1. wardell
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    wardell Member

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    lighthouse

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by wardell, Mar 18, 2015.

    I've decided to do a lighthouse story the lighthouse is now a museum and a couple is on their honeymoon visit the wife stays in the gift shop while the husband climb to the top of of the tower and kills himself. the lighthouse has a dark past most of the keepers went insane and kill either themselves or their wife's . I am basing it off of real things that happen at real lighthouses but I can't come up with why this is happening why are people going insane and why is it not effecting the staff the the museum .I'm stuck
     
  2. arthuriangirl
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    arthuriangirl New Member

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    Aliens.
    Or there could be something off about the lighthouse. Maybe there's a weird mold infection that causes people to go a little kooky. Maybe it's all coincidence. If not, there's always the possibility of a friendly little ghostie.
     
  3. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Turns out that it's the workings of a serial killer who over the years has perfected the act of feigning suicide and framing.
     
  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a cool premise.
    The easiest explanation is haunting - the question is by what or whom. Obviously nautical stories are loaded with stories of tradgedy on the high seas and crafting an interesting one is the trick.

    If it were me I would spend the whole book building it up as if it's haunted by ghosts from a sea disaster that happened because of a lighthouse mistake. But then I'd flush that halfway through and prove that the disaster and the killings are manifestations of a curse that's been on the land since before the lighthouse was even built (if it's American, maybe a curse placed by a Native American leader when the land was taken. If British, something going clean back to Roman displacement of the Celts)
     
  5. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    A haunting is a good idea, some poor trapped soul who is trying to change something that can never be changed, or reliving their own death by possessing random people- perhaps they fell asleep on the job or got drunk to combat the intense loneliness of the job and caused a disaster. Then, as said above you have scope to build a really tense atmosphere. Or you could play on the museum theme- a haunted artifact that ties into the lighthouse history, that could be interesting, too.
     
  6. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hope I misunderstood you, @wardell, when I read your original post as saying, "Honeymoon couple spots cute lighthouse museum; couple parks car; couple goes in; wife visits gift shop; husband climbs up to lantern room, walks out onto the catwalk, hurls himself off, The End.

    If you did that, I'd cry, "Cheat!" I hope you're building it more slowly. Have the couple take over the shop and museum as temporary fill-ins for some acquaintances or distant relatives (who feel something is wrong but rationalize that they're just under stress and need to get away for awhile). Maybe it's the off-season and this is the only way the newlyweds can afford their honeymoon by the sea. Give them a few days for the creep factor to build. Have the husband feel something is wrong, but he's afraid to confide in his wife for fear she'll feel insulted that he's not Totally Happy being married to her. Have her worry that something's wrong with him, but she doesn't want to deal with it for fear her mother was right and she didn't really know him enough to marry him.

    When he gives in and kills himself, I'd say you'd have to make it clear to the reader that it was because of some supernatural influence, not because he couldn't stand being married to the woman. Whether or not you want to make her understand that is up to you.

    A vengeful ghost is always nice. The shade of an old lighthouse keeper's daughter, maybe, whose sailor lover always had an excuse not to marry her, until he came up with the best excuse of all-- he brought home another bride. Maybe she lured him up to the top, pushed him off, then jumped to her death on the rocks after him. And ever after her spirit's had a vendetta on newly-married men. Nice and old-fashioned, but one could do something with it.
     
  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let me say I don't think it would work for all the lighthouse keepers and/or their wives to have gone insane or been killed, otherwise there would have been be nobody to work it and they'd have to take it out of commission. But if the suicides were all newlywed men, and it's happened maybe three or four times previously in the lighthouse's history, that could work. Without "official" notice being taken of the spook problem, the authorities could post only confirmed bachelors or middle-aged couples to the duty. And woe betide them if they let their newly married children visit!

    On the other hand . . . maybe you could do something with a string of insanity cases with the old lighthouse keepers. Maybe it was at that point the authorities said, "Hey, let's dredge the shipping channel" (or whatever) "so the ships aren't going near these rocks, and we can deactivate this bad-luck lighthouse!"

    But I still like the idea of the ghost or bad influence targeting certain kinds of people. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well that depends on how the plot is constructed. If it's laid out as a paranormal mystery, it's a great idea to have the suicide occur (apparently at random) in the first chapter or two. You can't have a proper murder mystery without a dead body - it's a prerequisite. The question then becomes why the hell he did it (or rather what force murdered him). You keep the tension ratcheted up by having people asserting that something was wrong with the deceased's mental state or even blaming the wife or the staff in a weird way. Then you start having things go bump in the night - another random body - stuff that makes clearer and clearer that the culprit is something spooky about the lighthouse itself.

