glamis-castle-1

The Ghosts of Glamis

Found -  The Ghosts of Glamis - a typescript, apparently unpublished, from around the 1960s. Glamis is the seat of the Queen Mother's family, the Bowes-Lyons, and is said to be the most haunted castle in Britain. There is the Grey Lady who haunts the chapel, a tongueless woman haunting the grounds, a young black servant boy haunts the seat by the door to the Queen's bedroom, also the ghost of the gambler and hell raiser Earl Beardie has free range of the house (he lost his soul to the devil in a card game). There are more. The castle is also mentioned in Shakespeare's MacBeth, and the murder of King Malcolm the II is supposed to have taken place in one of the rooms.This seems unlikely as the castle dates from the 14th century and the murder from the 11th century. The typescript is of unknown provenance but seems to have been written for publication...


The Ghosts of Glamis

     Glamis Castle is certainly the most noteworthy castle in Scotland, and it held in special pride and affection by the Scottish people. The long records which tell of its history as a Royal residence, the romance of the long ownership by the Lyon family, the many legends and ghostly happenings which are connected with it are fittingly expressed in the building itself. Glamis - that most haunted and stately old pile - is the very embodiment of the castle of romance.
     Still proving the validity of its ancient boast that it is the cradle of kings, it has, in our day, added to its memorable past by having been the childhood home of the Queen Mother, whose father, the late Earl, was the 14th of the line of Strathmore and Kinghorne.
     Legend, as well as history, has enriched the story of Glamis.
The stone chamber in the Castle known as Duncan's Hall is the traditional scene where Macbeth "Thane of Cawdor, Lord of Glamis, King of Scotland," is said to have murdered Duncan, and there is a Mystery Room somewhere in the thickness of its enormously solid walls which is alleged to contain some strange and grisly secret closely associated with the Earls of Strathmore and the Lyon family.
     Besides these legends the records of Glamis receal several ghosts which make the Castle interesting to all those who are students of the mysterious and the occult.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

     In 1529 the widowed Lady Glamis of that day, born Janet Douglas, became a victim of James V's unreasoning hatred and jealousy of the Douglas family.
     She had one son, the heir of Glamis. But Janet had a sinister reputation. Three separate charges of using magical powers were laid against her, but she was too well-connected for them to be proceeded with.
     Janet shared the high ambitions of her brother. He had married Queen Margaret, mother of James V, and dreamed of supreme power. He set about getting it by assassination, bribery and civil war. Finally he was defeated. Robbed of his protection, Janet was now freshly charged. She was accused of weaving spells with the express intent of causing James V's death and of a more practicable attempt to poison him.
  And so Janet was burnt on Castle Hill, Edinburgh.

The "Weird Sisters" in an outdoor performance of Macbeth at Glamis

  Her son, Lord Glamis, a boy of sixteen, was sentenced to death, but this sentence was not carried out, although he was held according to the King's  pleasure and had his estate forfeited. King James spent most of the rest of his life at Glamis and held his court here with his Queen, Mary of Guise, and their daughter Mary, later Queen of Scots. When the King died in 1542, Lord Glamis was released and he lived to found a great and distinguished family.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

     A guest at Glamis strolling near the Central Tower late one night saw a pale face with large mournful eyes that seemed to be appealing to him, pressed against one of the narrow lattice windows. The face vanished suddenly from the window, and as it did so the hands of the creature clutched at the iron bars, but the hands did not appear to have any finders on them and they could not hold on against some superior strength which seemed to be plucking them away. A few seconds later a series of appalling screams issued from the window.
     The guest took out his watch to ascertain the time, and found that it wanted one minute to midnight. In taking his eyes from the watch they became riveted upon the main doorway of the Tower, which he had left open. He heard someone painting and breathing heavily on the winding staircase just inside, beyond the heavy iron yett, and then a succession of dull thuds as if a soft weighty "something" was being dragged down the steps. Soon he saw the iron yett open, and from it emerged an old woman in a flowering black garment, carrying a long lumpy sack on her back. She advanced with an apparently cautious step towards him and came out in the waning moonlight.
     The guest took one swift glance at the old woman and saw that she was withered, crooked, and loathsome of visage. Suddenly she gave the sack a heave up on her back and went skipping away as if the moonlight and night air had filled her with energy and vitality. With her black bloak flapping like wings, and her long black hair spreading out behind her, she looked like some terrible bird of prey. She moved with diabolical agility and in a few seconds she had passed right through a thick yew hedge.
     As the guest watched her disappear he was fascinated, almost horrified. He felt sure that she was associated in some way with the face he had seen at the window and the dreadful screams he had heard.
     Several years later, this guest, exploring a mountainous and remote part of Italy, was caught in the deep snow drifts of a blizzard one night was rescued by some monks of not far distant monastery. There he was told that in a neighbouring nunnery was a mysterious woman who had lost her hands and tongue. Rumour had it that the unfortunate woman had been "silenced" in this way because she had stumbled upon some very dreadful family secret. Those who guarded the secret had made sure that she could not pass on information by speech or writing, and thus mutilated, she had been smuggled away from her home and sent to this solitary abode in the mountains.
     On what evidence the former guest at Glamis based his conclusions it is not revealed, but he claimed that the sister, with neither tongue nor hands in the neighbouring nunnery, was the owner of the face that had looked out at him so entreatingly from the Tower at Glamis.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

