An interview with Megan Burns
|Photo: Michael Keel|
Candice Night will be playing a couple of Blackmore’s Night dates in the area this month, including a gig in Patchogue on October 14th, and another in New Jersey on October 16th; as such, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to ask her to tell us some ghost stories, because she’s racked up quite a few throughout her life and travels.
We hopped on the phone the week before last, and in the midst of our supernatural chat, she had to pause the conversation to do some paranormal investigating, saying, “You know, as I’m speaking to you now, there’s something electronic going crazy in the other room. It’s been quiet this entire day, and now there’s something going crazy in the kitchen. And I’m alone in the house. It’s clicking. Can you just hold on and let me see what that is really quickly?” She put me on hold for a couple of minutes, and when she got back said, “Umm…I got to the kitchen and it stopped. This is what happens, though. This is why I’m so incredibly fascinated by this; they seem to make their appearance a lot of times through electronic devices. Like you’ll just be sitting there and the television will turn on, or it’ll just turn off for no reason, or lights will start flickering.”
This seems to have become the accepted “norm” for her and her husband (Ritchie Blackmore), who first bonded over a late-night, supernaturally-themed conversation, and who, in addition to making music and traveling the world together, have a family that appears to be 100% unfettered by ghosts and goblins. “We always call our family ‘The Addams Family at the End of the Road’; we keep our lights very low, our walls are burgundy and dark green, and we have this twenty-foot, really scary thing that we hang every Halloween. My husband named it Humphrey (he names everything Humphrey for some reason), and its hand is as big as a human. We hang it from a cathedral ceiling, and it’s just gigantic and hideous, has fangs and a giant tongue and its eyes light up…I’m sure you could get it at any Spirit store, but it’s really awful looking. And every year the kids are like, ‘Mommy, is it time for Humphrey to go up yet?!’ Which is great, because to me, they’ll have no fear in life! They don’t think any of this stuff is weird or scary at all. We just have so much fun year round. It’s pretty awesome.”
Speaking of pretty awesome, let’s just go ahead and jump into the multiple ghost stories that Candice (who is also just the nicest human on the planet) was able to tell me in our half hour conversation, which included tales of unexplained indoor mists, ghostly children, haunted restaurant booths and MORE:
Catherine Howard was the story of King Henry VIII’s fifth wife, and there was a song on our second album from Blackmore’s Night (Under A Violet Moon); Ritchie and I have a really strong interest in the Renaissance time period, and I was reading reading a book on King Henry VIII and his wives, and the story that got me was the one about Catherine Howard, this poor young girl who wound up being his fifth wife, but she was so immature and naive that she actually wound up cheating on Henry, which, with his track record, was not the brightest thing to do at that point. I mean, he’d beheaded a couple of his wives, and she got caught passing notes to this other gentleman she was interested in, and of course Henry found out about it and banished her to the Tower where she’d write letters to him saying that it wasn’t true. He of course didn’t believe any of that, and he wound up beheading her. And she’d wait every day for a letter to pardon her to come from him, and sure enough, the last day they brought her out to where they’d behead people and they went through with the execution.
So as I was reading this story and Ritchie was coming up with the music, I thought the lyric idea of this with the music would fit perfectly. Usually what happens with our writing process is that Ritchie will come up with the music, and then I go into another room, take a walk, just get away from everything and try to absorb the music and channel the ideas into the lyrical content. So this song came really quickly, and was just a perfect meeting of both the lyrics and the music. I finished writing the text, and I came downstairs and sat in the kitchen with Ritchie, and he brought out the guitar, and I said, “Let me just try and see if this fits in right, or if there’s any amendments I need to make as far as the lyrics are concerned.” So we just sat there, and he’s playing and I’m singing the song, and as I looked up, the whole kitchen seemed to be filled with this…like a mist, like a vapor. It wasn’t smoke (it had no scent), it was just this mist that surrounded us. And I didn’t say anything to my husband until the end of the song; the way that Ritchie and I work is that, as I say, we have such a fascination with this topic, so we kind of test each other when one of us is experiencing or seeing or feeling something. We don’t lead the other one, and we don’t say, “Do you see…” whatever it is, because we don’t want to put that idea in the other person’s head. So it’s kind of like a test to see if the other person sees what you’re seeing without giving them the object or the feeling so that they can latch onto it, even if it’s subconsciously. So I remember we finished the song, and I just said, “Do you see that?” without telling him what it was that I was seeing, and he said, “Oh, you mean the mist? Yeah, it’s really heavy.” And I’m like, “Oh my god, yes!” But that’s how we know that we’re totally on the same page. And we finished the song, and the mist slowly dissipated and was gone. Incredible. I still get goosebumps when I tell this story.
