WITH hundreds of years of feuds, battles, murders, curses and broken love affairs, it is no surprise that Scottish castles have more than their fair share of ghost stories. Whether or not you believe them, the tales of Scotland's haunted castles throw up some fascinating glimpses of the past.
Truth Factor: 3/5
A castle wouldn't be a castle without its smattering of ghosts and ghouls. Many of the tales are highly dubious but there are too many strange experiences to discount every one out of hand.Glamis, Angus
THE childhood home of the late Queen Mother is sometimes claimed to be the most haunted castle in Scotland. The Grey Lady of Glamis is said to be the ghost of beautiful Janet Duncan, accused of being a witch and tortured, then burned alive by followers of King James V. Today she allegedly wafts around the castle, praying - accompanied by loud knocking noises.
Glamis is also said to be haunted by a serving maid who had her tongue cut out by the fourth earl of Crawford.
And, admonished by a servant for playing cards on Sunday, he cursed: "I'll play with the devil himself until doomsday." He was engulfed in flames and condemned to play cards for eternity.
BESIEGED by William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, Stirling Castle has had a singularly bloody history. It is reputedly haunted by a Green Lady, a serving-maid to Mary, Queen of Scots, who died saving her mistress when her bed caught fire. Elphinstone Tower is said to house the ghosts of conjoined twins held captive by James V and used as an oracle, even after one of them died. Many visitors also claim to have seen a ghost in Highland dress, whom they mistake for a tour guide. When they ask directions, he disappears.
Hermiston Castle, Newcastleton
THE ruined Hermiston Castle in the Borders is said to be home to some of the nastiest ghosts in Scotland. Sir William Soulis, who plotted against Robert the Bruce, was said to be a master of the black arts. "Bad Lord Soulis" had a demonic helper called Robin Redpath, and was said to kidnap local children to use their blood in rituals. When the Bruce said "boil him if you must", the locals took him at his word - and boiled him, head first. His ghost is said to be accompanied by the sound of weeping children. The ruins are also said to be haunted by the groaning ghost of Sir Alexander Ramsay, a 14th-century sheriff who was imprisoned in the dungeons and starved to death.
Balgonie Castle, Fife
THE Laird of Balgonie, Raymond Morris, claims there are nine castle ghosts, which are "like part of the family". Since Morris moved to the restored castle in 1985, he says, his son Stuart has seen a ghost dog, a disembodied head and an old man. Margaret, the Lady of Balgonie, says she woke suddenly to see a man in 17th-century dress sitting in her room. She later recognised him from a portrait as the first Earl of Leven.
Balgonie's most famous ghost, Green Jeannie, was described as "a well-known phantom" in the 19th century. She was recently said to have been captured on film by a wedding guest at the castle.
FOURTEENTH-century Cawdor Castle is associated with Macbeth, but was built too late to have been the place of Duncan's murder. Two years ago, two tourists reported seeing the figure of a lady in blue velvet in the drawing-room, looking longingly at the portrait of the first Baron Cawdor. Castle historians say the apparition fits the description of the baron's wife, the Lady Caroline.
Brodick Castle, Arran
AT LEAST three ghosts reputedly haunt Brodick Castle, the ancestral seat of the Hamiltons. A grey man is sometimes described sitting in the library. A wailing woman is said to be the ghost of a woman suffering from the Black Death who was imprisoned in the dungeons and starved to death, while a spectral white deer is said to run through the grounds of the castle whenever the head of the Hamiltons is close to death.
Neidpath Castle, Peebles
A CONTENDER for Scotland's most romantic ghost is the Maid of Neidpath, who wanders Neidpath Castle mourning a love lost. The Maid was Jean Douglas, the only daughter of the Earl of March, who was denied permission to marry a young man of the Borders. She fell ill and, fearing for her life, her father sent for the young Borderer, who galloped to Neidpath "with loose rein and bloody spur". His love watched from a window, but was so changed by illness that the young man failed to recognise her. Heartbroken, she died of grief and her ghost has haunted the castle ever since. The maid is said to be particularly disturbed by sounds of merriment and it is claimed she has thrown tantrums lasting three days.
Fyvie Castle, by Turriff
FYFIE CASTLE has an unhappy history, said to be the result of a curse sent by three weeping stones thrown into the grounds by Thomas the Rhymer. One stone can be seen in the castle today, but the others have never been found and are believed to have brought bad luck to the castle for generations.
A phantom trumpeter is said to be the ghost of Andrew Lammie, who died of grief after a rich miller's daughter fell in love with him and was beaten to death by her family. The Green Lady who haunts the castle is said to be the ghost of Lilias Drummond, starved to death by her husband, who wanted to marry her cousin. Castle staff say she leaves a scent of roses in her path.
Crathes Castle, near Banchory
BEAUTIFUL Crathes Castle, built in the style of a French chteau in the 16th century, was founded on heartbreak. Every year, a ghostly figure is said to walk from the island on Loch Leys to the grounds of Crathes. She is said to be Bertha, who fell in love with Alexander of Leys but was poisoned by his mother, Agnes. When the girl's father arrived to collect his daughter's body, Agnes screamed: "She comes, she comes," and fell to the floor, dead.
