St. Andrews Ghost Stories/The Hauntings and Mysteries of Lausdree Castle

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
2926379St. Andrews Ghost Stories — The Hauntings and Mysteries of Lausdree Castle1921W. T. Linskill

The Hauntings and Mysteries of Lausdree Castle.

It is many years ago since I was on a walking tour in the Highlands, far to the north of Bonnie Glenshee; and when on the moorlands I was overtaken, for my sins, by a regular American snowstorm—a genuine blissard of the most pronounced type. I struggled along as well as I could for some considerable time, and then I became aware that someone was beside me. It was a young Highland lassie with a plaid over her head. I was pleased to learn from her that her name was "Jean," that she was the niece of a neighbouring innkeeper, and that she would speedily convey me to his haven of rest. We trudged along in the blinding snow without a word, and I was more than thankful to the lassie when I at last found myself out of the snow in a nice little sanded parlour with a glorious fire of peat and logs blazing on the hospitable hearth. A glass of something hot, brought by mine host, was most welcome.

I found there was one other storm-stayed traveller in the wee house, an old family butler, whose name I discovered was Jeremiah Anklebone. He had been on a visit to relations North, and had been caught in the snow like myself. We were both thankful to find such a warm, cosy shanty on such an at evening, and, to use a Scots term, we foregathered at the ingle inside.

He asked me if I knew much about spirits, to which I replied that I had just had a glass, but he at once explained that although not averse to toddy, he alluded to spirits of another nature, viz., ghosts, banshees, boggards, and the like.

I told him I had frequently been in so-called haunted places in various countries, but had never seen or heard anything except owls, bats, rats, or mice.

He ventured the remark I had often heard before, that I could not be receptive, and I told him I was thankful that I was not.

He was a fine old fellow, an ideal family butler, and doubtless the recipient of many family secrets. He had big mutton-chop whiskers and a bald head, and looked as if he had served turtle soup all his life; but it was not soup he was soaked with—he seemed fairly saturated with spook lore. He informed me, quite calmly, that he was gifted with the remarkable faculty of seeing apparitions, demons, etc.

I could not help remarking that it seemed a very unpleasant faculty to possess, but he quite differed with me, and got as warm as his toddy on the subject. I shall not in a hurry forget that wild evening in the Highland inn before that blazing fire, or the wonderful narrations I heard from Butler Anklebone. Space precludes me from putting down here all the marvels he revealed to me.

It seemed all his life—he was 62—he had been gasping like a fish on a river's bank to get into a really well-haunted house, but had utterly failed till he took the post of head butler at Lausdree Castle, which he informed me was but a short distance from St Andrews. He gave me a most tremendous description of the old castle, and from his account it seemed to be the asylum and gathering place of all the bogies in Britain and elsewhere. Congregated together there were the Ice Maid, the Brown Lady, a headless man, a cauld lad, a black maiden, the Flaming Ghost, the Wandering Monk, a ghost called Silky, auld Martha, a radiant bay, an iron knight, a creeping ghost, jumping Jock, old No-legs, Great Eyes, a talking dog, the Corbie Craw, a floating head, a dead hand, bleeding footprints, and many other curious creatures far too numerous to mention.

The Castle, he said, was full of uncouth and most peculiar sights and sounds, including rappings, hammerings, shrieks, groans, crashings, wailings, and the like.

"What a remarkable place," I said to Mr Butler Anklebone, "and how do you account for so many spectres in so limited an area?"

"Oh! there is no time or space for them," he said, "they are earth-bound spirits, and can go from one part of the globe to another in a second; but they have their favourite haunts and meeting places just as we folks have, and Lausdree seems to appeal to their varied tastes."

He then went on to tell me some details of the Haunted Castle. "There are supposed to be," he said, "beneath the Castle splendid old apartments, dungeons, winding passages, and cellars; but history states that any of those persons who tried to investigate these mysteries returned no more, so the entrances were walled up and are now completely lost sight of.

"There is a built-up chamber, but no one durst open it, the penalty being total blindness or death, and such cases are on record. There is also a coffin room shaped exactly like its name; but one of the queerest places at Lausdree is a small apartment with a weird light of its own. At night this room can be seen from the old garden, showing a pale, uncanny, phosphorescent glow.

"Mr Snaggers—that's the footman—and I unlocked the door and examined the place carefully. There is a table, a sofa, and a few old chairs therein, and an all-pervading sickly light equally diffused. The furniture throws no shadows whatever. The room seemed very chilly, and there was a feeling as if all one's vitality was being sucked out of one's body, and drawing one's breath caused pain. Snaggers felt the same. No one could live long in that eerie apartment. I know we were glad to lock it up again.

"Then there is a spiral stair, called 'Meg's Leg.' I don't know the legend, but almost every night one hears her leg stumping up these steps."