     About fifty years ago a doctor who went on a visit to Glamis was the centre of a strange apparitional drama. This haunting, by the way, is the very rare example of a ghostly occurance which takes place, as it were, in the time and space of a four-dimensional world, and it seems to suggest the truth of Einstein's theory that events do not happen; we come across them spread out in time. As a rule a ghost commences to haunt a certain spot after a tragedy has taken place, but in this case the ghosts appear to be giving a preview of some tragic affair which as yet is still in the region of time to be. Perhaps it will be as well to relate this story in detail.
     On the day of the doctor's arrival at the Castle, having dressed for dinner in good time, he was standing looking at the park from the window of his room, when the door opened and a man in a lounge suit burst in, asking him to come at once, as one of the guests, a Miss Seymour, had been taken very ill. The visitor who had entered so abruptly stood in the doorway, clenching and unclenching his hands in a state of great excitement. He was rather a disagreeable looking man with small crafty eyes set far too close to each other.
     What followed I will let the doctor himself tell:
     "In the parlour," he states, "to which I followed him, I found a lady lying in an arm-chair apparently in a dead faint. I instantly adopted the usual remedies, and she was rapidly recovering her consciousness, when the stranger-gentleman exclaimed with a sneer, 'Is that the way in which you doctors treat your patients? I will show you how I cure them'; and before I could prevent him he had stabbed her in the breast with a dagger. Then both vanished.' The doctor adds that he was simply transfixed with horror.
     When he had recovered sufficiently, he rubbed his eyes, to make sure he was awake, he examined the chair and carpet. Everything was normal. No traces of blood . . . no sign anywhere of the dreadful scene which had seemed so solid and genuine. Returning to the drawing-room a lady entered whom the doctor at once identified as the Miss Seymour he had seen stabbed. When she was introduced to him she appeared quite at ease, and did not display any knowledge of them having met only half an hour before. The doctor looked around to see if the crafty-looking visitor who had attacked Miss Seymour had made an appearance but he was nowhere to be seen. It would have been difficult to question Miss Seymour about the affair without telling her how he had seen the apparitional figures of herself and a stranger in the parlour. The doctor decided that Miss Seymour might have thought him a little eccentric if he had ventured on such a ridiculous story, and so he held his tongue. Thus the enigma remained unsolved.
     Some years later he was at a Ball at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and one of the first people he met was Miss Seymour. Addressing her by name, he said how glad he was to see her alive and well. Why he made such an inane remark he did not know - it just escaped from the recesses of his memory.
     "Very much alive and well," she responded. "But I am no longer Miss Seymour. Mrs. Grayson is my new name. My husband is here somewhere. Ah! I see him at the bar. Come and be introduced."
     When the husband faced him, the doctor received a tremendous shock. Mr. Grayson was certainly the living image of the man who had stabbed Miss Seymour at Glamis Castle. The introduction was made . . . the doctor was flabbergasted. However, pulling himself together a little, he said to Mrs. Grayson:
     "Then I did see Mr. Grayson at Glamis. I never forget a face. He must have been called away for I did not meet him at breakfast."
     Mrs. Grayson gazed at the doctor curiously.
     "Oh, no, he wasn't," she replied. "He was never been to Glamis."
     The doctor now began to feel uncomfortable and apprehensive. He suddenly felt that a great burden of responsibility had fallen on his shoulders. He felt certain that a dreadful fate awaited Mrs. Grayson, but he could see no reasonable way of warning her. And with so many misgivings he dismissed the matter from his mind.
     And there the story ends.
     One can only hope that the tragedy the doctor saw in the future did not develop into a physical one in real life, and that Mrs. Grayson spent many happy years with her husband.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

