Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Green Oak Tree

Hey. How ye?

Just wanted to take a wee moment to say "thanks very much" to all the new readers who have joined us this month...December is always good fun on the blog. But stick with us! Next year we have smugglers, saints, more arthurian legends Inverclyde style, the strange histories of local buildings and more.

Y'know, with Christmas behind us, and only the long dark January ahead, it would be easy to feel worried about what the next 12 months have in store; in fact, its probably the most logical response to the information in front of us right now. But this is a folklore blog; logic isnt really on the agenda. So first up. here's a message of hope for life and the New Year.



And bringing our year to a close and rounding off our Downriver folksong collection, here is a wee tune to be singing after the bells. (the whole playlist is down below)

The Gringos - The Green Oak Tree by Auld Dunrod

Have a good one whatever yer up to. And remember...

"Despair is a black leather jacket that everyone looks good in. Hope is a frilly pink dress that exposes your knees." - Rebecca Solnit

See you in 2012 for the apocalypse.

The Green Oak Tree

I’ll sing a song about a toon that stands upon the Clyde
And every time I here it’s name my heart is filled with pride
My mother often told me as she soothed me on her knee
That Greenock took its name from the Green Oak Tree

So here’s tae the Green Oak that stood upon the square
And here’s tae its roots that still lie slumbering there
And here’s tae my toonsmen wherever they may be
For I’m proud to say that I’m a branch of the Green Oak Tree

Now Greenock’s no a bonny toon I’ve heard some folks complain
For every time they go doon there there’s nothing to see but rain
But let them say what e’r they may with them I’ll no agree
For Greenock toon and Greenock folks will aye be dear tae me


Downriver by Auld Dunrod

Friday, 30 December 2011

Govan Ghost Story



Everyone likes the classic trappings of Victorian / Edwardian Ghost Stories, but it's sometimes more chilling to see traditional terror in more modern settings. Earlier in the month, I remembered a late 80s TV play called "Govan Ghost Story", which was all set in a highflat, and while searching for more information online, I came across this other short film made by the social enterprise arts organisation Fablevision.

Have a wee look at Fablevision's very own Govan Ghost Story

And if anyone else has a copy of the BBC Play on One Govan Ghost Story, drop us a line.

In a similar vein, my Greenock Sugar Sheds industrial ghost story "Candy Bones" has made it into the final ten of the Woman In Black Ghost Story Competition. If yer still feeling festive, I'd very much appreciate you going over to give it a wee watch and if you like it, a thumbs up. Support yer local ghost story writing folklorists I always say.

There's 9 other really good videos on there as well right enough. Why not watch em all?
But be warned...you can only vote once...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Bowmen


Arthur Machen is as fascinating a character is he is a writer; a pagan mystic, who after dabbling with the Order of the Golden Dawn, returned to the orthodox ritual of the Anglican church; a neo-romantic, deeply opposed to materialism and suspicious of science, but who achieved great success with a series of deeply patriotic World War 1 stories, the nost famous of which we reprint below. Machen has influenced many other creative types, from HP Lovecraft and  Stephen King through to Current 93 and The Fall.

The Bowmen is often controversial, many regard it as a factual account of a miraculous event at The Battle of Mons, perhaps because when Machens story was originally published in The Evening News, it was not labelled as fiction. There is also suspicion that the story was deliberately commissioned as a British propaganda exercise. You can read a full account of the folklore and legend surrounding "The Angel of Mons" here at Fortean Times. Regardless of the veracity of the event, Machen conjures up a totally unforgettable war story...


It was during the Retreat of the Eighty Thousand, and the authority of the Censorship is sufficient excuse for not being more explicit. But it was on the most awful day of that awful time, on the day when ruin and disaster came so near that their shadow fell over London far away; and, without any certain news, the hearts of men failed within them and grew faint; as if the agony of the army in the battlefield had entered into their souls.

On this dreadful day, then, when three hundred thousand men in arms with all their artillery swelled like a flood against the little English company, there was one point above all other points in our battle line that was for a time in awful danger, not merely of defeat, but of utter annihilation. With the permission of the Censorship and of the military expert, this corner may, perhaps, be described as a salient, and if this angle were crushed and broken, then the English force as a whole would be shattered, the Allied left would be turned, and Sedan would inevitably follow.

All the morning the German guns had thundered and shrieked against this corner, and against the thousand or so of men who held it. The men joked at the shells, and found funny names for them, and had bets about them, and greeted them with scraps of music-hall songs. But the shells came on and burst, and tore good Englishmen limb from limb, and tore brother from brother, and as the heat of the day increased so did the fury of that terrific cannonade. There was no help, it seemed. The English artillery was good, but there was not nearly enough of it; it was being steadily battered into scrap iron.

There comes a moment in a storm at sea when people say to one another, "It is at its worst; it can blow no harder," and then there is a blast ten times more fierce than any before it. So it was in these British trenches.

There were no stouter hearts in the whole world than the hearts of these men; but even they were appalled as this seven-times-heated hell of the German cannonade fell upon them and overwhelmed them and destroyed them. And at this very moment they saw from their trenches that a tremendous host was moving against their lines. Five hundred of the thousand remained, and as far as they could see the German infantry was pressing on against them, column upon column, a gray world of men, ten thousand of them, as it appeared afterwards.

There was no hope at all. They shook hands, some of them. One man improvised a new version of the battle-song, "Good-by, good-by to Tipperary," ending with "And we shan't get there." And they all went on firing steadily. The officer pointed out that such an opportunity for high-class fancy shooting might never occur again; the Tipperary humorist asked, "What price
Sidney Street
?" And the few machine guns did their best. But everybody knew it was of no use. The dead gray bodies lay in companies and battalions, as others came on and on and on, and they swarmed and stirred, and advanced from beyond and beyond.

"World without end. Amen," said one of the British soldiers with some irrelevance as he took aim and fired. And then he remembered--he says he cannot think why or wherefore--a queer vegetarian restaurant in London where he had once or twice eaten eccentric dishes of cutlets made of lentils and nuts that pretended to be steak. On all the plates in this restaurant there was printed a figure of St. George in blue, with the motto, "Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius"--"May St. George be a present help to the English." This soldier happened to know Latin and other useless things, and now, as he fired at his man in the gray advancing mass--three hundred yards away--he uttered the pious vegetarian motto. He went on firing to the end, and at last Bill on his right had to clout him cheerfully over the head to make him stop, pointing out as he did so that the King's ammunition cost money and was not lightly to be wasted in drilling funny patterns into dead Germans.

For as the Latin scholar uttered his invocation he felt something between a shudder and an electric shock pass through his body. The roar of the battle died down in his ears to a gentle murmur; instead of it, he says, he heard a great voice and a shout louder than a thunder-peal crying, "Array, array, array!"

His heart grew hot as a burning coal, it grew cold as ice within him, as it seemed to him that a tumult of voices answered to his summons. He heard, or seemed to hear, thousands shouting: "St. George! St. George!"
"Ha! Messire, ha! sweet Saint, grant us good deliverance!"
"St. George for merry England!"
"Harow! Harow! Monseigneur St. George, succor us!"
"Ha! St. George! Ha! St. George! a long bow and a strong bow."
"Heaven's Knight, aid us!"
And as the soldier heard these voices he saw before him, beyond the trench, a long line of shapes, with a shining about them. They were like men who drew the bow, and with another shout, their cloud of arrows flew singing and tingling through the air towards the German hosts.
The other men in the trench were firing all the while. They had no hope; but they aimed just as if they had been shooting at Bisley.
Suddenly one of them lifted up his voice in the plainest English.
"Gawd help us!" he bellowed to the man next to him, "but we're blooming marvels! Look at those gray ... gentlemen, look at them! D'ye see them? They're not going down in dozens nor in 'undreds; it's thousands, it is. Look! look! there's a regiment gone while I'm talking to ye."
"Shut it!" the other soldier bellowed, taking aim, "what are ye gassing about?"
But he gulped with astonishment even as he spoke, for, indeed, the gray men were falling by the thousands. The English could hear the guttural scream of the German officers, the crackle of their revolvers as they shot the reluctant; and still line after line crashed to the earth.
All the while the Latin-bred soldier heard the cry:
"Harow! Harow! Monseigneur, dear Saint, quick to our aid! St. George help us!"
"High Chevalier, defend us!"
The singing arrows fled so swift and thick that they darkened the air, the heathen horde melted from before them.
"More machine guns!" Bill yelled to Tom.
"Don't hear them," Tom yelled back.
"But, thank God, anyway; they've got it in the neck."

