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Scotland, Social and Domestic
Demons and Apparitions

With the name of the Prince of Darkness many stupendous natural objects have been associated. Two features in the rocky scenery of the Devon are styled the Devil's Mill and the Devils Punch-bowl. The Devils Caldron is a narrow and deep cascade on the Lednoch, near Comrie. A steep pathway among the mountains of Glencoe is known as the Devils Staircase. The Devils Elbow is a dangerous turn on the road between Braemar and Blairgowrie. The origin of Ailsa Craig, Tintock Hill, the Eildons, and other eminences has been ascribed to Satanic agency. Many huge boulders of trap-rock rest on the slopes of Benarty Hill, near Lochleven. They are associated with the following legend of superstition:— The Devil had been at Kirkcaldy, on the Forth. He resolved to march northward to a witch's rendezvous in Gowrie. That his progress might not be intercepted by the Tay, he carried a lapful of boulder stones, to be used for stepping upon in the bed of that estuary. More intent on the accomplishment of his intended feat than in selecting his footing, he stumbled on Benarty Hill, and dropped his burden upon its slopes. The Scottish peasant, without any conscious irreverence, characterizes as "devilish" aught that strikes him as impressive in nature or effective in art.

At the period of the Reformation the Protestant clergy discovered that nearly every husbandman left a portion of ground untilled, to propitiate the Power of Evil. It was named the gien rig, or gudemans croft: a portion of soil sacrificed to avoid sJcaith. In 1594 the General Assembly condemned the practice, and took measures to suppress it. Till the close of the last century it lingered in northern counties. A tradition obtains that a farmer in Keith, having resolved to cultivate the gudeman's croft, one of the oxen drawing the ploughshare through it, was struck dead. There was formerly a reluctance to bury in a new churchyard, owing to the belief that the first body interred in it was the Devil's Tiend.

In popular phraseology the devil was designated Nick, or Old Nick. The term is derived from Nihen, or Neckin, a Danish word signifying to destroy. The older chroniclers ascribe many occurrences to the intervention of demons. When an earthquake occurred, or a house fell, or a landslip happened, the great enemy was supposed to be engaged. The persecuted adherents of the Covenant conceived themselves subject to diabolical interference. With their imaginations excited by oppression, they fancied that they beheld the Evil One in corries and. caverns and solitary places. Alexander Peden, the prophet of the Covenant, is described as having personally encountered the devil in a cave. A conflict between the arch-enemy and two Covenanters forms one of the legends of Ettrick Fcrest. Halbert Dobson and David Dun, two proscribed Presbyterians, had constructed a hiding-place in a wild ravine beside a mountain waterfall at the head of Moffat water. In this place of retreat the devil appeared to them with frightful grimaces. He was set upon by the refugees, who assailed him with their Bibles,—a proceeding which led to his immediate transformation into a bundle of hides. Hence the minstrelsy:—

"Little ken'd the wirrikow
What the Covenant would dow!
What o' faith, and what o' pen,
What o' might, and what o' men,
Or he had never shown his face,
His reeket rags an' riven taes,
To men o' merk an' men o' mense.
For Hab Dob and Davie Din
Dang the Deil owre Dob's Linn.

"'Weir,' quo' he, an' ' weir,' quo' he,
'Haud the Bible til his e'e;
Ding him owre, or thrash him doun,
He's a fause, deceitfu' loon!'
Then he owre him, an' he owre him,
He owre him, an' he owre him.
Habby held him griff and grim,
Davie thrash him hip and lim';
Till, like a bunch o' basket skins,
Down fell Satan owre the Linns!"

Occasionally the adherents of the Covenant were not unwilling to be regarded as spectres or hobgoblins, in order to elude the vengeance of their pursuers. The followers of the outlawed Richard Cameron chose as hiding-places those localities which were associated with demons. On a rumour which had been raised in Moffatdale as to the presence of a spectral visitant, where a skulking Covenanter sought refuge, the Ettrick Shepherd has founded his tale of "The Brownie of Bodsbeck."

