The Sutor Of Selkirk is a Scottish ghost story legend that tells the tale of a mysterious man, a disinterred grave, and the disturbing disappearance of the local cobbler.
This story, which comes from the Border town of Selkirk, Scotland, tells of the strange disappearance of a cobbler. The secret of what exactly happened to him is known only to the dead.
The cobbler was called Rabbie Heckspeckle, and he was, by all accounts, a skilled and industrious craftsman, quick and nimble with his fingers, who shod many a fine gentleman around the town of Selkirk.
One particular morning, the cobbler was up before dawn, as was his habit, working on a pair of shoes, when a stranger came into the shop. It was unusual for anyone to come looking for service at such an early hour, but Rabbie Heckspeckle was a shrewd businessman and did not like to turn down any opportunity to make a little money. Accordingly, he greeted the stranger with his usual courtesy and asked how he could be of assistance. The man was looking for a new pair of shoes.
The stranger was well dressed, but he had a certain air of decay about him, and there was something in his manner that the cobbler did not particularly take to. Nevertheless, Rabbie Heckspeckle politely obliged him by showing him a few samples of his work.
The stranger pointed to one particular pair of shoes that were to his liking, and although the cobbler did not have any in the right size, he measured the stranger's feet and assured him that he would be able to make some in time for collection the next day. The stranger said that he would be picking up the shoes early, well before dawn, and the cobbler, although a little surprised, said that such an arrangement would be quite convenient. The sun had still not come up when the mysterious stranger left the cobbler's shop.
Rabbie Heckspeckle worked all day and long into the night, completing the shoes for the stranger. When he had finally finished, the shoes were as fine as any he had made. Congratulating himself on a fine job, he turned in for the night, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before his customer returned.
It was still dark when the cobbler heard a knock on the door, waking him from his slumber. Rubbing his eyes, he pulled on some clothes and went to let his customer in. The stranger tried on the shoes with hardly a word. They fitted him beautifully, but he was far from fulsome in his praise for the good cobbler's efforts. He merely tossed a handful of silver coins at Rabbie Heckspeckle, turned around and made for the door.
The cobbler was intrigued by this eerie man. He wanted to see where he lived. The man was certainly not a familiar figure around the streets of the town. Unable to contain his curiosity, Rabbie Heckspeckle set off to follow the stranger, keeping at a safe distance. He followed the stranger all the way to the kirkyard and watched as the sombre figure made his way through the serried ranks of the gravestones to the far side of the cemetery. There, before the stupefied gaze of Rabbie Heckspeckle, the stranger lay down on one of the graves and disappeared.
The cobbler rushed over to the grave site where he had seen the stranger vanish. There was no sign of digging nor of disturbance of any kind. Where had the stranger gone? Hurriedly, the cobbler left a pile of stones on top of the grave as a marker and rushed off to tell everybody about what he had just seen.
At first, nobody would believe him. The cobbler must have imagined it. The stranger probably walked out the other side of the graveyard unnoticed. The idea that he had vanished into a grave was quite preposterous, after all. But in spite of all the ridicule, the cobbler persisted with his story, and after a great debate, it was agreed that the grave should be opened.
The gravediggers were summoned and the coffin was disinterred. The coffin was then opened in full view of several witnesses. Inside the coffin, they found the body of a man dressed just like the stranger had been and wearing a pair of brand-new shoes. The shoes were so beautifully crafted that they could only have been made by Rabbie Heckspeckle. The townspeople had to believe his story now.
Nobody really knew what to do next. After some debate, it was decided that the best thing to do was to seal the coffin again and put it back in the grave. Time would tell whether the ghostly stranger was likely to put in another appearance in the future. But before the coffin was re-interred, the cobbler reclaimed the shoes that he had made. They were a fine pair, after all, and what use could they be to a dead person?
He had made a big mistake. The next morning, before dawn, the neighbours had a rude awakening. Sounds of a terrible struggle were heard coming from Rabbie Heckspeckle's cobbler's shop. Several people who had all been disturbed by the thumping and screaming ran to the shop to investigate. They could find nothing except a set of footprints leading from the shop to the graveyard. The footprints led right up to the grave that had been dug up the day before.
There was nothing else for it - the grave had to be dug up once again. When the coffin was lifted out and opened, the townspeople shuddered when they saw what lay inside. The corpse, it seemed, had got his new shoes back. There they were, on his feet, just as before. Of Rabbie Heckspeckle, however, there was no sign, apart from a piece of shirt, which the corpse held in its pallid, decaying fingers.
Rabbie Heckspeckle was never seen again. The people of Selkirk were left to wonder, with fear in their hearts, what had happened to the cobbler at the hands of the ghostly stranger. The Sauchie Poltergeist: The Story Of How A Violent Spirit Terrorised A Young Girl In Scotland