Haunted by the Perfect Word

Sometimes I wordsmith to death, and so it is with my
mystery, The Cavanaugh House. My book
was inspired by an urban legend and my childhood memories of a neighbor’s disturbing
The detail of the urban legend that seems to have
crept into my novel is one word: Scrape.
It from the legend of the White Lady who haunted the area of Durand Eastman
Park in Rochester, NY. According to this myth, one night a couple parked in
this lovers’ lane to watch the “submarine races” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Exhausted
from their passion, they fell asleep. When the girl awoke in the wee hours of
the morning, her boyfriend had disappeared and she heard a noise—scrape, scrape, scrape—coming from above

Climbing out of the car, she was traumatized to find her boyfriend’s body
hanging over a tree limb above the car. What she had was his fingernails
scraping the hood—a victim of the White Lady.

The word “scrape” has gestated in my imagination all
these years, and birthed itself upon the pages of The Cavanaugh House. But I don’t think it’s the right word for my
story. While I hear it in my mind in all of its glorious ghostly implication, “scrape”
may conjure up other images for my readers: a scraped knee, getting into a
difficult situation, ice on a windshield, preparation to paint a house. None of
these make the spine tingle. I want my readers’ spines to tingle.
My beta readers have been awesome with suggestions
ranging from the sound of eerie chimes to words like scritch. I love the idea of music or chimes, but I can’t write that
in one word; I need an onomatopoeia that will imbue the scene with creepiness
and suspense. I’m leaning toward scritch
since it lacks any preconceived ideas. For some reason my usually-gregarious
muse, Boris, has been strangely silent on this topic. Apparently he handles the
“big picture” and is not a detail man.
To avoid a spoiler, I will not reveal my childhood
neighbor’s disturbing discovery…you’ll have to read the book. But I am open to
ideas to replace scrape from any of
you with spine-tingling words in your head. It’s my last revision before I

Look for The
Cavanaugh House
on Amazon in late March.

7 thoughts on “Haunted by the Perfect Word

  1. I'm still partial to the bells. They could start out as sweet, golden chimes which end in a hum, like a long, sad groan, giving it an eerie feel. After your initial description, then one adjective could bring the sounds back to your readers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    scratching…… clawing……..both to me are very sending….. into scary thoughts. simple but effective just the same. I live 5 minutes from Durand Eastman Park and drive through it daily……. sometimes at night I see an errie white light pass by , the one that makes you think to yourself …..'was that what I saw "…. as teenagers we would go there late at night….we heard all kinds of noises….. many more memories…….. from what I know the girls mother still roams crying moaning ………looking for her daughter. love to you Aunt Betty …. Anne Villani

    • Anne, I like scratching and clawing – thanks! I always felt nervous when I was in Durand Eastman Park even during the day. I didn't know about the girl's mother haunting it – great addition to the legend. Thanks for stopping by – miss you <3

  3. When I think of spirits, or ghosts, I think of the hair standing up on your arms, and the back of your neck. You feel like someone is in your space with your – you know that feeling that if you turn around, you'll bump right into someone? If it has to be a sound, it could be more of a distant voice – scream, etc that you aren't sure if you really heard it or not. I once had a spirit trying to get my attention, and it kept waking me up with 'Hey!" right in my ear, and the creepiest thing was that I could feel the breath on my ear. I cant wait to read this!

    • Wow! Being awakened by a spirit yelling "Hey" in your ear is pretty definitive! I love your description of the sensation that someone is right there with you – I've had that many times. Sometimes I even seem to know who it is…I guess it's their energy. Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

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