The Ghosts Of Glamis Castle: The Myths & Legends That Have Plagued Scotlands Most Haunted Castle

Glamis Castle is plagued with stories of terrifying ghosts and spectres that have tormented those who lived and visited over the years. Here is an account of the dark history of the once magnificent castle.

Haunted Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle is labelled by man as the most haunted place in Scotland

Glamis Castle, a monstrous edifice with looming towers and a gloomy atmosphere, looks as if it ought to be haunted, and haunted it is, perhaps more so than any other place in Scotland. It is now the family seat of the Bowes-Lyones, Earls of Strathmore. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, then Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, lived at Glamis as a child, and in 1930, Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was born there. The castle, although peaceful now, has a colourful past, and from time to time spectres from that past return to haunt the living.

Both a grey lady and a white lady have been seen to wander the castle. The Grey Lady is most frequently seen around the area of the chapel and there seems to be no definite idea as to her identity. The White Lady, who appears very infrequently, is thought to be the ghost of Janet Douglas, who lived in the sixteenth century and was the wife of John, sixth Lord Glamis. John died and Janet remarried, settling with her new husband, Campbell of Skipness, at Glamis. The king at the time, James V, hated the Douglas clan, the powerful family to which Janet belonged. As an act of what only can be construed as pure obsessive hatred, James had Janet captured and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle on charges of witchcraft and conspiracy to poison the king. Her husband and son were imprisoned along with her. After several years' imprisonment, Janet was burned at the stake on Castle Hill. Her husband died in a bungled attempt to flee from the castle, and her son, Lord Glamis, was kept imprisoned until after the death of James V.

Ghastly stories are also told of what befell the Ogilvie family at Glamis castle in its early days. The Ogilvies were engaged in a bitter and deadly dispute with the Lindsay family, and one day found themselves having to call upon Lord Glamis for refuge. He duly let them into the castle and hid them, as they thought, safely in a secret chamber within the walls. Unfortunately, the Ogilvies had not chosen as safe a sanctuary as they had hoped. Lord Glamis had no intention of letting them out again, for, like the Lindsays, he too despised them. His treatment of them was, whatever he might have felt for them, grossly barbaric. He locked the door of the secret chamber and turned away, never to return. The poor members of the Ogilvie family were left to starve to death and rot in their hidden location.

Nothing more was known of the fate of the Ogivies until centuries later when one Earl of Strathmore accidentally happened upon the room in which the Ogilvies had been condemned to live out their last, painful days. It is said that when the Earl opened the door and discovered the rotted, skeletal contents of the hidden chamber, he fainted with horror and disgust. "Beardie" is another ghost of Glamis, with a story that is also linked to the existence of some sort of hidden chamber. Accounts differ as to exactly who Beardie was. Some say he was the first Lord of Glamis, others that he was in fact the Earl of Crawford. Whichever he was, the story goes that he was a gambling man with a violent temper. Unable to find anyone to play cards with him late one Saturday night as the sacred Sabbath approached, Beardie announced that he would quite happily play with the devil himself if challenged to do so.

Haunted Castle Scotland
Ghostly sightings have been reported for decades at Glamis Castle

Right on cue, a dark stranger appeared and offered to take Beardie on in a card game. The two men retired to a chamber to play. The servants in the castle were intrigued by the noises of shouting and swearing they could hear coming from the room - it appeared that Beardie was losing, and losing badly at that. One servant, unable to contain his curiosity, put his eye to the keyhole only to jump back screaming in pain, having been blinded by a shooting dart of flame.

Beardie emerged from the chamber, raging at the interruption. When he stormed back into the room to continue the game, the stranger had disappeared. The devil had gone, but he had taken with him the soul of Beardie, which the rash lord had gambled away. It seemed as if Beardie was condemned to play cards for eternity, for after his death, some five years later, the room was in constant turmoil with the sounds of cursing, swearing card-players. The story goes that after some years, the chamber was sealed up in an attempt to stop the activities of the phantom Beardie, but his ghost, a fearsome creature complete with a straggly beard, is still said to appear in certain places in the castle from time to time and the sounds of raucous card-playing can still, on occasion, be heard.

The first black ghost in Scotland is said to live in Glamis Castle. He is said to be the spirit of a much-abused servant boy and is sometimes seen sitting on a stone seat just outside the Queen Mother's sitting room. Some say the child was ordered to sit there and wait until he was told what to do next. Terrified at the thought of the consequences of disobedience, the little boy did just that, but was forgotten about and left there overnight. Being a very lowly servant, he was poorly clad, especially for the rigours of the Scottish climate, and having been left to sit in a freezing corridor for hours on end, he died from hypothermia.

Other ghosts that have been seen at Glamis Castle include the gruesome apparition of a woman with no tongue, who flits across the grounds with her mouth open and bloody; a dark figure dressed in what appears to be a military coat; and a fleeting figure who is seen in the grounds (albeit briefly, for he runs so fast), known as Jack the Runner. The woman with no tongue is thought to have been witness to some ghastly deed and to have had her tongue cut out to ensure that she kept her silence. Just who the other two might be, nobody knows. The greatest intrigue at Glamis concerns another secret room story and a monster story. At some time there is supposed to have existed, locked up in a secret chamber somewhere within the walls of Glamis Castle, a monster. Accounts vary as to just who or what the monster is supposed to have been and when it came into being, but all seem to indicate that the monster was in fact a family member. There are theories that the monster was in some way connected to Patrick, the third Earl of Strathmore. Those who follow this line of thinking point to a picture of Patrick that hangs in the castle. In the painting, at Earl Patrick's side is an armour-clad figure of unknown identity, which looks as if its arms and body are strangely deformed. The theory does not make a lot of sense, for if the monster was so terrible that it had to be kept hidden away from the outside world under lock and key, why did the Earl of Strathmore have it included in a painting.

Other accounts of the existence of a monster, or at least a grossly deformed human being, suggest that the creature might have been the first son of the eleventh Earl of Strathmore. The twelfth Earl, Thomas, was born in 1822, but records apparently show that another son was born to the eleventh Earl and his wife in 1821, a son who supposedly died just after birth. The story goes that this son did not in fact die but was so horribly deformed that the family had to keep him hidden from public view. The child's younger brother did not even know of his existence until they came of age, when, as a sort of gruesome rite of passage, they were each allowed to discover the location of the secret room. When they had been taken there, the awful truth was revealed to them. The secret of that hidden chamber was never revealed to any woman apparently, and was known only by three men at any one time. Those who became privy to the secret were said to have been shocked to the core - changed men from that day onwards.

Rumour has it that the monster lived until about 1921 - if he was born in 1821, he reached the age of a hundred, a surprising old age for someone to live to at the turn of the nineteenth century. If the monster was born around the time of Patrick, the third Earl, then the theory defies belief. Tales of the existence of a secret room hidden within the walls of the castle, for whatever purpose, are quite believable, for in places the walls are as much as four metres thick. Visitors to the castle have been known to try to find the location of the room by hanging towels out of the windows of all the rooms that they could find. In theory, the one window without a towel hanging from it would be the window of the secret room. Some say that the location of the secret room is still known and that still, only three people living at any one time are privy to the secret. Whatever the contents of the secret room - monster, monstrous remains, or something else - its story has attracted a great deal of interest and much speculation over the years. Visitors to the castle at various times in the past century and before have made claims that their sleep has been disturbed by the most awful sights and sounds. And to this day there is a walkway on the roof, known as the Mad Earl's Walk, which is rumoured to be haunted by terrible noises. Here, it is said, the poor creature, the dreadful, hideous family secret, was taken under cover of darkness for exercise.

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