Scotland certainly seems like a nation that should be haunted. With its brutal history, fog rolling in off numerous lochs and inlets, and the habit the sun has of setting midway through the afternoon in winter, this country can be downright spooky when it wants to be. Here are just a few of the many ghostly spots.
Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh
This atmospheric graveyard is home to two distinctive haunting. The first is a rather charming dog named Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a terrier owned by John Gray, a local night watchman in Edinburgh who died of tuberculosis and was laid to rest in the Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1858. According to legend, Bobby was extraordinarily dedicated to his late master and kept watch over Gray’s grave until his own death 14 years later. As a dog, Bobby couldn’t be buried on consecrated ground, so he was laid to rest just beyond the borders of the cemetery. A tombstone marks his grave, and he is commemorated by a small statue outside a nearby pub that bears his name. Since Bobby’s passing, visitors to Greyfriars Kirkyard have reported seeing the spirit of a small dog roaming the cemetery, presumably still guarding over his master’s grave.
Towards the back of the cemetery, in an area called Covenanters Prison a much more malevolent entity can be found. Commonly called the MacKenzie Poltergeist, the actual identity of the spirit is open to debate. Some believe it is a genuine poltergeist, not the ghost of any particular person, but rather a manifestation of the psychic trauma generated in 1679 when more than 1000 Covenanters (Scots who declared themselves Presbyterian at a time when Episcopalianism was the only sanctioned religion) were imprisoned here without food and water and allowed to slowly starve to death as they awaited trial. Others think the spirit is George MacKenzie, who died in 1691 and was interred here in what has become known as the Black Mausoleum. MacKenzie was famous for his brutal persecution of the Covenanters, so it makes sense that their stories have merged over time.
Whatever its origins, the MacKenzie Poltergeist has a reputation for violence. Visitors to the area have reported the sensation struck or choked, and many have emerged with unexplained scratches and bruises. An attempt was made to exorcise the entity in 2000. The exorcist is said to have died several weeks later as a result of the strain. It should be noted that reports of the MacKenzie Poltergeist are relatively recent in origin, dating only until the early 1990s. The Covenanters Prison is now locked, but visitors can access it as part of the City of the Dead (www.blackhart.uk.com) tour.
Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
The Queen’s residence when she comes to Edinburgh, Holyroodhouse has a number of ghosts, most originating from the brutal in 1566 of David Rizzio, private secretary to Mary Queen of Scots. Amidst much political upheaval, Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, reportedly grew jealous of Rizzio and suspected the two of having an affair. Darnley and his noblemen stabbed Rizzio 57 times in the queen’s presence before throwing him down a flight of stairs. Darnley himself was found dead in the garden of a nearby house less than a year later, and Mary lost her crown in 1567, although she wasn’t executed for another 20 years. All three are rumoured to haunt Holyroodhouse, perhaps re-enacting the tragic events of Rizzio’s murder. In addition, a dark bloodstain is rumoured to reappear in the Queen’s supper chamber, where Rizzio was stabbed, despite numerous attempts to remove it.
A fourth ghost, that of a woman who was reputedly executed in 1592 for witchcraft has also been seen on the grounds of Holyroodhouse. Dubbed “Bald Agnes,” the ghost appears totally naked. It’s unclear why she has chosen to spend her afterlife at the palace. One of Queen Mary’s ladies in waiting is also thought to haunt her audience chamber. A “Gray Lady,” the ghosts footsteps can be heard walking down the hall when it is empty. Holyroodhouse is open to the public, although there is an admission charge (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?action=article&ID=36).
A ghostly bagpiper is said to haunt long-lost secret passages beneath the castle. According to legend, the piper had been arrested on some minor charge and was offered his freedom by the guards if he would first explore a newly discovered tunnel leading out of the castle. Playing his bagpipes, the man disappeared into the tunnels, and the music grew softer and softer as he walked away, finally dying out altogether. The piper never returned and the tunnel was eventually sealed. Today, visitors to the castle sometimes report the faint sound of bagpipes, coming from far away and underground. Edinburgh Castle is open to the public, although there is an admission charge (www.edinburghcastle.biz).
