The best thing of telling spooky stories is that you’re sharing tales, told from years gone by, from one person to the next. What this means for me is that I’m rather lazily going to repost some of my favourite stories found from elsewhere online… #copy&paste Shhhpooky shhhhhimples! 😉 Enjoy!
Image © Colin Henderson www.colinhendersonphoto.com
Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui
Book – Amazon Store
This is the strange story of Scotland’s own Big Foot, a giant spectre which haunts one of its highest mountains. Many have seen footprints, heard noises, some have seen shapes or the creature itself. In his search for the truth, Gray ranges from Scotland’s Cullins to the Himalayas to Arabia in search of the extraordinary truth about the big Grey Man.
There has long been talk of a Big Grey Man in the Cairngorm mountains. Known locally for decades it entered popular folklore when Professor Normal Collie reported his experiences of Fearlas Mor (as the Big Grey Man is known locally) while on a trip to New Zealand in 1889. He later repeated the story at a meeting of the Cairngorm Club in 1925:
“I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. Every few steps I took I heard a crunch, then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself ‘this is all nonsense’. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist . As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui and will not go back there again by myself I know.”
This story from an otherwise sensible man of letters gave credence to the myth and a spate of similar experience emerged as others felt emboldened to tel their own tales. These were later collected by Affleck Grey in his authoritative book on the Big Grey Man – where he explored not only the stories but their possible explanations in an attempt to understand where they came from.
There has never been any real ‘sightings’ as such most stories describe the sense of a ‘presence’ or strange noises, and most agree there is not actually a ‘big grey man’ wandering the slopes of Ben Macdhui. However the persistence of the story indicates it has a resonance even today, and if you venture into the Cairngorms (especially in winter) you become aware of an ancient landscape where myths and legends used to roam freely.
Amongst the many theories several suggest possible explanations. Foremost is that of the Brocken Spectre, a meteorological phenomenon which only occurs when an inversion (or gaps in the cloud) allow the viewer to see their own shadow cast upon cloud. The effect is indeed spooky – with a giant grey shadow stretching from your feet into the atmosphere and in certain conditions it is accompanied by a circular rainbow which surrounds the shadow (known as a Glorie).
There are only a few spots in the Cairngorms where this phenomena can be seen with any certainty (and even then there is no guarantee) since it requires steep cliffs to give the elevation required to get above the cloud. One such place which often crops up in Big Grey Man stories is Lurchers Crag. These 1000ft cliffs stand guard over the northern entrance to the Larig Ghru (the main pass through the Cairngorms) and it is entirely possible that the Specter of Brocken has been seen in this area and interpreted as some other worldly presence.
Another explanation may be of a less scientific nature and harder to define, however in it may be the essence of the story. That is the Big Grey Man is a manifestation of the spirit of the place, transformed by imagination into an actual being. From the start of human history we have transfered human characteristics and forms onto the world around us. From early religions to the present day anthropomorphism has helped us describe the unknown; Paganism turned the seasons into characters, Shintoism worships gods of the everyday, while today we give our cars names and imbue them with a personality. So why not the mountains?
People have different degrees of sensory acuity; some have 20:20 vision while others can hear a pin drop. With this in mind it becomes plausible that some are able to ‘read’ signs too subtle for others and can ‘sense’ the spirit of a place. Has their anthropomorphism of the Cairngorms created the myth of the Big Grey Man?
Ben Macdhui is the biggest mountain in the Cairngorms and the second highest in the UK. The summit rises from the southern part of a huge sub-arctic upland unique in the British Isles. It is a harsh environment where nothing grows save the hardiest of alpine plants. When the cloud rolls in summits can be shrouded for days, in winter the weak northern sun often does not penetrate the deep glens for weeks. At times like this the featureless plateau is at it’s most elemental – grey above and below, the perfect environment for a ‘Big Grey Man’.
“…tell me that the whine was but the result of relaxed eardrums, and the Presence was only the creation of a mind that was accustomed to take too great an interest in such things. I shall not be convinced. Come, rather, with me at the mysterious dusk time when day and night struggle upon the mountains. Feel the night wind on your faces, and hear it crying amid rocks. See the desert uplands consumed before the racing storms. Though your nerves be of steel, and your mind says it cannot be, you will be acquainted with that fear without name, that intense dread of the unknown that has pursued mankind from the very dawn of time.” Peter Densham (leader of the Cairngorms RAF Rescue Team 1939-45)
Let the mystery be…
MAGAZINE Posted on June 28, 2015 by Cameron McNeish
The hills of Scotland have a long tradition of the supernatural, which is hardly surprising since the indigenous highlander, even to-day, tends to superstition, and the history of Gaeldom is splattered with tales of the second sight, the little people, and tales from beyond the grave.
