“From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!”
Traditional Scottish Prayer
After watching this year’s Emmy Show I was surprised with how out of touch I have been with network television. I do have a few guilty pleasures on the small screen especially now as the days grow shorter and the weather becomes crisp with the promise of snow in the air. Two favorite shows of guilty pleasure are the Science Fiction channel’s GHOST HUNTERS and GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL. I tell myself I am only watching for ideas for paranormal plots but the truth is I want to believe there is tangible evidence of the paranormal. Though I have no supernatural abilities myself I do remember when I was 7 my father turning white at my brother’s christening party and my mother being scared. I later learned, while in the kitchen getting ice my dad was confronted by his mother, except my grandmother had just died two short weeks before. Seems she had come back to see that my baby brother and my family were fine before she could pass over.
On my first visit to Scotland back in 1994 I had planned to visit Roslyn Chapel near Edinburgh after reading THE SWORD AND THE GRAIL by Andrew Sinclair. I was fascinated with the then belief of the chapel’s connection to the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. After at least a week of tromping through graveyards looking for lost ancestors my husband willingly agreed going the Chapel would a nice change of pace. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way for my husband. We entered the Chapel and I was hit was a major sensory overload as to where to look, but after a while I realized my husband was nowhere to be found. I walked outside to find him smoking, weird because he had given it up years before. I asked him to come back in, as I wanted to show him the death mask of Robert Bruce but he refused. I could see he was upset so thinking I could come back later for a church service we left. Finally that night he admitted that he felt while in the chapel as he if he was being chocked and pushed to a dark corner of the chapel. He didn’t get relief until he left the chapel. Since then, I have returned four more times over the years, but he has flatly refused to not only to go in the chapel but refuse to enter the grounds.
Scotland rich in Celtic legends of fairy folk, brownies, kelpies, and witches is a vortex for all kinds of paranormal activities from ghost sightings, to hauntings, to Nessie and even UFO’s (Scotland has more sightings than anywhere in the world). As we approach the final month of the Celtic calendar I wanted to share two of my favorite haunted places in Scotland:
“Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if you daur, left the sneck and draw the bar.”
Greyfairs Kirkyard and the Covenanters Prison:
I first visited here in 1994 on my first trip. Having been raised on all the old Walt Disney movies of the 60’s I had to see where the famous Greyfrairs Bobby was buried. For those of you who don’t know about this wonderful dog, when his owner died he would sneak into the Kirkyard and lay upon his owner’s grave. He was chased off daily but because of his unique loyalty to his owner even in death, he was cared for by the community and allowed to visit his master until he too died. In great Disney fashion, Bobby was buried near his master and the children of the US pooled their money to have a special monument erected for just for Bobby. At the time I first visited one couldwalk the grounds even in the grounds of the Covenanters Prison (17th century), which was turned into a graveyard.
However, all that changed in 1999. As the story goes a vagrant had somehow gotten into the Kirkyard, which was normally locked in the evening. Thinking to find a warm place to bed down for the night he entered George Mackenzie’s Tomb.
Unfortunately while in the tomb, the vagrant fell through a floor in the tomb and landed on a mass grave of moldy bones, which were later determined to be plague victims. Scared out of his wits the man fled the tomb scaring the night watchman who heard the commotion. It was later learned that the vagrant had opened one of the caskets in the tomb probably looking for grave goods and in doing so it is believed he unleashed the spirit of Mackenzie. From 1999 forward over 400 members of the public have been attacked while on the Prison grounds. These attacks have included pushing, poking that left bruises and scratches, being knocked down and even knocked unconscious. Most of the attacks occur in or near the Black Mausoleum, which was once part of the prison but it is believed that these are the actions of the poltergeist of Mackenzie. The attacks have become so frequent that the Edinburgh Council has locked the Prison to visitors and is only opened for organized tours, which are not open to those with heart conditions or who are pregnant, those who are most often attacked. The mausoleum has been exorcized twice and one of exorcists died of a heart attack only two weeks after he performed the exorcism.
Hermitage Keep at Newcastleton, Scottish Borders... “SOD Off IN STONE”
The ruins of the Keep are a stark reminder of the type of stone keeps that scattered the Borders of Scotland from the 12th thru the 17th century Scotland. Though on the outside the keep seems to be in excellent condition, the interior has all but been destroyed by Border warfare and the elements. A keep or castle has been on the spot since the early 1200’s and the occupiers have been both Scottish and English, depending on the ebb and flow of warfare on the Anglo/Scottish Borders.
I visited the Keep in 2007 because the third book in my Scottish trilogy is plotted here. If you remember my post on Black Agnes last month you might remember that the siege at Dunbar was saved by Sir Alexander Ramsay and Hermitage is where he met his demise. In 1338, Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale captured the keep from the English commander Ralph de Neville and the Douglas family took control of the keep and surrounding area. However, King David II had decided to reward Sir Alex Ramsay by naming him sheriff of Teviotdale including Hermitage. Enraged by the slight from his King, Douglas lured Ramsay to the Keep where he threw him in the dungeon, which was a dank place with no air or sunlight and eventually starved him to death. Some of the ghostly sounds heard by visitors to the Keep are believed to be that of Ramsay as he attempts to claw himself out of the dungeon. Douglas was later named sheriff and suffered no penalty in Ramsay’s death. But Alexander isn’t the only ghost.
From 1274-1328 the keep was held by one Sir William de Soulis, who was reputed to be a practitioner of the black arts and was able to conjure up his familiar on Robin Redcap to do his dirty work. Soulis was said to have lured young children of the district and used their blood in his horrific rituals. The community was so fed up with the knight that they petitioned King Robert Bruce to remove him from the Keep, but Bruce tired of their complaints replied…
“ Boil him if you must, but let me hear no more of him.”
The people did just as the king wished; they captured him, wrapped de Soulis in lead and placed him head first in a boiling cauldron and kept him there until he died. Many visitors today believe that when they here the sobbing of young children while in the Keep the ghost of Solis is nearby.
And finally, for those of you who are into the Vampire Diaries, True Blood or the Twilight saga you won’t be disappointed to hear that Scotland has vampires too. Though I’m not a fan of vampire fiction I was surprised to learn that a vampire was sighted in the area around Lochmaben in Dumfries in recent years. Lochmaben once a keep of the Bruce family was the sight of a curse levied upon the Bruce family. In the 1200’s the Bruces were forced to move from Annan to Lochmaben because of a flood. The story is told of a visit by the Irish monk, St. Malachy who asked Lord Bruce to spare a thief from a hanging. Bruce complied or so the monk thought but as he passed by Lochmaben he saw the same thief hanging dead and placed a curse on the Bruce family. A curse that was taken seriously as they dedicated land in Annan with its rents went to pay for the upkeep of the shrine of St Malachy at the Cistercian house at Clairvaux. However, the area was to suffer from the plague in later years and many believe the vampire is a result of the curse and plague. The vampire seen in recent years is dressed like a monk but they know he is present when they find dead animal carcasses devoid of blood. The Scottish Ghost hunter Tom Roberston, has encountered the vampire at Lochmaben and has photos of the vampire in his book GHOST HUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE AFTER LIFE. For everyone who leaves a comment today you will have a chance to win a copy of his book.
But remember the words of Scottish writer J M Barrie..."