Origins of Ray Bial’s Dripping Blood Cave Story

[Below is a guest post by Ray Bial, the author of Dripping Blood Cave and Other Ghostly Stories, explaining how the idea for the title story came from a real-life cave in southern Indiana, not far from Bloomington. It also gives a hint of his process as he creates both nonfiction photo-documentary books and fictional ghost stories. Apparently, they are related!]

The Origins of the Dripping Blood Cave Story
by Raymond Bial

My ideas for ghost stories and mystery novels come from fragments of stories or memories of incidents from own childhood — or from an interest or experience of my own children as they were growing up.

For example, I got the idea for Dripping Blood Cave, the lead story of my new collection of ghost stories, many years ago at Spring Mill State Park, a magical place hidden deep in the woods of Southern Indiana.

As a husband and father, I’m always especially thrilled when we could blend family vacations with photo assignments. For this assignment, I was making photographs for my book Frontier Home (Houghton Mifflin) at the restored village and gristmill at Spring Mill, and exploring the surrounding hills and hollows with my wife Linda and our daughters, Anna and Sarah.

We hiked through the woods, rowed out on the lake, and rode horses along the trails. One day, we also took a boat ride on a creek that flowed through a very spooky cave. According to local legend, Native Americans once hung deer haunches in this cool (literally) cave. It didn’t take much to turn this into a colorful image in my mind! I imagined blood dripping into the water and flowing out into the creek.

It was a vivid image . . . enough to spark my storytelling imagination. The following day, just after sunrise, I made a few more photographs for Frontier Home, then sat out in the mist of morning in the woods behind the lodge and sketched out Dripping Blood Cave.

I had already completed The Fresh Grave and Other Ghostly Stories, featuring the stalwart Hank Cantrell and his inseparable friend, the ‘fraidy-cat Clifford Hopkins. I’d also done a related ghost-mystery novel called The Ghost of Honeymoon Creek. I’d sketched out Shadow Island, which features two sisters and their friend, marooned for a night on a spooky island in Lake Superior.

Now, the third Hank & Clifford book took shape: the linked stories to be anchored by the Dripping Blood Cave tale.

As the years went by, I carried these ideas and images in my mind and heart, knowing I’d eventually get a chance to finish and polish the stories.

Originally, all of these stories were written for our three children — Dripping Blood Cave was conceived not long after Luke, our youngest child, had been conceived. Linda was carrying Luke when we ventured into the cave near Spring Mill, and the book now has been published eighteen years later, just after he left home for college.

As it turned out, other children have enjoyed all these ghost stories and hopefully found them enlightening, too. Although our children are now grown, they still like the stories, as does a new generation of “young‘uns,” as Mr. Satterly, deacon of the liars’ bench in mythical Myrtleville, would call them.

What’s next? I’m now completing a fourth book of Hank and Clifford adventures, plus another mystery novel featuring the three girls in the Shadow Island novel, a sequel entitled The Dress-Up Mirror. So, there are more spooky stories to tell!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Dripping Blood Cave and Other Ghostly Stories.

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