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Is this the only un-haunted castle in Scotland?

October 29, 2011

As the light fails on a dark afternoon, the castle can sometimes seem a little eerie to sensitive souls. Mist creeps up from the river towards the end of the day,

drifting inexorably through the woods,

until its cold breath has reached right up to the castle windows and we seem to be marooned in vapour, the familiar trees dissolved into looming shadows in the gloom. Soon we are alone in the dark.

On this particular weekend the mist seems all the more atmospheric, with the clocks going back tonight and Hallowe’en (or Samhain) upon us. Let’s close the shutters against the darkness (yes, they do creak as we shut them), stoke up the wood stove and consider that question which is so often asked by visitors to our home.

Is the castle haunted?

Well, now.

Footsteps have been heard on one of the landings, just where a much-loved member of the family died last century. But of course, old houses are full of creaks and little noises, caused by anything from mice in the wainscot to timbers shifting as the temperature changes.

The boys will not go up the front stairs at night, scared of the skulls of long-dead stags hanging in the hall, and the unused corridors stretching away into blackness. But that is entirely understandable: skulls and dark corridors are unnerving even to adults. There’s nothing really there, of course.

Then there is the bedroom where everyone had nightmares. For a while it was my sister-in-law’s room. She eventually begged to move rooms, however, after being awoken night after night by awful dreams, or by the tread of invisible feet across the room, or by the strong sense of a presence near her bed. She is quite the most down-to-earth, matter-of-fact person I know. When I moved into the castle, this room always made me feel unhappy, although I never slept in it. I put its atmosphere down to the bed being under a blocked up window: bad feng shui, if you like. Sure enough, once we redecorated the room and re-arranged the furniture, its atmosphere changed completely. It is now a warm and welcoming little bedroom, one of the nicest in the castle. And if guests occasionally sleep badly in it, or arrive down to breakfast haggard from nightmares…well, unfortunately, that can happen anywhere.

At one end of the dining room, there is a double doorway with a couple of feet of space between the doors, like a tiny chamber between two rooms. It was built that way to accommodate an extra thick wall, where the castle was extended in the seventeenth century and an outer wall became an inner one. I absolutely hate going through that doorway. I find it extremely unsettling and will go out of the dining room by another door and round a long detour to avoid it. My father-in-law eventually told me that several other people have found that doorway similarly unnerving and, indeed, that a ghostly woman used to be seen coming through it and exiting through the opposite wall of the dining room. However, the phenomenon was explained to me by a friend who specialises in historic building conservation. The difference in stonework in the join between the old castle and the newer extension must give rise to an infinitesimal drop in temperature, perhaps even a subtle current of chill air, in this doorway. While humans do not consciously notice it, our subconscious picks up on the difference and sends our imagination haywire. So there is a perfectly rational explanation for why I still won’t willingly go through it, and why my dog once backed away growling from that doorway.

On the whole, I have always thought that this house has a benign atmosphere. Despite the odd dark corner, it has given us a happy family home. One just has to learn to keep a lid on one’s imagination.

To return to our question, then: is the castle haunted?

I would say that the answer is no.

No more than any other castle in Scotland…

You might enjoy exploring some more dark corners of the castle in Here be treasure, or there is more on the evening mists in Season of mists.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2011 11:01 pm

    One of the best Halloween posts I’ve read! And the wonderful pictures. Reality is spookier than fiction. You never let us down. thanks so much

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 29, 2011 11:06 pm

      Aw, thank you! I had fun with it.

  2. October 30, 2011 1:29 am

    Love the atmosphere in the photos. It pulled me completely into the post, like reading a favorite scary story. I also like that you allowed me to use my imagination in this post, and I allowed it to run wild down those hallways and out those doors…

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 30, 2011 3:07 pm

      Thank you, Lisa. It’s useful to have constructive feedback like that.

  3. Menatra permalink
    October 30, 2011 4:07 am

    Love this post! The photos are extremely spooky and extremely calming all at the same time. Which is pretty much how you wrote this post about your castle. I like when you said the newer part of the castle…built in the 17th century! LOL!!!
    And I think my horrible old house built in the 1920’s, haha!

