The most Spine-chilling character in The Eyre Hall Trilogy: The Sin-Eater #Halloween

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a Victorian, Gothic Romance, and the three-part sequel to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

The first novel in the series, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, is set on and around Halloween, 1865, in a mysterious, gothic mansion in Yorkshire. There are quite a few villains in The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but there is one enigmatic and ghostly character called Isac das Junot, The Sin-Eater.

Isac das Junot is a character of my own creation who appears at least once, making chilling interventions, in all the novels in the trilogy, but I did not invent the existence of sin-eaters.

Sin-eaters were real people who were summoned to the bedside of a dead person. This figure is thought to be of ancient, pre-Christian origin, although we know they were popular in Victorian times, especially in rural areas.

Sin-eaters were summoned to a dead person’s bedside by his family. They placed a tankard of ale containing a coin and some food, on the corpse’s body, which the Sin-eater ate and drank, symbolically taking with him the sins of the deceased, who was thus enabled to continue his journey to afterlife in a sinless manner.

Most Sin-eaters were poor people or homeless beggars, and although they were officially frowned upon by the Church, this macabre tradition was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. One of the last reported sin-eaters  was reported to have died in Shropshire, in 1906. More about sin-eaters here  and here.

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The following is an extract of the Sin-Eater’s arrival at Eyre Hall in Chapter XXVI of All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

Susan, one of the house staff, is narrating the episode.

As I returned into the hall, the heavy front door screeched eerily and a gush of chilled fog came flowing into the hallway. A pounding thump resounded and suddenly out of the dense cloud emerged a faint, dark shadow, which gradually solidified into a human shape, while a breath of frosty wind poured in and enwrapped those of us who were standing in the hallway.

“Mr. Rochester has sent for me.”

His grating voice echoed the words ominously. I heard frightful cries around me. Some of the guests ran into the adjacent rooms, swearing they had heard him say the words three times. Others said he was death, who had come to visit the just dead, and if anyone looked at his eyes they would be taken, too.

Within seconds everyone disappeared. I stood alone with him. His glazed eyes stared at the only person who had remained. Nailed to the ground, my back stiffened. His eyes had impaled me. My jaw dropped, as he added in a low, frosty voice, “I have a message for Mrs. Rochester.”

Someone shouted from inside a room, “No! He has come to take her with him.”

I plucked up the courage to approach him and speak, “I’m afraid Mrs. Rochester cannot see you, sir, but I will take your name, if you please, to inform her of your visit.”

His frozen features set on my face, and I noticed his eyes were red, all red, and his lips mauve. The rest of his face was a cemented gravestone carved with long creases down his flat cheeks, which looked as sharp as flint. His towering black figure was like an unearthly leviathan. My legs were shaking, and I would have run away had I not decided I had to protect Mrs. Rochester from the omen of death.

Disquieting words rang out of his lips, “I am the Sin-Eater. I have come to bestow the wisdom of my ancestors upon the cadaver that is laid in this house, so that he may not become an undead.”

I was speechless, motionless, and breathless, as he continued with his foreboding address, “Time is short. His evil deeds have chained him to this world to roam and torment the living until the Last Judgment. I must see him today, or he will never rest, and his soul will wander in anguish around this house and his loved ones.”

Who was this unearthly monster? What did he want? What could I alone do to fend him off?

His threats persisted, “I must see Mr. Rochester immediately, or leave his soul to roam in this house until the Day of Judgment.”

I forced myself to breathe in and managed to raise my right hand up to my neck and clutch the tiny cross hanging from a gold chain, the only possession I owned, and mustered all my strength to reply feebly, “Please leave, sir.”

Miraculously, he walked backwards towards the door, gradually devoured by the persistent fog that had accompanied him like an entourage.

“Stop, sir!” I turned to see Simon’s distraught face run up from behind me. I had not seen him during the episode. Someone must have run downstairs and informed him of what was happening.

“Please, wait. I will inform Mrs. Rochester of your presence. Your name, please, sir?”

“Mr. Isac das Junot, from the Netherlands.”

The figure became larger again, as it walked forward, appearing even taller than before. I noticed he wore no hat and his slimy jet black hair was pressed down with a wide middle parting and tied back into a short greasy pigtail.

“Please wait here in the entrance.” The intruder nodded, as Simon continued, “You will be eating and drinking later, I expect.” The unearthly visitor smiled, showing a fistful of teeth, which were as black as his hair.

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Mrs. Rochester finally agrees to Junot’s macabre ritual, in spite of the opposition of her friends and family. I’ll post an extract tomorrow.

Why would rational and Christian Jane, acquiesce to such a disgusting ceremony?

There is a simple answer. The Sin-eater not only saves the dying from hell, but also from wandering the earth as a ghost, thereby performing a service for the living as well.

Jane knows her husband has died without confessing his sins or repenting to a religious authority, and she is not willing to take the risk of having him haunt her beloved Eyre Hall.

