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Scary tales from our properties

Written by Paul Williams
Two women walk up a narrow stone spiral stairwell, looking anxious. The lady in front carries a bright torch to light the stairs above.
As the spooky season descends upon us, we’ve gathered a collection of ghoulish Halloween tales for your entertainment. Fans of the supernatural will be delighted to hear these eye-witness accounts of ghostly goings-on at the places in our care.
Crathes Castle at night, with a very faint light left in the sky. There are floor lights at ground level, lighting up part of the exterior. Three silhouetted figures are caught in that light.

Crathes Castle, Banchory, Aberdeenshire

Doug Kyle, Visitor Services Manager

‘I have just started as Visitor Services Manager at Crathes and there has been nothing but creepy stuff happening! I have worked in historical properties for many years, so am very used to the banging of doors, creaking and wind whistling through supposedly empty buildings. One morning when I arrived, I deactivated the alarm and began to make my way upstairs before hearing footsteps quickly rush in front of me. As I ventured further into the building, I discovered all the doors were open. This is odd on three accounts. First, staff always close the doors at the end of their shift the night before; second, the building’s alarm cannot be set with the doors open; and third, it was EVERY door, even the doors to cleaning cupboards. It was very unusual but I wasn’t freaked out; the ghostly presence was clearly just helping me open the building to the public!’

A white stone longhouse with a red corrugated metal roof stands in a valley, with hills rising behind.

Moirlanich Longhouse, near Killin, Stirling

Gillean Ford, Volunteer

‘I have “seen” a previous resident of the longhouse, Lizzie Robertson, twice whilst on duty at Moirlanich. The first time, I was alone in the house and standing in the kitchen looking out of the back window when I was aware that there was someone behind me. When I turned around, there was Lizzie sitting at the table next to the front window, wearing a white apron and mixing something in a bowl. It was a fleeting glimpse and then she was gone. The second time, again when I was alone in the house and looking at the hanging lum, I was aware that someone was behind me, having entered the room from the byre. I turned around and there was Lizzie, in her white apron, carrying her bowl.

‘Another time at Moirlanich, I heard the sound of someone walking on the path at the back of the house. There were no visitors around at that time at all, only me in the house and another volunteer in the hut!’

A view of Newhailes House at dusk, with very little daylight remaining. Two windows in the centre of the house and one round window in the attic are lit from inside. Frost lies on the ground in front of the house.

Newhailes House, Musselburgh, East Lothian

Diane Martin, Visitor Services Assistant

‘I was once setting up the house for an evening ghost tour and heard knocking. I thought it was the other tour guide at the front door, so I went and opened the door, but no one was there. I continued to set up for the event, and the knocking happened again. Again, I went to the door but no one was there. I shut the front door and heard the knocking coming from the dining room. I went in and it was empty, then I heard two women softly singing. I couldn’t hear the words, it was just in the room with me. I swiftly left the room and stayed in the attic until my colleague came to help.

‘Another experience was during an Open Doors weekend when a visitor said how they liked the piano music that was being played. However, there was no one playing the piano and, with a guide in each room, we would have known if someone had touched the old piano. Similarly, on a separate occasion, a staff member heard piano music whilst upstairs, yet when they got downstairs there was no one in the building. The room was empty but the piano was open.

‘There have been a number of incidents over the years where staff at Newhailes have heard or experienced strange noises or smells around the property. Members of staff and visitors have smelt cigar smoke in the stairwell and corridor beside the Library. It is a very strong smell that disappears as quickly as it arrives, as if someone has puffed smoke in your face. Staff have heard wheels on the gravel at the entrance, where vehicles are not permitted, yet when you look out to see if there is a vehicle, nothing is there and the chain is up that secures the area. Staff have heard footsteps, mumbling and rustling fabric, like ladies’ skirts, usually on the James Smith staircase and along the corridor toward the Library. There have been many other strange happenings at Newhailes, including hearing chatting and singing, loud bangs, doors slamming, items being moved, the feeling of someone being in the room, footsteps moving along the corridor in the Stables, books thrown over the floor, and hearing horses on the cobbles and neighing.’

Dixie Sudron, Events Manager

‘Our office used to be in the attic space of Newhailes House. One morning in 2019, three of us were in extra-early to set up for an event. We were all sitting in the office, no one talking, when we heard gramophone music playing from along the corridor. We stopped what we were doing and all looked at each other. I stood up and went to the door, but when I opened it, the music stopped. To get into Newhailes House, you need to ring the doorbell and we would press a buzzer to let someone in. There was no one else in the building; furthermore, there was no gramophone in the building. I found out a couple of years later that Sir Mark had a room in the attic that he used for his recordings, radio and music interests. It’s never happened again.’

Culzean Castle lit by ground lights at night, with the cannon lit as well.

Culzean Castle, near Maybole, Ayrshire

Gordon Nelson, Collections Care Officer

‘Housekeeping staff over the last few years have had several encounters with the ghosts of Culzean. On two separate occasions, unknown to each other, two of the cleaners felt someone touching their shoulder while at the top of the Oval Staircase. On turning around, they found no one there. Another cleaner had her apron tugged from behind while she was working on the top floor of the castle. Again, when she turned round, she found no one there. Another staff member also saw a woman on the first-floor gallery of the Oval Staircase. She described her to me as a lady with a long dress and it looked as if she was floating around the gallery. This spirit looked like a very hazy grey mass.’

For all the latest information on Halloween events taking place in your area, please visit the individual property page on the website or check out their Facebook page. You never know, you might experience some supernatural shenanigans of your own ...

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