Halloween Horrors, Time Travel Phones, Fire and Pigeon Famine.

Crikey, what a month! It's been a while since I jotted down any blog entries, so I'll dig through the murky cupboard, that I call my memories, and dig out some news from Gorgeous Cornwall and the Darkling Room.


Blaze Rips Through Harbour Town

Arsonists destroyed some of Looe's (rather ugly) fishing huts, a few days ago. I was playing a shooter on the PS2, at the time, and only noticed the whizzes, bangs and explosions during a level load. Ha ha! I had been impressed by the game soundtrack, up until that point! So, taking a look outside, it was alarming to see a huge blaze making its way down the Quay Side. I grabbed the camera, and rushed out to get some pics and video.

Click to read Article.

It was a nasty blaze too; several propane gas cylinders went up, creating (what I can only describe as) a huge Bunsen Burner in the sky! The heat was rather intense, and the flames threatened to spread to the nearby restaurants, pubs and homes. (I was very worried. I'd booked my Christmas Day lunch in one of them!) Anyway. The fire crew from Looe were soon on the scene, and the flames were extinguished. Watching the gas-masked figures wander among the smoke shrouded buildings was incredibly atmospheric. Like something out of the Blitz. Some of my photos made in into the morning papers, which was nice. Click the image above for the article, and I've uploaded a video to YouTube, for pyro-fans. Actually, I can't joke too much, as there's been another fire...just outside town...so, perhaps Looe has a resident arsonist?

Dark Fall III Ideas

Game news; Dark Fall III progresses in ways which surprise even me. There's a real creepy feeling to many of the locations, which comes from a subtle, and specific use of sound and lighting (or lack of lighting). Dig out those torches, flash lights and matches, as the next game is as black as a November night. The games are called Dark Fall, after all. Lots of time travel elements too, which I love. Although, the inspiration can come from surprising places, and events...

...I dropped my mobile, the other day, while sneaking through the back streets of town. Blasted thing now has a fatally cracked LCD screen. I've got a picture of Talland Bay Church, as a 'wallpaper', for some strange reason. Some will know the place from The Lost Crown. It was Ulcombe Church. Weird thing is, each facet of the LCD has turned a different colour , or tone. There's a sepia section, a black and white section and a garish, full-colour section. The effect is pretty strange, and illustrates something that I've always been interested in; fractured time. Locations which have no fixed time period. An obvious example, from the game fiction, would be somewhere like Dowerton Hotel, from Dark Fall 1. Is the place firmly based in the 2000's, (when the fiction was set), or do certain rooms remain operational from the 1940's? Not so much a haunted location, more of a time-slip, in which the player may appear ghost-like to the long dead game characters.

Some paranormal enthusiasts have theorised that haunted locations do not have ghosts; instead, we see through cracks in time, and catch glimpses of people going about their everyday business, oblivious to our observations. It would explain why some ghosts appear to walk through doors, or walls, and ignore the shrieks of those who see them, or the persistent questions of the celebratory psychic. Do we also appear to those in the past? As gods, angels or demons? We must look as strange to the people of the past, as they do to us. Maybe even more so... for an interest in ghosts and the paranormal is fashionable, right now, whereas you could be burnt alive for such visions during the nastier periods of history.

As a theory it is an exciting one, and fits the Dark Fall mould. The first character you meet, in that train tunnel in Dark Fall 1, is unsure which one of the two of you should be there! It works particularly well in old locations, which haven't 'moved on' for some time. The old personalities of the place have yet to be replaced by newer, modern personalities. It might explain why old locations seem to boast more impressive paranormal events, rather than the local supermarket, or bus stop. But, we should always keep in mind what once stood on that location, long before the supermarket. Great Britain is a great place to explore those themes, given how tiny the place is, in comparison to the landmass of mainland Europe or the US. Virtually the whole landscape of Britain has been moulded and changed by human behaviour. Even vast, wild areas like the moors, or the Lake District are, essentially, unnatural.
People have been there. Lived there and died there. That means, to some extent, that the whole Island could be haunted by those who went before. Which brings me to Halloween...

