John Harrison began his career directing rock videos and collaborating with famed horror director, George Romero for whom he composed the scores to Romero's CREEPSHOW and DAY OF THE DEAD. Harrison wrote and directed multiple episodes of Romero's classic TV series, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE before helming TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, THE MOVIE for Producer Richard Rubinstein and Paramount Pictures which won Harrison the Grand Prix du Festival at Avoriaz, France. He has written and directed multiple TV episodes for a variety of networks as well as world premier TV movies and miniseries, including the two Emmy winning miniseries adapations of Frank Herbert's DUNE and CHILDREN OF DUNE which he wrote, directed and co-produced. He co-wrote the Disney animated feature, DINOSAUR, and wrote and directed the theatrical adaptation of Clive Barker's BOOK OF BLOOD. Harrison's three-episode mini-series RESIDUE, which he created and wrote, is on Netflix. He is currently writing and directing episodes of the CREEPSHOW TV series on Shudder/AMC, as well as writing/directing the new horror podcast, SOUNDS SCARY.

Passing Through Veils by John Harrison

A fusion of Shirley Jackson and Gillian Flynn, Passing Through Veils is a gripping psychological thriller about Kathryn Fields who moves into a run-down Georgetown, D.C. townhouse in hopes that restoring it will be a metaphor for her own rehabilitation from the recent nervous breakdown that derailed her promising career.

But when she discovers a forgotten vanity behind a false wall in her bedroom and the secrets hidden there, the veil between the real and the surreal is abruptly pierced, and the ghost of a beautiful woman who was murdered in this very townhouse escapes to seek revenge.

Is this simply a fantasy of Katherine's damaged psyche?

Or have her own demons finally escaped to torment her?



  • "Written with utter assurance, Passing Through Veils is equal parts propulsive and prose. A ghost story tucked into a very human story; there's a scene in this book that made me jump. Graceful yet bold, rooted with room to breathe. It's even, at times, erotic. Strong women, strong men, clashing before strong backdrops of family, history, and the state of one's mind. John Harrison has written one of my favorite books of the year."

    – Josh Malerman, New York Times bestselling author of Bird Box and Malorie
  • "Harrison's fiction lingers long after you turn the final page. He's a born storyteller."

    – Clive Barker, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Filmmaker John Harrison's novel, Passing Through Veils, is as cinematic as you'd expect but also a real work of literary art, a romantic and unsettling blend of Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. A real pleasure to read."

    – Daniel Kraus, New York Times bestselling author of The Living Dead, The Shape of Water, and Trollhunters




Washington, D.C.

City of ghosts. For some, the Potomac sparkles with the lights of their monuments, their struggles memorialized, their accomplishments revered. For the rest, it's the purgatory of oblivion, the void of regret, where they linger, unfinished, unsettled.

And mightily pissed off.

There is a charming Federal-style brick townhouse on Reservoir Road near Wisconsin only a few blocks from Georgetown University where cathedrals of elms that are lush in summer and gothically spare in winter shade the streets. Within this home's late 19th Century walls are gracious family rooms with oak wainscoting and wide plank floors that murmur and sigh, while the upstairs is graced with two large bedrooms and ensuite baths enhanced by vintage mosaic tiling and claw foot tubs. The Master for Rebeca and Robert Wright, and another smaller one, a nursery, for their adored twelve-month-old son, Jack-Jack. On this hushed fall evening, the street is deserted of pedestrian traffic. Lights are coming on. Cocktails are being served, dinner is being set, people are watching Cronkite or MacNeil/Lehrer, or dressing for de rigueur political functions masquerading as charity events. Somewhere, Edith Piaf's tremulous soprano coaxes the pensive melody of Autumn Leaves into the breeze like a faraway dream. In a dark blue sedan parked down the street, the flare of a cigarette lighter briefly illuminates the hooded stare of a man who is looking up at the shadow crossing behind the sheers of a bedroom window.

Rebeca Wright sits at her marble-top vanity and rushes fingers through her thick but short raven hair making it look messy and chic at the same time. A Givenchy black dress hangs in wait on the closet door, but for now she's wearing nothing but a slip that clings to her gamine frame like second skin. Her olive complexion sets off her almond shaped ebony eyes staring back from the mirror with a catalogue of emotion. Fatigue competing with sadness, resignation, and shame. Barely concealed just behind them is the reason.


