Back before Castle Huntly became a prison, it had a history all of its own – and a couple of its own ghosts, to boot. There are two ghosts alleged to still haunt Castle Huntly; the White Lady and that of a young boy. When researching the ghosts of Castle Huntly, it became apparent that there is some confusion between Castle Huntly and Huntly Castle (which is in Aberdeenshire), and, as such, the ghost stories of which White Lady belonged to which castle seems to get a little skewed.

We’re going to stick with the story of the young woman being a daughter of the Lyon family, the Earls of Kinghorne (which was later changed to Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne). The title Earl of Kinghorne was actually created in 1606 for Patrick Lyon, and when Castle Huntly was acquired by the Earl in 1614, he had the name changed to Castle Lyon. It was not until the castle was sold in 1777 that the name was reverted back to Castle Huntly.

Whether the woman in the story was the first Earl of Kinghorne’s daughter or granddaughter, we do not know, but, from what we have read, it appears as though she may have had an inappropriate relationship with one of the castle’s manservants. It wasn’t all too uncommon for sexual relationships to form between social classes, as privacy was hard to come by, and servants were often put in sexually vulnerable positions by their masters or mistresses, as well as by lodgers, guests and each other. Remember there wasn’t a lot to do back then!

When they were found out, the pair were separated. Whether the manservant was imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or all three, we cannot say for sure, but it’s pretty clear that, in those times, he wasn’t just going to be sent on his way with his wages and his P45 in hand. Whoever he was, he very likely met a grisly end. The nameless Lyon daughter was locked in a chamber on the upper levels of the castle, and it was from the window of this room that she is said to have met her doom. Her body was found, broken and bleeding on the grounds directly under her bedroom window, with nothing that could be done to save her.

 

To add a twist to an already murky story, whilst some may say that she killed herself as a result of a broken heart or at being imprisoned in her own family home, others have whispered that she may not have taken her own life and may, in fact, have been pushed. There are a lot of facets to this story that don’t quite add up (which we tend to find with a lot of the older ghost stories), hence their origins as legends and not actual fact. What did happen to the manservant? And why can’t we name the Lyon daughter on who the tale is supposedly based? And the big question – did she fall, or was she pushed? We’ll just never know.

Moving away from the mysterious White Lady, the second ghost alleged to haunt Castle Huntly is that of a young boy, named the Paterson Ghost. He is believed to be the descendant of George Paterson – the man who purchased the castle from the Lyons in 1777 for £40,000, and also the man who gave Castle Huntly back its original name. Fast-forward 150 years or so, to when Colonel Adrian Paterson and his family occupied Castle Huntly.

Their only son, Richard, tragically died in a boating accident aboard the river Tay in 1939, and it is his ghost that is said to haunt the castle. He is said to be seen in the same room as the White Lady wearing a double-breasted sailing jacket. Interestingly, no-one seems to know what colour it is, which, given the “sightings”, you would think that someone would be able tell us at least if it was light or dark. Whilst the White Lady is alleged to haunt the grounds of the castle as well as the room, young Richard is said to appear only in the room once occupied by the fated daughter of Lyon.

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Nearly everywhere seems to have a story about a White Lady, so let’s have a wee look at some of our own local legends concerning mysterious ladies in white…

The White Lady of the Coffin Mill

Now, we all know the media likes a headline, but by and far, this is one of the best. “Ghost walks bridge – Dundee throng visits scene – ‘The White Lady’ of Coffin Mill.” This was the Courier & Advertiser’s announcement on 5th September 1945. The Coffin Mill was named not because of the type of work it undertook, but because of its peculiar shape – very similar to the outline of a coffin.

Believed by some to be the ghost of a young girl who met an untimely death with a mixture of a carding machine accident and a subsequent plummet from the connecting metal bridge, the spectacle drew the attention of the locals, who visited the site in droves hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom. Another theory is that she is the ghost of a woman who told her employer she was pregnant, and was flung to her death from the bridge, but neither tale can be substantiated. The crowd became so large and bothersome that Police eventually had to break up the spectacle, amidst scenes of high alarm and aggravation.

Whatever the legend, our “White Lady” fair gets about; which brings us to the next haunting…

 

The White Lady of Balgay

As stories go, the White Lady of Balgay is a fairly spooky one. Widely popular, but rarely ever sighted, the White Lady allegedly haunts the area around the bridge at Balgay Park which connects the hill to the centuries-old cemetery, once known as the Western Necropolis. A common area for theft, assaults and suicides, the area quickly gained a reputation as a scary, unsafe place to be after dark. Although men as well as women died on or around the bridge area – George Bruce jumped to his death in 1837 & both James Newlands and William Parker shot themselves in separate incidents almost a decade apart – the legend focusses solely on a “White Lady”.

In his book “Haunted Dundee”, Geoff Holder deliberates the possibility that the White Lady could be the spirit of either Janet Fenton or Christina Fraser, who both committed suicide by jumping or dropping from the bridge. Janet died in 1882 aged 59, and Christina died in 1911, aged 53. Geoff notes that whilst Janet is believed to have died instantly, Christina survived for 4 days, before finally succumbing to her injuries. The ghost of the White Lady is said to be heard screaming as she plummets from the bridge, which lays some credence to the origins of the legend – but some of the other stuff, such as turning people into pools of blood is just a wee bit harder to swallow.

The White Lady of Claypotts Castle

On 29th May each year, the ghost of the White Lady of Claypotts Castle is alleged to appear at one of the upper windows of the castle. She is described as waving a white handkerchief towards St Andrews – the direction of her lover, whilst weeping uncontrollably. There isn’t a lot of information to go on, but there are certainly more inconsistencies and inaccuracies surrounding the legend than there is fact. It is noted that the ghost may be that of Marion Ogilvy, but there are no records stating that Marion Ogilvy ever visited or stayed at Claypotts Castle. Despite the fact that the landscape has changed considerably over the centuries, it would have been just as impossible then as it is now for Marion’s “lover” (who, incidentally, was Cardinal Beaton – the man who executed John Wishart as a heretic) to have ever seen her signal from St Andrews! Even the date her ghost is supposed to appear is uncertain, with various dates throughout the year given as the date of sighting. With all of this in mind, could it be possible that the White Lady of Claypotts doesn’t actually exist…or do we have the identity of the mystery woman all wrong? Does a ghost really haunt the upper levels of Claypotts Castle? Maybe we’ll never know…