    Granted - a really fun way to drag it out a bit - I know for a fact that some lighthouse museums rent out the old keeper's quarters as romantic honeymoon retreats. I know because I've checked the prices. If your honeymooners are actually using the haunted lighthouse as a romantic getaway, you can set the scene so that the wife wakes up in bed one morning to find that her husband has jumped out the window. That's a chilling opening for a mystery/horror premise AND it sets the wife up as a suspect in the eyes of the local authorities. If the wife is NOT your POV character - it makes her a classic "did she or didn't she" red herring. If she IS your point of view character, then it gets really creepy because you know the whole time that she's innocent but nobody is going to believe her - especially if there's a lot of other creepiness about the townspeople.
     
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  9. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is true. In this case (going back to my post), it would be " . . . husband hurls himself off; body is discovered; investigation begins." Yeah, that could work, too.
     
  10. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since the lighthouse is now a museum I would assume it is no longer in operation. However since lighthouses use Fresnel lenses and have reflective mirrors, etc. I was thinking you might work out a situation where sunlight is reflected from some object at sea such as a cruise ship pilothouse windshield on certain days and the reflection creates an epileptic seizure for example, which leads to the death. Hopefully you can fill in the details with regular cruise shipping channels, sun at certain levels in the sky, etc. to get a normally unobserved situation to occur. Of course the reflected light might cause a distortion of the person's own image and scare them to death or fall over the railing, etc. After climbing the stairs it might not take much to induce a heart attack.
     
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  11. wardell
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    wardell Member

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    not all of the keepers go
    insane just some .the husband that kills himself is just the beginning of the book after that the wife goes to a psychic to investigate why he killed himself. and they Discover this is not the first time and will not be the last but can they stop it before it kills again. I got the idea from an article I read a husband and wife on their honeymoon they were married for 3 day and on the 3ed day they go to a lighthouse and they husband killed himself by jumping off why would he do that. and I thought it would make a good book
     
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  12. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    It would make an excellent book. There's ton's of tension in the basic premise - you just need a really good answer to the question of why this is happening, which will answer all of the other questions and tell you what the mystery force will do in the future.
     
  13. wardell
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    wardell Member

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    that's my problem I can not come up with the why. I'm stuck I like the ghost idea but every one does ghost stories. I want something original and fresh but what
     
  14. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you aiming for something plausible or the supernatural?
     
  15. Mckk
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    Oh my word. That's freaky. I dunno if it's age or what, but the idea of losing my husband terrifies me. I don't know what I'd do without him. (this goes for both emotionally and practically, since he's the breadwinner and I'm pregnant) But more than the practical aspects, I just can't imagine the waste it would be to lose such a good man.

    Anyway, the "why" of your story - maybe the people see something? What makes them kill themselves? I know ghosts or something but I mean what triggers it? There should be some sign. In The Ring it's the creepy phone call saying "Seven days". In The Grudge it was the creepy child that just stands there in every frame. So in your lighthouse - what do they hear or see, or perhaps say, that triggers this suicidal tendency? Work backwards from there - you might get more ideas once you can pin it to an object or certain words, because then you can think about why would that object/those particular words be related to the ghost.

    Oh and who owned or owns the lighthouse? What happened to the owners? Why did the owners sell? Did it malfunction before it got turned into a museum, causing shipwrecks?
     
  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the US , the Coast Guard, in the UK, Trinity House would have been responsible for their maintenance - which, I think, means that they were the owners.
    In the United States, the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 provides for the transfer of lighthouse structures to local governments and private non-profit groups, while the USCG continues to maintain the lamps and lenses. It's probably the United States Lighthouse Society that is the current owner.

    If you want to go down the "malfunctions leading to shipwrecks" route, try a Russian lighthouse...although a tourist trap seems unlikely in a remote location such as is found on any of the coasts of the USSR and its successors!
    The Soviet Union built a number of automated lighthouses powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators in remote locations. They operated for long periods without external support with great reliability.[29] However numerous installations deteriorated, were stolen, or vandalized. Some cannot be found due to poor record keeping.[30]
     
  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    A ghost story could totally work - the key to being original is surprising people either with the identity of the ghost or what it does. You don't need to abandon ghosts as a premise - you just need an original ghost (Same with vampire, werewolves, and other popular premises). That's why I suggested the Native American angle because it's not the ghost people expect - You don't have to go with that, but just give us a really cool ghost (or multiple ghosts) and you're fine.