"What a creepy place it must be, to be sure," I murmured, gravely.

"Yes!" said Anklebone, "and I tell you sir, Snaggers and I generally arranged to go up to bed together; one always felt there was something coming up the stairs behind one. When a person stopped, it stopped also, and one could hear it breathing and panting, but nothing was to be seen. Snaggers said one night when the candle went out he saw monstrous red eyes, but I saw nothing then. The creeping creature I only saw twice, it was like an enormous toad on spider's legs. They say it has a human head and face, but I only saw its back. Some folks say it is alive and not a ghost, and that it hides somewhere in the cellars, but we never could get a trace of it. One night I was going down to the service room when my way was barred by a ghastly, tall figure, with great holes where eyes should have been, so I just shut my eyes and rushed through it downstairs. When I got down, I found all my clothes were covered with a vile, sickly-smelling sticky sort of oil, and I had to destroy them all."

'Go on, please," I said, "you astonish me vastly,"

"Yes," he said slowly, "it's all very queer. Lausdree is haunted and no mistake. Snaggers and I shared the same room. One night a great blood-stained hand and arm came round the corner of the bed curtain and tried to grab me. It was dead ice-cold too. Then a thing, an invisible thing, used to patter into the room, puffing and groaning, and get under the bed and heave it up, but we looked and there was never anything there, and the door locked too. We saw a great black corkscrew thing one night fall from the ceiling on to the floor and disappear, and then there was a mighty rush along the passage. Outside the door a great crash, a yell, and a groan dying away far below. There was a humorous spirit also, the Iron Knight. We called him 'Uncle.' He was up to tricks. We didn't mind him. When the fat cook was sitting down to a meal, he'd pull back her chair, and down she would come with a rare crash. If any of the maids upset a tray of tea-things, or fell downstairs with the kettle, or knocked over the great urn, they used to say—'Oh! That's Uncle again!'

I told him (Mr Anklebone) that I was delighted there was a touch of comedy in such a gruesome place, as I preferred comedians to ghosts any day. One thing I learnt from his story, and that was, that if he was head butler at Lausdree Castle, the head ghost was Sir Guy Ravelstocke, whose portrait still hung in the old picture gallery. The Castle dated back to Norman times, but about 1457 it fell into the hands of this Sir Guy Ravelstocke, who had been educated at the "Stadium Generale," or University of Saint Andrews. He and his two friends, Geoffrey Do Beaumanoir and Roger Le Courville, held high revel and carnival in the old halls of Lausdree, and were the terror of the whole countryside. Sir Guy was a dissolute fellow, a gambler, and everything else bad. The neighbours alleged that he had sold himself to Old Nick. He would spill blood as if it was water, and he and his white steed, "Nogo," were well known all over Fife and the Lothians. He was held to be a free-booter, a wizard and a warlock, a highwayman, a pirate, and a general desperado. He had slain many men in mortal combat, and was found invulnerable.

"He must have been a sort of Michael Scott of Balwearie," I remarked.

"He must have been a holy terror," said the butler. "I've seen him often, exactly like his portrait in the picture gallery. I've seen him in his old-world dress with his sword hanging at his side, sometimes on his white horse and sometimes on foot.

"There were always terrible knockings, shrieks, and crashes before he appeared, and all our dogs showed the greatest terror. I slept in an old four-poster bed, and he used to draw aside the curtain and glare at me constantly. He nearly always was accompanied by the spectre of a negro carrying his head under his arm. Sir Guy was a great traveller in foreign lands, and, I have been told, used to bring back all sorts of curious animals and insects with him. Perhaps that great toad thing I saw was one of the creatures. I've heard toads live for ages.

I said I believed that was quite true.

"I found a queer place one day," said Anklebone. "I was going up the turret staircase, and found some of the steps moved back. I got Mr Snaggers and Darkgood, the gardener, and we tugged them out. We called the master, and then we found narrow steps going down to a locked door. We forced it open, and got into a stone chamber. There were skulls and bones all over the place. Most of them belonged to animals, but there was a horrible thing on the floor, a sort of mummified vampire bat, with huge teeth and enormous outstretched wings, like thick parchment, and four legs. Perhaps it was a regular vampire. They fanned folks to sleep with their great wings, and then sucked their blood dry. We cleared out the room, and buried all the things in a wood.

"Now," said Anklebone, "I will tell you the end of Sir Guy Ravelstocke. He brought back with him from them foreign parts a nigger servant, and they called him the 'Apostle,' Well, one night," continued Anklebone, "he and his chums were dining, and full of wine, and the 'A—Postal' offended them somehow, and Sir Guy stabbed him. Then they chained his hands and feet together, took him to the dungeon, and filled his mouth, nose, and ears full of clay and left him. That is the nigger ghost I saw always with Sir Guy—the murdered negro.

