Built on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, not far from the village of Blackness in Stirlingshire, Scotland, Blackness Castle squats on the Black Rock jutting out northwards into the murky waters of the passing river. Its elongated shape and unique placement gave it the name “the ship that never sailed”. The smaller North Tower is called the Stem Tower. The bigger South Tower is called the Stern Tower. The Central Tower, the biggest of the three, stands up like a main mast.
Work on the castle was begun in the 1440s by Sir George Crichton, Lord High Admiral of Scotland, a member of one of the most politically powerful Scottish families at that time. In 1449, Blackness Castle was noted in documents as a state prison as well as residence of Sir George Crichton. Today it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Scotland.
There had been various modifications and additions made to the castle over the years. The most important was carried out between 1534 and 1540. This was under the direction of Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, the King’s Master of Works. Sir James Hamilton was an expert in artillery fortification, having spent years in Europe studying the subject. For Blackness Castle, he built a complex entrance with a caponier. This is one of only two in Scotland, the other being at Craignethan. The curtain wall was strengthened to the south and east, in parts, to a thickness of five meters.
With such thick walls, Blackness Castle was well-suited to its major function as a prison and, in 1870, as the central ammunition depot for Scotland. Well-placed gun platforms and gun-holes added to its defensive strength until 1650, when Oliver Cromwell overwhelmed it with superior artillery which had greater firing range and more firepower.
Visitors approaching the castle along a narrow road from the little village of Blackness are assailed with a sense of foreboding as they get closer. To get inside, they have to wend through the narrow passage way of the entrance complex which adds to the feeling that visitors are not exactly welcomed here. Once inside, they stumble across a courtyard lined with extremely uneven black natural rock which would trip up the less than nimble of foot.
At the North Tower, they can peer through a hatch in the floor of the lower level to look down into the pit prison below. They can imagine the cold misery of those unfortunate enough to be incarcerated down there, who would be up to their necks, or worse, in salty brine when high tides bring in the sea to flood the pit prison twice a day.
Should they dare to venture up the Central Tower, which is also known as the Prison Tower, they may meet with more than what they had bargained for.
Ghost Apparition and Paranormal Activities
In the late 1990s, a lady visitor, with her two young sons, felt adventurous enough to climb the winding stone staircase of the tower. Suddenly there appeared before her a knight. He was suited in armor, in full dress uniform, so to say. The apparition took umbrage at her temerity. She claimed it chased her angrily from the tower. She didn’t say, though, whether it was brandishing its sword as it clanked after her. Probably, she was too busy trying to stay out of its mail-fisted reach.
Blackness Castle also has plenty of things that went bump in the night.
A group of ardent fans of paranormal phenomena once spent a night at the tower. They chose an auspicious occasion for the sleep-over, Halloween. However, they didn’t get to do much sleeping. The whole night through, they were kept awake by the constant noise of furniture being scraped and banged across the stone floor of the room beneath them. At last, one of them plucked up the courage to investigate.
He ventured into the room which had sounded like a furniture-movers convention having a late-night show-and-tell session. There was nothing out of place. There wasn’t even a noise when he went to check. So he went back to his companions. The noises started again. He didn’t feel the need to investigate again. Obviously the ghost furniture-movers preferred to do their work unseen.
Perhaps, someday someone with high technology equipment that can see through thick stone walls may be able to find out exactly what kind furniture these phantom movers were so busy with.
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Glamis Castle has pure white, cup-shaped flowers of typical Old Rose character. That’s the horticultural Glamis Castle. The architectural Glamis Castle has a somewhat less pure white past. The name Glamis comes from the Gaelic word “glamhus” meaning a strath or a vale. In 1424, the Lyon family became the owner of Glamis. The family name became Bowes-Lyon when the ninth Earl married a Yorkshire heiress. The castle is just five miles south of the town of Forfar in the vale of Strathmore, in the north-east of Scotland.
From its origin as a keep, the castle has been extended and strengthened until, in some parts, the walls are 15 feet thick. This gives credence to the existence of a secret chamber hidden somewhere in the castle. This secret chamber is said to hold a secret said to be known to only certain members of the British Royal Family.
