1 of 2
Photo by Fred Pollard
Cassie Staszkiewicz, writing as Cassie Williams, has released her first book, "Return to Pine Street: Renee Walker's Haunting." The ghostly tale takes place in a fictional town near Alton and is based on the author's own true-life experiences growing up in Wood River.
2 of 2
Renee walks slowly down the steps of the empty and dilapidated house into the basement. As she enters the room where she grew up, she knows although she is the only person in the house, she is not alone.
There is no escape now − not that there ever was.
Cassie Staszkiewicz, writing as Cassie Williams, has published her first book, "Return to Pine Street: Renee Walker's Haunting" − and it comes right from her own ghostly past.
"When I first started writing the book, it was just my experiences," she said. "Later, I decided to make it fiction and write from the perspective of an adult looking back."
"Return to Pine Street" is a classic haunted house tale that takes place in the fictional town of Littletin, just outside Alton. The book's heroine, Renee, seeks the help of a psychiatrist in an attempt to find the root cause of her night terrors and winds up learning more about her childhood than she ever wanted to learn.
The self-published book, 10 years in the making, was released Oct. 25 of last year and is garnering positive reviews online. Staszkiewicz, 40, says the storyline is based closely on her own years growing up in a house on 10th Street in Wood River.
"I originally didn't give names to my characters, so I used my family's middle names; Renee is my middle name," she said. "The exception was my kids; they wanted to see their names in print.
"The actual events started out with my brother and I hearing noises. Our bedrooms were downstairs and we would hear doors slamming, giggling, and someone running past our rooms. My brother also heard scratching on the other side of his bedroom wall."
During one encounter, the family was sitting at the kitchen table and heard someone walking up the basement door steps.
"We shut the door and put the chain on, and the door opened," the author said. "The only thing stopping whatever was on the other side from opening the door was the slack of the chain catching it. But there was no one there."
Toward the end, the family also began hearing voices, and Cassie's youngest brother was terrified of "the man who lived in his closet."
"After a while, it just became normal to us," Cassie said. "But the nightmares (the main character) has in my book are the actual nightmares I have had about my old home."
Staszkiewicz currently lives in Collinsville and has three children (Devin, 24, Andrew, 21, and Nicole, 18) and two grandchildren. An employee of the billing department at Christian Hospital Northeast, she has many ideas in several genres for future writing projects.
"There are always like 10 stories going around in my head," she said. "This one ends in a cliffhanger, but I also have like eight other ideas I want to visit before I come back to this one."
And what of the actual house in Wood River upon which the tale is based?
"To this day, I won't go near that house," the author says. "I won't even drive down that road."
To learn more about the author and to purchase an electronic or paperback copy of "Return to Pine Street: Renee Walker's Haunting," visit www.booksbycassie.com.