One of the most singular cases of alleged demoniacal agency recorded in Scottish annals is the following:—

During the months of February, March, and April, 1695, the house of Andrew Mackie, mason, Ringcroft, parish of Rerrick, Kirkcudbrightshire, was the scene of strange procedure. Stones and missiles of all kinds were thrown into the house as by an invisible hand. Voices were heard uttering denunciations and warnings, and adjuring to repentance. Missives written with blood were strewn about the premises. Members of the family were beaten with invisible rods, and dragged about mercilessly. The neighbouring clergy assembled, and subscribed a declaration certifying the phenomena.

Among the Wodrow MSS. is the narrative of a female who, in the year 1701, was vexed with a devil. Satan appeared to her in different shapes, among which were those of a hare, a hog, and a ram. When he chose the human form, he assumed the head of a man with the four legs of a brute, or walked about "a long wound corpse with a black face." The supposed demon, by casting heavy weights upon the floor, shook the patient's bed; he chased her through the different apartments; and, because she refused to surrender her Bible, struck her violently on the head. Men were appointed to watch ; they heard noises, and believed they saw strange shapes.

About the year 1815, the manse of Kinglassie, Fife-shire, was alleged to be haunted. Every evening bells rang without any visible agency. There were thumps upon the floor, and against the doors and windows, but without any apparent cause. Parishioners — neighbours—the entire inhabitants of the district—assembled, in the hope of discovering the source of the commotion.

It was revealed after thirty years by one of the maidservants, in the prospect of death. A Scottish journal lately detailed the particulars of a case precisely similar, which occurred at Falkirk. A family was disturbed by the door-bell ringing violently at midnight. Windows were broken ; the timber covering of a cellar was removed at night. Several police-constables were set to watch, but the door-bell continued to be rung, and other mischief to be perpetrated. The soundings of the bell were at length taken from the front door and also from the kitchen, and on a difference of sound being remarked, suspicion fell upon the servant, a girl of eighteen. Having been charged with the offence, under circumstances which rendered denial altogether hopeless, she acknowledged her guilt. She was brought before the criminal authorities, and sentenced to imprisonment.

The Rev. Andrew Small, a pastor of the Secession Church, who died in 1852, conceived himself the victim of Satanic imps. In a volume which he published concerning his supernatural persecution, he describes "the imps" as entering his bed-chamber by the chimney, through the keyhole, and by the hole of the bell-wire. On effecting admission, the intruders proceeded to deprive him of his bed-clothes, and to throw him upon the floor. On one occasion the arch-enemy appeared in person ; he wore "large hoofs and great horns," and there was "a strong smell of brimstone about him."

There were four kinds of apparitions—the wraith, the tutelary spirit, the genie, and the unrested ghost. The first was a spiritual attendant, which remained with every individual as a guardian from birth till death. The wraith bore the aspect and was clad in the attire of his human charge. He was constantly with him, accompanying or preceding him in all his movements. He protected his associate in danger, and conveyed to his relatives timely intimation of his decease. In discharging the latter duty only did the wraith become visible; he appeared in the likeness of his ward, clad in his ordinary apparel, or in a white garment. Sometimes the wraith was seen in the churchyard where his charge would shortly be interred; at other times he hovered about the dwellings of his kindred.

Some examples of remarkable spectral manifestations may not inappropriately be introduced. Mr. Graham, a manufacturer in Glasgow, as he was retiring to bed one moonlight night, chanced to cast his eyes upon the window-blind. His mother, arrayed in a flannel nightdress, seemed motionless to stand before him. He called his wife, who likewise observed the figure. It shortly disappeared. Next day Mr. Graham received tidings that his mother, who lived at the distance of twenty-five miles, had been found dead in bed. The night-dress corresponded with the costume of the figure which he and Mrs. Graham had seen in their apartment. Mrs. Thomson, sister of Mungo Park, the African traveller, lived with her husband on the farm of Myreton, at the southern base of the Ochils. She was a shrewd, intelligent woman, and was not at all inclined to superstition. At Myreton her brother parted with his wife and family in September, 1804, to proceed on his second African expedition. Some time in 1805, Mrs. Thomson received a letter from her brother, then in Africa, stating that he expected speedily to return to Britain, and that he would not write again till his return. Not long after receiving this communication, Mrs. Thomson, one evening, after she was in bed, fancied she heard the tread of a horse's feet on the road passing the apartment. On sitting up, her brother seemed to open the door and to walk towards her, clad in his usual attire. Expressing her delight to see him safely returned, she stretched out her arms to embrace him, but she folded them on her own breast. Imagining that he had stepped aside, she rose hastily, and followed the apparently retreating figure. She then proceeded to upbraid her brother for betaking himself to concealment. She was engaged in searching for his lurking-place when her husband came to assure her of her delusion. The precise date of Park's death is unknown. Mrs. Thomson always believed that it took place at that time when she conceived he had returned to her at Myreton.