In fact, there were ten thousand dead German soldiers left before that salient of the English army, and consequently there was no Sedan. In Germany, a country ruled by scientific principles, the Great General Staff decided that the contemptible English must have employed shells containing an unknown gas of a poisonous nature, as no wounds were discernible on the bodies of the dead German soldiers. But the man who knew what nuts tasted like when they called themselves steak knew also that St. George had brought his Agincourt Bowmen to help the English..


Read more from and about Arthur Machen here.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Dead of Night - Return Flight


This one comes from terrifying TV anthology show "Dead of Night"...theres actually one set during a Christmas holiday which is about a festive exorcism. To be honest, we thought it was a bit much.
This one's about a WWII airman...

Check out more glorious lost TV classics on Pam1927's Youtube Channel.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Last Man In


This evening, Neil Bristow presents a tale culled from the notes and papers of local antiquarian, Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes...
December 1881
I impart to you now dear reader a dark and sombre tale told to me some ten years past by Mr_____, who as all good Greenockians know, is a god fearing and honest man. This account I place before you now is exactly as it was passed to me and as such I hope that however disturbing you find it, you will take it not for some fanciful tale, like parents tell their children of Auld Dunrod, but rather as a real and genuine - if at points unfathomable - reporting of true events.
It begins thus; you will doubtless recall the old mansion house of Greenock, once the stately home and castle of the lords Shaw, which stood within the grounds of that much loved landmark the Well Park. Surely you will remember too, that it was with great sadness and in the name of progress that this ancient structure, seat of the cup bearers to the Kings of Scotland for over two hundred years, was demolished in 1871, standing as it did in the way (or more accurately, above) the route of the tunnel being constructed by the Greenock Railway company to extend the line to the West Station.
It is with the demolition of this structure that our account opens. As you may remember dear reader, there were at this time a great many Irishmen employed in the construction of the railway; the work was hard, dangerous and low paid and as such it was the poor immigrant workers from across the sea (or sometimes their highland cousins), who were most often found in the employ of the railway gangs. The gang masters were harsh; none more so than Mr Thomas; a brute of a man who cared little for the safety of his crews. 
Work on the new tunnel was  already underway in the winter of 1871; the cold frost biting at the hands of the workers as they chiselled and blasted their way slowly through the rock, and they were fast approaching the area occupied by the foundations of the old mansion house as Christmas approached. The area, if not handled correctly could pose the threat of a cave in, and it was therefore essential that the house was demolished before tunnelling continued. Not wishing work to be delayed, unwilling to pay any more men than was necessary, and well aware there was a small profit to be had in the timber and stone which remained,  Mr Thomas dispatched three of his men to finish what little there was in the clearing of the old mansion house foundations (the bulk of it having already been cleared by stone masons and salvagers).
So it was that on Christmas Eve, Jack Murphy, John O'Connor and Sean Molloy found themselves in the ruins of the old house, clearing rubble and timber from what had been the basement, but was now simply a dark pit, open to the elements, save for a few half crumbling walls casting odd shaped shadows. As the day waned, they lit a fire to keep themselves warm as they worked, the shovels cold in their hands.
Long into the evening they laboured, as the winter sun dipped behind the hills and dusk settled over the town. Quitting time could not have been far off when Jack’s shovel turned up the first bones.  No beast of burden did these once frame; these were the remains of a man.  Perhaps it was curiosity that compelled them to continue, perhaps godly respect; or perhaps something else. Whatever the case, continue to dig they did. And when they had finished, it was not the remains of just one man that lay before them, but five.
“Saints preserve us lads”, exclaimed Jack, “we’ve a whole cemeteries worth here.” As they had dug away, regularity had emerged to the bones. They had been buried facing north to south in a line. Around what remained of the bodies were the tattered rags of what might have once been well made clothes; jackets of faded blue, with rusted buttons, and shirts of linen now rotted and decayed.  Who were they? Why were they here?  “Someone has off’d these poor souls”, whispered John, “and buried them here in the old lairds cellars.”
“Aye”, echoed Jack, “maybe one of the old lairds themselves.” But Sean was not as confident in this assessment as his fellow countrymen. Something in the regularity of their burial spoke of slight reverence and respect. “I don’t know....perhaps we should just cover them back over and leave them in peace.”, he muttered, half to himself. But the other two were pushed on by their morbid curiosities, and nothing would have it till the five corpses were fully uncovered. There was nothing to distinguish between them; nothing to mark them in memoriam.  Save, dear reader, for one curiosity. The last in the row of bodies held between his skeletal hands the remains of a tattered cloth bag, whose contents were creeping through the soil eaten holes. “Whats this ‘ere?” breathed Jack.
Now dear reader, while it will not surprise you to hear that these three men from St Patricks Isle were born god fearing and raised piously, I should remind you that they were poor, destitute and perhaps a little strayed from the path. Keep this in your mind when I tell you that not one of them was reluctant when Jack decided in that instant to take this bag from the poor souls grasp, spilling its contents onto the ground in the firelight.
And there before them lay three objects; an carved ivory pipe box, a beaten pewter flask and a solid gold coin. In the great tradition of looters, the men (forgetting themselves and all they had been taught), quickly drew lots for the dead man’s goods. To Jack, went the beautiful pipe box (and its contents; an equally elegant pipe and a draw bag of fine leave tobacco, still dry); to John, the flask, and its much welcome contents of fine smelling brandy. And to Sean the solid gold coin, inscribed with foreign lettering and eyed jealously by his countrymen.
Jack lit his pipe. John wet his lips. But Sean only pocketed the coin; perhaps this was not one to spend.  Loot shared, curiosity turned to guilt and fear. The shadows were long now, and the fire dying as the realisation of their situation dawned upon them. Three men, five bodies on a cold winter’s night.  “Let’s be for home boys,” said Jack. “We’ll cover them over quick and make tracks.”
They decided that the news of the discovery could wait till Christmas Day had been and gone; no work would take place for another two days, and then they could let Mr Thomas know; it would be on his head what should be done with the bodies, and no-one would be the wiser about the loot. So it was that with only a few hours of Christmas Eve remaining, the three men made their way home.
Now dear reader, what happened next is the most unsettling. 
They walked home past Cathcart Square, looking then, much as it does today. Here each man was required to take leave of his companions, their lodgings all lying in separate areas of the town.  Jack made his way down through the Vennel, the streets dark, empty and silent. Silent, save for a curious singing“Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre”.  The words repeated, again and again as he hurried through the cobbled lanes, as if spoken by the wind itself.  Finally at his door, he sighed in relief; the night’s events having clearly got the better of him he suspected. But then turning, he saw a quite frightening sight. There, at the end of the lane stood a tall dark man, with a wide brimmed hat, his face hidden by shadow. At his back, a rickety old cart, pulled by a black horse. Arm outstretched, he pointed a long finger at Jack O’Connor, before turning slowly and dragging his cart off down the alley. Jack sought safety and solace in a cup of warm whisky, courtesy of his landlady.
At the same hour, as accounts from associates later verified, John set off down Slaughterhouse Lane, his lodgings lying to the west of the town. He too found the streets empty and dark, and he too caught the whisper of a song on the winter wind; “Que de partager leur cercueil”. Though aging and work weary, he quickened his pace through the town, convinced he was being followed, and coming at last to the bunkhouse. Inside, he too steadied his nerves with a bottle from his bunkmate, who thought him somewhat mad. Yet as John sought sleep, rest was denied him by the rattling noise of cart wheels in the street outside.
I wonder at this stage in the account if it will surprise you dear reader when I tell you that both men were found dead in their beds on Christmas morning? The life had literally been terrified out of them. But what of the third immigrant from the Emerald Isle? What of Sean Molloy? Well, his walk home was an uneventful one.
Yet in the morning, word came to him of his companions, and a fear took a hold of him. Choosing not to seek solace in the house of god on Christmas Day, he opted instead for one of the tap houses which littered the quayside.  Sitting nervously round the fire he craved another drink, yet sensibly dear reader, and with a caution not exercised by many, refused to spend the coin in his pocket. Yet, his lips loosened by what little whisky he had, he imparted his tale to a few less sober individuals.  Upon finishing, the tap room went silent; before raucous laughter erupted around him, and the men went back to their glasses.
It would seem reader, that no-one believed him. No-one, save one Mr Teulon, who as many among you will know, claims his ancestry from the French Huguenots.
The elderly Mr Teulon had listened intently as Sean told his tale, and as the laughter faded, he said to Sean, “Now Irishman, I will tell you a tale of my own. It begins in 1804, when there came to Greenock a boat carrying some of my father’s countrymen; Frenchmen in Napoleons navy, captured and brought here as prisoners. My father, being known as a French speaker, was summoned to the Laird’s house, to translate for these six poor souls. There he was instructed to have them go to work in the rebuilding of parts of Lord Shaws house. Worked hard, and fed little, within six months, all but two of them were dead; Captain Beaudoin and his second officer, Msr Langouin having buried their compatriots in shallow graves in the cellar. Sadly, on the last day of the year, Languoin too succumbed to fever and died. Now I should tell you that these French men where not Huguenots like my father, but Bretons; they had more in common with you Irishman, than with a Frenchman from Paris, thinking themselves more of the celtic line. It was their belief, that the last man buried in a cemetery on the last day of the year was appointed Ankou, or watchman of the dead; he is deaths servant, collecting souls, and singing the hymn of the charnel house to warn the living. This is the lot of the last man in. To make the burden on his friend easier, and in keeping with tradition, Captain Beaudoin buried his friend with three tokens; a pipe to pass the hours of his vigil, a flask to wet his lips, for death is thirsty work, and a coin, so that when your time is done, and a new watchman appointed, you can pay the ferryman his due. It is these tokens which you and your companions must have taken; and clearly, Ankou has taken them back.”
Sean, was, as you most likely are, both amazed and terrified by this tale. And yet it spoke to the traditions he had been brought up with; the traditions of the graveyard and the power of the dead at year’s end. Perhaps he reflected how he and the Frenchmen were not so different; bonded labour in a foreign land.  He grasped the coin in his pocket, and gave a silent thanks that he had not spent it. Thanks too he gave to Mr Teulon for the revelation he provided, as he took himself into the cold of Christmas night.
As he made the long walk back to Fenian Alley, he thought he caught the whisper of a song in his ear; it sounded more like a prayer or a hymn. And reader, without surprise, he encountered the cartsman, who at the crossroads at St Andrew's Square, stopped courteously to let him pass, giving a tip of his broad brimmed hat. 
The next day, imploring upon Mr Thomas to make good the bodies found, Sean Molloy found himself loading a cart with the remains of the Frenchmen, and taking them to the cemetery to be buried in the unmarked section and granting them some sense of peace again.
And so you would hope dear reader, this marks an end to our account. But sadly not. A few days later, in the cold bite of the last day of the year, Sean Molloy was found dead, at peace in his bed, his hand locked tightly round a single gold coin. So it fell to what few friends he had to bury him in the graveyard, grasping still in his hands the gold coin; the last man in.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Stranger Left No Card


