I must admit I love a good scary story – from myths to the macabre, ghostly to ghouly there is still something rather exciting about terrifying ourselves over the unknown!
So this Halloween, sit yourself down in front of a roaring campfire with some toasted marshmallows and your copy of this month’s What’s On, as we prepare to lift the lid on some of the Cairngorms National Park’s most mysterious myths and legends…
The Spectre of the Bloody Hand
Even the famous Sir Walter Scott wrote about the old man with the bloody hand at Loch Morlich. Despite the golden sands, and stunning views up to the Cairngorm Mountains a seemingly gigantic figure, clad in full Highland warrior dress, one hand always dripping with blood used to guard the east end of the loch. According to legend, anyone unfortunate to meet the spectre would be challenged by him to an instant contest of mortal combat. Should the challenge be accepted no bodily harm would follow, yet those too timid to stand up to the fight would face dire consequences. Despite his gruesome appearance and hostile manner it seems that the Old Man had a kind streak when it came to animals of Rothiemurchus and stories tell of him assuming the role of guardian of deer and other wild creatures.
Lass o’ the Lecht
The wind, rain snow and freezing winter weather of the braes of Glenlivet creates some hardy characters in the north of the Park. However, a sudden change in weather can surprise and endanger even the most prepared of walkers. One famous story involved a young 19 year old girl, Margaret Cruikshank or the ‘Lass o’ the Lecht’ as she became known. Margaret set off from Tomintoul one day in February 1860 to cross the Lecht Pass over the Ladder Hills, however a gale sprung up and with it a violent blizzard. Becoming quickly lost, Margaret decided to follow a burn she thought would lead to safety, but this mistake ended up leading her deeper into the hills where she perished. 500 men turned out to help in the attempt at rescue, but it was not until 3 months later that her frozen body was discovered in Strathdon, on the banks of the river Earnan, many miles from the Lecht. No subsequent sights of Margaret’s ghost have been reported, but she is immortalised in the famous poem ‘Lass o’ the Lecht’.
The Old Man Of Garten
Am Bodach Ghoirtean is spoken about with fear and dread in Boat of Garten and it’s surrounding areas. The Bodach was said to be a spirit that dwelt in the woods around Loch Garten and Loch Mallachy and roamed the countryside at night giving anyone he met a warning of impending death of a family member or friend. The Bodach would sometimes appear to his victims as a huge white object – faintly luminous – but always his trademark warning was a terrifying high-pitched scream.
The story of Donald Macpherson of Tulloch is famous in the area as he is the last person said to have encountered the Bodach. Soon after his meeting with the phantom, the tenant of the farm in which Donald played cards was found dead. Even more curious was the fact that at the tenant’s funeral – on passing the spot on the road where Donald encountered the apparition – the stallions pulling the funeral wagon reared up, biting and kicking and eventually upturning the hearse whilst admitting the same blood curdling scream heard by Donald a few nights before!
The lonely ghost of Kittie Rankie is said to walk through the halls and stairs and the surrounding lands of Abergeldie Castle in Ballater. Also known as French Kate (according to legend she was a woman of French origin who was at one time employed in the castle) it is said that she once was accused of practicing black magic and arrested soon after to be charged with witchcraft. After confinement in the castle she was eventually found guilty and thereafter taken to a local hill where she was tied to a stake and burnt for her supposed crimes. Over the years, there have been various encounters with Kittie, most notably in the mid-nineteenth century when the daughter of a local doctor, Patricia Lindsay, was happy to play in the castle cellars during the day. However, she would never do so after dark as she recounted hearing several terrifying noises and ringing of bells clattering through the stone walls.
The White Lady of the Rowan Tree
At a bridge in Glentruim near a sharp bend on the glen road an old rotten rowan tree used to stand. On a full moon, local people would refuse to pass the spot, horses would refuse to cross the bridge and dogs would howl in discomfort. Tradition has it that one night a local by the name of John Barleycorn agreed to go, on horseback, to the spot and attempt to cross the river. However, his horse refused to budge, so John dismounted and stumbled over the bridge, past the rowan tree where he came face to face with a white lady. What happens next nobody knows, but the next day John was found a quarter of a mile along the road, in a ditch, his face in a pool of water. His horse was grazing quietly nearby.
See www.visitcairngorms.com for more information on the spooky park!