paranormal mystery
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Researching the Paranormal Novel

paranormal mystery
paranormal mystery

Photo Credit: morberg via Compfight cc

Sometimes, random research leads you in unexpected directions. And sometimes… it’s just eerie.

Last week, an acquaintance gifted me a skeleton key. I showed it to a witchy friend, and she told me the keys were often used in magical rituals. As a paranormal mystery writer, that was a lead I felt compelled to follow. I’m always on the lookout for magical inspiration for my Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels.

So I did a quick web search and learned that skeleton keys are associated with the Greek goddess of magic, Hecate. Magically, they represent unlocking possibilities and removing obstacles. Hm… Riga Hayworth has a strong connection to Hecate, so that sounded promising.

I thought: I should save this for her next book, The Hoodoo Detective. My next thought: Why? Because there was nothing in that web article to indicate skeleton keys were associated with hoodoo, a form of southern conjure.

Okay, hoodoo was out, but I was still curious. I had a magick key!

So I did a web search for “magick + skeleton key”. The first item that came up…? You might have guessed it, an in-depth article on the associations between hoodoo and the skeleton key. Riga could use the key as a magical talisman! It would work with my upcoming book.

The article also discussed the magic of the crossroads and the gods one might find there, including a trickster god that takes on the appearance of an elderly black man. I’d written an elderly black man into the first draft of The Hoodoo Detective, and he needed a bigger role. Who better to give Riga the skeleton key? And what an intriguing spin on the man’s character!

Magical or not, the gift of the skeleton key really did “unlock” my manuscript. But like most magic, receiving the gift wasn’t enough. I had to step out and do a little work for the magic to happen.

What surprising places has research taken you in your writing?

About the Author

Kirsten Weiss is the author of the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical DetectiveThe Alchemical DetectiveThe Shamanic DetectiveThe Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. She’s currently editing book six, The Hoodoo Detective, set in New Orleans.



  1. I’m in the home stretch of the first draft of a new mystery novel. It’s more of a “how did this happen” than a “who-dunnit” but it is a mystery. I went to the Museum of Modern Art to get a handle on the painter character and, because of a notion I had in advance, I went directly to the Frida Kahlo paintings. Years and years of seeing them at MoMA and I’d never noticed the story (printed on the legend next to her self portrait) about being called a Surrealist and denying it because she said they painted their dreams and she painted her reality. That is exactly the attitude of my character!

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