The Stranger Left No Card is most certainly not a ghost story, much more a tale of unease - the classic "mysterious stranger comes to town". But this harmless buffoon has a sinister purpose...

Originally made in 1952, the story was later adapted for the series "Tales of the Unexpected".



Monday, 19 December 2011

The Mysterious Mystery of The Lang House Ghost





Here's a tale from Magic Torch's American Correspondent, Mr Ray Mitchell, last seen investigating Skinwalker Ranch in Utah.

This story features two historical characters, Mister James John L_____ of Greenock (Erstwhile Ghost Hunter), and his Hardy Compatriot, Andrew ‘Sandy’ Mc_______. Both are perhaps more famous for their connection to the infamous fake "ghost photo" of Auld Dunrod.


1: I decide on my mission

Many have spoke ill of me, all the years of my life. I have been referred to behind cupped hands and raised newspapers as indolent and slothful; these words do not hurt me. It has been said that I an content to rest my laurels here at M_____ House, letting my poor late father’s money and interests work for me, never once paying a visit to the factories and retailers which keep me in the manner which I have not earned; the haughty looks bother me not. I see the way part before me wherever I go, when all I wish is to mix with the people of this town, walking where they walk. Even so, I remain unperturbed, not because I am the ignorant fop I am proclaimed to be, but because I have been witness over these past few days to sights which have blinded me to all else in my life. Sights which have me doubting everything but the evidence of my two good eyes.

There. That’s gotten all of the soul-searching mumbo-jumbo out of the way; perhaps, now, I can begin to tell you of the events which brought me to the Lang House, and what I saw there.

I had heard of the house, of course; a remarkable, imposing, turreted structure clearly visible from the road running to the Daff Glen, it tends to stand out somewhat from the surrounding trees. Still, never would I have given it a second thought, had I not begun to hear whispering and murmurings of ghostly shenanigans within the walls of the great house.

Those of you who have chanced to read my earlier forays into the world of the othernormal - The Strange Case of the Man With No Plan in Life in particular was considered for publication in no less a periodical than The Strand Magazine - will be well aware of my long-standing fascination with spookly matters and such. As you can imagine, my nose was veritably twitching at the possibilities.

I ventured an enquiry or three in the right avenues and was rewarded with very little; strangely enough, very few people seem to have any firsthand knowledge of who has ever dwelled in the great house, let alone any tragedy which may have befallen them to cause their souls to wander there still. I finally got a little closer to the truth when I ran into Jock ‘Jock’ Scott, sometime resident of the _____ ______ Public Bar, propping up the wood in said establishment.

“Ghostses it is,” intoned Jock in plummy tones, his nose almost in his ale. He was three sheets to the wind by this time, which was to be expected; after all, it was past three in the afternoon. “Ghostses, roamin’ aw ower the blummin’ place. Goin like this. Wooooooo.”

“Yes, Jock, I know that,” said I, patiently. I had a great deal of time for Jock; he had been of great help to myself and Sandy in The Dastardly Case of the French Sailors Haunting the Cemetery (I’ve never liked that title. Still; too late now), keeping a midnight watch with us three nights running until we saw the ghastly apparitions, weaving out of the fog, stinking of the nether world and singing ‘La Marseillaise’ in close harmony. Dreadful. Dreadful business. “What I need to know, Jock my dear fellow, is who they are. Why are they haunting the Lang House? What keeps them there?”

At this, he fixed his one good eye on me - the other seemed to be fixed on his own right ear - and drew in breath in a long wheezing inward cough which quite worried me.

“Terrible thing. Poor wee lassie. Lovely she wis. Lovely. Died. Died she did. Broken herted. There wis a fella, awa’ fightin’ in the war. And there wis anither fella. Don’t know who he wis. There wis love, an’ fightin’, and she died. Terrible thing.”