Local Interest

It looks like Halloween stirred up some local interest in The Lost Crown! Great stuff. It did seem a bit of shame that the county had ignored the games release, back in July. Especially given the obvious, and vital, role played by Cornwall, in the games inspiration and creation. So, it was great to answer a few questions, and see the game appear in the press. Simon Parker, of The Western Morning News was the most interested. He really had no idea that adventure games existed. Like many non-gamers, he presumed it was all knockers, cars, nazis and killing. (Well, ahem, we do play quite a few of those, don't we!) So, I was more than happy to witter on about adventure games for an hour or so, and put the record straight. The finished article is good fun, although I'm not sure all my quotes are my own! No matter, the result was several emails from local people, looking to purchase the game, or sell it in their stores. Excellent. There will now be a local stockist for The Lost Crown based in Polperro...the village which started it all. About time too!

Click to Read Article.

A second article appeared in, the wonderfully titled, The Cornish Guardian. Makes it sound like an old Celtic god, don't you think? It's a nice concise article (again, Click the image), written by a Looe-vian, the daughter of our local ferryman. Which was nice. A few people have stopped me in the street, to say 'well done', which I'm not too proud to say is a marvellous experience. It's great to know you are liked by your local community, especially when you rely on them for inspiration! I'm still hiding from the 'real' Mr.Gruel though...dreading the day when someone tells him about my game. He really is like him, you know. The other day, I watched him tell his little spanial dog that it was "far too cold and wet to play outside today...no, no, no...you won't change my mind, little one...far too wet and cold for you!". Problem was, the spanial dog was a ceramic statue! It's a genuine antique. And there's Mr.Gruel chatting away to it. Creepy!

Click to read Article.

Also, thanks to Richard Clark, for pointing out a genuine 'Missing Cats Mystery'. Over 50 moggies have vanished! No remains have been found, but some collars have been located. Exactly the same MO as Mr.Gruel.

Here's the news item:

The RSPCA is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a large number of cats in a town dubbed the Purr-muda Triangle.

More than 40 pet cats are reported to have vanished from homes in Stourbridge, West Midlands, over the last eight years.

The RSPCA has been investigating the disappearances but said to date, no cat remains had been found.


HALLOWEEN; A Sub-Urban Nightmare!

This Haunted Land were invited to investigate an unusual location, this year. By unusual I mean mundane; a suburban house, built in the 1980's. Obviously, it's not the most traditional of ghostly locations, and I was quite prepared for disappointment. How silly of me.

It was great to investigate something a bit different, to be honest. THL fans will know that I love haunted forests, Inns and castles...but, this was a bit quirky. A poltergeist case in Snores-ville. A small, pleasant cul-de-sac of houses, built in the early 80's, which looks immaculate (read: Boring) and totally safe; a haven for families, the elderly and first time buyers. So, you can image my surprise to hear from a young family, who were honestly claiming that their lives were being terrorised by a poltergeist.

Click to learn about GhostWatch 2.

Many of you will be familiar with films such as Urban Ghost Story, or Poltergeist itself, when it comes to cases such as this one. Paranormal activity is not unheard of, in fact and fiction, in the safe zone of suburbia. So, the opportunity to investigate the activity was a brilliant one, and will be written up for THL in the near future. I can't say what happened, just yet, but you will notice that we are still alive, and news of 'Ghosts Are Real' has yet to appear in the tabloids...so, there were no major revelations. But, there was enough to inspire, scare and shock, so watch this space. Much of the recorded material was uploaded directly from our mobile unit, which got me thinking...what would be needed to do a 'live broadcast'. I've always loved the idea of the live paranormal investigation, ever since being spooked by GhostWatch, back in the 90's.

Click to learn about GhostWatch 2.