In his "Philosophy of Sleep," Mr. Eobert Macnish has recorded the following:—Miss P., a native of Poss-shire, was deeply in love with an officer who accompanied Sir John Moore in his Peninsular campaign. The constant danger to which he was exposed had a depressing effect on her spirits. After falling asleep one evening, she imagined that she saw her lover, pale and wounded, enter her apartment. He said that he had been slain in battle, and begged she would not mourn too deeply on his account. The lady became ill consequent on her vision, and a few days after expired. Before her death she requested her parents to record the date of her vision. It was found that her lover had perished at the battle of Corunna, which had been fought on the day, the evening of which presented to the deceased gentlewoman the form of her lover.

In the University of St. Andrews a custom obtains that, on the death of a professor, intimation of the event is conveyed by a messenger to the other members of the institution. In 1842, an aged professor was very ill, and his decease was expected daily. One of his colleagues sat down to his usual evening devotions with his household. His wife was reading a portion of Scripture, when, watch in hand, the professor asked her whether it was not precisely half-past nine. The lady, taking out her watch, answered that it was. When the service was concluded, the professor explained that at the time he had interrupted the reading, he had seen his ailing colleague, who had signalled him an adieu. He felt satisfied his friend had then expired. Not long after a messenger arrived; he reported that Dr. H. had died that evening at half-past nine !

In the "Nightside of Nature," Mrs. Crowe inserts a letter from Sir Joseph Paton, detailing a dream of his mother, and its accompaniments:—The lady dreamed that she stood in a dark gallery with her husband and family ; an undefined something entered, and she felt that it was death. The intruder carried an axe, which he raised, and struck down Catherine, her infant daughter. The dream greatly disturbed the matron who feared murder. In three months all her children were seized with scarlet fever. Catherine died almost immediately. Another child, Alexis, who, in the dream, had "flitted out and in between her and the ghastly thing," lingered about a year and ten months, and then expired.

A tutelary spirit was assigned to families of distinction, especially in the Highlands. "That of Grant," writes Sir Walter Scott, "was called May Moullach, and appeared in the form of a girl, who had her arm covered with hair. Grant of Rothiemurchus had an attendant called Bodach-an-Dun, or the ghost of the hill." When death was about to visit the family of the chief of the McLeans, the spirit of an ancestor slain in battle rode three times round the family residence, and shook ominously his horse's bridle.

The spirit of an ancestor occasionally acted as tutelary guardian. The following is abridged from a narrative by Sir Walter Scott, appended to "The Antiquary:"— Mr. E— d, of Bowland, a landowner in the vale of Gala, was prosecuted for a large sum, accumulated arrears of teinds or tithes, which he was said to be indebted to a noble family. Mr. R—d was satisfied that his father had purchased exemption from the demand, but he was unable, either in his own repositories, or among the papers of those who had transacted business for his father, to discover any evidence of the transaction. He therefore deemed a defence useless, and had resolved to proceed to Edinburgh next day, to make the best terms in a compromise. He went to bed, deeply concerned about his expected loss. He slept, and in a dream conceived that his father, who had been long dead, was talking with him. The paternal shade announced that he had actually purchased the teinds, and that the papers relating to the transaction were in the possession of a solicitor who had transacted business for him on that occasion only. He named the solicitor, who still lived. "If he has forgotten the transaction," he added, "call it to his recollection by this token, that, when I came to pay his account, there was difficulty in getting change for a Portugal piece of gold, and that we were forced to drink out the balance at a tavern." In the morning Mr. E—d proceeded to the residence of the solicitor, whose name had occurred in the dream. He found a very aged gentleman, long retired from business. At first he could not recollect about the matter, but the mention of the Portugal piece of gold recalled it to his memory. He made search for the papers, and having found them, enabled Mr. R—d successfully to resist the claim which had disturbed his repose.