On her vanity, there's a beautifully hand-carved wooden box. A wedding gift from Rebeca's mother-in-law, a family keepsake passed down through several generations of Wright wives in which each left behind one singular, precious keepsake. A lock of a child's hair, a beloved poem, a treasured piece of jewelry, a humble shred of wedding veil, the memorial meaning of each long forgotten now, but all of which, Rebeca was assured, mystically retained their power to comfort and welcome each new member of the clan. Rebeca reaches inside for the memento she has added. A Walther PPK 32 caliber. Sleek, feminine, deadly. Her hand tightens around the grip as she drops the mag to check its load. In the mirror, the silhouette of a man approaches, and she can tell he's hiding something behind his back. She quickly returns the gun to the box and closes it before he sees.

"Happy Anniversary, darling," Robert says as he drapes a string of Tahitian black pearls around her neck. They must have cost a small fortune, she knows, but she doesn't look at them. Her eyes remain locked on her husband's gentle eyes in the mirror's reflection, and the fear and sadness of a moment ago dissolve into the hazy vacancy of passion.

"Make love to me," she whispers, pulling his hands down into her thighs. Her slip rides up easily as he leans over to press his lips to the back of her neck. She turns and starts tugging on the buttons of his tuxedo trousers, and while she struggles to free him he lifts her face to his. Their tongues tease as they watch each other get excited. And then they can't wait any longer. He picks her up and carries her to the bed. His mouth glides lightly over her throat, across her belly and into her hips. She grabs for the bedposts and gasps for air.

Downstairs on the stereo, Piaf continues to seek the essence of Johnny Mercer's classic ballad.

Afterward, while Robert quickly showers again, Rebeca waits in the parlor by the stereo, a vision in that simple but elegant Givenchy, listening to snapping wood in the fireplace accent Piaf's melancholy as it flirts with a distant siren outside. She's holding the cover of the LP, staring at it but not seeing it. There's a feral quality in her eyes provoked by the struggle between endorphins and adrenalin in her blood.

"It must be tonight," she tells herself, nervously smoothing a peeling corner of the album cover under which she's hidden the truth. "It must end tonight." She steels herself with a quick gulp of the Scotch that's been waiting by the turntable, but a child's laughter in the foyer distracts her. Jack-Jack, fresh from his bath, liberating himself from Nanny's embrace. He toddles unsteadily toward his mother, who picks him up and holds him close, breathing in the warm caramel scent of him as if for the very first time.

"You be a good boy for Nanny, Jack-Jack," Robert says as he glides down the stairs behind them.

"God, he's gorgeous," Rebeca thinks as he drapes a shawl over her shoulders. She wishes she could rush him back upstairs and ravish him again. But It's Morning Again In America, and after the somber malaise of the previous decade, everyone is craving a little elegance, a little glamour, a little fun. It wouldn't do to be a grouch and not show up. Besides, this may be her best opportunity to end the nightmare. If she doesn't lose her nerve.

And is willing to suffer the consequences.

The antique mantel clock above the fireplace strikes eight with its Westminster chimes, and Rebeca hands Jack off to his dad, who squeezes a big laugh out of the child before "flying" him back to Nanny.

"We won't be late," he tells their very own Mary Poppins.

Rebeca leans in for one last Jack-Jack kiss and almost tears up when Nanny waves 'bye bye' with his tiny hand.

Outside, the street is still empty and quiet. Rebeca hangs on Robert's arm as they stroll down the sidewalk to their silver Mercedes 380SL Coupe convertible. He opens the passenger door for her but pauses when he sees the sedan parked down the street. Something about it puzzles him, as if he recognizes it but finds it strange to be here, at this time, in this neighborhood. The confusion is fleeting, though, and he shrugs it off.

Inside the car, Rebeca reaches into her clutch for a cigarette, and her face suddenly freezes. She pushes through the tissues, the lipstick, the compact, but it's not there. The Walther PPK. It's not in the clutch! Shit!

"Robert," she calls out as he crosses in front of the car, "I have to go back inside. I forgot something." She continues her futile dig into the clutch, but she knows it's not there. She left it upstairs. She pulls on the door handle. "I'll be right ba..."

The car lurches violently. She jerks her head up in time to see Robert's face smash into the driver's door window. His eyes meet hers, but he's not seeing her because he's already unconscious and starting to slide to the street.

"Robert!" she screams, stumbling out of the car. Her shawl catches on the latch and yanks her back, but she tugs violently and shreds it. She races around the Mercedes toward her husband, but something stops her. A child's cry. Little Jack, who has somehow climbed on to a table in the townhouse parlor and is reaching out to her as he crawls towards the open window there. And in that split second of her hesitation, Rebeca's fate is sealed.

A dark shadow sweeps up behind her and a man's hand yanks her chin back to bare her throat. The brilliant steel blade of a stiletto lashes out.