GhostWatch was a TV show, a screenplay, created to fool the audience into thinking they were watching a genuine investigation, which goes horribly wrong (or horribly 'right', if the intention was to find ghosts), and broadcast to a gullible public on BBC1. At primetime! Great stuff. Anyway. It stayed with me, throughout my teens, and twenties, and was there, in the back of my mind, when creating the characters of Polly White and Nigel Danvers, for Dark Fall 1. I think they were supposed to do a 'Live' radio broadcast on the night of the event (April 27th), but fail to do so for reasons made clear in the fiction. It's a shame they didn't get to make that broadcast, as I would have loved to hear it. I think an audio-only GhostHunt could be quite chilling...far more effective than the pompous, studio excesses of MostHaunted, which are more about ego than supernature. Don't get me wrong, I do find MostHaunted entertaining, but I gave up hoping to see paranormal evidence a long time ago...right about the same time as their 'resident sceptic' started making money from the MostHaunted Ghost-Hunting Board Game, and other such merchandising. (Ooops, sounds like envy!...moving swiftly on). Anyway. Again. I do like the idea of doing a 'Live' broadcast, for next Halloween. It could be an audio Stream, via the internet, or even a full colour, cast of thousands, TV production....it all depends on the interest, the case and practicality. If anyone wants to get involved, swap some ideas, or Star in a Halloween Haunted Broadcast for Darkling Room then please get writing. I'm really excited about it, so I'm hoping something happens. The Suburban investigation, which I'll call The Hill View Haunting' generated some great clips (both audio and visual) and features several members of the team, and the owners of the locations. It could have made really interesting viewing...so, anything is possible.

Quite a few visitors

I finally got round to placing a 'Hit Counter' on the Darkling Room website. To do so meant looking up, via my domain server, how many unique visitors I've had so far. Over a million and a half! That's crazy. I had no idea it was that many. I thought it would be in the 10's of thousands, based on interest in the games, but never expected that kind of figure. It really blew my socks off...and made me feel guilty for not updating the pages more often. It's something I will be looking into. But, a million and a half...can't believe that!

Pigeon Friends

Lastly, just a quick shout to my pigeon buddies, here on the Quay Side in Looe. There's two of them, and I promised I'd say 'hello', in pigeon language, so here goes...

"Cooo, coo, coooooo"

They've been pecking at my window, and nibbling my sandwich crusts, for over three seasons. They arn't half plump now! Thing is, they now know when I'm indoors...even with the blind down! How to they know these things? Can they smell me? Hear me?

Whenever I creep into the room, there's this mad pecking and scraping at the window, like a small Gremlin trying to ravage an unsuspecting Mogwai. With me being Mogwai, thank you very much. It makes me feel like a Zoo animal...a bit...a tiny bit...'cos I sit here in the dark, with the blinds drawn, hoping that the creatures don't come to watch me all day...what happened? When did the tables turn? What am I to do? I think they even have chicks now, in the roof. They'll be more of them soon... many more. I'm gonna need a bigger boat....

See you again soon. JB.


Anonymous said…
I'm not sure that I approve of your spending time writing a blog while your public desperately await Darkfall III! Some of us are having to play Nancy Drew mysteries in the meantime and it's just not an adequate stopgap at all. :)

Actually I'm stunned by the revelation that your games have just been noticed in your local area - in Wales you would be considered an essential part of the tourist industry and the local papers would be permanently camped on your doorstep demanding interviews from a bona fide local celebrity.

I'm sure that you have answered this elsewhere so please excuse my asking again, but why did you use locations from Cornwall for the Lost Crown but set the story in Anglia? Is it just that Cornwall is more attractive or was there a deeper reason?

The cat thing is very disturbing.
Jonathan Boakes said…
Don't knock those Nancy Drews too hard (well, tap them gently, maybe), as I've enjoyed some of them. Bit weird in places though. The makers, Her Interactive, seem to suggest the games are for kids (girls, in particular), but I've found some of the content surprisingly weird...Ghost Dogs, for one, featured a pervert, hiding in a tree, spying on the local girls...and Blackmoor Manor featured hairy werewolf women! You don't get that on a Steam account.