This momentous speech over, Jock focused the steady half of his vision on his glass, and I would get no more sense out of him on this night.

Still; I had a little information in hand. I had embarked on ghost hunts with far less. I would speak to a ghost, or I would die in the attempt.

Well. Bit drastic, there, but you understand.


2: I recruit my partner in ghost-hunting


Sandy seemed unenthusiastic for a yomp into the world of the supernatural, which surprised me, considering his standing as my hale and hearty compatriot on countless (well, 9) earlier adventures.

Granted, it was 1:23 in the hours of the morning and, also granted, I had turned up unannounced at his door in stout walking boots and carrying a bulky pack of essentials ( I had left my blunderbuss at home only after great deliberation). Also, regrettably, Sandy was still recovering from a recently broken arm. Even so, though, I feel I deserved a warmer reception than my old friend gave me.

“Whit? Whit’s your game, Jimmy? D’ye know whit time it is? In the name o’ God, Jimmy. Whit?”

Unfazed by this drowsy outburst, I pressed on with the case at hand, explaining that time was of the essence; no self-respecting spectre would walk the halls of his (her) former home by the hours of daylight.

“Well, whit’s wrang wi’ tomorra night, ya numpty-heid?” Sandy was beginning to bog me down with his belligerence, he really was.

“Tomorrow night? Tomorrow night? Can this be the Andrew ‘Sandy’ Mc_____ I know so well? I remember the time when you’d have jumped at the chance to aid me in the study of a ghostly apparition! Jumped, I say!”

“Aye. Well. That’s as may be. Ye might have noticed ma arm’s broke. Ye might also have noticed this wee note on ma arm-cast here.” He pointed to a patch of plaster, but I confess in the dim lamplight I was unable to see it. I leaned forward, squinting. “What does it say?”

“YOUR FAULT!” Sandy’s cry caused me to step back, blinking in mute disbelief. “Your fault, ya puddin’! ‘Gi’es a hand at the cinema, Sandy, this ghost’s a right bugger tae catch.’ ‘Aye, nae bother, Jimmy - aw, no, he’s awa’ and broke ma arm.”

“Sandy, now, I have time and again apologised for the events at the culmination of The Mystery of the Cinema Ghost. I didn’t expect the ghost to become corporeal.”

Sandy raised his bushy eyebrows at this. “Aye, Jimmy, funny enough, that’s jist whit Ah thought when the big bugger wis breakin’ ma arm. ‘Funny that, Ah didnae expect him tae become corporeal.’”

There was a silence, during which we stole furtive awkward glances at each other in the dim light.

I cannot remember who began to laugh first. Still, in the next few moments, we were guffawing loudly, tears rolling down my cheeks, Sandy roaring with gales of laughter, temporarily unmindful of his injury, and we were fast friends again. The cackling dried, tailed off, and Sandy looked out at me over his reading glasses.

“Will ye help me lace up ma walkin’ boots?”

Forty-five minutes later (helping a man who is basically one-armed to dress is not pleasant; I do not urge you to try it at any time) we were away, and I hoisted the pack up onto my back, holding the door for Sandy to squeeze past me. He caught sight of the grappling hooks poking from the bag’s mouth, and raised his eyebrows in a silent question in my direction.

“In case we have to go in over the roof, my dear chap.”

Sandy shook his sizeable head. “In the name o’ God,” he said in a murmur.


3: The mission proper

In the end, the grapples were not necessary; the house, abandoned now for a number of years I was not aware of, had been left unmanned, unwatched, unlocked. Our spirits (no pun intended) truly heartened by this turn of events, even Sandy seemed bolstered and keen for action as we made our way through the midnight rooms and shadow-lengthened corridors, a lantern giving us low illumination, for even an amateur ghost-grabber like myself knows that wandering spirits hate strong light.

For that reason, both of us are surprised when we see the light.

A pinpoint at first, moving slowly along the floor of the grand dining room, Sandy and I dutifully if nervously follow it as it grows; bright as a lantern; bright as summer daylight in a darkened room; finally growing too bright for our eyes, swelling in size, a ball of purest white six feet across.

“Jimmy, Ah’m feelin’ thon feelin’ Ah got jist before Ah got ma arm broke.”

“Take heart, old friend. I feel no malice from this entity. It seems benign.”

“Och, well, that’s awright then. Batter on.” Sandy’s sarcasm, I feel, often brings a touch of humour to our adventures. I sometimes lead him to believe that this is the reason I bring him along on my adventures; lucky for us that we both know better.

My lantern flickers and dies, but no matter; the room is as bright as day now, glowing from within because of this heavenly ball of light which even now has shapes, grey and dancing, flickering within it. The very air seems changed; the hairs on my body stand on end in quite unattractive fashion, and I fear to look at Sandy for fear of what this phenomenon has done to his splendid moustache.

Despite Sandy’s exhortations to “Keep back, ya middenheid!” I slowly make my way forward toward the angelic luminosity, keeping my empty hands in front of me, supplicating myself to this shade, whoever it may once have been.

With a sound like a hundred people drawing in breath at once, the grey shapes suddenly coalesce, forming into the shape of - a girl.

Here it is my turn to draw in sharp breath, for what a girl! Chimneyfire hair streaming over her shoulders, large soulful eyes - and soft, full lips that could draw stories from a mute. My mission is temporarily forgotten as this vision in plain silk blouse and dark velvet skirt faces me, and smiles.

“She better no brek ma ither arm, Jimmy,” comes to me from a distance. Sandy’s voice is lost to me; it seems as though this maiden’s ball of light swells to encompass me, drawing me closer to her. Her eyes are kind, and I can see only her as her hand reaches, reaches, finger pointing, and touches the back of my hand. Just once.

Duncan where is my Duncan gone in the war and William where is my William gone by someone’s hand though not mine I swear not mine they call me the worst of names harlot strumpet worse worse worse and I cry though what good does it they seek to hunt me out I am sure they think poor William was my fault he was only a good soul who showed a lonely girl some kindness I would never have betrayed my Duncan he was my heart and my treasure but there was someone else I could not see a face there was a flash and a cry and William lay dead and all I could do was cradle his kind head in my hands as the life leaked out of him and oh, me, oh, me, what will happen now

Duncan where is my Duncan lost in the war and William where is my William gone by someone’s hand though not mine both my fine men dead now dead now and I will find them I have spent every night since that night I gave up and used my own two good hands to join them in Heaven but I cannot find them where are they tell me where my Duncan my William my two fine men


This tirade, soft and entreating, is in my head in an instant, her nightly prayer since she took her own life, and there are tears rolling down my cheeks as I understand her.

The procedure for ‘exorcising’ a spirit, for sending it on its way to the other side, is long, and drawn out, and sometimes very unpleasant for all concerned.

The smile she gives me when she fades into darkness, the sigh she expounds as she gives herself over, is more than enough reward.

The dawn has come an hour hence when we make our weary way out of the stout doors of the Lang House. I clap Sandy, stout fellow that he is, on the shoulder, and thank him once again for his help in a thankless task. In the early light I can see tears brimming in his eyes.

“Will......will she be awright noo, Jimmy? Aye?”

I smile, my grip on Sandy’s shoulder tightening for a moment, and my voice, too, is thick with emotion.

“She will, Sandy, old man. I know it.”

We walk down the gravel path, taking our time, enjoying what will be another lovely day.

There you have it; what I am reasonably sure will be my last case. I grow too old to be chasing after spooks and spectres in all hours of the night, sending them on their way with a flea in their ear, or a blessing.

Then again, you never know what kind of trouble will seek out an amateur ghost hunter. Perhaps Mister James John L_____ of Greenock (Erstwhile Ghost Hunter), and his Hardy Compatriot, Andrew ‘Sandy’ Mc_______ will return in another adventure which is both breathtaking and enlightening.

