Everyone should have the opportunity to visit a Scottish castle at least once in their lives—especially castles that are haunted. Scotland has 3000 standing castles, ruins and documented historical sites. At the last count, 660 were in use (private house, hotel or venue) and 469 were open to the public.
In this tour, Jessica focuses on Edinburgh and Patricia travels to the moody west coast near Glasgow, including one of her favorite spots on Earth, the Isle of Arran.
The Goatfell Murder Mystery of 1889
On July 28, 1889, near Goatfell’s 3000 foot summit, the body of Edwin Robert Rose was found stuffed under a granite boulder. His face and head had been smashed in. He had last been seen two weeks before, hiking up the mountain with a man he had met aboard a steamer on a day trip to Arran.
- Edwin Rose was 32-year-old building clerk from London suburb of Upper Tooting.
- Dressed like a dandy. Looking for “fun” on his holiday?
- Introduced himself to John Watson Laurie, on a day trip to the island. Laurie presented himself with elaborate calling cards, not suited for a man of his modest means. He was a pattern maker for a Glasgow locomotive company.
The men decided to hike up Goatfell, shared a lodging for a night before the trek, and passed many other hikers that day. Laurie showed up days later, wearing some of Rose’s clothing.
Although there was no concrete evidence to convict anyone, authorities decided that hotheaded John Watson Laurie killed Edwin Rose. Laurie fled the island and was caught under a bush on September 3 with a razor in his hand and a wound on his neck. He told police that he had intended to kill himself that very night. Laurie died in prison 41 years later.
How It’s Supernatural:
Edwin Rose’s boots were buried on beach because of local superstition. People in the area believed that burying the boots would prevent the ghost of the dead man from walking fretfully among the land of the living.
Isle of Arran, Scotland via the Ardrossan Ferry
Edinburgh Vaults and Mr. Boots
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, with traces of civilization dating back to 8500 B.C. The vaults are rooms created in the arches of bridges that cross the Water of Leith, Edinburgh’s river.
- 120 rooms/vaults in South Bridge, in the 19 arches.
- Created as result of architecture.
- Completed in 1788.
- Vaults on Blair Street are 3 floors below street level.
- Home to brothels, illegal pubs, criminals, and poor families for 30 years.
- No light, sanitation or running water.
- Hunting ground of famed body snatchers, Burke and Hare.
Why It’s Supernatural:
- Number of disturbances recorded there, which include voices and apparitions.
- Visitors report physical contact, scratches and bruises to the skin.
- City of the Dead tours claim the vaults are as ‘black as Satan’s jammies’ and are stalked by a ‘malevolent presence known as the South Bridge Entity’, which some call ‘The Watcher’ or ‘Mr. Boots.’
The Grey Lady of Brodick Castle
One of the most haunted castles in all of Scotland, Brodick is a plain sandstone structure with square main towers. It sits on Brodick Bay on the Isle of Arran. The name is derived from the Norse words for “broad bay.” The castle was built in the 13th century and has been owned by the Dukes of Hamilton since 1503. After the death in 1957 of the last owner, the Duchess of Montrose, the castle became the property of the National Trust of Scotland.
The most important spirit of the castle is The Grey Lady. She is thought to be a servant girl of Cromwellian times (1653-58), who fell in love with a captain of the guard. She became pregnant.
- Dismissed from service. Disowned by family.
- Drowned off the Wine Port Quay near the entrance.
- Other story is that a woman was locked in the dungeon with two other plague victims. The three died of starvation.
Why It’s Supernatural:
- The Grey Lady ghost is seen in kitchen, lower corridor and the Turnpike stairs.
- Witness have reported seeing the Grey Lady overlooking the staff and trying to talk to them while work is being done on the castle. Staff say they see or hear nothing.
- An old man is seen in the library.
- Another man is often seen in the large corridor.
- Doors open and close of their own accord in the dining room.
- A white stag is always spotted on the property when the Clan Chief of the Hamiltons is about to die.
Brodick Castle, Arran, Scotland via the Ardrossan Ferry
Edinburgh Castle Hauntings
Structural evidence shows this castle has been standing above Edinburgh since 200 A.D. It has been a royal castle since the 12th century. It is the most besieged castle in the world, having withstood twenty-six sieges in its long history.
Why It’s Supernatural:
- Visitors and staff report witnessing apparitions, feeling unwelcoming presences, seeing shadowy figures, being touched or pushed, and experiencing drastic changes in temperature.