Anglia. Yes, might seem a bit odd. But, I removed half the landscape of Cornwall to make it look more like East Anglia. If you compare the game screens to the town of Polperro, you'll see that it lost the mountainous hillsides that define the area. Also, I converted the beach, here in Looe, into the reedy marsh beds of Norfolk. Basically, I was using 'Anglia' as an idea of a place, rather than make any direct references to areas of Norfolk. I like Norfolk...I think...but, it's a long way for a local Cornish boy to go, when I've got Cornwall on my doorstep. Some locations were photographed more than 20 times (Ulcombe, in particular). I couldn't do that if I wasn't local to the locations. Problem is, the Anglo-Saxons do/did lack presence in these parts...it's all Celtic...so, I had to set the game in a place which is invented. It's called Anglia, but looks like the South-West...as if Anglia covers the whole of England, rather than a specific area of the East. A lot of film and television operates like that...think about how Hammer filmed all those Romania-set Dracula Films north of London...or, Doctor Who's London is actually Cardiff. It's a lie...but, it works...I think.
Queenie said…
Your post reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode (Are you all familiar with those over there?)
Anyway, this episode featured a radio that would play broadcasts from the era in which it was made, the 40s I think.
It was a great idea---an object that had the power to recreate its own historical era---and it reminds me of some of what you did in the second DF.

Ahhhh, a clue! So Gruel WAS the cat napper! You know, we tragic folks on the adventure game sites have gone round and round about that since Lost Crown came out. My GOD we aren't half sad are we?
I personally didn't think it was him.
Oh well, looks like you'll have to incorporate those pigeons into your next game, lord love 'em.

Better get back to chewing my nails over the election now. It's an obsession among us Americans.
We're soo excited about your next game.
Jonathan Boakes said…
Yes, The Twilight Zone is very familiar...I helped a colleague build a fan-website about it, a few years back. I'm a fan of Rod Serling...(love those early 60's suits he wore, and that hair!). The Twilight Zone is one of many excellent anthology series, to which we don't seem to have a modern equivalent. I'm thinking also about the Hammer House of Horror series, Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits (great titles, that one) and Tales of the Unexpected. All have their cheesy moments, but they are such fun, and very bold in places. I remember one Tales of the Unexpected in which a disheartened wife beat her husband to death with a leg of lamb...only to then feed the murder weapon to the police, who had turned up to investigate! Mad tales indeed!

Yes. Gruel was the Catnapper. My intention, throughout the first three days, was to suggest that Nigel may actually be behind the nappings. He was prone to stalk the Saxton Streets at night, and also had visions of the Nightmare Room, long before he found it. Also, he was more than keen to suggest, to CatWatch, that the Saxton folk were behind it, based on little or no evidence. But, I can confirm that it was Gruel all along. He hated the cats. Gruel became obsessed with the Ager Brothers, after finding the William Ager journal among the bric-a-brac of the Antique Shop (later stolen by Nigel, to give him his first clue). You could say that gruel wanted Nigel to have it, as it would...eventually...lead to his own death. But, poor Hardacre was the one, found with the Crown, come midnight...so, he was the one for the chop..chop...chop...

Pigeons! Just had a thought. There are two pigeons in the game. You see them by the museum, and by harbour cottage. Cripes! I may actually live in the 'real' version of Saxton after all...hmm, now where's that treasure map...

The EU is also following the US election very closely. Whatever the outcome, both the EU and UK will be directly affected....for better or for worse. But, my goodness, the run up to this election seems to have lasted an age! It'll be great to finally have some closure.

Anonymous said…
OK, I'll tend to think of Norfolk as a 'state of mind' from here on - which sort of makes sense.

Ooh the Twilight zone, I used to love that programme when I was young. Sapphire and Steel too, and the Tomorrow people - in fact all those creepy, mess with your mind sorts of programmes. Incidentally, your idea about the audio ghost watch programme sounds like genius - radio is the perfect medium because it is so intimate and inside your head.

I sort of felt sorry for Gruel, even if he was a cat mass-murderer - nobody's perfect after all. ;)
Anonymous said…
Just when I stop checking this blog you had to go and update. XD I feel so late to the game commenting now.

I never really thought about the "time-slip" theory when it came to Dark Fall I, but that does just so perfectly explain why in a lot of the conversations with the ghosts they seemed simply to be stuck in the day they vanished.