So for us, that was something telling us that this song was working out the way that it should, and after that, we took the second album and we toured in England, and we were in the area of Hampton Court, which was exactly where Henry VIII had actually lived with Catherine Howard. We were right down the road playing in a theater there, and it was right around Halloween time in October, and I remember we got on stage and were trying to explain the story to the audience (obviously the English will get the historical context more than maybe the Americans would, because as far as Henry VIII is concerned, all of that is local) and then we just went into the song and started singing. And we finished the song and consequently finished the tour, went back to our hotel, and it was one of those really fancy hotels where you wake up the next day and there’s a paper waiting for you to read, so we looked at the paper from the night before (which was the night when we were playing) and the front page story was, “Catherine Howard Makes An Appearance At Hampton Court; Ghostbusters Are Called In To Do An Investigation” [Laughs] on the EXACT same night we were singing the song.
We were touring in England, and we were staying at this place called the Wild Boar Inn, which is this beautiful, gigantic, old Tudor hotel, and it was just me, my husband and his roadie. We came in and we got our keys and went to our respective rooms, and it had to be around eleven o’clock at night, and we heard children’s laughter and kids’ footsteps. (You know how kids’ footsteps are pretty fast and thumpy? They’re not quiet because they’re just having fun.) So they’re running up and down the hall, and my husband was like, “Who’s running around? Where are their parents?” So every time he would open the door, his roadie, who was staying across the hallway, would open his door, and the two of them would look at each other like, “Did you do that?” “No, did you?” But you could never see anybody running up and down the hall. It was really strange. So they did it three or four times; he’d get back in, sit and watch television, relax, and then you’d hear the kids in the hallway again.
So then my husband starts sneaking to the door to open it really fast, but he still can’t catch anybody running up and down. It was really weird. So he says, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m just going to pretend we’re sleeping.” And he had his camera, so he said, “Let’s see if we pretend to be asleep whether or not it still happens.” So I said, “Okay,” and we lay in the bed, and he has his camera ready (it’s an old-fashioned camera with the flash on top), and we’re just laying there with the lights off, and we hear the children’s voices at the end of our bed loud and clear. It’s no longer in the hallway, it’s in our room at the end of our bed. And it’s pitch black, totally dark, and he goes to reach for his camera, and I grabbed his arm and dug my nails in like, “Where the heck do you think you’re going?! Don’t leave me, because if I can’t feel you and can’t see you, I don’t know where you are!” But he grabbed his camera and started taking pictures at the end of the bed. Believe it or not (and this was back in the day when most people used real film), the guy who developed the film said, “Oh, there was nothing really on it,” and he’d thrown it all away without us getting a chance to see it. We’re looking for different things than normal, you know, smiley-face pictures; we’re looking for light beams or anything, really, so we never got a chance to see that film.
What did happen was that the next day we were packing up our stuff and leaving, and as I was looking at the pictures on the wall in the hallway, there were all these portraits of children; as we were going through all these other halls to get to the main desk, everything else had a nautical theme, like ships and ducks and landscape pictures, but our hallway seemed to be the only one that had pictures of children. So we get to the front desk, and the woman said, “So, how was your stay?” And we’re like, “Yeah, it was really good. It was interesting.” And I looked at her and said, “Look, I just have a really crazy question. Were there any children staying here last night?” and she said, “No, and there was absolutely nobody on your floor, because we knew that you guys needed it to be quiet.” (That’s in our rider for traveling.) But she said, “No, we didn’t have any children in the area at all.” So I said, “Okay, well does anybody talk about hearing the sounds of children throughout the night? Because we heard kids all night long.” With that, the woman who was checking us out gets up and walks away from the front desk, goes into the back room and never comes back to talk to us.
So she sent the manager out to deal with us, and the woman said, “Is everything okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s just that it was kind of curious; we heard children’s laughter, and it sounded like they were playing with a ball and running up and down the hallway all night, well after eleven o’clock, and I was just wondering if anybody else had experienced it, because the girl said that nobody that age was in the hotel last night.” And she told me that the maids complain about that all the time, that the maids swear they hear children’s voices, and then they turn around and the toilet paper is missing off the maid’s cart, or keys that they’re supposed to use for the rooms are missing. You know, these mischievous little spirits. She said they have that all the time, only on that floor, and then she went on to say that it used to be a nursery that burnt down, and there were some children that got trapped and killed in the fire. I have goosebumps telling you that right now. So when you asked me if there are things that have freaked me out, that’s definitely one that comes to mind! But she definitely acknowledged it, and we had no idea in advance what we were in store for.
