The Andrew Mackie House: The Story Of The Poltergeist That Terrified The Local Scottish Community
In 1695, a poltergeist that is believed to be one of the most violent ever on record, terrorised a local Scottish community and the Mackie family. One of the most unspoken about, yet highly documented poltergeist hauntings that has ever plagued the British Isles.
Perhaps the most famous poltergeist is that which came to haunt the house of Andrew Mackie, a farmer in Ringcroft of Stocking, Kirkcudbrightshire. This story is particularly unusual because it was documented in great detail at the time by a local minister was very much involved in the whole affair, the Reverend Andrew Telfair. His report is backed up by the testimony of several witnesses, amongst whom are other members of the clergy.
The story dates back over three hundred years to the end of the seventeenth century when, inexplicably, the family of Andrew Mackie began to be tormented by some sort of devilish spirit. The haunting lasted for a period of some three months. The strange events began one night in February 1695, when Andrew Mackie went out to check on his cattle. When he got to the barn, he found all the beasts running loose. A little puzzled, he tied them up carefully before retiring for the night. The next morning, however, when he went to attend to them, he found that they had become untethered once more. The next night, the same thing happened again. Andrew tied his beasts with even more care, only find them let loose, how, he had no idea. The next morning, he found one of his cattle suspended from the roof of the cattle shed by its tether.
The odd happenings in the cattle shed then began to be followed up by disturbances in the house. One night, a basket full of peat that had been standing outside found its way into the house as the family slept. The basket was upturned, and the peat was piled up in a heap in the middle of the house. Somehow, the peat had been set alight. Fortunately the family was wakened by the smell of smoke and disaster was averted.
There then followed a period in the month of March when the house was bombarded by stones. No one knew where the stones were coming from, no one appeared to be throwing them. At first, the odd small stone was seen to fly through the air outside the house. Gradually, the stones increased in size and number, hurled by some unseen force around the house, hitting the building and its occupants.
The disturbances continued - kitchen implements, furniture and bedding were inexplicably moved, turning up in the strangest of places. On one occasion a child of the family was alarmed to see a figure huddled in a blanket in the corner of the room, close to the fire. When someone had plucked up the courage to investigate and pulled the blanket back, it was found that it was not a person under the cover but an upturned stool.
The flying stones became bigger and better in their aim; members of the family were being knocked and bruised by them, and neighbours coming to call were similarly assaulted.
The house was continually disrupted by bangs, knockings, furniture moving and doors slamming. Over time, the family observed that the activities of this strange spirit were more frantic on Sundays or at times when the members of the family were praying together.
As the trouble escalated, the family called in Reverend Telfair. He led the family in prayers, but as soon as he left the house, the stone throwing resumed. Things calmed down in the following few days, but the next Sabbath saw an increase in the stone-throwing. Reverend Telfair offered to spend the night with the family. The spirit rewarded his efforts with more intense activity. Telfair himself was struck by stones and a stick. Furniture made strange noises; objects flew at people across the room.
As Telfair knelt in prayer, he felt something on his arm, and when he looked down, saw a ghostly white hand around his wrist.
In the following days, the spirit continued to vent its anger. People were hurled across rooms in the house, scratched, had their hair pulled, and were beaten with sticks. The stone-throwing continued relentlessly. The children had their covers torn off them as they lay in their beds. Then they were beaten about the hips by an invisible hand.
The spirit began to make itself heard. As the family were praying they heard a voice saying, "Whist! Whist!"
The torment continued unabated until April, and the bravery and tenacity of the family must have been considerable, for they remained in the house in spite of it all. In April, Telfair sought the assistance of his fellow clergy, and two ministers, Andrew Ewart and John Murdo, from Kells and Crossmichael respectively, joined the Mackie family in prayer one night. The ministers suffered considerable pains for their efforts; huge stones were flung at them both and they were beaten with sticks. The whole house was in more turmoil than ever. Fires began to break out.
One day, Andrew Mackie's wife was stepping into the yard when she noticed that a stone slab in the doorway was loose. She lifted the slab and found some bones and bloody flesh underneath, wrapped in cloth. She took the bones from the house to the landlord's house, quite some distance away, thinking that the trouble might in some way be associated with the bones. In her absence, the trouble in the house only increased. The children found burning hot stones in their beds. Fireballs flew around. The stone-throwing was worse than ever. Reverend Telfair prayed over the bones and was severely beaten with a stick.
And so it went on. Then something happened that made all concerned wonder whether there was something in the house's past to cause such violent spiritual disturbances. One day, Andrew Mackie found a note, written in blood, or so it appeared, close to his house.
"3 Years thou shall have to repent a nett it well. Wo be to thee Scotland Repent and tak warning for the doors of haven ar all redy bart against thee, I am sent for a warning to thee to flee to God yet troublt shall this man be for twenty days repent repent repent Scotland or else thou shall."
Was there a connection between the bones and the message? Had there been a murder in the house? The house was not old; it had been built only twenty-eight years before. An investigation into the past history of the building ought not to be difficult. Accordingly, all previous occupants were brought before a committee consisting of Andrew Telfair, the landlord, Charles Maclellan, and others. They were all asked to touch the bones. Nothing untoward occurred, so the committee sent the bones to Kirkcudbright for examination by an assembly of ministers. Five ministers were then dispatched to Andrew Mackie's house to pray. The spirit, angered as ever by religious intrusion, flew into a fury. Stones broke through the roof of the house, and the whole building seemed to shake. Telfair details some of the spirit's activities as follows:
"It brake down the barne door and mid-wall and threw stones up the house; But it did no great hurt: it gripped, and handled the legs of some, as with the man's hand; it hoisted up the feet of others while standing on the ground, thus it did to William Lennox of Mill-House, my self and others, in this manner it continued till ten a clock at night."
