The Grey Lady of Glamis haunts the family chapel and the Clock Tower of the world-famous Glamis Castle.  Steeped in centuries of tale and legend, the castle has been standing since the late 1300’s, and has seen its fair share of goings-on.  The Grey Lady of Glamis is believed to be Lady Janet Douglas, burned at the stake as a witch in 1537, and who has haunted the grounds of Glamis Castle ever since. Family feuds involving illegitimate children, forced imprisonment, civil wars and seizures of lands and titles fuelled King James V’s hatred towards his stepfather, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus.  Once married to his mother, Margaret Tudor, tensions had become bitterly acrimonious, to the point that the King held nothing but contempt for the Archibald Douglas and the Clan Douglas. Imprisoned by his stepfather and held against his will, King James V was finally broken free and Janet quickly became the target of his revenge.  Archibald Douglas fled to England, leaving Janet in the firing line.

In 1528, upon the death of her first husband, John Lyon, 6th Lord of Glamis, Janet was immediately summoned for treason, accused of supporting the civil war against the King and of poisoning Lyon.  Charges were eventually dropped, and she remarried Archibald Campbell in 1532, having ceased all communication with her brothers to prove her innocence in any plot against the King.  Janet’s reprieve was short-lived, however, as in 1537, she was once again summoned for treason.

This time, the charges brought against her included being in secret talks with the Douglas clan, attempting to poison the King and witchcraft.  Glamis Castle was confiscated by the Crown, and Janet’s family and servants were savagely tortured until they gave false evidence against her.  Even her young son was forced to watch the torture before he too, was put to the rack.  These testimonies were enough to convict Janet of witchcraft, and she was burned at the stake as a witch in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle.  It is said King James forced her son to watch her agonising death before letting him go.

Many witnesses claim to have seen the Grey Lady of Glamis whilst visiting Glamis Castle, so why not visit it yourself and see if you can spot her?

The tale of Alexander Lindsay, the 4th Earl of Crawford is by far one of the most popular ghost stories of Glamis.  Known as “Earl Beardie”, Alexander Lindsay is alleged to have been a cruel, evil man with a wicked temperament and a searing bloodlust.  Born to nobility and of a particularly influential character, he was involved in the battles against King James II as part of the Douglas clan uprisings.  As we mentioned, he was an evil man, and it is alleged that he once had a black house-servant stripped naked and forced to run around in the grounds for his and the other Earls’ entertainment.  In a macabre twist, the ‘entertainment’ was actually a hunt, and the poor man was chased down by Earl Beardie, his guests, and their hunting dogs.  His screams rang out over the land as he was stabbed with spears and literally torn apart by the dogs, defenceless and stricken by mortal fear.

It is further alleged that the display was watched by the noblewomen from the safety of the castle, where they laughed in delight.  What happened to the body after the hunt was over does not appear to be recorded, but is more than likely he would have been eaten by the dogs or other animals on the land.  The ghost of this manservant is reputed to be that of ‘Jack the Runner’ – a spirit who runs through the halls at night screaming in pain and terror.  The Earl’s indulgences in vices lead us directly to his own ghost story, as it was whilst gambling that Earl Beardie is reported to have met his demise.  There are various different takes on how the story begins, but they all centre around a game of cards being played late on a Saturday night at the castle.  Whether a fight broke out over alleged cheating, failure to notice the lateness of the hour, or perhaps just from sheer petulance, we will never know, but the legend leads us to believe the Earl was forewarned by a servant that it was close to midnight, and that gambling on the Sabbath was sacrilege.  The Earl is said to have scoffed at the servant, ordering him out of the room.  Again, depending on the story you read or hear, either the other players take heed and leave, or they do not, and the game continues.

At the stroke of midnight, a knock is heard on the door of the room in which the card game is still being played, and a dark, mysterious figure asks to join the game.  The Earl agrees that the mystery man can play, and a new game begins.  Sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, arguing and shouting was heard coming from the room.  When the servant opened the door, the Earl was engulfed in flames.  The mystery man is always reported to be the devil himself, having won the Earl’s soul in a game of cards, and condemning him to play until Doomsday for daring to play cards on the Sabbath.

In other versions of the story, a cloaked devil appears out of thin air, taking both Earl Beardie and his playing companions back to the underworld where are destined to gamble for all eternity.  Sounds such as shouting, stomping feet, banging doors and swearing are all reported to come from the West Tower of the castle – the alleged site of the card game (according to some).  There have also been reports of residents and guests sighting a bearded man wandering the castle, again, believed to be the spirit of Earl Beardie, and others have even described being touched by the spectre itself.

