Channing Whitaker – Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion

This week, it’s my pleasure to host screenwriter, filmmaker, and novelist,

 Channing Whitaker.


Channing Whitaker is a novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker originally hailing from Centerville, Iowa. An alum of Indian Hills Community College, Channing went on to study cinema, screenwriting, literature, and mathematics at the University of Iowa.

Post graduation, Channing began his career in the production of television news, independent films, and commercial videos, as well as to write for websites, corporate media, and advertising. His 10-year career in writing has taken Channing from Iowa, to Alaska, Oklahoma, and currently to Texas.

Channing has written five feature-length screenplays, co-written another feature screenplay, and penned a novel. In that time, Channing has also written and directed over 50 short films.

The April 2015 publication of Channing’s debut novel, “Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion,” comes in tandem with the first production of one of Channing’s feature screenplays, “KILD TV” – a horror mystery. “KILD TV” has already filmed, and will premier in March 2016 release.

Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion

Eighty years ago, a wealthy Midwest family returned home from a magic show, after which neither they, nor the magician, Malvern Kamrar, were ever heard from again. When several bystanders died in their mansion, the house was sealed. After nearly a century of rumors and haunted stories, for a live TV event the mansion will be opened, allowing five contestants to spend one night and win their share of a million dollars. The contestants: a psychic, a high-tech ghost hunter, a Hollywood scream queen, a local woman, and a skeptic, fuel excitement as each tries to solve the mystery. Upon entering, the journal of the family patriarch, Vinton Drake, is discovered, illuminating the mystery, rooted all the way back to Vinton’s service as a medic in WWI, when he first met the magician. Departing from the familiar haunted house tale, this story explores the very nature of belief in the supernatural, with consequences more frightening than any ghost story. Intensity sours when the contestants discover their lives, and thousands more, are in genuine peril. Is the mansion haunted? What fate befell Malvern and the Drake family? And will the contestants uncover the truth in time to save themselves?

Excerpt: Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion

Taken from the 3rd chapter.

In the last row, Vieve struck pay dirt—boxes and boxes of candlesticks. “You were right. There are hundreds of candles here, plenty to light the whole house.” She waited, expecting Harlan to show up, or at least reply with praises for her discovery, but she heard nothing. Concerned, she took care to be perfectly quiet. She didn’t even hear Harlan checking boxes or shuffling items across the way.

She stepped out of the isle and anxiously scanned the third row across the way. Panic mounted as she checked the other isles. The small light cast from her helmet and basic flashlight hardly lit the room, but Harlan was nowhere to be found. As she double-checked the isles on both sides, she shrieked his name again and again. Finally, she dashed to the kitchen doorway where she was abruptly grabbed from behind.

Vieve screamed primally. She instinctively brought her arms up to protect her face and midsection, ready to fight for her life.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Harlan said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Vieve shoved him away. “Where were you? You scared the hell out of me! I was worried you’d—”

Harlan drew closer and grasped her trembling hands. “Calm down. Everything’s OK. I’m sorry. There was another door in the corner, obscured by the shelves. I stepped in, just for a minute, but it seems we couldn’t hear each other.” Vieve was slowly calming. “Let me show you.” He released her flashlight hand and took his own light out from under his arm. Still grasping her with one hand, he led her down the end isle on his side. At the very back, blocked by the shelving sides, was a small section where racks were omitted. Behind it, a narrow door was sunk into the brick wall. The door was peculiar compared to the rest of the house. With a half dozen vertically running planks, it was rough, had no finish, and looked more like a makeshift fence gate than a door in a mansion. They opened the door and stepped through.

Harlan pointed his light to the ceiling. It was completely glass, though all that could be seen were piles of leaves and accumulated debris outside. The walls of the room were windowless and lined with rugged, unfinished benches and cabinets. Harlan opened one, showing Vieve it was filled with tools. He pulled out a chisel. “I think this was a wood shop. Maybe Vinton was a woodworking hobbyist.”

“Or someone in the house was. They had more help than just the nanny.”

“Look down here at the end.” He escorted her to the far end of the room, where a hodgepodge office was arranged. Papers were pinned on the wall, a desk was cluttered with documents, a file cabinet was jammed so full it couldn’t close, and there was a small couch and record player in the corner. “I bet the office up front was for show, and well-kept, and this is where Vinton really did his work.” Vieve agreed as she skimmed through the loose papers. Harlan shined his light on a large hand-drawn map on the wall. At the bottom, “Entrance” was marked, then a narrow hall or shaft began with long rooms extending off it, both left and right. Immediately after, another pair of chambers started, and so on and so on for ten rooms.