About the year 1731, Mr. D. of K., in the county of Cumberland, was a student at Edinburgh. He resided with his uncle and aunt, Major and Mrs. Griffiths. Early on a spring morning he had arranged with several young friends to go a-fishing on the Forth, as far as Inchkeith. During the preceding night, Mrs. Griffiths had not long slept when she exclaimed, "The boat is sinking, save them, oh save them!" Her husband awakened her, and said, "Were you uneasy about the fishing party ?" She answered that she had not once thought of them, and again fell asleep. In about an hour she again cried out, " I see the boat is going down." At length, in a loud scream, she said, " They are gone, the boat is sunk." On her husband again awakening her, she said, " Now I cannot rest, Mr. D. must not go, for I should be miserable till his return." She proceeded to the chamber of her nephew, and induced him to abandon his intention of joining the fishing party. The next morning was beautiful, but a violent storm afterwards arose, and the boat containing Mr. D's friends was upset. All on board perished.*

During the American War of Independence, the wife of a landowner in Aberdeenshire awakened her husband during night, with the exclamation, "Did you hear that shot?" "A poacher has fired, I suppose," said the gentleman, "but I did not hear the shot." "Ah," said the lady, "I fear our son John has been killed." The gentlewoman became fully satisfied that her son, who was serving as an officer with the British army in America, had been mortally wounded. The arrival of the American mail confirmed the sad presentiment. He fell in battle just at the time when his mother had her dream.

When the mansion of Abbotsford was being enlarged, in April, 1818, Sir Walter Scott, who was occupying the original portion of the dwelling, was one night awakened by a noise resembling the dragging of heavy boards along the floors. During that night, and about the hour when Sir Walter heard the noise, George Bullock, who had charge of furnishing the new rooms at Abbotsford, died suddenly at London. Mr. Bullock had shortly before made a visit to Abbotsford, and obtained the personal ^regard of the author of Waverley.

A respected shipmaster relates the following :—He was sailing in command of a merchant-vessel from the shores of America to the Clyde. There having been a succession of gales, he had been on deck and without sleep for six nights. The storm partially subsiding, he lay down to rest. In two hours he awakened, and remarked to his chief officer, " We will surely be preserved, for a beautiful lady came to me in my sleep, and that is a good omen." The vessel becoming leaky, the captain brought her into a bay on the west coast. A farmer's daughter, observing a ship in distress, went out in a boat, carrying as provisions a sheep, a quantity of potatoes, and a vessel of milk. As she was proceeding to enter the ship, the captain addressed her in a tone of agitation, "In the name of God, who are you?" I'm Margaret M------, from the farm, thinking you might need some provisions," was the fair visitor's reply.

"We'll buy all you've got," said the captain. The damsel said they were an offering from her father; she had also to inquire whether the family could render further assistance. The captain recognised the lady as the counterpart of the beautiful female of his dream. She is now his wife.

The genie occupied the remote forest, but likewise frequented the air and water; it raised storms and allayed them, and was constantly interfering with human affairs. A genie was the supposed sire of a powerful baron of Drumelzier. Those persons who bear the names of Tweed and Tweedie are alleged to descend paternally from the genie of a southern river. "When," writes Sir Walter Scott, "the workmen were engaged in erecting the ancient church of Old Deer, Aberdeenshire, upon a small hill called Bissan, they were surprised to find that the work was impeded by supernatural obstacles. At length the spirit of the river was heard to say,—

'It is not here, it is not here,
That ye shall build the church of Deer;
But on Taptillery,
Where many a corpse shall lie.'

The site of the edifice was accordingly transferred to Taptillery, an eminence at some distance from the place where the building had been commenced. In the Mac-farlane MSS., in the Advocates Library, is contained an account of a spirit named Lham-dearg, which haunted the forest of Glenmore, in the Northern Highlands. He was clad like an ancient warrior, and had a bloody hand. He challenged to combat all he met. Three brothers whom he compelled to fight with him died soon afterwards.