As far as legends go, it’s certainly a vibrant tale, adapted and altered over time to suit the listener or reader, but, with so many inconsistencies in the tale, we’ll probably never know the real story of what happened to the man nicknamed by many as the “wicked Earl.”

One of the most famous legends associated with Glamis Castle is that of the ‘Monster of Glamis’; a child born to the family and so hideously disfigured he was isolated in secret chambers within the castle walls, which were sealed upon his death. Legend has its beginnings in 1821 when the first son of the eleventh Earl is said to have been born horribly malformed. To hide this anomaly, news of the child’s death was fabricated to ensure that no-one sought after him. Only those with the hereditary right to be informed are told of the secret upon reaching their 21st birthday. It has been said that some young heirs have laughed and joked in the past about revealing the family secret as soon as they turn 21. For each one who has said it, legend tells nobody has ever divulged the contents of their “coming of age” legacy. Could the Monster of Glamis be real, after all..?

The apparent failure to cover the window of this chamber lends itself to the story of the “empty window” which is associated with the secret room. The story goes, that, upon hearing of the legend of the Monster of Glamis, guests hung towels from every available window in the castle in a bid to find the location of the secret room. Once every window had been covered, they stepped outside to look at the castle…and found one window was still “empty”. A subsequent search of the castle to find the elusive window failed, hinting at the fact that the room may indeed exist. The ‘Mad Earls Walk’ on the castle ramparts is said to have been the place where the malformed Earl was exercised away from the prying eyes of anyone who should not see him.

The legend of the secret chamber of the Monster of Glamis is believed to have been inspired by the infamous “Room of Skulls” – a room where the Ogilvie family sought shelter from the Lindsays and were walled up and left to die of starvation. It was apparently found, quite accidentally, by a builder, who was given money and was sent abroad in an attempt to buy his silence over what he encountered. Another spin on it is that, to each generation of the family, a vampire child (or a child of monstrously superior abilities) is born and must be walled up in the secret chamber. Whilst most of these stories are based in legend, the story of the Ogilvies is, disturbingly, based in fact.

Whilst not actually in Dundee, per se, we couldn’t let a wee treasure like Glamis Castle fly under the radar. Steeped in centuries of dark, blood-soaked history and with more legends attached to it than almost any other castle in Scotland, Glamis Castle was too hard to resist. The Castle was presented to Sir John Lyon as a gift by King Robert II in 1372 and remains in the family to this day. The Queen Mother, mistakenly believed to have been born at Glamis, in fact, gave birth to Princess Margaret there in 1930 and also tended to wounded soldiers at Glamis during WW1 when it became a convalescence home.

Glamis is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is referred to by name, and it is widely believed that Duncan was murdered here by Macbeth (although, for each proponent of the tale, there is a counter-argument). In the armoury of the Castle, the sword and the shirt of mail worn by Macbeth are still displayed.

Bonnie Dundee was a great friend of the 3rd Earl of Kinghorne and a hero to the Jacobites. His leather ‘bullet-proof’ jacket (allegedly enhanced by the devil himself during dark magic rituals undertaken in Claypotts Castle) and boots are also on display at Glamis.

Lady Janet Douglas, the Lady of Glamis, was accused by King James V (Mary Queen of Scots father) of witchcraft, poisoning her husband and plotting to poison the king. King James hated the Douglas family because his stepfather, Archibald Douglas (who happened to be Janet’s brother) had imprisoned James when he was a young child. This hatred failed to abate over the years, and, seeking vengeance for the past, Janet was burned at the stake on 17th July 1537 at Edinburgh Castle as her son, John, was made to watch. Interestingly, no harm was inflicted on the boy, who was incarcerated until he came of age, and then had his title and estates restored. Some forty years after the death of his mother, John was murdered in an unplanned skirmish with his mortal hereditary enemies, the Lindsays.

The legend of the “Monster of Glamis” is believed to have been inspired by the infamous “Room of Skulls” – a room where the Ogilvie family sought shelter from the Lindsays and were walled up and left to die of starvation.

Many of the Stuart monarchs believed they had special healing powers, and it was in the chapel at Glamis that King James VIII (The Old Pretender) touched people for the ‘king’s evil’ or scrofula – a skin disease associated with tuberculosis which afflicts sufferers with lymph node swelling in the neck. The practice began with King Edward the Confessor in England around 1003, and continued throughout the middle ages.

These are just some of the many fascinating facets to the history of Glamis Castle, and you can find out more by visiting their website. However, don’t rush away just yet…if you want to know some more about the legends and ghosts of the castle, head over to our Local Legends section.

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