     Like most ancient buildings the walls of Glamis are extremely solid - fourteen feet thick in places - and many of them contain secret stairways and passages. There is a small secret chamber in the thickness of the wall of the Great Hall. This had a trap-door in the floor through which water could be drawn up from a well below in the event of a siege.
     In the Great Hall is preserved the motley dress of the last Glamis jester. This is probably the only complete dress of the kind still preserved in Scotland; the family having retained the services of their private buffoon until comparatively recent times.
     Sir Walter Scott, in Waverly, makes the following reference to the Glamis jester: "At Glamis Castle is preserved the dress of one of the jesters, very handsome, and ornamented with many bells. It is not above thirty years since such a character stood by the sideboard of a nobleman of the first rank in Scotland, and occasionally mixed in the conversation, till he carried the joke rather too far in making proposals to one of the young ladies of the family, and publishing the banns betwixt her and himself in the church."
     The stories which have been woven around the Secret Room are weird and complicated. An old rhyme much quoted some years ago, runs as follows:-

There is a room within that tower
No mortal dare approach; the power
Of an avenging God is there.
Dread - awfully display'd - beware!
And enter not that dreadful room,
Else yours may be a fearful doom.

     What is the mystery of this Secret Room? Of all the many attempted explanations not on may be considered conclusive; but few probable, or even possible. It has been suggested, contrary to the proven facts (if proof were needed), that the beautiful and unfortunate Lady Glamis, the supposed witch, the victim of acknowledged perjury, who perished amid the flames on Castle Hill, at Edinburgh, "was actually in commerce with the evil one, and that her familiar demon, an embodied and visible friend, endured unto this day, shut from the light, in Glamis Castle!"
     Another wild suggestion is, that years ago a servant in the Castle was found to be a vampire. It was scarcely possible to destroy the monstrosity; it was, therefore, kept concealed until it passed away. But it did not pass away. It died - but such creatures do not decay in the cleanly earth. They begin a new and predacious existence - no trace of death is seen in the corpse of vampires . . . And there to this day in that dreaded room the vampire lives with the vitality of eternal life - doomed to wait until Glamis gives up its secret on the dawning of Judgement Day.
     One curious feature distinguishes the Secret Room of Glamis - it is furnished with a window. This being the case, the window must be cunningly concealed, perhaps by a series of slanting slots, for despite every endeavour to discover it, it has successfully evaded the ingenuity of visitors staying in the Castle. There is a well-known story to the effect that once, when a former Earl of Strathmore was absent from the Castle, his wife and a party of friends formed a search party to find the Secret Room. They hung towels out of every window believing  that the window which did not display a towel would indicated the object of their search. Their hunt for the Secret Room was disappointing. Several rooms had no towels hanging from their windows, and after hours of searching the party failed to narrow their search to one single room.
     Violet Tweedale, the Victorian novelist, who was a guest at Glamis when the Strathmore family gave a ball in honour of the Crown Prince of Sweden, told me that the ghost of the secret room was readily discussed in old days by members of the Strathmore family, who were just as keen as outsiders were to probe the mystery. Today it is universally believed that the monstrosity is at last laid to rest, and that though other ghosts still walk the Castle, the worst has departed for ever.
     Lady Reay told Violet Tweedale the following story about a ghost at Glamis which has a strange sequel:-
     "I had been in the Castle for three nights and much to my satisfaction seen absolutely nothing. We were a very cheery party, and every one was frightfully thrilled and nervously expectant, but we were very careful not to breath the word 'ghost' before our host and hostess.
     "On the fourth night I was awakened by a moaning sound in my room, and I opened my eyes. The room was in total darkness, but I saw something very bright near the door. I shut my eyes instantly, and pulled the bedclothes over my head in paroxysm of fear. I longed to light my candles, but didn't dare, and the moaning continued, and I thought I should go quite mad.
     "At last I ventured to peep out again. I saw a woman dressed exactly like Mary Tudor, in her pictures, and she was wandering round the walls, flinging herself against them, like a bird against the bars of a cage, and beating her hands upon the walls, and all the time she moaned horribly. I'm sure she was the ghost of a mad woman. Her face and form were lit up exactly like a picture thrown upon a magic lantern screen, and every detail of her dress was clearly defined.
     "Luckily she never looked at me, or I should have screamed, and I thought of Lord and Lady I. sleeping in the next room to mine, and wondered how I could reach them. I was really too terrified to move, and the ghost kept more or less to that part of the room where the door was situated.
