With Halloween fast approaching, we thought it would be entertaining (if that’s the right word!) to draw to your attention just a few of the spooky places and happenings that make north-east Scotland a veritable treasure-trove for those who believe in ghosts.

Arguably the most famous is Dracula, the legendary story written by Bram Stoker. Dracula’s castle in the book was inspired by Slains Castle, near Cruden Bay.  Both Slains and Dracula’s castles boast an octagonal room and Stoker began writing the book (which was published in 1897) while staying at Kilmarnock Arms Hotel in Cruden Bay.  His signatures is in the hotel’s guest book, for 1894 and 1895, can be seen today.

Even royalty is not immune to spectral incursions.  Balmoral Castle is said to be haunted by John Brown, the ‘companion’ of Queen Victoria, who has been seen in the grounds and inside the corridors. After his death, Queen Victoria herself apparently saw John Brown and felt his presence and it has also been said that Queen Elizabeth II also said she had seen his ghost.

In the city centre, employees in Aberdeen’s oldest pub, Ma Camerons, have experienced feelings of being watched and also seeing a beer tap turned on when no one is around. More creepily, there was a painter who heard knocks on the ceiling. Nothing unusual perhaps, except they seemed to be coming from a locked, empty room. He responded by knocking three times on the ceiling – and was answered with three more knocks from above. He did not hang around to knock any more, but fled, terrified.

Also in the city, His Majesty’s Theatre has its own ghost, the spirit of Jake, a former employee who met a tragic end when a rapidly spinning winch handle hit him on the head. This happened when Jake was attempting to put the brake on a lift which was transporting circus horses to the lower floor. He was seen thereafter in some of the passages of the theatre, although he has not been witnessed since the refurbishment in 1999.

Returning to the castles, Braemar is said to be haunted by a newlywed bride. This unfortunate allegedly woke up early on the morning after her wedding night and found her husband was no longer in bed. She thought he had been unimpressed by her as a lover and so she leapt to her death from the bedroom window. Unfortunately, her husband had merely got up early to go on a hunting trip.  Leaving aside the question of why he would do that after his wedding night, he was understandably a tad upset to find her dead upon his return to the castle.  Her ghost is said to appear when newlyweds are staying in the castle – which is quite a disincentive for any newly married couple to do so…

Around 650 people died of the plague in Peterhead in 1645 and Ivy Park and Gadle Braes stand on ancient plague pits, where the bodies were interred.  When Council houses were erected there, the new residents had stories of taps being turned on without anyone being in the room and also unexplained children’s voices being heard.  

Finally, there is the church minister at Kemnay who is said to have saved his flock from the Devil.  The story is that the Devil visited Bennachie – the latter described as a gateway to hell from which fire belched at night because Satan was angered by the good works done by the priest.  The Devil pondered how to rid himself of this good man and, the story continues, as the feast of St Barnabas was being held in the church, the Minister sensed that evil was afoot. A huge black rock was said to have blotted out the sky above, but the Minister led the congregation in prayer, asking for deliverance from evil. The angels heard him and came to the aid of the people, diverting the stone in mid-air so it dropped harmlessly on the lands of Kemnay.

Enjoy Halloween!

Julie Skinner, Resourcing and Benefits Specialist, RGU