Present Day Ghosts

The Ghosts of Scotland is, as the subtitle explains, a collection of ghost stories from across the Scottish nation. Written by Sean McLachlan with input from Charles River Editors, the collection has five stories, a four-page bibliography citing seventeen sources, two online resource links, and links leading to free and discounted offers by Charles River Editors.

Haunted Castles          In Bedlay Castle, we read of a Bishop that doesn’t want to stay dead. Duntrune Castle by Loch Crinan in Argyll is said to be the longest continually inhabited castle. A famous bagpipe tune originated from a battle for possession of this castle. Castle Lachlan played a part in a struggle for succession to the English monarchy. Berwick Castle has a fully uniformed bagpiper that plays tunes on certain “ghostly” nights. Or so it is claimed. This section has beautiful photographs and a few drawings of castles ruins. I was surprised to see them appear in a Kindle edition.

Haunted Roads           The ghost of its English architect haunts Royal Border Bridge. “The A75 Kinmount Straight is not the only haunted road in Scotland, but it is the quintessential one.” (loc 230-231) This story documents ghostly sightings from 1957 to 2012. Those claiming sightings felt the experiences so real they made police reports, hence the documentation.

Edinburgh                   The city is said to be the most haunted place in Scotland. The details in this chapter make this the most interesting story. Some former residents such as Robert Louis Stevenson found inspiration for stories from ghostly events in Edinburgh. Major Weir and his sister, pillars of a Christian community who later confessed to being followers of the devil and who confessed to many acts of evil to prove it, were possibly the model for Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A famous (or infamous) hotel, The Learmonth Hotel is still in operation and is the scene of poltergeist happenings. Hotel staff assures that the activities (unexplained door openings and closings, appliances that turn themselves on and off) are not meant to harm guests. Subterranean vaults served as a series of catacombs in a city where the poor needed shelter, their dank, dark nature also serving as an origin for ghost stories.

By far the fascinating account in this section is of the resurrectionists, groups of graverobbers who would sell corpses to doctors for anatomical studies. The most famous pair was Burke and Hare who eventually lived together in a rooming house and found that the guests offered more profit than digging up graves. The guests were killed and sold to a Dr. Knox who dissected them publicly for the educational benefit of new doctors. Eventually caught, the activities and eventual fates of Burke and Hare changed Scottish law as it related to anatomical study. Many believe the ghosts of Burke and Hare’s victims still reside (live?) in Edinburgh.

Haunted Pubs and Churches              Ghosts are said to haunt places where people seek comfort. (Kindle location 532) The church and the pub fill two of those requirements. Robert de Montrose, a prior of St. Andrews is said to still haunt St. Rule’s Tower, a place from which an unhappy prior pushed Montrose to his death. Montrose was still giving advice to travelers as late as 1948. One of the most haunted pubs is the Drovers Inn, named for drovers who transported herds from the Highlands to the Lowlands for sale. The Drovers Inn was situated on a transportation hub. Ghosts in this area are ones that did not make it to the Inn, a family who froze in the harsh winter before arriving and a girl searching in a nearby stream for her lost doll. Two other pubs are mentioned in this account in which the ghostly activity seems more to be of the poltergeist type.

Remote Ghosts            Scotland is often portrayed in literature as having many remote areas. There is a ghost in a lighthouse at remote Cape Wrath. The captain of a wrecked ship appears frequently to make sure the lighthouse is lit. There are remote islands inhabited by the ghosts of children who died on the islands unbaptized without proper funeral ceremonies. The story of Baubie Skithawa, an island dweller, and her battle with Black Jock for the return of her burial clothes is well told. The Shetland Island residents host Windhouse, a home thought even by its residents to be haunted. They would not stay there on Christmas Eve. Each year they left the house for, perhaps, an unplanned vacation. Why was it haunted? Some speculated the house had been built on a graveyard. This speculation ended in 2017 when it was found to be true.

This book will interest those who believe in ghosts. It will also interest those who want to know more about the history of Scotland. It raises some questions not posed. Why would anyone want to live on isolated islands exposed to harsh weather and seas? How did they originally get there? What was their purpose in settling there?

All those questions are for another book. I gave this three plus Amazon stars because, although it is interesting, I felt there was a needless repetition of information. One example is the presence of cold, or temperature dropping, at the places where sightings happened. This was repeated information in each of the stories and it distracted me. I could anticipate the explanation to follow each time a witness reported a ghostly event.

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