Sandy’s arm is healing up nicely, by the way.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Midwinterfestivusmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – especially if you’re a dusty old historian or perhaps a militant atheist – because this is a great time to try to disavow people of their popularly held wintertime beliefs by sucking all the fun out of them with “facts”.

Here at Magic Torch we are (and I use the term carefully) “a broad church”, from non-believers through to true-believers; but even the most secular of our band of merry men still enjoys the odd Christmas carol without worrying that we’ll be sent to stand in the corner by Richard Dawkins. Where do you draw the line? Not using the NORAD Santa tracker cos it might not be 100% scientifically accurate? Go on…enjoy yerself ya big Grinch.

As such, we’re taking a wee momentary break from our regularly scheduled Ghost Story programming to share some Christmas fakelore with you all. Some of these midwinter spoilers are true, some of them aren’t. Go google em. And I guarantee you’ll find stuff even more strange than what we’ve listed below.

Enjoy yer midwinter festival and all it’s trappings and traditions, whatever they may be.

The Ho Ho Horror!
Such is the reach of the evil capitalist machine, that many people believe Santa’s red clothing is a result of the Coca Cola company turning his traditional wintergreens into their lovely corporate colours. In fact, Santa’s red is representative of skinned reindeer pelts which the shamanic figure wore inside out like a proto Lady Gaga meat dress.

Santa is presented as a “jolly old elf”, however in other countries, supernatural creatures punish or eat naughty children during the festive period. Bavarian Christmas markets are regularly terrified by the seasonal arrival of Krampus, goat-headed troll monsters. Krampus previously used to accompany Santa on his travels, punishing bad children not with coal, but by pulling them up by their ears and then beating them with birch sticks. That'll learn em. Interestingly, it has been statistically proven that Northern European children are up to 80% better behaved than those in the UK.


Wassail!
The 12 Days of Christmas song is believed by many to be a form of coded worship for Christians fearing Puritan persecution. In actuality, only fragments of the song existed prior to the nineteen seventies when marketing executives decided to rewrite it for a Bernard Matthews Turkey advertising campaign. The version now most popularly sung originates from this time.

The b-side to Slade’s original pressing of “Merry Christmas Everybody” was a spoken word reworking of “A Child’s Christmas In Wales” cheekily retitled “A Child’s Christmas in Wolverhampton” which catalogued northern industrial poverty in the 1970s.

Cliff Richard’s popular Christmas classics (Mistletoe and Wine, Saviours Day) were in fact a deliberate, targetted response to Paul McCartney’s loose “trilogy” of Christmas singles (Wonderful Christmastime, Pipes of Peace, We All Stand Together) which Cliff viewed as promoting a distinctly secular, humanist view of the season. Cliff Richard actually wins this battle, cos both his songs got to number one. Mull of Kintyre WAS a Christmas number one. But for a variety of reasons it doesn't count.


What The Dickens?!
The popularity of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” led to a whole slew of imitations and unauthorised contemporary sequels…this was quite common in Victorian periodicals. The sequels continue to this day. Popular themes include “Tiny Tim – Victorian Detective” or “Vengeance of Marley’s Ghost”.

Oscar Wilde wrote a satirical sequel which took aim at the “crass sentimentality” of the story, thereby rather missing the point. It was never published. I bet it was very clever.

In Dickens time “humbug” had a different meaning…it was a term approximate to “hypocrite”. So when Scrooge says “Bah! Humbug!” he is not criticising the season, but in fact, the hypocrisy of people who are pretending to be nice because its Christmas. Humbug indeed.


Daily Mail - Fear of Fun
Last year a “right-on” school in Kent made the Baby Jesus a girl in the nativity and her adoptive parents were gay gypsies.

British made Christmas Crackers will no longer feature “offensive” jokes about blondes, the mother in law, stupid people or anything which may be deemed upsetting to animal lovers. But The Only Way Is Essex is still allowed on the telly.

A recession conscious council in England has refused to erect their traditional “Santa’s Postbox” this year in case it might “unrealistically raise children’s expectations in a financially challenging climate”.

A leaked document has revealed Scottish Nationalist plans to cancel Christmas in an independent Scotland, and replace it with a new festival, McMacmas. Liz Lochead is to write a new "tartan" version of the nativity which Scottish schoolchildren will be forced to learn.

If you’re in the mood for more Christmas fun, check out this folklore inspired Christmas vid from my Stramashed blog. Santa's Little Werewolves...


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Striding Place

This evening, a chilling gothic tale from Gertrude Atherton


Weigall, continental and detached, tired early of grouse shooting. To stand propped against a sod fence while his host's workmen routed up the birds with long poles and drove them towards the waiting guns, made him feel himself a parody on the ancestors who had roamed the moors and forests of this West Riding of Yorkshire in hot pursuit of game worth the killing. But when in England in August he always accepted whatever proffered for the season, and invited his host to shoot pheasants on his estates in the South. The amusements of life, he argued, should be accepted with the same philosophy as its ills.

It had been a bad day. A heavy rain had made the moor so spongy that it fairly sprang beneath the feet. Whether or not the grouse had haunts of their own, wherein they were immune from rheumatism, the bag had been small. The women, too, were an unusually dull lot, with the exception of a new-minded d┼Żbutante who bothered Weigall at dinner by demanding the verbal restoration of the vague paintings on the vaulted roof above them.

But it was no one of these things that sat on Weigall's mind as, when the other men went up to bed, he let himself out of the castle and sauntered down to the river. His intimate friend, the companion of his boyhood, the chum of his college days, his fellow-traveller in many lands, the man for whom he possessed stronger affection than for all men, had mysteriously disappeared two days ago, and his track might have sprung to the upper air for all trace he had left behind him. He had been a guest on the adjoining estate during the past week, shooting with the fervor of the true sportsman, making love in the intervals to Adeline Cavan, and apparently in the best of spirits. As far as was known there was nothing to lower his mental mercury, for his rent-roll was a large one, Miss Cavan blushed whenever he looked at her, and, being one of the best shots in England, he was never happier than in August. The suicide theory was preposterous, all agreed, and there was as little reason to believe him murdered. Nevertheless, he had walked out of March Abbey two nights ago without hat or overcoat, and had not been seen since.

The country was being patrolled night and day. A hundred keepers and workmen were beating the woods and poking the bogs on the moors, but as yet not so much as a handkerchief had been found.

Weigall did not believe for a moment that Wyatt Gifford was dead, and although it was impossible not to be affected by the general uneasiness, he was disposed to be more angry than frightened. At Cambridge Gifford had been an incorrigible practical joker, and by no means had outgrown the habit; it would be like him to cut across the country in his evening clothes, board a cattle-train, and amuse himself touching up the picture of the sensation in West Riding.

However, Weigall's affection for his friend was too deep to companion with tranquillity in the present state of doubt, and, instead of going to bed early with the other men, he determined to walk until ready for sleep. He went down to the river and followed the path through the woods. There was no moon, but the stars sprinkled their cold light upon the pretty belt of water flowing placidly past wood and ruin, between green masses of overhanging rocks or sloping banks tangled with tree and shrub, leaping occasionally over stones with the harsh notes of an angry scold, to recover its equanimity the moment the way was clear again.

It was very dark in the depths where Weigall trod. He smiled as he recalled a remark of Gifford's: "An English wood is like a good many other things in life-- very promising at a distance, but a hollow mockery when you get within. You see daylight on both sides, and the sun freckles the very bracken. Our woods need the night to make them seem what they ought to be--what they once were, before our ancestors' descendants demanded so much more money, in these so much more various days."