Alexander decided to build a new family home at Crathes, but the ghostly girl followed. Crathes also has a Green Lady, who was seen by Queen Victoria, carrying a baby in her arms. When the castle was renovated, the skeletons of a woman and child were found beneath the fireplace.
A FORTRESS for 800 years, and still a military base today, Edinburgh Castle was used as a prison for centuries. In the 18th century, one desperate prisoner hid in a dung barrow, hoping to be carried down the Royal Mile and escape to freedom. The unfortunate man died when the barrow was emptied down the rocky slopes of the castle.
Visitors say his ghost tries to shove them from the battlements and is accompanied by a strong and unpleasant smell of dung. The castle is also reportedly haunted by a little drummer boy, the ghost of a sweep sent to investigate a tunnel beneath the castle. He was sent down carrying a toy drum and never returned, but the drum can still be heard, deep under the ground.
The Mackenzie poltergeist
Truth Factor: 4/5
Even deep sceptics have felt an eerie, sometimes terrifying, presence in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Many come away convinced that there is 'something' there, even if they are unwilling to accept it is really a poltergeist.THE Mackenzie Poltergeist has been called the most well-documented paranormal phenomenon in the world. Hundreds of people claim to have encountered the unpleasant spirit, said to be the ghost of Sir George Mackenzie, otherwise known as Bluidy Mackenzie, persecutor of the Covenanters.
Mackenzie's tomb stands in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh and, when a homeless person broke open his stone coffin as a bed for the night in 1999, many believe it triggered a whole series of unusual disturbances. Yet, even before this, the poltergeist was leaving his mark on visitors to the derelict vaults under South Bridge.
Scores of people on ghost tours in the vaults reported being scratched, pushed and trampled. One 11-year-old boy was said to have come out of the tour with long bloody scratches down his arm, while many visitors have suddenly felt cold and scores have fainted.
Unpleasant happenings became so common that organisers of the tours even took to offering a full refund to visitors who had been spooked.
After Mackenzie's tomb was cracked open, there were said to be numerous incidents in Greyfriars Kirkyard and many believed the malevolent spirit of Bluidy Mackenzie was to blame. Psychic investigators and television cameras arrived in droves, but nothing seemed to stem the attacks.
In 2003, the house of the organiser of the ghost tours caught fire and all the papers he had collected about Bluidy Mackenzie were destroyed.
People who had been on the graveyard tours emerged with scratches and broken fingers, scores collapsed and some claimed members of their family had gone mad after visiting the churchyard.
Eventually, Edinburgh City Council sealed up George Mackenzie's grave and the churchyard tours were cancelled, but reports of strange happenings continued. To date there have been more than 450 documented attacks, at least 140 people have collapsed - and there have even been suggestions that the spirit may be responsible for a death.
In 2000, an Edinburgh psychic and spiritualist medium, Colin Grant, attempted an exorcism in the churchyard. He said he was picking up "evil forces" and refused to enter the graveyard without a bible and a cross.
Grant told his family the churchyard was home to 200 unhappy spirits, believed to be the covenanters who had been held there and starved to death.
He said there was "more to be done at Greyfriars", but two months later the 66-year-old psychic died suddenly of a massive heart attack.
Ghost trains & Phantom cars
GHOSTLY apparitions of cars, trains and even planes have been reported from all over Scotland.
One of the more often reported apparitions is a 1934 Austin car on Skye that appears and disappears on the roads without causing any harm to anyone. A local police officer was among those who reported a sighting, as was wildlife writer and photographer Seton Gordon, who told how he and his wife were travelling along a single-track road when they saw the lights of an approaching vehicle.He pulled over into a passing place, but the car never arrived. They looked for a place where it could have turned off, without success.
Phantom cars have also been spotted on the A7 near Stow in Midlothian and the A87 near Glenshiel, and some insist they have seen a ghostly bus on a B-road in East Lothian.
However, the A75 road between Annan and Gretna is considered by those who study these things to be the most haunted highway in Scotland with sightings going back decades.
A motorist from Annan reported seeing a man in his late thirties, wearing a red jumper and dark trousers, suddenly appear in front of her car as she was driving at about 50mph. She slammed on the brakes but was convinced she had hit him.
When she looked there was no-one there. She said later: "I don't regard myself as someone who believes in the paranormal but after that I have changed my mind. I still can't go down that road at night."
Sightings of the man have been reported by others, as have those of an old man with no eyes, and an old woman dressed in Victorian clothes.
A steam train was spotted on an old railway near a caravan site in August 1989 in Stirlingshire, more than 20 years after the line had been closed.
Ghosts have also taken to the skies. Montrose Aerodrome is said to be haunted by a biplane which crashed in 1918. During the Second World War, a pilot tried to land twice but was blocked by a biplane. He was angrily shouting his complaints, after landing at the third attempt, when he was told no-one else had seen it.