My one and only encounter with anything remotely resembling spectral things occurred in Glen Banchor near my home in Newtonmore.
I had taken my dogs for a walk on a local hill on a day of mist and rain, and as we returned along a well-trodden hill path we could see the glen road below us. I could quite clearly see a person, I think it was a man, and a dog walking along towards us and I decided that I would tarry for just a few moments to let him pass.
One of my own dogs had an inquisitive nature when there were other dogs about and I thought I’d give the man and his dog an opportunity to walk on a bit.
From where we stood on the track, part of the roadway was out of sight, blocked by a low hillock. We waited a few moments, and when the person didn’t appear from the other side we descended to to the road, fully expecting to see him there.
To my surprise there was nobody in sight. I wandered round the hillock, looked down the steep banking that leads to the river, and realised, with something of a shock, that the dogs and I were completely on our own.
I didn’t feel in the slightest bit frightened, only curious. I must admit though that my curiosity became more intense when I recalled that a dog belonging to a friend always acts very strangely whenever she’s taken along this bit of road, whining, and sitting down refusing to go any further. I wondered if the events were connected.
It’s not unusual to hear of tales like this. Donald Watt, the onetime leader of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, once told the tale of coming down from a hill on a very hot day and seeing a small cottage below him with smoke coming from the chimney and someone standing at the door.
Deciding that he would stop by and ask for a drink of water he continued his descent behind a copse of wood that momentarily hid the cottage from view. When he reached the road in the glen and walked past the wood he was astonished to find an old ruin, a clutter of stones and a gable wall, where a few moments earlier he had seen a lived-in home.
Only recently a woman wrote to me enquiring after a number of Cairngorm ‘mysteries’. One of the most significant stories she referred to was that of the discovery of the body of a man who was once found on the slopes of Ben Avon.
The odd thing about this corpse was that it was dressed in a business suit, and lying close by was a briefcase, a walking stick and a bowler hat!
A stalker, working on the south-east slopes of Ben Avon, discovered the body in 1938, and it appeared that the city gent, for so he appeared, had been dead for some time. His identity was never discovered.
The discovery of dead bodies in the mountains is, although something of a rarity, not entirely unusual. Even at this moment in time there are records of individuals who have apparently gone for a walk in the hills and have never returned. They may have become the victim of exhaustion, the weather, an avalanche or simply of natural causes like a sudden heart attack.
While our mountain search and rescue teams discover the vast majority of those who have gone missing every so often someone appears to vanish from the face of the earth.
And neither are our mountains unfamiliar with the paranormal. You only have to read the late Affleck Gray’s wonderful book on The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, or Rennie McOwan’s Magic Mountains to realise that it’s impossible to explain some of the weird happenings that have taken place in the heart of the hills.
But it could be that the tale of the Beinn Avon city gent could be explained away by a story that is in itself a sad tale of misunderstanding, a tale that could well have ended in tragedy.
I have an old newspaper cutting that refers to an incident experienced by James Anton, a Strathpeffer man, in 1931. James was staying in Corrour Bothy in the Lairig Ghru when he was rudely awakened by a loud knocking of the door at five in the morning. A stranger stood at the door, a man dressed like a businessman, and he wanted to know the way to Braemar.
The man’s story was a curious one. He’d travelled north by the Perth-Inverness train believing it would take him to Braemar. When he had realised his mistake someone on the train, perhaps as a joke, had suggested there was a “short cut” through the mountains from Aviemore via the pass of the Lairig Ghru.
The man had decided to try it and got off the train at Aviemore, completely unaware that the “short-cut” was almost 30 miles in length and over some high and rough terrain. Though he was exhausted by the time he reached Corrour, the man insisted on carrying on, believing he was over the worst of the journey. That was the last James Anton saw of him.
No sooner had this strange story been published than another witness appeared.
Around the same time, Frank Ripley of Dundee was walking through the Lairig Ghru with some friends when, about four miles outside Aviemore, they met a man walking towards them. He was dressed in a suit, and carried a walking stick and a small case. The man asked if he was on the right track for Braemar and hearing verification carried on, despite the fact that darkness was beginning to fall.