However, Junot is much more than a sinister or pitiable Sin-eater, he is not at Eyre Hall to receive charity, and during his brief visit, he does a great deal more than absorb Rochester’s sins, but I can’t include any spoilers to my own novel!

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Follow this link If you want to know more about The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Passion, suspense, secrets, betrayals, villains, and romance, Book One of The Eyre Hall TrilogyAll Hallows at Eyre Hall, will be free for the first time on Kindle Deals, for five days only, to coincide with the Halloween Weekend, from 29th October to the 2nd November, 2020.

#IWSG ‘Weird Research’ ‘The Sin Eater’ #amwriting #Histfic

It’s the first Wednesday of the month when we, Insecure Writers, share our insecurities with each other and the blogosphere in the Insecure Writers Support Group monthly blog hop. Join in here and tell us all about yours.

There’s an optional question every month, this May it’s: 

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

My work in progress is a contemporary thriller, but so far I’ve written historical fiction set in Victorian England, and although I already knew a great deal before I started, I’ve had to do a lot of extra and specific research, which I greatly enjoyed.

I’ve researched clothes and accessories, recipes for food, household management, furniture and household ornaments, cookery books, working conditions, poor houses, funerals, novels of the period, theatres and plays performed, opium addiction, most frequent illnesses, sea voyages and everything to do with ships sailing to America from the UK, and plenty more details to make the readers feel they were immersed in the 19th century.

If I have to choose one aspect as the weirdest, I’d have to choose the Sin eater, a sinister character in my novels, who is based on real people who carried out this disgusting chore, in order to have a morsel to eat, or occasionally because they had a macabre interest in being close to death and dead people.

Sin eaters existed in England up to the end of the 19th century. They would be summoned to a deceased person’s bedside to perform a ritual usually including eating food from a plate on the dead person’s body, symbolising the eating of their sins, so the dead could pass on to the next world in a sinless state, while the sin eater absorbed their sins.

Many sin-eaters were beggars, and the custom was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. The last Sin-eater reportedly died in Shropshire, in 1906.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is not a horror story, but there gothic elements and some sinister characters and events in the novels, which are set in Victorian England. 

I originally introduced th Sin eater in my first novel as a gothic element of mystery surrounding a funeral. My Sin eater was more evil than eccentric, and as there were several funerals of nasty and sinful characters throughout the trilogy, I realised his presence would be required more than once.

As the trilogy progressed, the Sin eater became a recurring and even essential part of the main plot of the novel, as his character grew from an eccentric or macabre person to an evil and sinister one, more akin to the devil’s servant, or even the Devil himself.

Many of my readers are surprised and even shocked by his presence, which adds a paranormal and sinister element. Mr. Isaac Das Junot, originally from the Netherlands, claims to be a descendent of Judas Iscariot, and member of an evil clan who search funerals of the evil to absorb their sins and grow even stronger in their wickedness. 

However, Junot cannot influence or make use of good people. He has no use for goodness. He is only attracted to evil, which is why Jane Eyre is not afraid of him, although she is aware that he is evil and respects his powers of evil.  

Here is part of a scene in which he has a conversation with Jane Eyre, who is now Mrs. Mason, in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. This is their second meeting and the second time he appears in the trilogy. Junot narrates this chapter.

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“Why do you not fear me, Mrs. Mason?”

She stopped outside Mr. Mason’s door to answer my question. “Because I know that good and evil are two sides of the same coin, just as happiness and sadness, and beauty and ugliness are all part of our nature. There is no good without evil. Each of us has both. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. You chose evil, so you make the rest of us your opposite: good. Why should I fear you?”

“You are unwise not to fear me,” I said as we walked into the same room I had entered the last time. The corpse was laid out, dressed, and blackened. The smell was the most nauseating I had ever encountered. Was he already decomposing? Had his soul escaped before my arrival?

“When did his body perish?”

“Five days ago.”

“Close your eyes and turn away. He has been expelled from the flesh, which has already been taken over by the corpse eaters, but he is not far, yet. I hope I am still on time, for my sake and yours, Mrs. Mason.”

She turned to face the door. “Do what you have to do quickly.”

I proceeded with my incantation. He was indeed still there, naked and petrified, unable to return, and yet unwilling to leave, so I stole his sins and left his carcass to wither.

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Have you ever heard of Sin eaters?

Which is yor wierdest character?

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Spine-chilling Characters: The Sin-Eater

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing historical novels is the investigation process. Searching for those hidden bits of information that make research feel like a treasure hunt!

 All Hallows at Eyre Hall, is a Victorian Gothic Romance, and sequel to Jane Eyre.

It is set on and around Halloween, 1865, in a mysterious gothic mansion in Yorkshire, so naturally it contains some cryptic and ghostly characters.