It's the interactions that I really love about your games. The ghosts all have real personalities, and in The Lost Crown in particular there were so many people (both living and dead!) to talk to. I'm playing Scratches right now after just finishing The Lost Crown and I don't think I was quite prepared to go back to the usual adventure game mode of being almost completely on your own! It's very creepy, but it also takes away a bit of the reality of the game (if that makes any sense...). The Lost Crown was especially spooky because it took place during daylight and with other people around as much as it did at night in haunted churches.

Oh dear, I've gone and rambled. I really only meant to comment on how creepy I found Mr. Gruel. Ick! Bad news on the cats as well. :| I certainly hope that mystery is solved quickly.
Jonathan Boakes said…
Thing about the 'real' missing cats is the fact that no injured, or dead, cats have been found. The police believe that someone/or a group is nabbing them, and selling them on. A terrible business, but at least it's not as terrible as Mr.Gruel's activities.


P.s. I really enjoyed Scratches. A classy effort, with a nice unusual, 70's setting. I hope Nucleosys make a sequel, one day.
Anonymous said…
"Knockers, cars, nazis and killing" - I want to play THAT game!
I've not heard of Scratches, and I don't know if you've answered this elsewhere, but what are your favourite adventure games? The ones that really stick in your head and make you feel you've been somewhere real, and met someone who actually exists. Your games do that for me, as did Tex Murphy and Gabriel Knight.
Anonymous said…
Your phone looks really cool, although I'm sorry that it's not really usable. Your time differenced in your games are just fascinating. I thought Dark Fall 1 was just ghosts in our time, but playing The Lost Crown made me think differently. The Lost Crown, the people such as Station Master didn't seem to think anything was outdated about them or anything. And since I personally believe a theory that Mr. Hadden put old pictures together to form the twon of Saxton in a computer hooked up the the rift to the other world, the ghosts stick around the scenes that they know, so they kinda are still in their time. Anyway, I don't think anything I just said made sense.

There's a real Mr. Gruel?! *shock gasp horror*! That's amazing. I'm sorry, but I actually liked Gruel, and William Ager. My mind might just be dark and sadistic, but Will seemed to be a ladies man. Hanging around Verity, and the journal, when he said "she must be still", made him sound like he was trying to rape Emily, or at least something bad. But I know it wouldn't be that dark, but still. Anyway, I didn't think Gruel was doing it, and I felt so sorry for him when Jemima was thrown in the fire and he was crying out for her. I'm guessing when his real wife died, if he ever actually had one, he kind of went crazy like we know him, and transfered to the doll, to try and at least keep her memory alive or something. Thank you for the insight, though!! It opened up so many new thoughts for me, and helped tie up some loose threads to that story arch. It would have been interesting if Nigel had been the one doing it, like Samuel in "The Black Mirror".

I have played Scratches, and the atmosphere of the mansion was amazing. The plot was pretty good, and it was good. I just wish there were more stories with ghosts out there. Oh well, I'll just have to wait for your next one while playing your old ones. ;)

I'm so sorry for going on, it's just your games are about the only games that actually make me think, and the plots can go in so many different directions that it keeps me guessing late into the night.
Jonathan Boakes said…
Yes, William did lure poor Emily into the caves, on the promise of showing her a Pasque Flower (something dodgy going on there!), and attempted to rape her. She screamed out, so William smothered her. Pretty grim really. The poem was a frightful thing to write, as I didn't want to be too graphic, keeping it the right side of symbolic (I hope) rather than gruesome or misogynistic. William's behavoir, and crime, is also represented by the Punch and Judy Show, planned and presented by Gruel; The 'would-be' Ager henchman. The show takes place right in front of the cave (scene of the crime) on May Day. Many counties in Britain have banned the Punch & Judy show. Nanny Noah mentions this...on the day. I think the townspeople know full well who killed Emily, and where. Gruel's sick joke is a nasty one. But, look on the brightside, Nigel gets to free Emily, by finally taking her a Pasque Flower...even if it is just a photo.
Queenie said…
So here is my question.
Was Rhys hitting on Nigel or what?
I liked old Rhys and Mr. Tibbs, so if he was after Nigel it's a shame Nigey didn't just forget about the ghosty stuff and spend his vacation at Celtic Corner.

