In 2011 The Ghost Club performed a paranormal investigation on the RSS Discovery. What did they find? Were the visited by any of the souls who lost their lives on Dundee’s most infamous ship, or even by Captain Scott himself? There have long been stories of hauntings aboard the RSS Discovery, and the Ghost Club’s evening of vigils and investigations was no exception. Read the full report at the link below, or visit their website for more of their haunted location investigations.
- Dundee History Archive, People & Politics
- 19th century, hurkle jean, magic, occult, superstition, witch, witchcraft
Grissell Jaffray is undoubtedly the most famous witch of Dundee, having been the last witch to be executed in Dundee, but Dundee’s superstitious side was still alive and well in the 19th century, when Janet Kindy, or ‘Hurkle Jean’, was believed to be responsible for a number of afflictions that allegedly beset the town. Sickness in cattle and children was attributed to the evil presence of Hurkle Jean. Sadly for Janet, her deformed appearance only served as more fuel to the fire for the townsfolk, and thus, another legend was born. Belief in Hurkle Jean’s demonic abilities was so ardent, that, by the time it had reached its peak, effigies were being burned and exorcisms performed!
Thankfully with the repeal of the witchcraft acts in 1735, Janet was protected from persecution by law; but this didn’t prevent her neighbours from demonising her all the same, as a letter from one of her close neighbours “M.G.”, submitted to the Edinburgh Magazine in 1818 tells us:
Dundee, as you know, was the last place in Scotland where the public execution of a witch took place; and the witch burnt there was neither so old, so ugly, nor so poor, as these unfortunate persons usually are. That Grizzel Jamfre [sic] was not poor, however, was probably the cause of her death; for the lawyers who could prove the crime of witchcraft against any person, were rewarded by great part, if not the whole, of what the convict died possessed of, – no small temptation to use diligence. But though the modern capital of Angus is thus distinguished in the annals of demonology, I did not expect to find the belief in witchcraft so general among the lower classes, as you will perceive it is from the following account, the heroine of which is my very near neighbour.
Janet Kindy, otherwise Hurkle Jean, is poor, old, and deformed; her evil eye is so dreaded in this neighbourhood that the sickness of children and cattle is often attributed to it, and if she happen to cross a fisherman’s path as he goes to his boat, the fishing is invariably spoiled for that day. I verily believe that nothing but the feat of the law prevents the tragedy of the witches of Pittenweem from being acted over again, so convinced are her neighbours of her supernatural powers, and so inveterate is their hatred against her. Six years ago, a boat having been for some months unfortunate in fishing, a council of war was held among the elder fishers, and it was agreed that the boat should be exorcised, and that Janet was the spirit which tormented it. Accordingly, the ceremony of exorcism was performed as follows. In each boat there is a cavity called the tap-hole; on this occasion the hollow was filled with a particular kind of water, furnished by the mistress of the boat, a straw effigy of poor Jane was placed over it, and had they dared to touch her life, Janet herself would have been there. The boat was then rowed out to sea before sunrise, and, to use the technical expression, the figure was burnt between the sun and the sky, i.e. after daylight appeared, but before the sun rose above the horizon, while the master called aloud ‘Avoid ye Satan!’. The boat was then brought home, and since that time has been fortunate as any belonging to the village.
M.G. goes on to describe an account of another witch who transformed into a hare, and a necromancer from Forfar called William Grey…but those are stories for another day.
(Letter taken from – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QF0AAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s)
Everyone knows that Friday 13th is supposedly connected with bad luck and bad omens. Many people across the world believe that a black cat crossing your path, stepping under a ladder and walking across a double drain is bad luck, but even more so on Friday 13th. Today we’re going to explore some of the most well known Friday 13th myths.
Dr Benjamin Cartwright believes that the number 13 carries a bad luck label because Judas was the 13th man in the Biblical account of The Last Supper. Christ was crucified on a Friday so many people believe Fridays are tainted. Sticking with the Biblical theories, it is said that Adam and Eve were created on a Friday, ate the apple on a Friday and died on a Friday…coincidence? Along with the more serious superstitions, there is the Scandinavian myth that there were originally 12 Demigods but then Loki appeared, a God who was evil and cruel thus making the mythology tainted.
Here at Dark Dundee HQ, we think it’ll take a bit more than a couple of auld wives tales to put the wind up us, but here are a couple of really weird superstitions from around the world.
