Glamis Castle is steeped in legend and has over 1,000 years of history. It is the ancestral seat to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and birthplace of HRH Princess Margaret. During World War I the castle became a convalescence home, and it is widely believed that it was where Duncan was murdered by Macbeth. Today, Glamis Castle is known to be Scotland’s most haunted castle and one of the most haunted locations across the British Isles. There have been countless reports of ghostly sightings and unexplainable occurrences, and it is believed that up to 20 different spirits reside in the castle and its grounds.
The castle’s main keep dates from the 14th century, while its turrets and towers were added later. It is said that if one counts the windows from the outside of the castle, then counts again from the inside they will always be two windows short. It is believed that the castle has a hidden room, which contains a terrible secret and may be one of the reasons for the high level of paranormal activity. Staff at the castle claim to have heard banging and thuds coming from within the building’s walls and many legends tell of bricked up rooms.
Once a year, on Halloween, visitors are invited to spend a spooky evening on haunted tour of the castle and its ‘bewitched woods’.
It is pitch black outside when we are invited to enter the castle for our night-tour. We are introduced to our guide, ‘a maid who worked in the castle many years ago’, and advised that the ‘spirits do not like flash photography’. We follow our guide up the dimly lit steps and almost jump out of our skins when a woman in old-fashioned clothes with a ghostly face lurches at us from a dark corner, setting the tone for the rest of our tour.
We gather in the drawing room and are shown the jacket belonging to John Graham of Claverhouse, most famously known as Bonnie Dundee. Dundee, often also referred to as Bluidy Clavers, led the Jacobite cause in the first Jacobite uprising of 1689. The jacket that he wore during the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 is on display at the castle and was allegedly enhanced by the devil himself during dark magic rituals undertaken in Claypotts Castle. Marks on the jacket, where bullets grazed it, can still be seen. The battle was his greatest victory, but as he left the battlefield he was shot and killed by a stray bullet. Many believe that only a silver bullet could have killed him and it is said that a red glow hangs over the pass of Killiecrankie on the anniversary of Bonnie Dundee’s death. Dundee’s ghost is believed to have been seen at different sites in Scotland, with one hand clasped over his bullet wound.
We move on to the next room where we learn the story of Lady Janet Douglas, the Lady of Glamis. She married the 6th Lord of Glamis and they lived in the castle with their son until Lord Glamis’ death in 1528. Her husband’s death left Lady Janet vulnerable to King James V, who bore a hatred of the family due to his resentment towards his stepfather, Lady Janet’s brother. He accused Lady Janet and her son of witchcraft, poisoning Lord Glamis and plotting to poison the king. They were taken from Glamis Castle to Edinburgh Castle, where they were imprisoned. Lady Janet was a well-respected woman and no-one believed the alleged crimes, so King James V resorted to torturing her family members and servants in order to obtain false accusations. Lady Glamis was believed to have gone blind by the time of her execution, from her lengthy imprisonment in the dark dungeons. She was finally burned at the stake in 1537. Her son was released and Glamis Castle, which has been claimed by King James V, was returned to him however, upon his return, he found that everything of value had been taken from it. Not long after the death of Lady Janet, her ghost began to appear at Glamis Castle. A knocking can be heard, which is believed to be the sound of the workmen building the scaffold she was executed on, and she is most often seen praying at the foot of the altar. To this day, a seat in the chapel is reserved for her.
We are guided past a sleeping guard, who we are told to be careful not to wake. As we pass the guard rises from his seat booming “who goes there?!”. A scream fills the air and a young girl, imprisoned in a small room behind the guard, pleads for help.
We come across two men, playing cards and drinking. One of them men is known as ‘Earl Beardie’. He was alleged to be an evil and cruel man with a wicked temperament and a searing bloodlust. It was very late on a Saturday evening and, as the clock neared midnight, a servant warned him of the time and reminded him that gambling on the Sabbath was sacrilege. The servant was rudely dismissed and the Lord claimed he would keep playing until doomsday, if he wished to. At the stroke of midnight a stranger, who is believed to have been the Devil himself, entered the room and asked to join the game. At some time in the wee hours of the morning, arguing could be heard in the room and servant opened the door. He found the Earl engulfed in flames. It is believed that the devil won the game and condemned Beardie to play cards until doomsday. Noises, including shouting and banging, are said to have been heard coming from the West Tower, where the game took place. Some claim to have seen (and even been touched by) a bearded spectre wandering the castle.
We once again come across the poor, wretched girl who was imprisoned. We learn that she lived in the castle many centuries ago and told lies about the Lord of the castle at the time. Her punishment was to have her tongue ripped from her mouth. It is believed that a ghost, known as ‘The Woman Without a Tongue’ haunts the castle to this day, however it is not known who she really was or how she died. She has been seen looking out from a barred window within the castle with blood spattered across her face.
In the dining room, which we are told is filled with magic, we meet Scotland’s most powerful warlock. The warlock is, in fact, Glamis Castle’s resident magician. We are told that the room is infused with magical energy because it is where the Witches of Glamis held their coven. We watch as the magician makes a coin bend, ‘drawing on the energy of the room’ by asking us to put our hands together in a pyramid shape. As the magic shows ends, the Witches of Glamis appear from the darkest corners of the room, cackling and reaching out to grab us.
We leave the castle and enter the bewitched woods, which are dimly lit with eerie lights. Smoke drifts through the trees and steam rises from a bubbling pond. We sense someone behind us and turn to see a 15th century maid, carrying a lantern. We continue along the path, deeper into the woods. A statue’s head turns as we walk past. We reach a dead-end and pause in the chilly night air, looking for a clue as to which way we should go. Suddenly we hear the sound of an engine and smell of exhaust smoke wafts towards us. A man with a white hockey mask wielding a chainsaw appears from behind the trees and instinctively we find out way back to the castle in no time.
- Information provided on the night-tour of Glamis Castle.
- The Jacobites and the Supernatural, Geoff Holder