    Too bad we didn’t have a haunted castle to visit here on Halloween…

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 30, 2011 3:09 pm

      Thanks, Menatra. I know, age is relative, isn’t it! 🙂

  4. October 30, 2011 4:54 pm

    Brilliant post! A nicely framed story with some spooky tales, a happy ending (it IS your happy home after all) and that question left hanging at the end! Made all the more spooky by the language, no florid gothic tale this which I could laugh off….. it had my imagination going!! Have you ever thought of becoming a writer?

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 30, 2011 8:29 pm

      Ah, Sian, I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and thank you very much for your comments. You have spoken my heart’s desire: I’d love to write for a living, but haven’t a clue where to begin – the whole self-marketing side terrifies me – so here I am writing a wee blog instead. 🙂

  5. hmunro permalink
    October 30, 2011 5:11 pm

    Wonderful, brilliant, spellbinding — there aren’t enough adjectives to describe your post (and your photos)! You really are an extraordinary writer, DB. Thank you for a marvelous Hallowe’en read.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 30, 2011 8:30 pm

      You are far too kind to me, Heather – but it means a lot coming from a professional like you! Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  6. October 30, 2011 5:25 pm

    Fascinating and spooky! Thanks for visiting my blog and give me the chance to discover your gorgeous gaff!;)

    I love that you know for sure you are a Viking!! Mine is only a hunch, my Scots heritage is of the Davidson clan, not sure how Dane influenced they are? Look forward to following your tales of Castle Beastie! Belinda x

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 30, 2011 8:32 pm

      Hello Belinda, thanks very much for dropping by! Not sure about the Davidsons, but you’ve got me wondering now…

  7. October 30, 2011 7:58 pm

    Oh, such gorgeous photos.. and how lovely to have mist travel on the river to meet you! I also loved the spooky tour of the possibly haunted corners of your home. Scotland never seems to disappoint when it comes to potential for ghosts. All those creeping mists probably can’t hurt, I suppose.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 30, 2011 8:34 pm

      It’s typical of your affinity with the natural world that, where the mist seems scary to some of us, you see it as travelling to meet us. Lovely. Scotland is indeed full of uncanny stories, isn’t it. Maybe the veil between the worlds is particularly thin here…

  8. October 31, 2011 1:22 am

    No home or country could be that old without a few ghosts!
    Your photos are certainly ghostly and mysterious – that fourth one would scare the bejeebers out of me if I saw anything like that in a corridor or stairwell.
    I’m curious, though, has your sister-in-law spent time in her old room since you redecorated it?

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 31, 2011 10:38 am

      Hah, there are an awful lot of stags’ skulls around the older rooms of the castle. I’ve learned not to look at them now on the way up to bed!

      Interesting point you raise about that bedroom. My sister-in-law has not slept in it since we redecorated (although her teenage daughter has, quite happily I believe). Perhaps I should test it out on her again! Mwah-hah-hah…

  9. November 1, 2011 12:33 pm

    DB, you ARE a writer and a very good one to boot! Your Halloween post drew me in perfectly and the pictures you chose to illustrate it couldn’t have been bettered. Poor boys – stags’ heads ob the wall are bad enough but stags’ skulls? Argggh!!

    If you don’t know it, you might like to look at another WordPress blog written by someone who has the same ambition as you and is now on the way to achieving it. It is Being Koy http://www.kirazlivillage.com/wordpress/ and I’m sure Karen would be generous with her help if you were to ask her.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 1, 2011 11:24 pm

      Thank you very much, Perpetua. And thank you for the link, which I will definitely follow up.

  10. October 13, 2013 9:44 am

    Parts of this post did seem familiar, and I see that I must have ‘liked’ it before, but I enjoyed it again on re-reading! I love your misty photos and I was reminded of T S Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’ by your opening line. I think every building has its own memories in the walls, and maybe we are sensitive to them – but only some of the time, and in certain circumstances. I remember a friend of ours telling me about an experience his elderly mother once had in an old cottage in Wales: apparently a Roman centurion appeared in her bedroom one night, but she was having none of it, and told him: “Just you clear off, young man!” I don’t think he bothered her again!

    • October 14, 2013 6:56 pm

      Thanks for re-reading it, Jo. I see what you mean about ‘Little Gidding’.
      A robust attitude to the spirit world is probably essential to survival in old houses: your story of the old lady and the centurion made me laugh!

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