Like my character Kevin O’Connor, I have known phantoms.
They often come in the night, bringing tingling sensations to my right leg, which was amputated above the knee three years ago. These visits by a limb which no longer exists in the physical world are not always unpleasant. Sometimes the illusion that my leg has returned is so convincing that I must reach down and touch the end of my stump to prove to my senses that there is nothing there. On occasion, there is searing pain, like a prolonged electric shock, which causes muscles that are no longer alive to brutally convulse. And while these most severe bouts of phantom pain are infrequent, I have learned that resistance is futile. I just get up and read and watch TV and listen to music through the night. By morning, the phantoms will have left me.
Civil War physician and writer Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914) gave a nod to the ghostly nature of the phenomena when he coined the term phantom limb, writing that “thousands of spirit limbs were haunting as many good soldiers, every now and then tormenting them.”
So when I decided to put a supernatural twist on my novel about the kidnapping of a boy from a military prep school in Pennsylvania, at least one of the characters — Kevin O’Connor — had to know the same phantoms which I have known.