At the time Mr Ripley had simply assumed the man was checking the route out before setting out in earnest the next day. He now believes the man walked over the Lairig Ghru during the hours of darkness, and eventually lost his way, ending up on the south-east slopes of Beinn Avon. Curiously, the identity of the Lairig Ghru businessman has never been discovered.
The Mermaids’ Pools
The Land-locked peaked district isn’t the first place you’d associate with mermaids but, according to English folklore, it’s actually home to two. The first is said to live in the imaginatively titled Mermaid’s Pool, just below Kinder Scout in the High Peaks.
The pool is believed to possess magical healing powers for those brave enough to enter it. And it’s rumoured that, for those seeking eternal life, the best time to bathe is midnight, at Easter, when the mermaid herself is said to appear.
But consider yourself warned: although she will bestow the gift of eternal life upon you if she likes you – she will pull you into the murky depths and drown you if she does not. The second of these water-born women is said to reside in the Staffordshire Peak District, in Black Mere Pool. There are two stories about how she came to haunt these waters – one a tragic love tale, the other something more sinister. Guess which one you’re going to hear…
Apparently, a beautiful young woman rejected the advances of a local man (sounds familiar), named Joshua Linnet. Unable to accept the rejection, he accused the woman of being a witch and convinced the towns-folk of the fact.
They took her up to Black Mere pond where they brutally drowned her. However, before she took her final breath, she cursed the young man whose advances she’d spurned. Three days later, he was found dead by the pool. His face covered in claw marks…
It’s said her spirit still haunts the waters in the form of a demon mermaid. And apparently, to this day, livestock shy away from the waters and refuse to drink from it. Birds won’t fly over it. And many have claimed to have seen her.
The last recorded sighting was in the mid-nineteenth century, when a group of locals attempted to drain the lake to see if it was indeed bottomless – as is claimed. But shortly after starting work at the southern edge of the pool (where the drainage ditch can still be seen to this day), the demon mermaid appeared and threatened to flood the nearby towns of Leek and Leekfrith unless they stopped.
The Two Hangmen
Little Hangman and Great Hangman are two hills found along the coast in Combe Martin. Great Hangman is the highest sea cliff in England, and the tallest point along the South West Coast – reaching upwards of 1000 feet.
Little Hangman isn’t so lofty – but it marks the edge of Exmoor and is the setting of a rather unfortunate tale.
It’s perhaps the most believable of our frightening fables and it goes like this: one night, a young sheep rustler was up there trying to steal someone’s animals; and not just one or two – but a whole herd.
He found the head of the herd and led it away with a piece of rope. And sheep being sheep, the rest of course followed. So far, so good – but things soon took a turn for the worse. Maybe it was startled by something – or maybe he was a particularly headstrong animal – because the ram decided to make a run for it. The young rustler lost his footing and was dragged along behind it, up the hill and over the cliff to his death.
The rope wrapped around the thief’s neck on the way down and snagged on a rock, snapping it in the process. The next morning, the fisherman of Combe Martin found the young man’s corpse hanging there for all to see, and left it there as a warning to other light-fingered locals.
Cadair Idris – The Giant’s Chair
Cadair Idris is a mountain in Gwynedd, Wales. It lies at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park and is extremely popular with hikers and walkers. The name translates as The Chair of Idris, and Idris is said to be a giant who once used the mountain as a place to sit and gaze at the stars. And there are plenty of other legends surrounding this rocky perch too.
Nearby lakes are said to be bottomless. And if you fancy a bit of wild camping up there, anyone who sleeps on its slopes alone is said to awaken the next day as either a madman or a poet.
In Welsh mythology, it’s also rumoured to be one of the hunting grounds of Gwyn ap Nudd and his Cŵn Annwn. Gwyn is a figure from Welsh mythology and king of the “fair folk.” He’s described as a great warrior with a blackened face and is heralded as ruler of the ‘otherworld’ called Annwn.
The Cŵn Annwn are the spectral hounds of Annwn, used by Gwyn in the ‘wild hunt’. And they foretell death to anyone who hears them howl. The pack will run them down, devour their soul, and take it back with them to the underworld where they gnaw on it for all eternity.
Have a gruesome weekend whatever you get up to… (stay safe!) 😉
Image © Colin Henderson www.colinhendersonphoto.com