Throughout its history, the story of Scotland has been interwoven with tales of the paranormal: Highlanders who 'see' the funeral procession of someone not yet dead; the ghostly reenactments of bloody battles; and fey creatures that lure men to a watery doom.
Rosemary Gray has selected stories from the pens of Scotland's most well-known supernatural authors, including John Buchan, Sir Walter Scott, Margaret Oliphant, and Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as a smattering of anonymous folk tales.
Alas, some of the stories are incomplete, e.g. "The Watcher by the Threshold" by John Buchan is mainly an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the longer, original version.
The other problem with many of the stories (for me at least) is that they are narrated in an almost impenetrable Scots dialect. Here is a sampling from one of the most harrowing tales in this collection, Stevenson's "Thrawn Janet:"
"Wi' a' that he had upon his mind, it was gey and unlikely Mr Soulis wad get muckle sleep. He lay an' he tumbled; the gude, caller bed that he got into brunt his very banes; whiles he slept, and whiles he waukened; whiles he heard the time o' nicht, and whiles a tyke yowlin' up the muir, as if somebody was deid; whiles he thocht he heard bogles claverin' in his lug, an' whiles he saw spunkies in the room."
The longest story, "The Haunted Major" by Robert Marshall, is a humorous tale of a haughty English aristocrat who challenges Scotland's best golfer to a game, even though he himself has never set foot on a golf course.
Of course no book on Scotland's paranormal history would be complete without mention of the late Queen Mother's home, Glamis Castle, often called the most haunted castle in Great Britain. The editor chooses to retell the tales of the guest who was awakened by ghostly hammering, and the stonemason who was forced to emigrate after "discovering more than he should have done" about the castle's secret room.
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Elaine Lovitt (starmoth)
I'm a retired geek whose goal is to move to Discworld and apprentice myself to Granny Weatherwax. I have degrees in Astronomy and Computer Science, but was seduced by the Dark Side a few years before … more
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This book is selected by Rosemary Gray. Scotland has a notoriously rich and diverse cultural tradition when it comes to the supernatural. Many of her greatest writers from Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg to Robert Louis Stevenson and John Buchan have explored the country's unique folkloric heritage to spine-chilling effect. From Highlands to Lowlands, from blasted heath or remote glen to wretched hovel or austere castle, the very topography lends itself somehow to the strange and unexplainable. Leading off Edinburgh's colourful Royal Mile, which runs from the Palace of Holyrood to the gaunt castle on the rock, there are many narrow 'wynds' - passages ancient and mysterious. As soon as you leave the sunshine and enter these dark and reeking ways you know that you are in a city full of ghosts and spirits - unhappy souls condemned for ever to roam this antique city. Tormented spectres like them throng the pages of this disquieting collection. Lock your door, turn up the lights, put extra logs on the fire and as you start to read utter a fervent prayer. From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggety beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us! If this plea fails to work and they choose to come for you, despair; there is no hope; there is no escape. In truth, dear reader, if you are of a nervous disposition and liable to fearings and fantasies we are not sure this book is entirely suitable for you. You have been warned.