I doubt the relationship could have lasted though. Rhys seemed so nice and upbeat while Nigel tended toward the morbid and gloomy. I should think Rhys wouldn't have enjoyed being around Nigel full time...not for long anyway.
This is weird though, The Lost Crown is the only game I've ever played that makes me feel as if the characters are real people.
Jeeze, my son even bought a cap like the one Nigel wears and he wears it around town. It's a real hoot.
So either we are bored to the point of psychosis or, well I don't know, but we are waiting avidly to see what is next.
Jonathan Boakes said…
I guess Rhys did have a twinkle in his eye for Nigel, but, like you say, Nigel's too morbid for such a jolly fellow. Plus, I'm not sure Nigel could compete with Mr.Tibbs!

Most of the characters are based on 'real' people...from around the area...so, maybe that's why they feel slightly more real. I did read one review, at some point, that stated the characters were 'game stereotypes'. Ha ha ha! Ok, don't know if it is just me, but I haven't played many games with a lonely, old English lady, who likes to dabble in white magic. Or, a gay New Age shopkeeper. Or, a skater-girl, skeptic, with violent leanings. Ho humm. I guess you can't please everyone, and especially not lazy review writers. I thought my characters would make a nice change from seeing uber-soldiers, from Delta Team. Or damaged cops, looking for payback. Anyway.

I love the idea of people buying flat-caps, based on Nigel's (lack of) fashion-sense. All his clothing is based on real items...cough, from my wardrobe...so I shouldnt comment. The jeans, with the ripped turn-ups had an outing at New Year, in fact. I think I might get another few months out of them...but Nigel's can live on forever! Levi Boot Cut, BTW, fashion-spotters!
Anonymous said…
Oh Jonathan, I didn't think any of the characters were sterotypical at all!!! I do agree that the characters are some of the most real ones in any game.

I'm really excited, because I think I'll be able to lead a community playthrough on Adventuregamers.com over "The Lost Crown"! We'll get a group of people together and each play through a bit talking about it. I'm not sure if you know the significance of it for me, but I am so stoked and it's a great honor to do it on one of my most favorite games!!! ^_^
Jonathan Boakes said…
Hi Katie! You'll have to let me know how the 'play through' goes. Is it a bit like a bookgroup? If anyone has any questions, don't hesitate to grab me on Facebook or via email. Jonathan.
Anonymous said…
Aww, thanks Jonathan!! That's why you're awesome. ;) Yeah, it is like a bookgroup. I'll be leading them through discussions as we work our way through the game together. And I'll be quoting from your blog for some extra 'tid bits'. You could help by letting me know of any little behind-the-scenes that you'd like to tell that would kind of make the experience more rich. :) Thanks again for offering and replying. :D
Anonymous said…
JB, I love you. I'm a 47 year old female (sounds like a date chat line). I have been playing computer games since the old black and white ping pong game in the early 70's. I played The Lost Crown the other day. I'm hooked. I would like to get hold of all of your Dark Fall games, (the redone)versions. Even though I haven't played any of your DF, I cant wait to play Lost Souls. I love how you work on your own. Please keep up the good work! Also, I love the monocrome-ish views in TLC. I'm in Australia, can anyone tell me where I could purchase Jonathan's DF games here.
S =)
Jonathan Boakes said…
Hi Anonymous,

Thanks! It's good to know you are looking forward to playing 'Lost Souls'. Finding publishers in Oz is always an issue, as there don't seem to be many interested in 'adventures'. It's a shame, as I used to live over there a few years back, so I'd love to get the games on shelves. But, good news is, you can buy any of my games via the store...


It's free shipping for Dark Fall, Lights Out, the soundtrack CD, and new Companion guides. So, snap one up...they are limited. ;)
Unknown said…
great texts. Love Matilda too!

When are you going to invite me to explore the woods near by your house?

Take care!