- A young piper boy, sent to explore tunnels between Holyrood and the castle, stopped playing abruptly and was never found. Sounds of his pipes are now heard under the royal mile.
- A headless drummer boy appears to warn of attack on the castle. Last seen before Oliver Cromwell’s attack, September 3, 1650.
- Grey lady/Janet Douglas, accused of witchcraft/poisoning by James V. was burned at the stake in the esplanade, the first of many “witches”, on 17 July 1537. Visitors see a ghostly Janet in the halls, weeping, accompanied by a knocking sound, thought to be workmen building her scaffolding.
The Annan Vampire
The ancient red-sandstone royal burgh of Annan – named for the river on which it stands – was a stronghold of the Clan Bruce and the home of Robert de Brus ‘The Competitor’, Lord of Annandale, grandfather of Robert I, The Bruce.
Apparently this family had a long run of bad luck, including leprosy, plague and even a vampire. Some say these misfortunes were well deserved. After all, Robert the Bruce, what happened with William Wallace? Do tell…
Even when asked by an Irish Bishop (who later became a saint) to spare the life of a thief in 1138, this family couldn’t stop themselves from hanging the man and displaying him along the highway. When the bishop discovered their disregard, he cursed the family.
Some say this curse brought a plague to Annan, spread by a man from Yorkshire who was on the run from the law. Of course the Bruces gave the man sanctuary. However, the man continued his wickedness (what kind of wickedness, exactly?) and succumbed to the plague. Not long after his burial, he was seen walking around with a horrible crowd of dogs. Priests were called in, but the plague continued and many died, all due, the locals said, to the undead visitations of the man from Yorkshire.
Two young men whose father had been killed by this curious plague disinterred the body to destroy it by fire. They discovered the body had ‘swollen to enormous proportions,’ and the face was also red and swollen, not deathly pale as a cadaver should be. The clothes in which the man had been buried appeared to have been slashed as if the cadaver had been trying to escape.
Overcome by the sight, one of the brothers plunged his spade into the chest of the cadaver. A huge gush of blood soaked their feet—more blood than any living human body should contain. What had they disinterred? They suspected the body at their feet was that of a vampire.
They dragged the body to the edge of town, where the two young men placed it on a pyre. They removed the heart as a precaution against the undead. Then they set the body ablaze. Annan was never affected by the plague again.
Why It’s Supernatural:
There are no hauntings connected to this event (thank goodness). But it’s a fascinating tale, nevertheless.
This spooky churchyard was founded in 1561. Many well-known Scots are buried here, including Sir George MacKenzie, nicknamed “Bluidy MacKenzie,” who was responsible for the deaths of over 18,000 Covenanters—people who rose up and signed the National Covenant in 1638 in support of Presbyterianism as the national religion of Scotland. He imprisoned and tortured many Covenanters in a section of Greyfriars Kirkyard and decorated the spiked gate with their heads. The church was later turned into an overflow prison, where many died during the winter. Their spirits haunt the churchyard.
The site is also known for the legend of Greyfriar’s Bobby, a wee Skye terrier who kept a 14-year vigil on top his beloved master’s grave. Visitors touch the dog’s nose for good luck and have worn it down to the bare bronze.
Why It’s Supernatural
- People report hearing noises in the graveyard, drops in temperature or felt nausea while walking near the mausoleum of Sir George MacKenzie.
- An exorcism at the mausoleum was attempted in 2000 by Colin Grant, the minister of a spiritualist church. Grant said he felt the presence of hundreds of tormented souls and most certainly the presence of evil. He left Greyfriars in distress. A few weeks later, he was found dead of a heart attack.
Bennane Cave, sometimes called Sawney Bean’s Cave, is the center of a story told to Scottish children to scare them. But some people claim the story may be true.
- In the 16th or 17th century (sources are unclear), Alexander “Sawney” Bean lead an incestuous 48-member clan in the west of Scotland.
- The Bean clan would leave the cave at night and lure individuals or small groups back to their home. They murdered, dismembered and ate thousands of people. What they couldn’t eat, they would pickle in barrels.
- Residents of nearby towns would find body parts washed up on the beach.
- After a search by 400 men with bloodhounds, the clan was discovered in the Bennane Cave, where they had gone unnoticed for twenty-five years.
- Some clan members were captured and executed without trial.
Why It’s Supernatural:
People claim to hear Sawney’s ghost gnawing bones in the shadows of the cave.
Bennane Cave, between Girvin and Ballentrae, Scotland