At the townhouse, Nanny dashes up behind Jack to prevent him from tumbling out the window. She clips the stereo turntable as she comes but pulls Jack away just in time. A dark blue sedan is disappearing around the corner on to Wisconsin Avenue. The street has gone unnaturally quiet. No breeze, no insects. Even the ambient din from D.C. across the Potomac has retreated into soundless shock. All that's left is the maddening glitch of Autumn Leaves floating out the Wright's windows to accompany Rebeca's gasping gurgle as she leans against the Mercedes coupe and clutches at her severed throat with bloody hands. The pearls around her neck are gone. She stares up at her son, and her mouth moves, but no sound comes out. And then, she slowly slumps over in a swamp of her own blood.

Inside the townhouse, the mantel clock chimes the quarter hour, while at the windows the only eyewitness to this crime is crying desperately, incapable of understanding what he's just seen. Nanny covers his eyes and pulls him away. His cries fade into the interior of the townhouse leaving only Piaf's desperate voice eerily mourning the falling leaves and her lost love over and over and over as the LP continues to skip.


"Isn't there one door in this godforsaken place that will stay closed?" Sloane Fields kept pushing at a defiant cedar closet door until she heard the snap of its latch. But no sooner did she let go than it popped open again.

"It was built in 1896, Mother," came a voice from down the hall.

"When people were much smaller from the looks of things," Sloane said to herself. She could almost touch the low ceiling with her outstretched hand. "Doesn't it make you feel claustrophobic?"

"Makes me feel cozy," her daughter, Kathryn, replied as she came out of the master bedroom carrying an empty U-Haul box.

"I don't know why you couldn't have chosen a more fashionable neighborhood," Sloane mumbled as she followed her daughter down the narrow staircase.

Kathryn tried hard to subdue a long-suffering sigh as the two of them passed through the foyer into the parlor on their way to the kitchen. "What's more fashionable than Georgetown, Mother?"

The slap of their footsteps was harsh and echo-y in these uncarpeted rooms that, like all unfurnished spaces, felt smaller than they really were. The light streaming through the windows was dusty, pale, and dappled by the swaying elm trees outside. Carpenter tools and paint-drops littered the area. The place looked like a "before" site on one of those HGTV fixer-upper shows. Sloane kept her body tight and stiff as if she were afraid of being contaminated by this forsaken space with its chalky walls and grimy woodwork. Of course, Kathryn thought to herself, Mother wouldn't have dared brave the streets of D.C. in anything but her very best. Sloane Fields couldn't just drop in dressed in jeans. It was Neiman Marcus, head to toe, as if she were about to host an Embassy garden party instead of visiting her daughter's remodeling project. Even around the stables at the family's estate in Virginia, Kathryn's mother was always turned out. "You never know who you'll run into," was her motto.

"Wanna beer?" Kathryn offered as she opened the refrigerator, a loudly humming Kitchen Aid that would have to be replaced soon.

"I'll stick to water," her mother said with a disapproving frown. She reached into a cabinet for the single glass Kathryn had there. The cabinet door kept swinging back open, but she knew her daughter was watching with an amused smile so she gave up trying to close it. An uncomfortable silence descended while they each sipped and avoided the other's stare.

"You don't think I can make it, do you?" Kathryn finally blurted after another of her mother's pointed sighs.

"I'm worried about you, that's all."

"You're not worried, Mother. You're afraid."


"Of losing control."

Sloane's eyes went dead as they always did when she was challenged. It was the sure harbinger of a calculated disengagement to follow, sometimes lasting an hour or two, sometimes even a day or more depending on the perceived offense, until the guilty party finally offered up groveling apologies often without even knowing why. Kathryn had watched her stepfather prostrate himself numerous times this way. He had ample reason to do so, of course, but no one, whether high and mighty or lowly and insignificant, was spared. Sloane Fields' cold shoulder did not discriminate. Kathryn, however, refused to cower. From an early age she never looked away from her mother's shark stare, and she could hold her breath longer, which pissed Sloane off even more.

"Shouldn't you be the one afraid of losing control?" she asked her daughter, cutting to the quick. This time Kathryn broke the stare first. Her mother had found the soft underbelly and poked it hard. The rest of the beer went down fast and sour.

"There's someone at the door," Kathryn said as she crushed the can and breezed off toward the foyer.

"I didn't hear anyone knock," Sloane said following her out of the kitchen, but Kathryn ignored her and threw open the front door, startling an attractive man in a bespoke gray suit who was reaching for the knocker.

"I...found the original blueprints," he said fumbling with several long brown mailing tubes under his left arm.