Weigall strolled along, smoking, and thinking of his friend, his pranks--many of which had done more credit to his imagination than this--and recalling conversations that had lasted the night through. Just before the end of the London season they had walked the streets one hot night after a party, discussing the various theories of the soul's destiny. That afternoon they had met at the coffin of a college friend whose mind had been a blank for the past three years. Some months previously they had called at the asylum to see him. His expression had been senile, his face imprinted with the record of debauchery. In death the face was placid, intelligent, without ignoble lineation--the face of the man they had known at college. Weigall and Gifford had no time to comment there, and the afternoon and evening were full; but, coming forth from the house of festivity together, they had reverted almost at once to the topic.

"I cherish the theory," Gifford had said, "that the soul sometimes lingers in the body after death. During madness, of course, it is an impotent prisoner, albeit a conscious one. Fancy its agony, and its horror! What more natural than that, when the life-spark goes out, the tortured soul should take possession of the vacant skull and triumph once more for a few hours while old friends look their last? It has had time to repent while compelled to crouch and behold the result of its work, and it has shrived itself into a state of comparative purity. If I had my way, I should stay inside my bones until the coffin had gone into its niche, that I might obviate for my poor old comrade the tragic impersonality of death. And I should like to see justice done to it, as it were--to see it lowered among its ancestors with the ceremony and solemnity that are its due. I am afraid that if I dissevered myself too quickly, I should yield to curiosity and hasten to investigate the mysteries of space."

"You believe in the soul as an independent entity, then--that it and the vital principle are not one and the same?"

"Absolutely. The body and soul are twins, life comrades--sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, but always loyal in the last instance. Some day, when I am tired of the world, I shall go to India and become a mahatma, solely for the pleasure of receiving proof during life of this independent relationship."

"Suppose you were not sealed up properly, and returned after one of your astral flights to find your earthly part unfit for habitation? It is an experiment I don't think I should care to try, unless even juggling with soul and flesh had palled."

"That would not be an uninteresting predicament. I should rather enjoy experimenting with broken machinery."

The high wild roar of water smote suddenly upon Weigall's ear and checked his memories. He left the wood and walked out on the huge slippery stones which nearly close the River Wharfe at this point, and watched the waters boil down into the narrow pass with their furious untiring energy. The black quiet of the woods rose high on either side. The stars seemed colder and whiter just above. On either hand the perspective of the river might have run into a rayless cavern. There was no lonelier spot in England, nor one which had the right to claim so many ghosts, if ghosts there were.

Weigall was not a coward, but he recalled uncomfortably the tales of those that had been done to death in the Strid.1 Wordsworth's Boy of Egremond had been disposed of by the practical Whitaker; but countless others, more venturesome than wise, had gone down into that narrow boiling course, never to appear in the still pool a few yards beyond. Below the great rocks which form the walls of the Strid was believed to be a natural vault, on to whose shelves the dead were drawn. The spot had an ugly fascination. Weigall stood, visioning skeletons, uncoffined and green, the home of the eyeless things which had devoured all that had covered and filled that rattling symbol of man's mortality; then fell to wondering if any one had attempted to leap the Strid of late. It was covered with slime; he had never seen it look so treacherous.

He shuddered and turned away, impelled, despite his manhood, to flee the spot. As he did so, something tossing in the foam below the fall--something as white, yet independent of it--caught his eye and arrested his step. Then he saw that it was describing a contrary motion to the rushing water--an upward backward motion. Weigall stood rigid, breathless; he fancied he heard the crackling of his hair. Was that a hand? It thrust itself still higher above the boiling foam, turned sidewise, and four frantic fingers were distinctly visible against the black rock beyond.

Weigall's superstitious terror left him. A man was there, struggling to free himself from the suction beneath the Strid, swept down, doubtless, but a moment before his arrival, perhaps as he stood with his back to the current.

He stepped as close to the edge as he dared. The hand doubled as if in imprecation, shaking savagely in the face of that force which leaves its creatures to immutable law; then spread wide again, clutching, expanding, crying for help as audibly as the human voice.

Weigall dashed to the nearest tree, dragged and twisted off a branch with his strong arms, and returned as swiftly to the Strid. The hand was in the same place, still gesticulating as wildly; the body was undoubtedly caught in the rocks below, perhaps already half-way along one of those hideous shelves. Weigall let himself down upon a lower rock, braced his shoulder against the mass beside him, then, leaning out over the water, thrust the branch into the hand. The fingers clutched it convulsively. Weigall tugged powerfully, his own feet dragged perilously near the edge. For a moment he produced no impression, then an arm shot above the waters.

The blood sprang to Weigall's head; he was choked with the impression that the Strid had him in her roaring hold, and he saw nothing. Then the mist cleared. The hand and arm were nearer, although the rest of the body was still concealed by the foam. Weigall peered out with distended eyes. The meagre light revealed in the cuffs links of a peculiar device. The fingers clutching the branch were as familiar.

Weigall forgot the slippery stones, the terrible death if he stepped too far. He pulled with passionate will and muscle. Memories flung themselves into the hot light of his brain, trooping rapidly upon each other's heels, as in the thought of the drowning. Most of the pleasures of his life, good and bad, were identified in some way with this friend. Scenes of college days, of travel, where they had deliberately sought adventure and stood between one another and death upon more occasions than one, of hours of delightful companionship among the treasures of art, and others in the pursuit of pleasure, flashed like the changing particles of a kaleidoscope. Weigall had loved several women; but he would have flouted in these moments the thought that he had ever loved any woman as he loved Wyatt Gifford. There were so many charming women in the world, and in the thirty-two years of his life he had never known another man to whom he had cared to give his intimate friendship.

He threw himself on his face. His wrists were cracking, the skin was torn from his hands. The fingers still gripped the stick. There was life in them yet.

Suddenly something gave way. The hand swung about, tearing the branch from Weigall's grasp. The body had been liberated and flung outward, though still submerged by the foam and spray.

Weigall scrambled to his feet and sprang along the rocks, knowing that the danger from suction was over and that Gifford must be carried straight to the quiet pool. Gifford was a fish in the water and could live under it longer than most men. If he survived this, it would not be the first time that his pluck and science had saved him from drowning.

Weigall reached the pool. A man in his evening clothes floated on it, his face turned towards a projecting rock over which his arm had fallen, upholding the body. The hand that had held the branch hung limply over the rock, its white reflection visible in the black water. Weigall plunged into the shallow pool, lifted Gifford in his arms and returned to the bank. He laid the body down and threw off his coat that he might be the freer to practise the methods of resuscitation. He was glad of the moment's respite. The valiant life in the man might have been exhausted in that last struggle. He had not dared to look at his face, to put his ear to the heart. The hesitation lasted but a moment. There was no time to lose.

He turned to his prostrate friend. As he did so, something strange and disagreeable smote his senses. For a half-moment he did not appreciate its nature. Then his teeth cracked together, his feet, his outstretched arms pointed towards the woods. But he sprang to the side of the man and bent down and peered into his face. There was no face.



"This striding place is called the 'Strid,' A name which it took of yore; A thousand years hath it borne the name, And it shall a thousand more."

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cornucopia

Don't fancy X-Factor? Here's some alternative spooky programming for ye.

In a piece of cross promotional festive fun, here's another chance to hear local folk-rock group Ard Amas take on the spooky tale of the familiarly named "Kaptayanos".  The Ard Amas album and many other wonderful festive gift ideas, including Magic Torch's books, are available from The Trust's Christmas Pop-Up Shop in Cathcart Street, Greenock - in the former Art, Crafts and Hobbies Store (or, more popularly "across the street from the Jimmy Watt Pub")




You may have noticed that we very much favour the work and style of M.R. James, we would therefore heartily recommend you check out the readings and discussions at A Podcast For The Curious. Just now there's a reading of "Stories I Have Tried To Write". Marvellous stuff.


Below, you can view one of the most terrifying slices of British TV ever produced. No really. "The Stone Tape" was written by Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame and broadcast in the traditional BBC "Ghost Story For Christmas" slot. It was released on BFI DVD about ten years ago and then promptly disappeared. A team of scientists move into their new facility in a refurbished Victorian Mansion...





