When witches go riding and black cats are seen, ‘tis near Halloween ...
Halloween, also known as ‘All Hallows Eve’, originates from the Celts who lived 2,000 years ago.
They believed that on the night before the new year, which they celebrated on November 1, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.
So on the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in), when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead and the demons from the underworld returned to earth to walk among us...
And what better time to look at the ghosts, ghouls and the unexplained that haunt the castles, homes and landscapes across Aberdeenshire.
Most of us know will know the story of how Slains Castle is rumoured to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Set on the cliff edge about one mile east of Cruden Bay, the castle has a creepy atmosphere.
So it’s no wonder it helped inspire Stoker who visited the castle prior to beginning work on the immortal classic Gothic horror novel Dracula.
The castle isn’t without it’s own ghosts.It’s said to be haunted by the ghost of Victor Hay, 21st Earl of Errol, who died in the first quarter of the 20th century.
Other witnessed ghosts at Slains Castle have included marching Second World War soldiers going past the castle and also a horse and carriage.
Read on to find out about the witch who roams around Abergeldie Castle, the plague victims who can’t rest at Kindrochit Castle and the blood stains that can’t be washed away no matter how hard you scrub at Castle Fraser.
Hope you like a good scare...
The Beast of Buchan – If you’re out walking in the woods near The Beaches at Mintlaw you might spot the infamous ‘Beast of Buchan’.
Sightings of the Buchan beast have been recorded since the 1930s.
More recently a Cruden Bay farmer found the carcass of one of his sheep spread across a field in 2006; he was sure it was not savaged by a dog and stated that a huge, slinky cat was spotted skulking around.
Two years later, in October 2008, a cat resembling a leopard was allegedly seen by a woman in the same area.
But are the big cat sightings something more supernatural rather than a wildcat or someone’s pet moggy?
The Cat Sìth is a fairy creature from Celtic mythology, said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its chest.
Legend has it that the spectral cat haunts the Scottish Highlands and Aberdeenshire. Some folklore suggested that the Cat Sìth was not a fairy, but a witch that could transform into a cat nine times.
Is the Beast of Buchan really a witch?
The Fraserburgh High Street haunting – We all know the story of the Enfield poltergiest – perhaps one of the most documented account of poltergeist activity in British history.
But a few years ealier than the Enfield case a home in Fraserburgh was the target of paranormal activity.
In 1973 a man was staying at his parents’ flat on the High Street.He awoke to see an elderly woman materialise by his bed. The entity appeared to be trying to communicate with him, though the ghost disappeared after he shouted at it.
Putting it down to a dream, he thought no more of it. But then the unexplained noises began. cupboard doors opened by themselves, lights switched on and off, taps were turned on and a soft female voice could be heard whispering.
He later found out that the people in the flat upstairs were playing with a Ouija board and had contacted some sort of entitiy.
Some say it was the sweet old lady who had once lived in the house. Others say it was something a lot more darker that entered through the Ouija...
Blood stains at Castle Fraser – Castle Fraser near Kemnay is stunning. It includes secret staircases, trapdoors and a spy hole. But it also hides a ghostly secret.
Legend has it that a young girl was once staying at the castle when she was brutally murdered while asleep in the Green Room.
Her body was dragged down the stone stairs, leaving a trail of blood. As hard as they tried, the occupants of the castle could not scrub out the stains.
Just when they thought the stairs were clean, the blood would then reappear. The owners were forced to cover the steps in wood paneling, which remains today. It is said that the young girl still stalks the halls of the castle during the night and the sound of her softly weeping can be heard in the green room. But she’s not alone.
Dressed in a long black gown, the ghost of Lady Blanche Drummond, who died in 1874, also wanders the castle and its grounds. Ghostly whispers, laughter and music have also been heard in the Great Hall.
Fighting giants of Bennachie – According to tradition, Bennachie of old was guarded by a giant, known by the name of Jock o’ Bennachie. And he has two legends attached to his name. Jock had been accused of throwing stones at the priest of Kemnay. The real culprit was thought to be the Devil himself. The priest was particularly active against Satan and all his works. Satan is believed to have banished Jock to live inside a stone. However, Jock is not dead – he is merely under a spell, secured by lock and key. Of course the key is lost as the prophecy says:
A wife’s ae sin wi’ ae e’e. Sall fin’ the key o’ Bennachie
The other tale associated with Jock is that he fought another giant for the love of a woman. But the woman was caught in the cross fire and died. As he wept over his loss, a fairy appeared and banished him to spend the rest of his days entombed in stone as punishment. She cursed Scotland and Jock could only be freed if the keys to the hill’s secret dungeon were found. If you’re walking up at Bennachie, be sure to say hello to Jock...
