Five notorious ghosts of St Andrews
St Andrews is renowned for its ecclesiastical ruins, ancient university and proud distinction as ‘the home of golf’. Some, however, say the town deserves more recognition for its paranormal links.
Back in 1911, W.T. Linskill penned the book St Andrews Ghost Stories, which recounted scores of spine-tingling tales associated with the historic Fife town.
Many of the local legends detailed in Linkskill’s book became famous and revised versions of it would appear on shelves after his death in 1929.
One of the most recent, Ghosts of St Andrews: A Ghost Tour of the Ancient City by Richard Falconer, was published in 2013.
It incorporates elements of Linksill’s work but also expands on it and adds new stories that have appeared in the 100 years since.
Here are five of the most notorious ghostly apparitions believed to haunt St Andrews.
‘Young’ Tom Morris
St Andrews’ links to the game of golf are legendary, therefore it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t include at least one story associated with the town’s famous Old Course.
It has been reported that a phantom golfer haunts the bunkers and fairways at St Andrews Old Course, but rather than being a wicked, malevolent spirit, it’s said to be quite helpful.
Tales have been told of a ghostly figure that helps local golfers locate and retrieve their stray balls from the rough.
The ghost is understood to be a manifestation of 19th century golfer ‘Young’ Tom Morris, who from the age of just 17 won the Open Championship an incredible four times in a row.
Young Tom Morris suffered a tragic end. In 1875, he was returning home from a golfing trip to discover his wife and baby had died in labour. Devastated, the golfing legend was found dead just four months later having suffered a heart attack. He was just 24 years old.
Patrick Hamilton, the ghost of St Andrews University
Patrick Hamilton was a 16th century student and teacher at St Andrews University whose spirit, it is claimed, still maintains power over the institution to this day.
As a protestant reformer, Hamilton was charged with heresy and endured a particularly excruciating death. His sentence was carried out on a cold winter’s day in February 1528.
He was burned at the stake outside the front entrance to St Salvator’s Chapel - but it wasn’t as quick as the accused would have hoped.
The 21-year-old burned from noon till 6pm as his executioners struggled to get the fires going.
At one point, gunpowder was placed under Hamilton’s arms, causing severe injury to his hands and face, but still the flames refused to rise.
Hamilton’s final words before he perished were “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. He is regarded as Scotland’s first martyr of the reformation.
A scorched likeness of his face is said to have been burned into the stone of the tower he was facing while being burned alive. Visitors are told to look up at his ghostly image.
Patrick Hamilton’s initials mark the spot where he was executed. Students at the university are warned not to step on the monogram for fear that curse will be placed on them and they will fail their exams. Students must partake in the annual May dip, which involves running into the North Sea at 5am, in order to wash away the bad omens. Another way is to strip naked and run - backwards - three times around St Salvator’s quad between classes.
Some students say they have experienced the sound of crackling and the smell of burning flesh near Hamilton’s execution site.
The Veiled Nun of St Leonards
One of St Andrews’ most famous ghost stories is that of the Veiled Nun of St Leonards. Visitors down the short stretch towards St Leonards Kirk known as Nuns Walk have been known to encounter a horribly disfigured phantom.
The story goes that a local girl was so heartbroken after her lover’s death that she decided to mutilate herself so that no man would be attracted to her ever again. The girl sliced off her ears, split her nostrils, branded her cheeks and cut off her eyelids and lips. She later joined a nunnery, but would die from her self-inflicted injuries.
Today she lurks up and down Nuns Walk where she has been known to lift her veil at passersby unlucky enough to cross her path.
The Kind Monk of St Rule’s Tower
Like Young Tom Morris, many of St Andrews’ ghosts are actually quite kind. One who falls into this category is the St Rule’s Monk who appears from time to time on its ancient stairs. The monk is said to allow visitors safe passage up the stairs, ensuring they make it to the summit of the tower without mishap.
In the 1950s it was reported that one visitor to the tower was offered assistance on the stairs by a ‘kindly monk’ who was blocking his path. When he refused, the man reported he felt nothing as he ‘squeezed’ past the monk on the tight stairs.
Not all the spirits to be found within St Rule’s are quite so friendly, however...
The White Lady
The White Lady has been sighted on numerous occasions over the past 200 years. Dressed all in white, she is said to inhabit the precinct around the ancient cathedral and can often be seen waving a handkerchief from a window at St Rule’s Tower - the ‘Chamber of Corpses’ as it was known to the Victorians. She is said to detest visitors to her ‘lair’.
Back in 1868, stonemasons, undertaking work within the tower, discovered a series of coffins within a ‘hidden’ sealed chamber. One of the caskets was without a lid and contained the well-preserved remains of a woman wearing a white dress and white leather gloves.