And if all of that isn't enough for you for this evening, then feel free to indulge in another Christmas tradition...Doctor Who, there's a wee gothic horror story over on my Stramashed blog.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Forget Me Not



Today, Ross Ahlfeld passes on a story told to him last winter…

Last year, Inverclyde Community Development Trust carried out some soft landscaping, path building and basic repair work to the old Darroch tomb in the middle of Gourock Park (or Darroch Park as it is known locally). Over the weeks quite a few people passed by our team of trainees and told us interesting facts and old stories about the site, but this one was by far the best and certainly the creepiest, I’ve written it down as near as it was told to me. This story takes place around the wild woodland area down in front the playing fields which once made up part of the old estate where the Big House used to sit before it was knocked down. The old Barons of Gourock who lived on the estate now known as Gourock Park were the Darroch family. Duncan Darroch was made the 1st Baron of Gourock back in the 18th Century and the family lived there until the 1920’s. After that the house was left vacant then eventually knocked down…  

Forget Me Not
 
This story was told to me by an old neighbour of mine called Mrs Lamont in Gourock a few years ago; she swears this happened to her back in the summer of 74. The story begins with a flurry of vague reports about young women walking through the woods in Darroch Park, all claiming to have been watched and sometimes followed by someone or something lurking in the bushes. There were no reports of anyone ever being attacked and nearly all the women involved suggested that this figure was always at least 50 meters away making it difficult to identify or even describe the person.  Nothing unusual there you might think, it is after all a sad fact of modern life that questionable characters hang around public parks and woodland areas, even back in the mid-seventies.  
 
However, it soon turned out that there was something quite odd about all this; not long after the fifth or sixth sighting of this shape in the park, a rumour started going around Gourock that all the women who’d seen this figure were engaged and very soon to be married. On closer analysis, this strange coincidence actually turned out to be fact. According to my former neighbour, she herself had been walking down through the park at around 5.30 on Friday evening on the 19th of November when she too suddenly felt as if she was being watched. The following day she described this incident to the seamstress in the local bridal wear shop on
Kempock Street
at one of her dress fittings only to be told that she was the fifth bride to have described an identical incident in the woods to the shop assistant.
 
Naturally, people in the town started getting worried, talking about potential stalkers and attackers despite the fact nobody had been approached by this person as yet. Some old fishwives even spoke about this being a sign of bad luck for these brides as if it were some kind of curse or ill omen.
 
But there was one distinct detail of Mrs. Lamont’s own encounter which she did not share with the seamstress or anyone else. When Mrs. Lamont had been in the park on the previous day, she had seen through the trees what looked like the silhouette of person about 50 meters away just as all the other girls had described.  As she hurried along the path, away from the darkness of the trees towards the old stone gate at the Eastern View exit, she looked back and was relieved to see that the figure was gone, and it was with a deep sense of relief that she left the park. But just as she went through the gate she describes hearing a voice which (in her words) “came fae nae-where”.  She stated that a voice whispered in her ear three simple words “Forget me not”. Terrified, she spun round frantically in all directions, but there was no one to be seen.    
 
Mrs Lamont admitted to being deeply unsettled and puzzled by all this, I always remember Mrs L. as quite prim and proper, even as a younger woman, an Old Gourock Kirk Elder before her time. But even she confessed to enjoying a large brandy when she finally got home to her house on
Cardwell Road
that evening. Indeed, Mrs Lamont actually said to me...”Ah wiz so scared son, ah nearly went over tae St. Ninian's chapel tae light a candle, and am no even a Catholic!”. Mrs Lamont was especially scared since she was living on her own at the time, her fiance (Harry I think her late husband was called) worked away on the rigs or boats or something. The couple had recently bought the flat on Cardwell road and her fiance was due home just 3 days before the wedding later in the year.
 
However, by the beginning of the following week Mrs Lamont had calmed down and felt a little better about the whole episode despite endlessly replaying the moment in her mind, mainly because she was still unable to comprehend or come to any kind of conclusion around exactly what had happened that evening in the Park. Mrs Lamont told me that she had two part time jobs at the time, she worked in Gourock Library and she also worked in a Newsagents on
Cardwell Rd
called Johnstones.  Back then all shops closed at lunch time every Wednesday so Mrs Lamont was looking forward to finishing early on Wednesday and returning home to a nice sit down in the comfy chair by the three bar fire, Women’s Hour on Radio 4, a cup of tea, a read at her “People Friend”, then perhaps another small brandy and maybe even doze off for a nice afternoon around 3ish before tea time at 4.  For Mrs Lamont, the dull but comforting quiet of grey mid-week afternoon in Gourock seemed like the ideal antidote to the previous week’s disturbing events. 
   
So, this is exactly what she did (including, I am told, the Brandy and the afternoon nap). Mrs Lamont recalls being woken around 3.30pm by a noise coming her bedroom, she says it sounded like someone banging about in the room. She got up from her chair, walked along the hall and opened the bedroom door. The window was lying wide open, the bedsheets were all piled up in a corner and her first thought was that someone had clearly broken in. More terrifying was her second thought that it was the same stranger from the Park who had followed her and spoken to her just a few days ago. But there was nobody there now and nothing had been stolen.

Nothing else happened until exactly three months later on another Wednesday afternoon. Mrs Lamont was cleaning the house in preparation for her fiance returning home.  “Ah hud forgottin’ aw aboot it son, ah wis so exciteed aboot ma Harry comin hame. Ah wiz cleanin an hooverin like mad, jist like thon Shake n’ Vac wummin on the telly, and that wis when ah found it under ma bed so a did!” 
 
Mrs Lamont had been dusting under the bed when she was stunned to find a tiny dark pinewood box which she had never seen before in a dark corner just behind the bottom of the bedpost. It was certainly not her own nor her husband’s. Inside the box was a large silver coin and a very old dusty yellowing letter. Mrs Lamont says that she later checked the coin at the Library, apparently the coin was a Maria-Theresa Silver Thaler from Africa. As for the note, well read it for yourself...

“Dearest, It is my hope to be returning home to Gourock from the plantations before the winter. Oh how I have missed you and the children. I yearn to walk in the estate once again and offer my blessings to all the bonnie brides and grooms of our fair village. I did so enjoy giving my blessings our gay lads, those fine upright young men who have served us so well and their Merry Maids last summer.  I have collected many more silver coins here in the Indies as gifts for our newlyweds. Until my return, tell the common folk that I am soon to return to bless their unions once agin. Urge them, the good people of Gourock that they should forget me not. Yours, Duncan Darroch Baron of Gourock 14 July 1756.”
 
Mrs Lamont did eventually marry and she went up to Darroch Park on her wedding day. (Some couples from Gourock still do this on their wedding day today). Mrs Lamont remained in Gourock and when Harry passed away the old lady placed flowers on her late husband’s grave every Friday afternoon (because Mrs Lamont and Harry used to go for a fish tea at Mario's on the last Friday of every month until he died).

She also placed flowers on the Darroch tomb every Wednesday. I asked her why and she said it's because that was the day she realized the merry brides of Gourock were not cursed but blessed.
 
Elsbeth Lamont moved away from the area a few years ago to a sheltered housing complex near Troon. Before she moved away, she planted some wild flowers up at the Old Darroch tomb, "Forget Me Nots" of course and you can still seem them growing up there today.
 
This story was told to us by a nameless man who was placing flowers at the Darroch tomb one Wednesday afternoon while our trainees were working there. For my part, my wife and I got married on the 19th of November 1999, we too went up to the Park on our Wedding day. Perhaps for a blessing from a long gone Gourock Baron whose Castle is no longer there. Occasionally Spanish Dollars and Silver Talers are found in the park, it's not unusual for children (and sometimes even brides) to come across one. They are thought to be from Darroch’s time spent travelling in Africa and the West Indies. It is also true that lairds used to give their blessing to newly married couples. The letter and box are both now lost but the coin survives and was given to us with this story.  

