Archive for September, 2013

The Haunted Tower, St Andrews

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2013 by gstewartauthor

Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people visit the small coastal town of St Andrews every year and, for many, there is one thing on their mind….golf! St Andrews is indeed the home of golf with probably the most famous course in the world, but visitors soon discover there is so much more to the town.

The original settlement dates back to several hundred years before the relics of St Andrew are said to have arrived in the town, brought by St Regulus in the year 877, and religion was a significant factor in the growth and development of the town. It also however led to a long, dark past due to opposing religious opinions. Today St Andrews still lays claim to a 12th century cathedral that, for many centuries was the largest building in Scotland. St Andrews castle was built as a residence for the bishop of the cathedral and visitors can now visit the notorious bottle dungeon and the unique mine and countermine. The town also has the third oldest university in the English speaking world, founded in 1413 and, going back to golf, the Royal and Ancient clubhouse overlooking the first tee and 18th hole of the Old Course.

Image

St Andrews Cathedral

With such a long past, it’s not surprising that there are many ghost stories associated with the town. One of the best known is the White Lady, who has been seen in and around the cathedral. Reports of sightings of the white lady go back more than 200 years and she is always said to be dressed in a long white dress, with a white veil and gloves. Witnesses started to report seeing the phantom close to a small, square tower on a regular basis and children used to dare each other to put their hands through the bars of one of the gates to the cathedral close to the tower, where it was said you would feel the cold touch of the white ladies hands take hold of your own and, if you let her get hold, she would pull you in. This led many to believe the story was nothing more than a tale to scare children to stop them playing around the cathedral after dark, however, in 1868, work was carried out to the tower and the stonemasons made a frightening discovery. Within a sealed vault lay 6-10 bodies (the number varies from report to report) but within the bodies was one particularly well preserved corpse of a lady, still wearing fragments of the white cloth from her dress and gloves. The identity of the lady in white or the other bodies have not been confirmed. Some speculate that they were plague victims, locked up in the tower to prevent the disease spreading while others think that they must have been people of stature to be able to be buried within the walls of the cathedral. The question also remains as to why only the lady in white haunts the area and not the others sealed within the tower.

Image

The Haunted Tower

Whoever she is, sightings of the white lady have persisted, with the most recent documented sighting being in the 1970s when the spirit was spotted by some of the university students and no doubt, the sightings will continue.

Advertisements

The Devil’s Dead

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2013 by gstewartauthor

Time seems to have passed so quickly again! I have been researching the new book ‘Haunted Kirkcaldy’, which is due out next year. The publishers requirements are solely ghost stories, but in my research I have come up with so many stories of folklore and mythology that it seems a shame not to use them! Although I can’t use them in the ‘Haunted’ book, I am now planning to write another book covering myths and legends of Scotland at the same time. It takes a lot to write two books simultaneously,  but this will allow me to go between them both so if one line of research results in a ghost story, it goes in the haunted book, but if it ends with a tale of folklore, it goes in the myths book.

The book on myths will be similar to the ghost story books I have written so far. Rather than simply tell the story, I will be visiting as many locations as I can so I can experience the atmosphere and take some photographs for the book. The stories are, in my opinion, too good not to write about. Stories like the great wizard of the north, Sir Michael Scot of Balwearie. He was an astrologer and mathematician, but also said to be in possession of a book of spells, so powerful that he could summon and control demons. Legend has it that he used a demon horse for many travels, including one to Pairs on behalf of the King of Scots who wanted France to agree to stop their attacks on Scottish ships. The King of France initially refused, so Scot warned him that his horse would stamp it’s hoof three times. The first time, the bells of the city would ring, the second time the towers of the castle would fall, and the third time the whole of Paris would fall. The King of France refused, and the horse stamped it’s hoof. The bells of the city rang, but the King of France was not convinced it was anything other than an elaborate trick. The horse stamped it’s hoof again and the towers of the castle crumbled and fell. The King of France had no idea how this could be happening but, seeing the horse raise it’s hoof again, he agreed to call off any attacks on Scottish ships rather than risk the consequences of the final stamp from the hoof of the demon horse.

Although Scot could summon demons, not all were easy to control and, on one occasion he is said to have summoned the Devil himself. Scot found controlling the Devil particularly difficult as he kept asking what task he had been summoned to complete. Scot assigned him tasks, which the Devil completed very quickly before returning to ask for another task. No matter what task the Devil was asked to do, he completed it within minutes and plagued Scot with requests for new tasks. Eventually Scot grew weary of the persistence of the Devil, who was clearly trying to break any control Scot had on the demons, and so he decided to give the Devil a task that would get rid of him once and for all. Scot ordered the Devil to weave an endless rope from the grains of sand on nearby Kirkcaldy beach, a task that was impossible even for the Devil to complete, and Scot was never bothered by the Devil again. Many say the Devil grew so weary with the never ending task, that he eventually died on the beach, leading to the Jacobite Poem which concludes:

Some say the De’il’s Deid, and buried in Kirkcaldy

These are just a small part of the tales relating to the Wizard of Balwearie, the rest will be covered in the forthcoming mythology book and I’ll soon be visiting the ruins of Balwearie Castle, along with many other sites connected to Sir Michael Scot.