     "I must have lain there awake for two or three hours, sometimes with my head buried under the clothes, sometimes peeping out, when at last, the moaning suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes. Thank God, I was alone. The ghost had departed.
     "I lay with wide-open eyes till day-break. then the first thing I did was to run to the mirror to see if my hair had turned white. Mercifully it hadn't, but I looked an awful wreck.
     "I told just a few people what I had seen, and contrived to get a wire sent me before lunch. Early in the afternoon I was on the way to Edinburgh."
     Such was the story of Lady Reay related.
     Thirteen years later Captain Eric Streatfield, who was a nephew of Lord Strathmore, and an intimate friend of Violet Tweedale's husband, told her exactly the same story. He was a boy of six at the time, when the lady of Tudor days appeared moaning in his room, and he said he would never forget the misery of the night he passed. He was very much interested when Violet Tweedale told him that Lady Reay had gone through the same experience. He told the novelist another extraordinary story.
     Whilst, as a schoolboy, he was visiting at Glamis Castle with his parents, he noticed that they began to behave in rather a peculiar manner. They were often consulting alone with one another, and constantly scanning the sky from their bedroom window, which adjoined his. For two or three days this sort of thing went on, and he caught queer fragments of conversation whispered between them, such as, "It doesn't always happen. We might be spared this year, the power must die out some day."
     At last one evening his father called him into his room, where his mother stood by the open window. In his hand his father held an open watch.
     His mother bade him look out, and tell them what sort of night it was. He replied that it was fine, and still and cool, and the stars were beginning to appear.
     His father then said, "We want you to take particular note of the weather, for in another moment you may witness a remarkable change. Probably you will see a furious tempest." Eric could not make head or tail of this. He wondered if his parents had gone mad, but glancing at his mother he noticed that she looked strangely pale and anxious.
     Then the storm burst, with such terrific suddenness and fury that it terrified him. A howling tempest, accompanied by blinding lightning and deafening thunder, rushed down upon them from an absolutely clear sky.
     His mother knelt down by the bed, and he thought that she was praying.
     When Eric asked for an explanation he was told that when he was grown up one would be given him. Unfortunately the moment never came. An aunt had told him that the storm was peculiarly to do with Glamis, and was something that could not explained.
     After Lord and Lady Wynford had paid a visit to Glamis in 1900, Violet Tweedale went to see them the day after their arrival back. Before the novelist could question Lady Wynford about the secret room she said:-
     "I don't want you even to mention the word Glamis to Wynford," she said very gravely. "He's had a great shock, and he's in a very queer state of mind."
     She paused, and the novelist ventured to ask, "But what sort of shock?"
     Then she gave the following account:-
     "Wynford and I occupied adjoining bedrooms. We were having a delightful time. Glorious weather, and a lot of very pleasant people. I really forgot all about there being any ghost. We were out all day, and very sleepy at night, and I never heard or saw a thing that was unusual.
     "Two nights before we left something happened to Wynford. He came into my room and awakened me at seven o'clock in the morning. He was fully dressed, and he looked dreadfully upset and serious. He said he had something to tell me, and he wished to get it over, and then he would try not to think of it any more. I was certain then that he had seen or heard something terrible, and I waited with the greates impatience for him to continue. He seemed confronted with some great difficulty, but after a long pause he said:-
     "'You know that I have always disbelieved in the supernatural. I have never believed that God would permit such things to come to pass as I have heard lightly described. I was wrong. Such awful experiences are possible. I know it to my own cost, and I pray God I may never pass such a night again as that which I have just come through. I have not slept for a moment. I feel I must tell you this, in fact, it is necessary that I tell you, because I am going to extract a promise from you. A promise that you will never mention in my hearing the name of this house, or the terrible subject with which its name is connected.'
     "I was speechless for a few minutes with perplexed amazement. I had never heard Wynford speak like that, nor had I ever seen him so terribly upset.
     "'But,' I said at last, 'aren't you going to tell me what has so unnerved you?'
     "He began pacing up and down the room. 'Good God, no,' he exclaimed, 'I couldn't even begin to tell you. I have no words that would have any meaning or expression. Don't you understand, there is no language to convey such happenings from one to the other. They are seen, felt, heard! They cannot be uttered. There are some things on earth I know of now, that may not be related to the spoken word. Perhaps between a man and his God, but not even between you and me.'
