"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Vengeful Ghost of Galdenoch

Galdenoch Castle, via canmore.org.uk

In most poltergeist accounts, households and individuals are targeted for no discernible reasons whatsoever. The spectral attacks begin and end seemingly at random. However, there are a few cases where the paranormal entity makes it clear it is seeking revenge over some perceived slight or injustice.

The most famous of the latter cases is probably the 17th century "Drummer of Tedworth." A less well-known, but equally interesting, example of ghostly payback took place in Galloway, Scotland during the time of the Covenanters and the Scottish Civil War.

Galdenoch Tower, in the parish of Leswalt, had once been a grand castle owned by the Agnew clan. However, the family eventually fell on hard times, and by the close of the 17th century, Galdenoch had been converted into a mere farmhouse. When a farmer and his family took possession of the property, they learned they would be getting an extra bonus: a ghost.

The story behind that particular haunting was this: One of the Agnew men fought for the cause of the Covenant, but unfortunately for him, his army was thoroughly defeated by Montrose. After the battle, the exhausted Agnew sought shelter at nearby farm. The farmer, described as a "rough and blustering man,"allowed the fugitive to share the family dinner and spend the night.

Early the next morning, young Agnew began to leave, but was stopped by his now extremely unfriendly host. The farmer was a Royalist, and had begun to entertain suspicions that his guest had fought on the wrong side. Fearing that he would be taken prisoner and handed over to his enemies, Agnew drew out his pistol and shot his host dead. He then rushed to the stables, saddled his horse, and fled home to Galdenoch.

Agnew arrived safely at the castle, but that night, as he settled down to bed, he was greeted by a most disconcerting visitor: the ghost of the farmer he had just slain. And this was a very angry ghost, anxious to make Agnew's remaining earthly days a torment. According to tradition, not only did the spirit do just that, it continued to pester all successive occupants of the castle. By the time Galdenoch was converted to a farmhouse, some time around 1697, the ghost's exploits had become stranger and more disruptive than ever.

One winter night, as the tenant farmer and his family sought warmth around the kitchen fire, they played a popular game which involved passing a burning stick from hand to hand while chanting, "About wi' that! about wi' that! Keep alive the priest-cat!" Whoever was holding the stick when the flame went out had to pay a forfeit, which usually involved having to do some curious and humiliating action.

Well, that night, the entire family paid the penalty. When the stick's spark was extinguished, one of the party gazed at the blazing hearth and commented, in that impossible-to-translate Scots fashion, "It wadna be hannie to steal a coal the noo." As soon as he spoke, a glowing peat suddenly disappeared, leaving a hole in the middle of the fire.

"That beats a'," the family observed.

Not quite. A few minutes later, the dreaded cry of "Fire!" was heard. The entire farm-steading was in flames. That "cube of fire" which had vanished from the kitchen hearth had been inserted into the barn. Fortunately, after a great deal of effort, the farm buildings were saved from entire destruction.

Things only got weirder. A short time after this incident, the farmer's mother was sitting quietly at her spinning-wheel when an invisible force carried her off, mumbling, "I'll dip thee, I'll draw thee." True to its word, the entity repeatedly dunked her in a nearby stream until the poor old woman was unconscious and half-drowned. When it came time for dinner, the rest of the family realized "grandmamma" was missing. When a search of the farm buildings failed to find her, the tenants became seriously alarmed. When the children of the household ran about the place, frantically asking each other, "Where's granny?" A spectral voice intoned, "I've washed granny in the burn, and laid her on the dyke to dry!" And, indeed, "granny" was found on the dyke, in a most pitiful condition.

The family had quite enough of this nonsense. Several of the local clergymen were summoned to "lay the ghost," but all their efforts were in vain. Whenever they tried singing hymns, the ghost would simply sing along, drowning out their voices. One minister, who had a reputation for being able to banish any ghost in existence, was so offended by the spirit's booming voice and "sharp retorts" that he stalked off, angrily vowing that he would never come back. The ghost called after the minister, begging him to return. It promised that if he would, the entity would tell him something which he had never heard before.

The minister was intrigued enough to swallow his pride and re-enter the farmhouse. He was greeted by the increasingly obnoxious voice chortling, "Ha! ha! I hae gotten the minister to tell a lee!"

Of all the different types of ghosts, the smart-mouthed ones are undoubtedly the worst.

Things went from bad to worse for the beleaguered family. Spinning thread was snapped into shreds. Peat clods were thrown into the porridge, and worse things still dumped into the kail-pot. Finally, after some years of this, a newly-ordained young man, the Reverend Mr. Marshall of Kirkcolm, volunteered to test his godly powers against the Galdenoch pest. Upon arrival at the farm, Marshall hung up his hat, recited a psalm, and began to sing. As always, the ghost began to sing along, drowning out all in the company except the determined Reverend. Marshall's voice rose louder and louder, belting out his song until the "witching hour" of midnight, when he convinced the exhausted family to join in again. The din lasted until dawn, when the ghost, its voice now weak and husky, gasped, "Roar awa, Marshall, I can roar nae mair! I can roar nae mair!" And, sure enough, the spirit was never heard from again.

Marshall went on to gain lasting fame for both his prosecutions of witches and his stentorian voice (we are told that when he preached on a calm day, he could be heard for miles around,) but it was always considered his greatest achievement to have shouted down the Ghost of Galdenoch.

1 comment:

  1. Ghosts have weird rules to live by. They are not bound by earthly limitations, but their voices can grow hoarse from trying to out-sing a mortal. Perhaps only in Scotland...


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