The ministers persisted for three days, but the spirit would not give in to their prayers. Other people from the district joined in the effort. At one point a neighbour appeared with his dog. The dog had killed a polecat on the way to the Mackie's house and the visitor threw the dead creature in a corner of the room before joining in the prayers. Three more people arrived and were very distressed when the spirit picked up the dead animal and beat them about the heads and bodies with its carcass. One of the visitors felt something like a hand inside his clothes and pockets and became so distraught that he was sick.
The following Sabbath brought even more upset. The spirit whispered and whistled and cried out at the family in prayer. The family and friends and neighbours were injured with stones and sticks. Praying men were lifted off their knees by the unseen force.
Two days later, on 16 April, the Mackie family had had enough. they decided to move out of the house for a while. Five of their neighbours volunteered to stay in the house in the Mackies' absence, Strangely, the trouble in the house stopped and the guests were not bothered by the spirit at all. Outside, however, the cattle were found to have broken loose from their tethers, and some appeared to have been disturbed. Thinking that things might be improving, some members of the family moved back in after a couple of days. They spent one peaceful night, but in the morning found that the sheep had been tied together in pairs by tethers fashioned from straw that had been taken from the stable. After two reasonably quiet days, the spirit started again, with vengeance. The beating and stone-throwing began again, and lumps of peat were thrown along with the stones. The spirit whistled and called out, "Take you that" as it beat its victims. All present continued with their prayers, but the harder they prayed, the more they suffered.
Andrew Mackie was snatching a few hours of sleep when he was woken by the voice of the spirit: "Thou shalt be troubled till Tuesday," it said.
Mackie decided to try and talk to the spirit. "Who gave thee a commission? he asked. "God gave me a commission," was the reply, "and I am sent to warn the land to repent, for a judgement is to come if the land do not quickly repent and I will return a hundred times worse upon every family in the land. Praise me and I will whistle to you; worship me and I will trouble you no more."
Mackie prayed for deliverance from Satan. The spirit's reaction was contemptuous: "You might as well have said Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego."
Several people heard the conversation between Andrew Mackie and the spirit. One of the company attempted to intervene, but the spirit would not countenance this, dismissing the man for meddling in other people's business. When the spirit became silent once more, the family was no further forward.
The next day, there were seven fires around the house started by the spirit, and the family and neighbours were kept hard at work all day extinguishing them. The spirit appeared to be frustrated at the success of their efforts and began to tear down one of the house walls. The family was forced to take refuge in a barn. As they tried to get some rest, the spirit raised a great block of wood in the air above the heads of the children. "If I had a commission I would brain them!" it cried angrily.
The fire-raising and the exhausting task of keeping the fires under control continued all the following day. Mackie was in the barn when the spirit spoke to him again. "Andrew. Andrew."
Mackie tried to ignore the voice.
"Speak!" commanded the spirit. Andrew would not speak. The spirit spoke again, in a calmer tone: "Be not troubled. You shall have no more trouble, except some casting of stones upon Tuesday to fulfil the promise." Telfair, Maclellan and some others joined the family late that night in the house and stayed there for some hours. Apart from some stone-throwing all was quiet.
On Tuesday, the day upon which the spirit had said it would stop its troubles, the Mackie family and others gathered in the barn to pray. Mackie was the first to catch sight of a black thing in the corner of the building. The thing grew, and it seemed as if it might fill the whole barn with its presence. It was like a huge, black storm cloud. Chaff and mud flew out of the cloud at the terrified onlookers, who then felt themselves being gripped painfully hard around the arms and bodies by the blackness itself. Then the blackness subsided. Everything returned to normal. A quiet night followed.
On the last Wednesday, 1 May, there was one final fire. A sheep house was destroyed, but neither people nor animals were hurt in any way. The disturbances at Ringcroft of Stocking were finally over, and no one was the wiser as to what had caused them. There were some theories as to what might have triggered the trouble. Reverend Telfair put three of these forward in his account of the happenings.
Some years before the house was occupied by the Mackie family, it was the home of a man called McNaught. McNaught was a miserable soul. Desperately poor and in frail health, he wondered if some evil force might have taken ill against him. He had sent his son to ask the advice of a spae-wife, or fortune-teller, some distance away. His son had gone to see the woman but had met some soldiers on his way home, enlisted and gone abroad. He finally sent a message back to Ringcroft relating the spae-wife's advice. Under a slab at the threshold of the house could be found a tooth. When the tooth was removed and burnt, good fortune would return to the house. The message got back to Ringcroft too late, however, for Mr McNaught was dead. The new tenant of the house, a man called Thomas Telfair (no relation of Reverend Telfair), heard of the spae-wife's words, lifted the stone, found a tooth and burned it. He had had no trouble whilst in the house. Perhaps McNaught's misery, Telfair's trouble-free tenancy and Andrew Mackie's troubles were somehow linked.
A second theory concerned the death of a woman of ill-repute whose belongings had been left in the house after she died. Perhaps the Mackies had taken the things for themselves? Mackie denied this strongly, saying that the woman's things, carefully tied in a bundle, had been returned to her nearest and dearest intact. The third theory was dismissed outright by Telfair, who knew Andrew Mackie to be a good, God-fearing citizen. The theory was that Mackie, when he became a mason, had dedicated his first child to the devil. The strange occurrences have sparked off many a lively debate in the years that have followed, but no one has come any closer to finding out what it was that tormented the family of Andrew Mackie for three terrible months in 1695. Why it caused so much trouble is just as much of a mystery and will no doubt remain so.
Let us know your thoughts on the Scottish poltergeist of the Andrew Mackie House in the comments section below. Now you have read this story, make sure you read about the true stories of the ghosts that have plagued the homes of the British Royal Family.