As a writer, I am inspired by my surroundings, particularly when I am driving around town, noticing mundane events, camouflaged buildings, and obscure fields dappled with wild flowers and honeysuckles that could tickle the ankles of my fictional characters sneaking off to share love’s first kiss.
On the outskirts of Annapolis, there is a particular set of intriguing buildings built over a century ago on farmland where Maryland tobacco once drained the earth of its vitality–the red-brick Crownsville Hospital Center, a hospital for the insane. Beyond the lush green grounds and the prim building exteriors of white porticoes and Greek columns, tortured patients died and ghost stories were born. For decades, the ghost stories have run rampant around town, inspiring my imagination of what happened beyond the imposing admissions building.
A cemetery rests behind the conservative Georgian-style architecture, holding tight to its guests and their secrets, displaying only hundreds of flat, weathered headstones bearing numbers to mark the ill-fated patients who died from shock therapy, botched lobotomies, and tuberculosis during their stay.
When I look at the photo of the building, a ghost itself, with craggy broken windows and peeling white paint, I see the nameless faces–comatose faces of the newly admitted patients staring out. I hear the squeaking of old-fashioned wheelchairs as white coats push them down the long, white-tiled corridors to their bleak, white-walled rooms. They’re in there. Their whispers linger on the wind that seeps into my car as I drive by. I hear them and I want to toss my sweet, little protagonists in there with them. So don’t be surprised if you read about a certain haunted, decrepit detention center called Kingshill in Disenchanted where a ghostly hospital guest creeps up on my little witch, Sophie.