The class of apparitions which we have termed unvested ghosts haunted the fancy of the unlettered. They were the supposed spectres of murdered persons, or of their murderers ; they hovered, it was believed, about old ruins and sequestered dells. They followed those who had deprived them of their mortal tenements. The murdered, it was conceived, found no rest till they had received Christian burial. Murderers revisited the earth to reveal where they had thrust the bodies of their victims and concealed plundered treasure. A daughter of the Baron of Cromlix, Perthshire, having accepted the proffered love of Sir Malise Graham, "the Black Knight of Kilbryde," permitted him to decoy her to a sequestered spot of his forest, where he seduced and murdered her. He buried his victim in the forest, and retired to his castle. He was not unattended. The ghost of the murdered lady haunted him continually. After his death the spectre continued to glide in the forest, clad in a blood-stained robe. It beckoned all who noticed it to follow. For many years none were venturous enough to comply. At length a chieftain of the family undertook, if the spectre should cross his path, to obey its wishes. His courage was soon tried. One dark evening the spectre appeared to him in his garden, and made the wonted signal. It moved forward, and the knight followed. They descended to the bottom of the glen, where the apparition stood and pointed. Next day the knight caused an excavation to be made at the spot, and there discovered the remains of the long deceased Lady Anne, whose disappearance had been a mystery. He caused the remains to receive Christian burial, and the spectre never re-appeared.

Alexander de Lindsay, fourth Earl of Crawford, flourished in the fifteenth century; he was styled "The Tiger Earl," on account of his ferocity. "The Tiger Earl," writes Lord Lindsay, "is believed to be still playing at the 'deil's bucks' in a mysterious chamber in Glammis Castle, of which no one knows the entrance— doomed to play there till the end of time. He was constantly losing, it is said, when one of his companions advised him to give up the game. 'Never,' cried he, 'till the day of judgment.' The Evil One instantly appeared, and both chamber and company vanished. No one has since discovered them; but in the stormy nights, when the winds howl drearily around the old castle, the stamps and curses of the doomed gamesters may still, it is said, be heard mingling with the blast."

Ghosts have often been impersonated. When James IV. was planning his hostile expedition into England, his Queen, who was sister to the English monarch, endeavoured to dissuade him from the enterprise. Her entreaties having proved without avail, she thought of operating on her consort's fears. The King was at Linlithgow, paying his devotions in the parish church prior to placing himself at the head of his army. As he sat in church, an aged man came forward, and stood beside him. The visitor was enveloped in a blue cloak, with a roll of linen about his loins, and an enormous pikestaff in his right hand. He made no reverence to the King, but leaning towards him, warned him to abandon the intended invasion. As the King was proceeding to reply, the visitor evanished ! But the stratagem failed.

When refractory tenants have been ejected by their landlords, ghost stories have been raised in connection with the abandoned premises. Housebreakers have originated ghost stories to aid their nefarious practices. Twenty years ago, the writer occupied a house in Higi Street, Dunfermline. For several years it had been untenanted. There was a grocery establishment on the area floor. An aunt of the writer, whose hearing was singularly acute, occupied a sleeping apartment immediately above the merchant's office, behind the shop. She often mentioned that she was disturbed during night by hearing noises as if proceeding from the apartment below. Some time after, the writer was asked by a gentleman of the place, whether he was aware that his dwelling had a haunted chamber? "It was," proceeded his informant, "long without a tenant on this account. Noises are heard during night in the mid bedroom." An explanation followed some years afterwards. The merchant's office, it was proved, had long been entered burglariously, and systematically plundered.

Trifling occurrences will originate a ghost story. A joiner in Ettrick Forest was, one winter evening, a few years ago, carrying to the residence of a farmer a clock case which he had constructed. Fatigued with bearing it on his shoulders, he slipped the upper portion of his person into the case, and, so accoutred, proceeded on his journey. A shepherd, coming up, conceived that he saw a coffin walking towards him. He gave alarm, and all who contemplated the moving object were filled with consternation. For nearly a week, rumours of the awakened dead agitated the district.