"Yes, Alex promised me you would. Come in, come in!"

"You're Kathryn?" he said stepping into the foyer and the laser beam of Sloane's stare. "Maybe I should have called first."

"No, no. I had a feeling you'd stop by," Kathryn said. "This is Jack Wright, Mother. His father used to own this townhouse." In her excitement, she snatched the mailing tubes from his arms without asking and hurried off to the parlor leaving Jack and Sloane staring at each other with awkward smiles.

"Look," Kathryn called out. "There's a fireplace behind this wall."

Sloane came into the parlor to find her daughter already perusing a cluster of plans spread out on plywood boards on top of hardware store sawhorses in the middle of the room. The renderings were slightly frayed, the parchment yellowed, but the lines were still clear, and the dimensions precise. They were a memoir of this home's conception.

"My father broke the place up," Jack said as he came to the doorway. "Rented out the first floor and moved upstairs. Not long after my mother died." He seemed reluctant to come any further, but his eyes remained riveted to the windows looking out to the street.

"Which was your room?" Kathryn chirped as she flipped through more of the architectural elevations, but Jack didn't answer. Had he heard her, or was he ignoring the question? Sloane turned to him with an expectant expression.

"I didn't grow up here," he said quietly and left out the rest.

Sensing she'd touched a nerve, Kathryn put her myopic enthusiasm on pause and came over to him. "Thanks for the trouble you've gone to," she said. "My contractor will find these plans really helpful."

"Enjoy yourself. It was a beautiful home once. At least that's what I've been told." He looked around the room with an expression Kathryn couldn't quite decipher. Was it nostalgic melancholy, or a kind of rueful suspicion?

"I hope you'll come back to see that I've done it justice."

For the first time Jack smiled, but he left it at that. He nodded politely to Sloane. "I'll see myself out."

Kathryn waited until he vanished out the door, then turned back to find her mother watching with raised eyebrows.

"Quite good looking, isn't he?" Sloane said.

"And very, very rich," Kathryn responded, knowing that would impress her mother more.

The sky was an angry mess and threatening rain when Kathryn accompanied Sloane across the street to her Jaguar XL.

"Wasn't there a murder in there? I seem to recall..."

"Not in there," Kathryn replied. "On the street. Jack Wright's mother, in fact. A robbery. Right there where you're standing." Her mother almost jumped, as if a puddle of blood still lingered under her shoes. Kathryn wanted to laugh. She couldn't help it. "It was over thirty-five years ago, Mother," she said barely suppressing a smile.

Sloane glanced back at the townhouse with a slight shiver. "It's like it's staring at us," she murmured.

"Just tell your friends it's almost in Virginia."

"Almost isn't there, darling." She slid into the Jag, closed the door and lowered the window. "Watch the drinking," she said. "And don't forget to take your meds." She offered a cheek which Kathryn dutifully, if lightly, kissed. She watched her mother drive off as heavy drops of rain started pelting her face. She closed her eyes and lifted her face toward the treetops that were now swaying with gathering winds. The rain felt good, cleansing. She was looking forward to that fresh damp smell that would follow when it stopped. She'd throw open all the windows of the townhouse and let the scent overwhelm the odors of paint and sawdust.

And then she felt someone staring at her.

She opened her eyes and looked around. No one was on the street. But she caught a glimpse of a woman's silhouette hiding behind some curtains in the bedroom window of the townhouse next to hers. She had to blink away fat raindrops cascading from her forehead, and when she looked again, no one was there. And that's when the skies opened up.

Back in her parlor, Kathryn gathered up one of the blueprints Jack Wright had brought and stepped into the center of the room. As she studied the elevations, she began spinning around, trying to divine the dimensions exactly as the original architect had intended. Walls and studs melted away then reassembled in a different configuration, revealing the way this room had been before Robert Wright, according to his son, altered it to create a small renter's apartment. Suddenly the room was bigger. Charming furniture began to appear in tasteful arrangements. Muted color now graced the cream and taupe walls and ceiling, off-setting busy Orientals on the floor. The more Kathryn succumbed to this Private Idaho, the faster she turned, letting her imagination run rampant.

It's been waiting for me. This house. Waiting for me to bring it back to life.

Her smile turned into laughter, exhilarated and unrestrained, until suddenly she stopped. An embarrassed self-consciousness swept away her reverie, as if some lingering essence of Sloane Fields remained in the atmosphere to chastise her for feeling so free. Once again, Kathryn had a creepy sensation that someone might be watching her.

She had no way of knowing that she'd just been imagining a decor that closely resembled the way everything looked the night Rebeca Wright was murdered.