Claire: It looks like you’ve seen a ghost.
Frank: I’m not at all sure that I haven’t.
A year and a half ago, I began researching a trip to Scotland and my friend Sarah tells me about the short time she spent in Edinburgh years ago. “It has a lot of ghosts,” she says cryptically as she explains that hundreds of years ago when a plague hit, walls were erected all around the city’s perimeter as many perished inside and underneath in its subterranean vaults.
When I finally embark on my trip, I remember this and make sure to ask a few Scots to regale me with a ghost story. Perhaps it’s the creeping mist in the valleys, ancient stones that continue standing as the world rapidly changes, centuries-old castles that hold stories of all the people who’ve passed through, but tales like these cast a particular fascination to me. They lift the veil ever so slightly between this world and the next then quickly go leaving no trace but my lingering curiosity. Here are a few stories from some of the people I met.
The Woman at Glamis
I was on a guided tour when visiting Glamis Castle in Angus several years ago. The party was led around by a guide. After lingering too long in one of the rooms I fell behind the rest of the party. I remember walking up a stair and into a corridor where I saw what I thought was a woman in a dark floor length skirt just disappearing at the far end of the corridor after turning left. I went down the corridor thinking I was catching up with my group and when I got to the end of it I saw that there was no left turning, just a stone wall…I could have sworn I saw this woman turning to the left, but there was clearly no place for her to go to. And yet she was not there.
It sent a shiver down my spine and I wondered if I imagined it? I don’t think so but after the years that have passed since it happened I do question my recall. I retraced my steps down the corridor and finally caught up again with the main party. I felt rather foolish so I didn’t say anything but until this day I still wonder about that woman at Glamis.
A Strange Boyfriend
When I was a student in the 1970’s, I lived for the first couple of years in College Halls of Residence. The Halls were built on a hill called Hungry Hill. It was alleged to have been an old graveyard for the monks.
The Halls certainly seemed to be an unquiet place. There were whispers of apparitions seen in darkened corridors, when the place had become deserted for the night. But then again, there were hundreds of impressionable young people dwelling right on top of one another. If there was ever a place where the energy charge was running high then this was it.
There were a bunch of us in my group of friends. Both genders. We were close, and we helped each other, with all the day-to-day “stuff” that young folks go through. There was one young lady who was rarely without a boyfriend for long. Lovely person. Loyal. Never two-timed but when she found herself single it was rarely long before there was someone else in the picture. And of course we were all at the age when a new partner for any of us was definitely a topic of conversation.
Then this young lady became quite tight-lipped on the topic of her new man. In fact we wondered if indeed she had one. She seemed to be keeping to her room much more. We asked and she assured us that “yes” she did indeed have a gentleman caller. She became quieter. She became thinner. She became whiter.
There were a couple of very strange incidents when the cleaners said that they had sent a smart-looking man in a white shirt upstairs to her room and we had all been in the room and knew that nobody matching that description had arrived. Just vanished into thin air, in the space of one flight of stairs.
I was determined to spend a night on the chair in her room while she slept (poorly) in the bed. I stayed fairly alert (no alcohol involved and no drugs involved). In the early hours she began to cry out piteously in her sleep and I became aware of something, formless appearing in the corner of the room. It seemed to me to be a roiling, furious cloud like smoke (but smelling of nothing). It spoke but not out loud, I think. I just felt the push and the enraged instruction that I was to get out and get out now! I did get out but not before lifting the young lady in question and making sure that she got out with me. I took her to one of her friend’s rooms and next day we all made sure that she returned to her parental home. She made a recovery but (probably wisely) never returned to stay at the Halls. She and I never spoke of the incident again.
The Man in the Middle of a Dark Road
When I was 18, I was returning from Argyll enroute to Glasgow with my girlfriend and two pals. We were traveling in a car between St.Catherines and Strachur. The thing about this road is that it was a long straight road and trees on either side. This was a really dark night and you couldn’t see anything but the car lights on the road. It was a cloudy night and there was also quite heavy rain.
As we were driving between St.Catherines and Strachur we were looking out the front of the car and we saw someone standing in the middle of the road. The man had on these oil skins, kind of a green color, with untidy brown hair and he was as white as the snow. You could see he wasn’t old but that he had a hard life; maybe about 60.
He was standing in the middle of the road pointing towards us. It looked like he was pointing behind us in the car as if we weren’t there. And as the car got closer and closer it was apparent he didn’t see that we were there. So we slowed down because we didn’t want to hit him. We were going so slow the same speed as if we were walking. As we were going by he was still pointing as if he didn’t see us at all. We could see everything that was going on in his face because of the brightness of the car lights and it was as if there was no one alive in that face. The person was completely blank and still.
So we went by the man and we could still see through the windows of the car, him still pointing. As we went by we could see the red lights of the back of the car. All we could see was this person, this man and he was in a light of red against the darkness of the night. We all looked at each other, “What on earth just happened?” We turned again to look down at the road and there was no one to be found. You could see back down the road because of the car’s red lights but there was no one to be seen.
After listening to these tales, inevitably I have to make an “Outlander” connection. How about Jamie’s ghost in the first book and episode of Season 1? Like any good ghost story, this one keeps me up at night. Diana Gabaldon said she will give the explanation in the last book and as good as these aforementioned Scottish ghost stories are, she better make it just as good.
Also, Menzies Castle in Perthshire is super haunted. I heard some wild tales about that place so if you end up visiting or staying over, let me know if you see any of Tobias Menzies’ ancestors.
There’s still more of my Scotland trip! Check out the 1st week in my Urban in Scotland Series
Lallybroch and Versailles post are on their way!