You can read more from our resident Gourock enthusiast Ross Ahlfeld on his own blog Zuckerbeckers.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ghost Train



In 1989, BBC 40 Minutes travelled the UK by train, collecting ghost stories from the country's "most haunted" locations. From Chingle Hall to RAF Airfields, ordinary folk talk about their very down to earth paranormal experiences...all the more enjoyable for the absence of Derek Acorah.

Sadly missing from this documentary is this brief moorland tale of terror from Morrissey

For more spooky old telly, Check out Chillmax on youtube




Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Warning To The Curious

Ideal Sunday evening viewing, Sir Christopher Lee reads M R James "A Warning To The Curious" and then The Coral sing about it.






Thursday, 1 December 2011

Tales of Unease - Candy Bones

Throughout December, we like to indulge in the grand tradition of Pleasant Terrors, sharing scary stories to pass the dark winter hours. When we did this on the blog last year, it seemed to go over very well, so we're curating a further selection for 2011.

Across the month we'll have lost loves, arctic terror, ritual sacrifice, trench heroics and victorian ghost hunters. We'll also have some classics from the masters, a wee bit of kaidan and some nightmares from the golden age of spooky television (which is the seventies by the way).

Stories are more fun to share, so we would invite anyone who has Christmas Ghost Story or a Tale of Unease to share to submit to us directly at aulddurod@googlemail.com. Theres no cash, only glory.

Starting us off gently, here's a new one from me.



There's loads of really good 2 minute ghost stories over on The Woman in Black Youtube page, they are running a competition just now.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Something Wicked..

We're busy trying to compile and create a few new Ghost Stories for throughout December, but in the meantime, here's a few wee links to other stories and things we've been involved in over the last few weeks.

Over at Zuckerbeckers blog, you can read an excellent piece on one man coming to terms with what side Greenock took during the American Civil War. Hang on...are we the baddies?

On the Sugar Sheds blog, you can read about our journey into the heart of sugary darkness as we wander round the Sugar Sheds with psychic medium Joan Charles.

On TrustInverclydes Scribd page, you can download a copy of the Port Glasgow Social History book "Newark to Newark".

If you havent already, take a look at the Identity project blog...some good Galoshans video heading there soon.

And of no particular folkloric significance...I've been trying hard to work on National Novel Writing month. Here's a few chapters of my West of Scotland alien invasion story "Wasted", just to get them out there...

Now here's some Rik Mayall storytelling cheer....


Monday, 31 October 2011

Auld Dunrod's Legacy




It wouldn't be Halloween time without a look at Inverclyde's favourite Warlock; landed gentry turned evil witchlord..Alexander Lindsay of Dunrod.

It was rumoured that Dunrod became involved with witches living on his lands in Inverkip, gathering with them at Dunrod’s Seat, located on the slope of Dunrod Hill. Further rumours suggested that he entertained the Devil himself at his castle. It is worth noting the possibility that Dunrod had inherited his connections to the practice of witchcraft from the Lindsays; it is now thought in some circles that members of the nobility at that time were involved in a highly organised cult which they used for their own means. Some would argue they still are.

The image of Dunrod as a dark and powerful Warlock is a far cry from the man he was at the end of his life; he was a penniless hermit, his lands having been seized by the Kirk in recompense for his evil deeds, selling charms and potions at the Greenock riverside to any who would entertain him. Dunrod died soon after in a barn on his former lands in East Kilbride.

As recently as a century ago, parents enforced children’s bedtimes with the chilling promise that ‘Auld Dunrod’ would get them. Thus, this larger than life character has become woven irrevocably into the folklore of the area, celebrated in numerous tales passed from generation to generation, and most famously in two anonymous poems commemorating his dark deeds.

“The Ballad of Auld Dunrod” is thought not to have been written down until more than a century after Dunrod’s death, and was probably composed while Dunrod was extant. Presented in its fullest original form, the poem chronicles his black deeds, and ends rather cryptically with Dunrod flying on his broomstick to the Bogle Stone; this, in turn, gave rise to a second poem, “Auld Dunrod’s Vision at The Bogle Stane”. The second piece was composed a good many years later than its companion, and gives an account of a mystical vision Dunrod experienced at the Bogle Stone, concerning Inverclyde’s past, present and future. At this point he may have been "drucken on the barley bree".

You can still see our short experimental film featuring a recording of the poem by our old english teacher on youtube. And Dunrod randomly makes 21st Century appearances via his evil facebook page and haunted twitter account.

This recording of "The Balld of Auld Dunrod" was made for our Downriver project. It features
Jim Lang and some appropriate  spooky noises.

Jim Lang : The Ballad of Auld Dunrod by Auld Dunrod

The Ballad Of Auld Dunrod

Auld Dunrod was a gowstie carl,
As ever ye micht see;
And gin he wisna’ a warlock wicht,
There was nane in the haill countrie.

Auld Dunrod he stack a pin -
A boutrie pin - in the wa’,
And when he wanted his neighbour’s milk
He just gaed the pin a thraw.

He milkit the Laird o’ Kellies kye,
And a’ the kye o’ Dunoon;
And auld Dunrod gat far mair milk
Than wad mak’ a gabbert swim.

The cheese he made were numerous,
And wonerous to descry
For the kyth’t as gin they had been grule
Or peats set up to dry.

And there was nae cumerauld man about
Wha cam’ to him for skill,
That gif he dadna dae him guid,
He didna dae him ill.

But the kirk got word o’ Dunrod’s tricks,
And the Session they took him hand;
And naething was left but auld Dunrod
Forsooth maun leave the land.

Sae auld Dunrod he muntit his stick -
His broomstick muntit he -
And he flychter’t twa’r three times aboot,
And syne through the air did flee.

And he flew awa’ by auld Greenock tower,
And by the Newark ha’.
Ye wadna kent him in his flicht
Be a buddock or a craw.

And he flew to the Rest and be Thankfu’ Stane -
A merry auld carle was he;
He stottit and fluffer’t as he had been wud.
Or drucken wi’ the barley bree.

But a rountree grew at the stane -
It is there unto this day,
And gin ye dinna find it still,
Set doun that it’s away.

And he ne’er wist o’ the rountree
Till he cam dunt thereon;
His magic broomstick tint its spell,
And he daudit on the stone.

His heid was hard, and the Stane was sae,
And whan they met ane anither,
It was hard to say what wad be the weird
Of either the tane or the tither.

But the Stane was muilt like a lampet shell,
And sae was Auld Dunrod;
When ye munt a broomstick to tak a flicht,
Ye had best tak anither road.

The neighbours gathert to see the sicht,
The Stane’s remains they saw;
But as for Auld Dunrod himsel’,
He was carriet clean awa’.

And monie noy’t, as weill they micht,
The Rest and be Thankfu’ Stane;
And ilk ane said it had been better far,
Gin Dunrod had staid at hame.

And what becam o’ Auld Dunrod
Was doubtfu’ for to say,
Some said he wasna there ava,
But flew anither way.


goustie - ghostly, unearthly
boutrie - of the elder tree
Laird o Kellie - Bannatyne, the Laird of Kellie in Innerkip Parish
soum - make a lighter swim
grule - appeared as if they had, like moss, ben baked in the sun
flychterit - fluttered
huddock - from a carrion crow
wud - bounded and whisked about
barley bree - ale
rountree - mountain ash
daudit - fell violently down
muilt - crushed
noy’t - blamed
ava - at all


And in closing, we were delighted today to see this bit on the BBC news, and in fact all over the press; a local Greenock school, defending their right to Go Galoshans! Well done Aileymill.