As we’re coming up to the dakest period of the year, I thought I’d introduce you to one of the most eerie characters I included in the novel, namely, Isac das Junot, the Sin-eater who visits Eyre Hall, on account of Mr. Rochester’s death.

Funeral Customs

Funeral Rites

Origins of Sin-Eaters

The Sin-eater, who was summoned to the bedside of a dead person, is of pre-Christian origin. The dead person’s family placed a tankard of ale containing a coin and a piece of bread on the corpse’s body, which the Sin-eater ate and drank, symbolically taking with him the sins of the deceased, who was thus enabled to continue his journey to afterlife in a sinless manner. He may have made the following short speech at the graveside: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.”

Most sin-eaters were poor people or homeless beggars, and although they were officially frowned upon by the Church, this macabre tradition was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. The last Sin-eater supposedly died in Shropshire, in 1906, said to be the last sin-eater, at least in that county.

The following is an extract of the Sin-eater’s arrival at Eyre Hall in Chapter XXVI of All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Susan, one of the house staff, is narrating.

As I returned into the hall, the heavy front door screeched eerily and a gush of chilled fog came flowing into the hallway. A pounding thump resounded and suddenly out of the dense cloud emerged a faint, dark shadow, which gradually solidified into a human shape, while a breath of frosty wind poured in and enwrapped those of us who were standing in the hallway.
“Mr. Rochester has sent for me.”
His grating voice echoed the words ominously. I heard frightful cries around me. Some of the guests ran into the adjacent rooms, swearing they had heard him say the words three times. Others said he was death, who had come to visit the just dead, and if anyone looked at his eyes they would be taken, too. Within seconds everyone disappeared. I stood alone with him. His glazed eyes stared at the only person who had remained. Nailed to the ground, my back stiffened. His eyes had impaled me. I felt my jaw drop, as he added in a low frosty voice, “I have a message for Mrs. Rochester.”
Someone shouted from inside a room, “No! He has come to take her with him.”
I plucked up the courage to approach him and speak, “I’m afraid Mrs. Rochester cannot see you, sir, but I will take your name, if you please, to inform her of your visit.”
His frozen features set on my face, and I noticed his eyes were red, all red, and his lips mauve. The rest of his face was a cemented gravestone carved with long creases down his flat cheeks, which looked as sharp as flint. His towering black figure was like an unearthly leviathan. My legs were shaking, and I would have run away had I not decided I had to protect Mrs. Rochester from the omen of death.
Disquieting words rang out of his lips, “I am the Sin-eater. I have come to bestow the wisdom of my ancestors upon the cadaver that is laid in this house, so that he may not become an undead.”
I was speechless, motionless, and breathless, as he continued with his foreboding address, “Time is short. His evil deeds have chained him to this world to roam and torment the living until the Last Judgment. I must see him today, or he will never rest, and his soul will wander in anguish around this house and his loved ones.”
Who was this unearthly monster? What did he want? What could I alone do to fend him off? His threats persisted, “I must see Mr. Rochester immediately, or leave his soul to roam in this house until the Day of Judgment.”
I forced myself to breathe in and managed to raise my right hand up to my neck and clutch the tiny cross hanging from a gold chain, the only possession I owned, and mustered all my strength to reply feebly, “Please leave, sir.”
Miraculously, he walked backwards towards the door, gradually devoured by the persistent fog that had accompanied him like an entourage.
“Stop, sir!” I turned to see Simon’s distraught face run up from behind me. I had not seen him during the episode. Someone must have run downstairs and informed him of what was happening.
“Please, wait. I will inform Mrs. Rochester of your presence. Your name, please, sir?”
“Mr. Isac das Junot, from the Netherlands.”
The figure became larger again, as it walked forward, appearing even taller than before. I noticed he wore no hat and his slimy jet black hair was pressed down with a wide middle parting and tied back into a short greasy pigtail.
“Please wait here in the entrance.” The intruder nodded, as Simon continued, “You will be eating and drinking later, I expect.” The unearthly visitor smiled, showing a fistful of teeth, which were as black as his hair.

Mrs. Rochester finally agrees to Junot’s macabre ritual, in spite of the opposition of her friends and family. Why would rational and Christian Jane, acquiesce to such a disgusting ceremony?

There is a simple answer. The Sin-eater not only saves the dying from hell, but also from wandering the earth as a ghost, thereby performing a service for the living as well. Jane knows her husband has died without confessing his sins or repenting to a religious authority, and she is not willing to take the risk of having him haunt her beloved Eyre Hall.

However, Junot is much more than a sinister or pitiable Sin-eater, he is not at Eyre Hall to receive charity, and during his brief visit, he does a great deal more than absorb Rochester’s sins, but I can’t include any spoilers to my own novel!

I can let you know that he will be returning to visit Jane, at Eyre Hall, in the sequel, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

Read the rest of All Hallows at Eyre Hall at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon worldwide Only 0.99c / £0.77 / €0.89 for a short time!