ‘characters’ without mentioning the ghosts! Oh, and what a mixture they are! Unlike my previous games, I wanted to give the Lost Crown’s spooks some motivation, requests and undying personality. On many of the paranormal investigations, carried out as research for the project, I have been ‘introduced’ to many distinctive personalities; some are mischievous, some are cheerful... but many are sad, lonely, isolated or lost. I have yet to decide whether these characters are genuine souls, or just the fancies of self-confessed ‘psychics’ or fiction writers, like myself. Either way, ghost personalities are a treat to write for, so The Lost Crown has been a pleasure to populate with supernatural characters and phenomena.

Ghosts, Ghouls and Phantasmagoria.

There are no grey ladies, headless horsemen or rattling chains to be found in The Lost Crown. Instead, you can expect to find phantom wartime evacuees, a lost troop of train track workers, tree spirits and envious, evil crows; a gothic collection of characters, both old and new. Some of these spirits require help or information, whereas others will settle for the player’s death! Introducing these entities has, without doubt, been my favourite aspect of the production. I’m hoping my explorations into the ‘otherside’ shine through the fiction, reminding you that much of the game is based on real stories, folk tales and fact. As a research job, I couldn’t ask for something more enlightening, but I am not too proud to admit that I have been scared (almost to panic) by some of the events witnessed.

Research Trips Conducted for The Lost Crown.

Spending time in a graveyard, as the clock strikes midnight and the moon sets low across the Bodmin Moor, is never going to be a pleasant experience, (especially not alone). So, it is with some embarrassment that I admit to performing such stupidity. It was mid-summer, last year (07), and I needed night-time footage for a ghosthunt sequence featured in The Lost Crown. Cornwall is bright at the best of times, and never more so than mid-summer, as the Summer Equinox approached. Painters the world over flock to these shores, to take advantage of the pure white light and intense colours. Sadly, I needed darkness, dusk or, at the very least, dim lighting. An early evening shoot was never going to cut it, so I set forth, with a flask of tea and some Kendel Mint Cake, off to my destination; one of the most isolated churches in the country. Arriving at 11pm, I planned my shoot through the graveyard - the location was spooky, but not unbearable – and positioned the camera ready to record the first ‘node’ (node: a 360 degree panorama). At 11:30pm I became all too aware that I was not alone in the churchyard. The surrounding woodlands rustled and snapped with the usual nocturnal culprits; the owl, the badger and the sly fox, but there was something else...something with intent. As I moved from one node to the next, I could sense the presence moving to my side, almost flanking my position, no matter which way I manoeuvred.

Seeking Darkness in the Cornish Landscape.

Nearing the final node – and really quite nervous – I experienced what I can only describe as ‘the moving shadow’, a form, made out of blackness itself, which seemed to advance through the grave yard. The night was very still, weather-wise, the trees did not move, and no clouds were passing the moon, yet a large black void was moving towards me, and the camera. Was it a person, come to question my activities? Or, perhaps an inquisitive goth, interested in the paranormal? Sadly not. My efforts to communicate with the shape, from a simple ‘hello’, to a nervy ‘oi, what’s the problem’ went unanswered. The darkness was still approaching, and I had no idea what it was, or what it wanted with me. A quick stab of adrenaline induced panic, so I abandoned my equipment, and sought the lockable gates of the church porch. For a few moments I wondered whether the rather feeble looking iron gates were the best defence, as I stared out into the landscape.

Night-Vision Footage of a 'haunted' Church Yard.

Then it hit me! Not a flying rock, globule of ectoplasm or frightful twig effigy. No, I was suddenly struck by how foolish I felt. Here’s me, a paranormal investigator, and ghost enthusiast, running away from, perhaps, the one thing that I’d been seeking all this time! Why oh why does the suggestion of the ‘other’ scare us so much? Well, I didn’t stick around, sorry to say, instead I packed up my goodies and got myself back to the comforting lights of town and a late night beer (or two!). I was relieved to have got everything I needed for the game sequence, but felt rather silly that I was scared so easily.

The next morning, with the last evening’s events a blurry memory, I got to work on my precious graveyard footage. Nothing prepared me for what I was about to find....

1: Much of the audio material was crackling with unexplainable interference.

2: Blurry black shapes obscured many of the shots.

3: A definite voice can be heard saying, “look at me” in more than one sequence.

4: The iron gates, which as far as I am aware, never moved, can be heard clanking while I stood behind them for protection.

It goes without saying that there are, probably, many explanations for what happened in the church yard, that mid-summer night, but I’ll have to leave any decisions up to you, because, mid-way through the screenplay, you too will be wandering around that churchyard, at midnight!

Jonathan Boakes
January 2010

Copyright © 2010 Darkling Room :

Creating The Bear: Part One Creating The Bear: Part Two Creating The Bear: Part Three