Ghosts of Glamis – Scotland’s Most Haunted Castle

Glamis Castle

A vampire, a witch, and a monster are said to be just some of the otherworldly entities lurking at Glamis Castle, generally regarded as one of the most haunted places on Earth.

When a young Sir Walter Scott spent the night alone at Glamis Castle in 1790, he recalled how he began to consider himself “as too far from the living and somewhat too near to the dead.” With its many unsolved mysteries and weird legends, Glamis Castle is said to have several ghostly residents, and is widely believed to be one of the most haunted places on Earth.

Standing near Forfar in the County of Angus, Glamis Castle is the seat of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. Huge and majestic, Glamis’s many towers and turrets lend it an almost fairy-tale aspect, an appearance however which belies its dark and sinister history, characterized by all manner of strange and violent episodes. Legend has it that Malcolm II was murdered at the castle, and an indelible bloodstain is said to mark the spot where he was slain. Shakespeare used Glamis as the setting for his famous tragedy, Macbeth. In 1372, the castle came into the possession of the Lyon family when Sir John Lyon was given it by Robert II. Sir John was later killed in a duel. The castle was also the childhood home of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother.

The Ghost of Earl Beardie

One of the most famous ghosts at the castle is known as Earl Beardie. Said to be the spirit of Alexander Lyon, 2nd Lord Glamis, or Alexander Crawford, 4th Earl of Crawford, an old story relates how the infamous Earl Beardie was eternally damned for gambling on the Sabbath. Around the time of James II of Scotland, the earl is believed to have played host to a mysterious stranger, who he challenged to a game of cards. It transpired that Beardie’s opponent was none other than the Devil himself, who consequently claimed the Earl’s soul. The ghost of Earl Beardie was allegedly seen by a number of witnesses in the 19th century. One incident from 1869 relates how several guests at the castle saw the spectre in the early hours of the morning, roaming around the upper bedrooms.

Among the other ghosts at Glamis is a sinister tall figure wearing a cloak, which was witnessed disappearing through a wall by both the Dean of Brechin, and then the following night, the Bishop of Brechin. Strange and inexplicable noises, including a repetitive hollow banging, are often heard. A ‘tongueless’ woman is said to race around the castle grounds late at night, frenziedly pointing to her mutilated and blood-stained mouth, while an eerie female face has been seen peering through an upper lattice window. A door at the castle mysteriously opens on its own accord during the night, even when it is locked and bolted, while a peculiar phantom, known as Jack the Runner, is said to flit across the park late at night.

The Grey Lady

The castle chapel is rumoured to be haunted by a Grey Lady. She has been observed on a number of occasions, kneeling in prayer at one of the pews. In 1963, the 16th Earl, Timothy Bowes-Lyon, and also Lady Granville, spotted her. Some have speculated the ghostly lady is the spirit of Janet Douglas. Janet was the widow of the 6th Lord Glamis and met a terrible end on 17 July 1537. Accused of witchcraft by James V, she was taken to Edinburgh and thrown into the castle dungeon. Soon after the hapless Janet met a fiery fate when she was burnt at the stake on Castle Hill. Her ghost is also said to appear above Glamis’s clock tower.

Secret rooms are frequently mentioned in chronicles of the castle’s legends. One tale relates how a lord of Glamis was confronted by a horrific sight when he had one of these hidden rooms opened. Heaped around the dank and fetid chamber were many skeletons, the arms of which were placed near their mouths, as if they had resorted to gnawing the very flesh from their bones in a ghastly attempt to prolong their lives. The skeletons were believed to be the earthly remains of members of the Ogilvy clan. It’s said that in 1486 several Ogilvy retainers had sought sanctuary at Glamis whilst fleeing from their enemies, the Lindsays. The then lord had offered them refuge, only to have them walled up and left to rot.

Vampires and Monsters

Another story tells of how a vampire lurks somewhere deep within the castle. Some of Glamis’s walls are over fifteen feet thick and several are said to harbour concealed passages and long forgotten nooks. Many years ago, a female servant was said to have committed murder at the castle. She was discovered, it is told, gleefully supping the blood of her victim. This vampiric maid was promptly walled up alive and it is believed to this day that she resides somewhere in the castle, patiently waiting her eventual release…

However it is the so-called Monster of Glamis which provides the castle’s most enduring legend. In 1821, it’s said that the wife of the 11th Earl’s only son gave birth to a hideously deformed child. Official records stated that the baby was still-born, although a rumour started to circulate that he in fact lived, and was housed somewhere within the castle. According to this rumour, only three people were privy to the existence and location of the Glamis monster: the current earl, his son (on the attainment of his 21st birthday), and the factor of the estate. Women were barred from knowing the nature of the dreadful secret. The monster was the rightful heir to the earldom and property, yet he was forever denied his inheritance, instead being kept locked away in a hidden chamber, only to be taken out at night and exercised on an area of the castle now known as Mad Earl’s Walk. He was also said to have lived to a very advanced aged, possibly dying sometime in the 1920s. Whether he actually existed or not remains a mystery to this day.


Photo Credit:

“Glamis Castle” by Peter van der Wielen
Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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