    If you want you could also avoid the ghost angle by putting the building itself under a curse - at which point the house itself is the murderer.
     
  18. Aaron Smith
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    A lighthouse is also a good target for a curse since it's so iconic. It could be cursed to keep away enemy ships or something along those lines.
     
  19. bossfearless
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    I know I'm usually one to go straight to the fantastical approach, but a spirit just seems a little played out here. You could still have the characters assume that it's a spirit, though, and the psychic could be a phony and just try to convince them that it's the work of a spirit because she's trying to con the wife out of more money.

    But you mentioned the lighthouse is a museum. Well, what kind of a museum? Perhaps it's in the exact same state as it was a hundred or more years ago. I was thinking about something, what if there was some experiment run there, like a psychiatric experiment from way back in the day that was off the books. Subliminal messages painted on the walls and every surface, or maybe some kind of subsonic coded message in the lighthouse's machinery. The idea was to test the effect of prolonged isolation (the solitary lighthouse keeper) on a subject's susceptibility to suggestion. There were all sorts of crazy messages hidden throughout the lighthouse by various means, and after the first keeper killed himself they abandoned the study to avoid a scandal and just never cleaned it up. So every now and then someone dives off the roof, and the nearby university secretly knows that an old researcher there was to blame but they have to keep it a secret or face a scandal and lawsuits and criminal charges.

    The wife, still convinced it's a spirit at work, hires a group of ghost-chasers to go in with their fancy equipment and try to gather evidence proving the spirit's existence. But instead, with all their fancy gadgets, they actually record all the subliminal messages instead. So now there is audio and photographic evidence of wrongdoing by the university, and the aging dean (one of the few who knows the secret) steps in and tries to stop them from going to the authorities.

    Of course, that plot is rife with holes that need to be filled, but you get the drift. Lots of opportunities besides ghosts here.
     
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  20. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    That would be a good story but I think given the details I've seen, the final product needs to stay firmly in the realm of the paranormal. The question is how to make the paranormal elements surprising and different - something is indeed going bump in the night...just not what you think.
     
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  21. tonguetied
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    Maybe it starts with a lazy lighthouse keeper that allows the light to extinguish, a ship wrecks and now the crew is seeking revenge.

    Alt: lighthouse is built on sacred mermaid burial ground. Never saw a story of mermaid ghosts so it would be different at least for me.
     
  22. Aaron Smith
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    Mermaid ghosts have been done and are called sirens.

    Edit: Turns out memory doesn't serve.
     
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  23. Chinspinner
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    Why not a physical device that sends people plummeting to their death?

    The lighthouse could be privately owned and earns its keep as a tourist attraction (perhaps with its "supernatural" history as a draw). In accordance with custom, occasionally a husband goes alone out to the aptly named "groom's balcony" which brings luck to a newly wed couple. While there he climbs onto a platform and uses the telescope. A mechanical device tips the platform, and him, over the edge then snaps back into place.

    The occurrences are rare and treated as suicide, but as they mount up a reporter/ policeman/ local historian/ whoever takes an interest in the case. They search out the origins of the "supernatural" stories surrounding the lighthouse, and the origins of the custom of the "groom's balcony" and they all seem to stem back to the owner. It turns out the owner lost the love of his life to another man when he was young. The other man also mysteriously jumped from the lighthouse balcony.

    Thus the mechanism is discovered and the owner arrested for multiple murders.

    If you wanted you could also have the lighthouse keeper dress up as a ghost and chase the visitors around from time to time. The case could be investigated by a jock, a cheerleader, a lesbian, a drug addled dog and his drug addled owner.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
  24. tonguetied
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    I like some of this premise but I think the tipping structure would be observed by people below even at a distance. Maybe the telescope could have an LCD screen diopter sight that presents a interesting fake image at the bottom and to the side, the viewer twists himself towards the edge and stands up on tiptoes to change the angle of the scope to get a better view. The top bar of the railing, which the viewer is leaning on, gives way momentarily making them fall.
     

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