A gentleman was detained, in a storm, at the country residence of a friend. The mansion was old, and the only spare bedroom was supposed to be haunted. The landlord reported to his guest the "uncanny" reputation of the room. The latter remarked that he had long been desirous of seeing an apparition, and that therefore a haunted chamber was entirely to his liking. He retired, and kept his candle burning, expecting some trick at his expense. About three o'clock the door of the apartment was opened, and a figure in white slowly entered. He recognized a daughter of the family, who had walked abroad in her sleep. He gently removed her ring, and she soon took her departure. Next morning the visitor acknowledged that he had seen a spectre, and quietly handed to the young lady her ring. She immediately fainted.

About the close of the last century a gentleman was proceeding through the churchyard of Inveresk at a late hour. The night was gloomy, yet he was able to distinguish a moving figure in white, which seemed to disappear under a tombstone. Nothing daunted, he went to the spot, and, seizing the figure, drew it from its concealment. A young lady of unsound mind had escaped from a neighbouring boarding-house, and sought refuge among the tombs.

Taisch, or the second sight, is connected with the class of superstitions now under consideration. Certain persons in the Highlands, more especially in the Western Isles, were supposed to possess supernatural gift:-whereby they could witness spectral appearances which boded coming events. The persons held to be so gifted were designated Taihhsear, or beholders of visions. Unlike the wizards, or pretenders to necromantic powers in Lowland districts, these Highland seers refused to exercise their gifts for pecuniary reward. Nor did they speak boastfully of their skill. On the contrary, the Taihhsear spoke of the possession of their peculiar faculty as a misfortune, from the painful visions with which it was associated.

The Taibhsear did not acquire his art by any process of instruction ; it was held to be a native gift. The seventh child of the same sex, born in succession, was believed to be endowed with the faculty. Cattle which exhibited any marked peculiarity were supposed to possess its influence. During the occurrence of a vision, the eye-balls of the seer were turned upward, and rendered so rigid, that, when the vision closed, assistance was resorted to, to restore them to ordinary use. The visions of the Taibhsear occurred, it was alleged, without any premonition. When they happened in the morning, their fulfilment was immediate. A vision at noon was realized before the close of the day; and the later the hour, the more distant was the period of accomplishment. Certain visions were not realized till after the lapse of years. The vision of a shroud was a prognostic of death, and its height above the person indicated the period that would elapse till its consummation. When the shroud rose to the middle, the death of the person seen would happen in a year ; when' the head was covered, his dissolution was impending.

When the seer saw a woman at a man's left hand, she was to become his wife; when two or three women stood at a man's right hand, these were to be in succession united to him in wedlock. The seer foresaw the erection of houses and the planting of orchards, in localities which were covered with huts and cowhouses. He descried the death of children, by seeing a spark of fire fall into the bosom of those who should be bereaved, while the vision of empty seats in a household intimated the removal of parents or adults. Visions of funeral trains were common. At their occurrence the aged seer became pensive, and the novice was covered with a thick sweat, or fell into a swoon. When a seer was beholding his vision, he could enable another of the Taibhsear to witness similar phenomena, by taking hold of his hand. The second sight has been associated with leading events in the national history. The metrical chroniclers of Wallace and Bruce introduce the Highland seer in connection with their heroes. A Taibhsear was consulted by one of the assassins of James I. An Hebridean seer is said to have foretold the unhappy career and violent death of Charles I. Sir George Mackenzie, afterwards Lord Tarbet, when sojourning in the Highlands, under a dread of Cromwell's government, employed a portion of his time in investigating the nature of the faculty. He communicated a narrative of its manifestations to the celebrated Robert Boyle, which, with the communications of others on the same subject, is included in the Diary and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys. The curious details of the Taisch, contained in the Rev. John Frazer of Tyree's "AuthenticInstances/' appeared in 1707, and those of Martin, in his "Description of the Western Islands," in 1716. In 1763, Macleod of Hamir, under the appellation of Theophilus Insulanus, published a treatise on the second sight, which included numerous illustrations of the gift, industriously collected, together with the opinions of many persons as to its reality. In his "Journey to the Hebrides," published in 1775, Dr. Samuel Johnson, referring to the second sight, is not disposed wholly to reject the testimony by which it was supported. For many years the seer has, unless in a few solitary instances, ceased to have his dwelling in the Scottish Highlands. He has been immortalized poetically in Scott's "Lady of the Lake," and in the poem of "Lochiel's Warning," by Thomas Campbell.

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