A friend of ours owns a castle, and he’d close it down when our band would come to town. We asked him if he ever saw anything, and he said, “You know, I never sleep at night.” And this guy had been through wars, had really seen it all and done it all, speaks nine languages fluently, and he was amazing, very worldly and not scared easily, but he told us that every night when the sun went down, he’d hear what sounded not like footsteps, but like something hopping. So he kept a gun on him at all times, and he could only sleep when the sun went up.
We went into a restaurant the other day called DEKS, which is one of our local restaurants in Rocky Point; it’s from the 1800s, and my six-year-old says, “You know, mommy, this place is hundreds of years old.” And I said, “You know what, you’re right. Ask Dean (the owner) and he’ll tell you all about it.” And my daughter goes, “Well, in that back table over there I see three ghosts.” And I’m like, “You do?” And she said, “Yeah, I see an older girl (college age), a younger boy, and a younger girl.” And she always talks about the same back table, and when Dean came out, he said, “Oh yeah, if anybody’s sensitive, that’s where they always see things, is exactly that back table.” It’s this old kind of woody bar, not modern or plastic-y at all, very dimly lit, and it’s a place we’ve liked coming since we moved out here in ’94. But every year at Halloween they tell people stories about things they’ve experienced and seen. It’s so interesting for a child to be able to pick up on this as well, though. I think it’s just amazing.
We wound up getting the idea for our song “Ghost of a Rose” from a movie called Hilary and Jackie, and it was all about Jacqueline du Pré, the famous cellist who came down with MS. The story was amazing and cathartic and heartbreaking all at once, but her signature piece is Elgar’s Cello Concerto, so we took a bit of that and weaved it into this song. But the title of the song actually came from my grandfather; he was ninety-two, and he used to always sing this song, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (it’s an old standard), and one day I went into 7-11 and they had these plastic red roses encased in this plastic wrap, and if you pressed the stem, it would play a different song. So this particular rose sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, and I thought, “Oh, I have to get that for grandpa.” Brought it home, and of course it got lost in a million other things in my office room, and I never got the chance to give it to him. It was there for years, like I want to say eight total, and I didn’t really get to see him that often as it was, but I’d always forget to bring it to him on those occasions.
So sure enough, the day that he’d passed, that song was kind of ringing into my head. So just to get my mind off it, I went into my office room and decided I needed some focus and direction, and I just started majorly cleaning. So I took everything out, was organizing, and behind this giant pile of stuff was the rose. It had so much dust on it, and I’m pressing the button to see if it’d work, and it was just completely dead. I remember thinking, “Oh, how fitting. The rose’s battery had died after all these years, grandpa’s gone, and it kind of makes sense.” So I finished cleaning, and it took me hours in that room, but it was good because it gave me a positive release. And as I started finishing tying up the last garbage bag, I went to walk out of the room, and the rose (in the garbage bag) started playing by itself. I didn’t touch it. It’s already in the bottom of this bag, it starts playing, but it was playing in such a warped way, because obviously the battery was completely trashed. So it’s playing this really warped version of the song, and it went around three times of making it through the song, and then it stopped. And it never played again. For me, that was the symbolism that he was letting me know that he was okay, and that although he wasn’t physically here, he was where he was supposed to be and he was still with me. He’d transitioned to the other side, but he’d probably always be with me, because if their memory is with you, you know, energy doesn’t die. It made me feel better that the rose played after all those years of not remembering to give it to him, and that he used it, however weakly it played, to let me know he was alright.
For years my grandmother used to come and sit at the edge of my bed when I was going to sleep at night; my brother was two years younger than me, and whenever grandma was around I’d try to sneak into his room and terrorize him and then sneak back into my bedroom, so it got to the point where she’d at first sit on the stairs, and then she just started sitting on the edge of my bed. So I remember doing the usual thing one night and laying in bed, and my grandmother had passed at that point (I was twelve, and that was really hard for me), but I remember I was thinking about going to bother my brother, and I felt somebody sit on the edge of my bed. I remember acknowledging it in my head, thinking, “It’s probably my mom,” and so I jumped up, and I swear, I just went through this mist. I immediately felt calm and peaceful, like my whole heart just melted, and I laid back down and remember looking up and seeing the figure of a person (which, in my brain, I knew was my grandma), and someone standing behind her, and that was my grandfather. I remember seeing them, acknowleding it, and going to sleep in that peaceful state. And it was such an amazing feeling, because it was such a deep, peaceful feeling that I’ve never felt that again in my life. I don’t know if they wanted to let their presence be known, but they also just didn’t want me to freak out…I don’t know, I can’t understand it, and I’d never be a person who claims to be able to, but I just find it fascinating. I just think it’s an incredible topic.