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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