Violent past of Dunnottar Castle – Dunnottar Castle lies a few miles south of Stonehaven and has its fair share of ghostly goings-on. Steeped in history, the castle was build on the site of an earlier Pictish Fort that was destroyed in a Viking attack in which Donald II King of Scotland, was killed. It is said to be haunted by such a large number of ghosts and phantoms that even paranormal investigators have difficulty focusing on any individual spirit.
The ghost of a young girl wearing a tartan skirt is frequently witnessed in the brewery.
Although little is known about who she was, she is likely to be connected to another ghost seen in the same area, as well as in the former bakery, described as a lady in green, who is believed to date back to Pictish times.
Dunnottar is also said to be haunted by a soldier who has been seen around the guardroom and main entrance of the castle.
He is normally described as a tall man, sometimes said to be of Scandinavian appearance, suggesting he may date back to the time of the Viking invasions.
Weeping girl of Muchalls Castle – The ghost of a young girl who drowned is said to haunt Muchalls Castle.
An underground passage connected the Castle to a smugglers cove at Gin Shore. In the 19th the Lord Justice General of Scotland Lord Robertson had the passage sealed when he was a tenant of the Castle as he felt it was not in keeping with his title and position. The room which led to the tunnel is still called the Cave Room.
When the passage was used by smugglers, the daughter of one of the Castle’s tenants had a lover who used the passage to smuggle contraband. One day she saw her lover’s boat approach and she ran to the underground passage to meet him. Unfortunately she slipped and fell into the water and was found drowned by her lover. Since then the ghost of a beautiful girl has been seen in the Castle, making herself presentable in front of a mirror, as if to meet a lover.
She also appears as a Green Lady in what was called the withdrawing room, which in modern days is now the dining room.
Unrestful spirits at Kindrochit – Kindrochit Castle which lies south of Braemar was reputedly destroyed when plague broke out among those in the castle.
The folk of Braemar blocked the external doors, trapping those inside so no one could escape and taint the nearby lands.
Cannons were used to destroy the castle, killing everyone inside. But those people haven’t forgotten the hell that was bestowed on them.
Those who died inside sometimes return to relive their final days. They’re said to wander the grounds searching for ways to escape the crumbling buildings, their terrified screams carried on the wind. One story is that in 1746 a Hanoverian soldier was lowered into one of the vaults in search of treasure, but fled when he found a ghostly company seated around a table, piled with skulls.
The sad story of Kittie Rankie – A French woman known as Kitty Rankie who worked at Abergeldie Castle near Ballater was arrested and charged for suspicion of being a witch. It is thought Kitty found work in Abergeldie Castle and one day while the Laird was away overseas, the lady of the castle believed that Kitty had psychic powers. She wanted Kitty to raise a storm at sea while her husband was aboard his ship, but that Kitty could not do.
However, when the laird was at sea, a storm did arise by chance and it sank his ship and all aboard drowned.
When her ladyship heard she accused Kitty of witchcraft. She was taken to the top of Crag nam Ban and there they burned her to death.
Locals have said that it isn’t the wind at all that they hear, that is the screaming of the ghost of Kitty Rankie...
All of them witches – Witches and healers had existed and been accepted as members of society for centuries. During the later years of the 16th century, though, it was commonly believed that witchcraft was a pact with the devil. Witch-hunting mania swept the north east in the late 16th Century.
In the north east, they were all imprisoned in the Tolbooth in Aberdeen and tortured to get confessions by thumb-screws, red hot leg irons and heavy weights. A total of 23 women and 1 man were tried and convicted of witchcraft. 22 of them were burned on Castle Hill in Aberdeen.
The north east suffered from a ‘witchcraze’ just like all of Europe, in the years of 1596 and 1597. After 1703, witchcraft was no longer considered to be a criminal offence and no further cases are recorded.