The Ghost of Glamis
One of Scotland’s most famous castles is almost certainly its most haunted. In fact, Glamis Castle (pronounced ‘Glahms’) in Angus may well be the most haunted place in Europe! The castle might even be responsible for that wonderfully descriptive collective noun – ‘a fright of ghosts’.
Originally built on land gifted by Robert the Bruce in 1372, the castle has housed many famous residents and visitors, including the Earls of Strathmore, the late Queen Mother, who was born at the castle and also gave birth to Princess Margaret there in 1930, Mary Queen of Scots in 1562 and leading British landscape architect, Capability Brown, who redeveloped the Castle grounds in 1775.
Yet some of the inhabitants of Glamis Castle have chosen to never leave. If you ever have the chance to visit, keep your eyes open, your wits about you, and perhaps some ‘Dutch courage’ before you cross the threshold!
The Grey Lady
Believed to be the ghost of Lady Glamis (Janet Douglas), who was burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1537. Her first husband was John Lyon (Lord Glamis), with whom she had a son also named John. She was accused of poisoning him upon his death in 1528, but she was cleared of the crime and was free to marry her second husband Archibald Campbell of Skipness. However, in July 1537 she was accused of planning to poison King James V of Scotland and communicating with her brothers, who were part of several conspiracies against the King.
Although the allegations were clearly false, she was sent to Edinburgh Castle dungeon with her husband (who did escape but was later killed). James could not find any evidence to convict her, so he tortured her family and servants in a bid to ‘find the truth’. Janet was later convicted and burned at the stake on 17th July 1537 at Castle Hill, Edinburgh.
The Woman without a Tongue
Perhaps the most reported, certainly the most chilling, is the ghost of the woman with no tongue. She has been seen wandering around the grounds pointing to her badly wounded mouth. She has also been seen forlornly looking out from a barred window within the castle. It is not clear who this spirit might be, or what may have happened to her.
The Young Servant Boy
The ghost of a young African servant boy has been seen sitting on the stone seat by the door of the Queen’s room on several occasions. He is thought to be the ghost of a servant who was treated unkindly at Glamis in the middle of the 18th century.
This mischievous lad is reputed to trip up passers-by outside the Queen Mother’s bedroom. And people who have slept in a small dressing room off the main bedroom have often felt their bedclothes being pulled off in the dead of night. He’s seen as a full-bodied apparition; but has never been heard or seen anywhere else in the Castle.
The Monster of Glamis
The most famous legend connected with the castle is that of the Monster of Glamis, a deformed child born to the family.The Monster of Glamis has been described as deformed, hairy, ‘a human toad,’ and always terrifying to behold. One ancient text outlined the story ‘A monster was born into the family. He was the heir—a creature fearful to behold. It was impossible to allow this deformed caricature of humanity to be seen—even by their friends.… His chest an enormous barrel, hairy as a doormat, his head ran straight into his shoulders and his arms and legs were toy like’. According to the legend, the monster was kept in the castle all his life and his rooms were bricked up after his death. An alternative version of the legend is that to every generation of the family a vampire child is born and is walled up in the room of the monster child.
Ghost of Earl Beardie
One of the more infamous ghosts of Glamis Castle is that of Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford, also known as Earl Beardie.
He was supposedly a cruel and twisted man who drank heavily. It was alleged that he once had a black servant stripped naked and forced to run around in the grounds for his and the other Earls’ entertainment.
This brutal ‘entertainment’ was actually a hunt, and the poor servant was chased down by Earl Beardie and his guests, together with hunting dogs, then torn apart.
His presence has been seen, heard, and felt all around the castle. Reports of children wakening in the middle of the night only to see a dark figure standing over their beds have been recorded on many occasions.
Many believe that Earl Beardie hides in a secret room, somewhere in the castle, gambling with the devil for all eternity. The legend tells us that he was visiting the castle one Sunday night and upon returning to his room, he was shouting in a drunken rage for someone to come and play cards with him. Nobody wanted to take him up on his offer on the Sabbath, so he screamed out that he would rather play the Devil himself. Shortly after there was a knock at the door, it was a tall gentleman in a long dark coat, and he asked if Earl Beardie still needed someone to play cards with him. The Earl agreed to play the man, and they retired to a room in the castle, slammed the door shut, and proceeded to play cards into the night.
Witnesses reported hearing lots of swearing and shouting coming from the room which echoed throughout the entire castle. One of the servants apparently looked through the keyhole out of curiosity to see what all the commotion was about, only to be blinded in one eye by a bright beam of light shining through. The Earl heard the servant outside the door and rounded on him for spying. When he headed back to the room, the man who was believed to be the Devil had gone, along with the Earl’s soul. He is said to still be playing cards, apparently in a secret room in the castle. His anguished shouts have been reported throughout the castle to this day.
The Haunted Cup
Beware, if you choose to take a drink from the Lion Cup in the Castle. This silver vessel, in the shape of a lion, holds nearly a whole bottle of wine and visitors were often made to drain the cup in one go before they left the building. There is a shadowy tradition that the cup has brought bad luck to the castle and its resident family, though no-one knows where the cup came from or why it has such a sinister reputation.
The Deadly Stream
Dean Water, which runs through the estate is little more than a burn or stream, but locals called it the ‘Dowie’ Dean, meaning ‘mournful’ or ‘sinister’. A popular rhyme once proclaimed that this river took a human life each year,
‘The Dowie Dean, it runs alone, and each year it takes one’.
Another version of the rhyme states that it took a life one year, then spared a life the next year. A third version insisted that the Dean only killed someone by drowning once every seven years.
The Haunted Chamber
This legend dates back to 1486, when members of the Ogilvy clan sought shelter from Lord Glamis as their enemies, the Lindsays, were in hot pursuit. Lord Glamis admitted them to the castle and told them to hide in a chamber. However, the Ogilvys did not realise that Lord Glamis was in fact great friends with the Lindsay clan. Having locked the Ogilvys in the chamber, he left them to die without food or drink.
A few years later, the Earl of Strathmore was disturbed by noises coming from the walled-up chamber and broke in to see what the cause was. Inside he discovered piles of skeletons which lay twisted and contorted in the last agonies of starvation. Some are even thought to have died in the act of eating the flesh of their relatives.
Even today, the chamber is thought to exude a strong sense of uneasiness.
>There have also been reports of residents and guests spotting a bearded man wandering the castle, and others have described being touched by the spectre itself. Many of these reports are recent and not historical. A 20th century story tells of a workman at the castle who unexpectedly found a door that led to a long, unfamiliar passageway. Walking along in eerie silence, the man is said to have seen ‘something’ at the far end of the passage. He fled in panic and immediately reported his encounter.
It seems even modern visitors have sensed a malevolent presence. The castle still attracts ghosthunters and paranormal investigators. Studies have been made, videos and blogs posted, scientific monitoring undertaken. Even a 1953 Hollywood film, The Maze, cashed in the 3-D cinema craze to tell the story of the monster at the castle.
Perhaps a visit to Glamis Castle is on the cards for you? Just make sure it's not a game of cards with the devil that you end up playing!
Titles available by Mark Bridgeman - The River Runs Red, Blood Beneath Ben Nevis, The Lost Village of Lawers, Surviving In The Shadows. Purchase now at amazon.co.uk, waterstones.com, aberfeldywatermill.com, highlandbookshop.com. Coming soon (released Dec 2020) The Beacon On The Hill