Roslyn Castle and Chapel, Roslyn
Most famous for its murky associations with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail, Roslyn is reputed to be a spiritual vortex, or “thin place,” an area where the veil between this world and the next is easily crossed. While the chapel dates to the 15th century, the castle is much older. The spirits of a howling hound, a white lady and a green man have been reported on the grounds, and a ghostly rider on horseback is occasionally seen riding across a nearby glen. Phantom monks have also been glimpsed in the chapel itself, as has the ghost of a stoneworker’s apprentice, who was reputedly murdered by his own master inside the chapel.
Several of the hauntings are associated with the Sinclairs, the ancestral owners of Roslyn Castle. Legend has it that spectral flames erupt in the castle and chapel to warn of the impending death of a Sinclair. The family is also thought to have concealed a fabulous treasure somewhere in the castle, guarded by a Sleeping-Beauty-like woman who can only be awakened by the blowing of a horn on a certain step of a nearby stairwell. Neither the treasure nor the woman have ever been found. Both Roslyn Chapel and the ruins of Roslyn Castle are open to the public.
Glamis Castle, Angus
Reputed to be THE most haunted castle in Scotland, the castle dates to the late 14th century, although the grounds were occupied long before then. Perhaps the most infamous story concerns the Glamis Monster, imprisoned somewhere in the castle in a suite of rooms that were sealed up and forgotten upon its death. Various stories identify the monster as a vampire, demon or deformed child, or possibly the entire Olgilvie family, walled up in the castle and left to starve in a hidden chamber called the room of skulls (since the skulls of the family would presumably still be there).
Other ghosts include that of Janet Douglas, imprisoned in Glamis Castle in the 16th century before being executed in Edinburgh for witchcraft and potting to murder King James V. Now a gray lady, Janet is frequently seen weeping or praying in the castle’s chapel, and is thought to be the source of unexplained rapping and banging near the site of her haunting. Still another ghost is thought to be that of Earl Beardie, the Earl of Crawford, who was staying at the castle when he was supposedly tricked into playing cards with the devil on Sunday. As his punishment for this sacrilege, he was doomed to play cards for eternity. His ghost has been seen walking through walls, presumably returning to his card game in a room that was eventually sealed off. Visitors have reported hearing shouting and the sound of dice, perhaps emanating from Beardie’s perpetual gambling den.
Glamis is host to a number of other reported hauntings, including a spectral girl gazing out of a barred window, a murdered butler, a “wee” boy, and a bogle (a poltergeist-like creature that is particularly drawn to badly-behaved children). Glamis Castle is open to the public at certain times of year, although there is an admission charge (www.glamis-castle.co.uk).
St. Andrews Castle, St. Andrews
Build in the 12th century in this town that is now a mecca for golfers everywhere, St. Andrews Castle has several ghosts associated with it. David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, gained notoriety for having popular religious reformer George Wishart burnt alive in a nearby courtyard in 1546. Soon after, Beaton was murdered in retaliation and hung naked from a castle window. As a ghost, Beaton gets around. He has been spotted not only at the castle, but also riding a carriage through town, as well as walking the grounds of Melgund Castle, Ethie Castle and Balfour House. Not to be outdone, his wife is said to haunt Claypotts Castle.
Beaton isn’t the only archbishop rumoured to haunt St. Andrews Castle. Archbishop John Hamilton, who took over the post after Beaton’s death, was eventually hanged in 1571 for his role in the murder of Lord Darnley (Queen Mary’s husband). His ghost has also been seen in St. Andrews Castle. Finally, a lady in white has been seen both on the castle grounds and in the nearby ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral. She is alternately identified as a nun or a local girl who went mad after her father murdered one of her suiters. Both St. Andrews Castle and the nearby St. Andrews Cathedral are open to the public, although there is an admission charge (http://www.visit-standrews.co.uk/standrewscastle.cfm).
Old Wing, University Hall, University of St. Andrews
The original University Hall, Scotland’s first purpose-build hall of residence, was built in 1896 to house female University of St. Andrews students away from their amorous male counterparts, who primarily lived in town. The building, which is now the Old Wing of a larger, co-ed residence hall, is reported to be haunted by Louisa Lumsden, warden of the hall during its first five years. Her ghost is generally associated with unexplained noises in the common areas of Old Wing’s ground floor, although there are rumoured sightings of her spirit. Some say the ghost is not Miss Lumsden at all, but rather the tormented resident of the so-called “suicide room,” whose location is alternately thought to be in Old Wing or the nearby Wardlaw Wing. Although University Hall, including Old Wing, can be viewed from the outside, the building is an active residence hall and is only accessible to students.