     "We were silent again for some minutes, during which he continued to pace the room, his head drooped on his breast. I was really seriously alarmed. I even feared for his reason, and I couldn't form the smallest conjectures as to what had been the nature of his experiences. I was quite convinced of one thing. What he had seen was no ordinary ghost, like Lady Reay's Tudor lady. She might have amazed him, but it required something much more terrible and awe-inspiring to have reduced him to such a condition of mental misery and desolation.
     "I wanted to comfort him, to sympathize with him, but something about him held me at arm's length. It was his soul that was suffering, and with his soul a man must wrestle alone. I felt that his deep religious convictions of a lifetime had been violently dislocated, for all I knew shattered entirely, and I felt profound compassion for him. I may have had doubts on many points - I confess to being a worldly sceptic - but Wynford's faith has always been so pure and childlike, and I have striven never to jar him on religious subjects. Now I feel as if somehow, everything that he has ever had has been taken away from him.
     "At last I said, 'Don't you think we had better leave today? We can easily make some excuse.'
     "He stopped and looked straight at me, so strangely.
     "'No, I can't leave today. I must stay another night here. There is something I must do. Now will you give me your promise never to mention this subject to me again? We may not be alone together again today. I went to get it over. Promise.'
     "I gave him my promise at once. I dared not have opposed him. I was horribly frightened. He went out of the room at once, and I lay thinking and shivering with dread. 'What was it he had to do? Why could we not leave today?' It was all so mysterious.
     "Well! the day passed in an ordinary manner, and if Wynford was more grave than usual I don't think any one noticed it. Then came the night I so dreaded. Of course I didn't sleep at first, I was too anxious, and I heard him come up to his room half an hour after I did. The door between our rooms was closed, and I lay awake listening intently. I heard him moving about; I supposed he was undressing, and his man never sits up for him. Then after a time there were occasional creaks which I knew came from an armchair, and I knew that he had not gone to bed.
     "I suppose I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I was aware of was Wynford's voice. He was speaking to some one, and seemed to be in the middle of a conversation. When he ceased speaking I strained my ears to catch a reply. I could hear no words, only his voice. Then a reply did come, and it simply froze the blood in my body, and I felt bathed in ice, and had to put my finger between my teeth, they chattered so horribly.
     "The reply was a hoarse whisper, a sort of rasping, grating undertone, that was not so much a whisper as an inability to speak in any other voice. There was something almost inhuman in those harsh, vibrating, yet husky words, spoken too low for me to catch. I knew at once that no guest, no member of the family, spoke like that, and I could not conceive that it could be a servant. What could Wynford have to say to any servant of Lord Strathmore?
     "A clock somewhere in the Castle struck three. No; I was certain that the presence with him, whatever else it might be, was no human being dwelling under the roof of Glamis.
     "At times they seemed to hold an argument; sometimes Wynford's voice was sharp and decisive, at other times it was utterly weary and despondent. I dreaded what the effect might be upon him of this awful night, but I could do nothing but lie shivering in bed, and pray for the morning.
     "How long it went on for I can't say, but the conviction came to me suddenly that Wynford had begun to pray. His voice was raised, and now and again I fancied I could hear words. The rasping whisper came now only in short, sharp interjections or expostulations, I don't know which. The even flow of Wynford's words went quietly on, and I began to be certain that he was praying for the being who spoke with that terrible whisper. It occurred to me that he might even by trying to exorcise some unclean spirit.
     "At last a silence fell. Wynford stopped praying, and I hoped that the terrible interview was at an end. Then it began again, and for quite an hour the prayers went on, with long periods of silence in between. I heard no more of the terrible, husky whisper.
     "I fell asleep again, and did not away till my maid brought me early tea. No sooner had she gone than Wynford entered, fully dressed. Though he looked desperately tired and wan, he seemed quite composed, and as if some weight had been removed from off him. He said he was going for a stroll before breakfast, and, of course, I remembered my promise and put no questions. I have come to the conclusion that a hundred people may stay any length of time at Glamis and see or hear nothing. The hundred and first may receive such a shock to the nervous system that he never really recovers from it."
     Such was the mysterious story that Lady Wynford unfolded.

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