In 1904, Claude Bowes-Lyon, the 13th Earl of Glamis, told an inquisitive friend,
“If you could only know the nature of the terrible secret, you would go down on your knees and thank God that it were not yours.”
Once when the daughter of the 14th Earl of Glamis asked what the secret was, her father told her,
“You cannot be told; for no woman can know the secret of Glamis Castle.”
It is said that only certain male members of the Royal Family were told of the secret on their 18th birthday, but none of them has ever commented on or denied the secret of Glamis Castle.
Of course, this does not mean the general populace is immune from speculation about it. One story in circulation says that the room holds a monster.
The Secret of the Hidden Chamber
In 1821, the first son of the 11th Earl is said to have been born horribly deformed. Its body is said to be egg-shaped with tiny arms and legs with no neck. The official version says that this child died just a few days after birth. Rumors say that this unfortunate infant was locked up in a secret room in the castle. Somehow, despite its deformity, the child survived. In time, a second son was born. When the second son reached the age of eighteen, he was told about his elder brother. He, in turn, told his male heir and the tradition was passed on down the generations.
There is a section of the castle ramparts called the “Mad Earl’s Walk” which is said to be where the deformed Earl was taken out for exercise. There is also an old oil painting in the castle which shows a strange green-clad figure of a child with a strangely-deformed torso. The identity of the painting’s subject, however, had never been established.
Locating the Secret Chamber
Glamis Castle, as is common with structures of this kind, has got many windows. Once, a party of visitors to the castle decided to use the windows as a means of locating the secret chamber. Theoretically, a window seen from inside the castle should also be seen from outside the castle. So they went all over inside the castle and hung a towel from every window they could find. Then they went outside the castle to check on their handiwork. True enough, there was a window seen from outside the castle which did not have a towel hanging from it.
Phase one of operation Secret Chamber accomplished successfully. However, phase two, actually locating the secret chamber from inside the castle, was aborted with indeterminate results. Try as they might, they could not find the entrance to the secret chamber from inside the castle. The vague conclusion was that the secret chamber should be somewhere in the old square tower. Perhaps someday, high-tech equipment, which had been used to locate the pharaoh’s tomb deep inside the pyramid, might be used to locate this elusive secret of Glamis Castle.
In the meantime, visitors to the castle will have to be content with other less elusive phantoms. One such apparition is known as Jack the Runner.
The Ghost of Jack the Runner
In the 17th century, the Earls of Glamis are said to have added a gruesome aspect to the sport of hunting. A black slave was stripped naked. Then hunting dogs were set after him. The slave was repeatedly impaled with lances while the dogs literally tore him to pieces. It is said that the ladies of the castle watching from the ramparts laughed in merriment at this ghastly spectacle. The murdered slave’s ghost has been sighted darting about the castle grounds, screaming in agony.
The Haunting of the Silenced Maiden
There is another ghost from a gory incident around that time. It is said that it is the ghost of a young maiden from the nearby village. She is said to have been engaged in illicit relations with one of the Earls. Then one day, she stumbled upon the secret chamber. Whatever she saw inside must have been terribly horrifying for she ran screaming from the castle.
She was later captured by two Royal henchmen. One of them took a pair of iron tongs. He ripped out the young maiden’s tongue and threw it into the fire. This is apparently a standard procedure called the ritual of silencing. In normal circumstances, the victim would have either died of shock or of bleeding. However, in this particular case, the mutilated maiden ran out of the castle dungeon without her tongue with blood spurting from her mouth. The henchmen went after her.
One of them caught her. He held her in a headlock and twisted her head until her neck broke. Then they meticulously sawed up her body and fed the severed parts to the wild boars in the forest. Her ghost has been sighted running around the castle grounds with silent screams issuing from her mutilated bloody mouth.
Just the possibility of coming across these two apparitions should put the Scotland tourist attraction Glamis Castle at the top of the list of any avid paranormal researcher’s itinerary.
Back to part one of Glamis Castle.
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