Vieve looked up to see what had caught Harlan’s eye. “It’s a coal mine. Room-and-pillar format. They mine out all of these long chambers, but they leave enough material between each room to support the ceiling. If you go too wide, they collapse. If you go too narrow, then you lose out on the mineral resources you didn’t mine out.”

“Must have been one of the Drakes’ properties.” Harlan panned the wall with his light. There were dozens of smaller maps throughout. Then Harlan looked down at Vieve and the desk. “Anything interesting?”

“Business contracts, state permits, progress reports, nothing unexpected.”

Harlan scanned the desk then made a very audible “Hmm” sound. Vieve turned, waiting for his thoughts. “This desk looks hand made.”

“Wasn’t everything back then?”

“True, but the Drakes could have afforded a master craftsman’s piece. This seems to have a number of little flaws, like the work of a novice. If Vinton dabbled in woodworking, I have to wonder if he made it.”

“Could be.”

“When I was a kid my father loved to woodwork, and I always helped. I still do when I get home to visit.” Vieve smiled. “I’ve always planned to take it up myself once I’m out of school for good, and actually have free time.” Harlan saw Vieve was growing impatient. “Whenever we made a piece of furniture like this, we always added a secret compartment, a drawer with a false bottom or something similar, for fun mainly, but something only the builder would know about. My parents’ house has several dozen hiding spots.”

“So you think Vinton might have put something like that in this desk?”

“A secret second office through a concealed door in the pantry—there’s no reason not to check.” Harlan handed Vieve his flashlight. All lights shone on the desk. There were three drawers along the side. Harlan pulled the top drawer completely out. He sifted through its contents briefly and then upended it, scattering objects and notes everywhere. Vieve jumped. Harlan shot her an apologetic smile as he knocked on the bottom of the drawer both from inside and outside. He repeated this inspection with the second and third drawers but found nothing.

Next, Harlan pulled out the pen tray just under the top of the desk, the last drawer in the piece, but found nothing of interest there either. Finally, Harlan cleared the jumble from the desk surface, placed one ear down on the desktop, and proceeded to knock on it gently, moving his knuckles steadily to span the entire surface.

“A-ha.” Harlan ceased knocking. “Let’s see.” He slid his hands inside the cavity where the pen tray had sat. They barely fit. He had to strain to press them in far enough, but after a few moments a mechanical click sounded. Vieve looked on curiously as Harlan grinned with satisfaction and a hatch swung down, up underneath the desk where one’s legs would fit. It was hinged at the back and folded up flush with the bottom of the pen tray. When hanging down it had a file compartment, open on top and positioned at the very back, against the wall. “It wouldn’t be much of a haunted mansion without hidden rooms and secret hiding places, huh?”

Harlan leaned down on his knees and beckoned for light. He reached back to the compartment and came out with a leather-bound volume. Both of their minds raced with anticipation. Harlan started to open it, but paused. “I hope it’s not just an accounting ledger.”

“Will you open it already?” When he turned the cover, a slip of paper fell to the floor. It was jagged along one side like a page torn from a small-bound pad. Harlan thumbed through the first few pages, each filled with handwritten paragraphs, as Vieve retrieved the scrap.

“It looks like a journal of sorts.” Harlan looked to Vieve, but she didn’t respond. Her focus was locked on the note. “Vieve?” She finally looked up with wide eyes and handed Harlan the slip.

No one heard my voice. Panicked screams had filled the air. I stood and declared, “Dead. He’s dead.” When I released his wrist, it too sounded the drum as it landed on the stage floor. “That’s the second time he has died in my hands.

 They looked at one another, both drunk with excitement. Harlan grabbed Vieve’s hand and pulled her to sit on the small couch. With both helmets and flashlights compounded, the pages of the journal lit up brightly. The first page had a title in all caps:


A byline below read: “By Vinton Drake.” They both leaned in eagerly as Harlan turned the page.

Until the Sun Rises

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About Evelyn Cullet

I write mystery romance and romantic suspense novels. I'm an avid organic gardener, and I play the piano. I have a spoiled Black Lab mix., Bailey, whom I adore. Visit my blog every Monday to discover new authors and their novels at:
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3 Responses to Channing Whitaker – Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion

  1. It was my pleasure Evelyn. It is an intricate, layered, and engaging story. I hope many of your blog readers will enjoy it.

  2. Marja McGraw says:

    This sounds like a fascinating story, and doesn’t everyone love a haunted house with secrets? Great post!

  3. Thanks for being a guest author on my blog the week, Channing. Good luck with your novel, it looks like a fascinating read.

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