"About two years after, Sir Guy and his friends were in the same room drinking when there came a great hammering at the Castle door. Sir Guy drew his sword, flung open the door, and plunged out into the darkness. A few moments passed then his friends rushed out on hearing wild unearthly shrieks, but there was no Sir Guy to be seen, he had totally disappeared, and was never heard of or seen in life again. We found his remains three years ago, but I will tell you of that directly. One day Snaggers and I had gone to St Andrews to buy things. We were just at the end of South Street when a horseman dashed past us at full gallop. 'Heavens,' said Snaggers, 'it's Sir Guy as I live.' He went bang into the big iron gates at the Cathedral. When we came up the great gates were locked, and there was Sir Guy leaning up against the west gable scowling at us, but the white horse had gone, and he melted away as we looked. I saw him again with the negro at Magus Muir, and alone one dark night in North Street.

"I was alone one evening in the room below the banquet hall at Lausdree and heard a pattering on the table. On looking up I saw a stain in the ceiling, and drops of blood were dropping down on the table and the floor. The room above was the very place where the negro was stabbed. Next morning we went into the room where I saw the blood drip, and there was the mark of a bloody hand on the table, but no stain on the roof.

"Now for the discovery. I had often dreamed about an old overgrown well there was in the gardens, and felt very suspicious of what might be therein. Then the gardener and the woodman told me they had frequently seen the awful spectre of Sir Guy and the 'Apostle' hovering round about the thicket that enclosed what was known as the haunted well, and then vanish in the brushwood without disturbing it. I felt sure that there lay the mystery of Sir Guy Ravelstocke. This idea was soon after confirmed by a curious occurrence. One morning Snaggers was dusting an old oil painting over the huge mantelpiece, and above the weeping stone in the great hall, when somehow or other he contrived to touch a secret spring and the painting flew back, open in its frame, and revealed a chamber beyond.

"We sent for master, and got down by some steps into the room. Such a queer place! It was octagonal in shape, and there had been either a great fire or an explosion there. The vaulted stone roof and floor were all blackened and cracked, and the fireplace and wood-panelling were all burnt and charred."

"Perhaps the chapel," I remarked.

"That is what master said," replied the butler, "and there were remains of burnt tapestry, charred wood, and documents all over the stone floor. Master got one piece of burnt paper with faded writing on it in some foreign tongue. The odd thing was the big picture. The eyes were sort of convex-like, and two holes were bored in the pupil of each of its eyes, so that anyone standing up on top of the stone stairs could see all that took place in the great hall below, and hear also.

"Master took the piece of parchment and managed to make out a few words. They were—'I am sure that Ravelstocke lies in the old Prior's Well, with the dead nigger servant we placed there. I would not go near that spot for my life. Heaven grant it may not come for me, I must leave the place.' That was all he could decipher on the burnt paper.

"'We must explore that Prior's Well (evidently that is its name) to-morrow morning,' said our master. We were all up at dawn, and got all the men available to cut down the shrubs, bushes, and the undergrowth round the well, the growth of ages. When the well was exposed it looked very like the holy well at St Andrews, only it had been very finely carved and ornamented at one time. The entrance was a Norman archway, and the remains of an oak door still hung there. We found a shallow bath shaped pool of muddy water inside, and a lot of broken stones and bits of old statues and glass. At the far end was a large square opening a few feet above the pool of water. We, of course, made for this, and found there was a cell beyond. The whole well on one side was riven and rent, either by lightning or the effects of an earthquake shock. If that ancient well could have spoken it would have told us as queer tales as St Rule's Tower at St Andrews. There was a most curious, over-powering, sickening odour inside the place, like a vault or charnel house."

I remarked that I knew no smells worse than acetylene gas or the awful smell I unearthed when digging, long ago, opposite the St Andrews Cathedral.

"Well," said Anklebone, "I can't imagine a worse odour than there was beside that Prior's Well. It turned us all so faint. We had to get some brandy. We got into the far cell, and there were two skeleton bodies on the flagged floor. One was a blanched skeleton as far as the neck, but the skull was well preserved, and matted black hair still clung on it and round the jaws. All the teeth were in their place. Some rings had fallen from the bony fingers, and a sword, all eaten away by rust, lay beside the skeleton. The other was like a mummified ape, of a dark oak colour, the nails on the fingers and toes being quite perfect. Chains, also almost worn away, hung round the feet and hands.

"'Good Heavens,' said master, 'it is Sir Guy Ravelstocke and the murdered Apostle!' There was no doubt of that whatever. We had them removed and buried at once. The mystery was solved after all these long years.

"The nigger had been placed there, but the mystery of Sir Guy was inexplicable. Who came for him that night when he rushed out of the door of Lausdree Castle, centuries ago, with his sword, and who carried him to his doom in the Friar's Well? No one can answer that terrible question now. Oh! that the old well could speak and reveal its secret."