If a woman sleeps with a shoe under her pillow at night that she will dream of her future husband so for all you single ladies out there you know what to do tonight!
If a woman wears a Chinese Jade necklace she will get whatever she wishes, with Valentine’s Day tomorrow, ladies, why not give this a go…what have you got to lose?!
In Turkey, chewing gum at night signifies that you are literally chewing the flesh of the dead! If you’re in a Turkish nightclub and you see people eating gum…get out there fast!
Superstitious Spaniards eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight as the New Year arrives, in the belief it will provide them with 12 months of good luck for the year ahead. If nothing else, it’s one of your “five a day”, so the health benefits are a bonus at the very least!
If you pass a graveyard in Japan, or if a hearse passes you, superstition dictates that you must hide your thumbs in your pockets so save your parents from death. “Thumb” directly translates as “parent-finger” in Japanese, so this is where the origins of this little foible are based.
Do not make or have your wedding gown made on a Friday. The myth is that if it is made on a Friday, the marriage is doomed to be a disaster so add in making a wedding gown on Friday 13th and you may as well not turn up at the church!
Now, not that we think anyone would, but digging a grave on a Friday which will not be used until the next day is a superstition that many people live by – although we are staying well clear of anyone who goes out on a Friday night to dig a grave…
If you take your dog for a walk on Friday 13th do not, we repeat DO NOT, allow him or her to eat green grass…if you do, you best have a brolly handy as it’s going to rain soon, according to some.
Finally, anyone who has a date with their girlfriend on Friday 13th might want to pay particular attention to this one…before going out make sure you don’t stub your toe. If you do, make sure it is a toe on your right foot. Some myths are that if you stub a toe on your right foot before meeting a girl that she will greet you with a kiss but, stub a toe on your left foot and it’s a whole different ball game…if this happens don’t show up as she will be waiting for you with a cleaver!
So, any volunteers willing to sleep with shoes under their pillows, let their dog eat grass or stub their left toe then go meet their girlfriend? We can’t – we’ll be too busy hiding our thumbs…just in case!
- Dundee History Archive, People & Politics
- 20th century, Dundee, Mary Slessor, missionary, religion, superstition, tribal, witchcraft
Now, you might be thinking, what has Mary Slessor got to do with Dark Dundee? Sure, she’s from Dundee, but as a missionary, she is hailed as somewhat of a heroine. Of course she is, and we’re not denying that…but what’s truly dark about Mary Slessor are the things she witnessed during her lifetime.
Her father, Robert Slessor was a reported alcoholic, and, whilst a shoemaker to trade, became unable to continue his craft. Relocating the family from Aberdeen to Dundee was an effort to leave behind their problems and start afresh somewhere new. Robert became a mill worker, labouring for pittance, but continued to spend the vast majority of it in the local public house. Her mother, also called Mary, had to take up work in the mills as a weaver – a trade in which she was highly skilled. By 11 years old, young Mary was working for the Baxter Brothers, spending half of her day in the mill-provided school, and the other half working in the mill itself. Her mother would often come home from the United Presbyterian Church and would gather the children around her as she regaled them with stories of missionaries in far-off lands. Mary felt sorry for the poor children, and the bizarre rituals which saw them murdered or abandoned and this inspired her thinking and began the first steps of what was to become an incredible life – but not one without it’s significant hardships.
Life wasn’t easy for the family, and, after years of living in the slums, Robert died of pneumonia. The second of seven children, Mary witnessed the deaths of her brothers proceeding the demise of her beleaguered father. Mary, began to develop an interest in religion and, when a mission was set up in Quarry Pend, close to the Wishart Church, she wanted to teach. Mary was 27 when she heard that David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer had died, and decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps. By the age of 28, Mary was assigned to the Calabar region in the land of Efik people. She was warned that the Efik people there believed in traditional West African religion and had a myriad superstitions.
The problems Mary confronted as a young missionary included the lack of Western education as well as widespread human sacrifice – adults as well as children! It is believed that one of the first things Mary bore witness to was voluntary human sacrifice during the burial celebrations of a prominent tribal chief. It was widely thought that chiefs would require his wives in the afterlife, so, during the proceedings, his wives were sacrificed, much to Mary’s shock. Not only were wives sacrificed, but, in some cases, villagers would be sacrificed to act as servants in the next life for their chief. Such was their belief system, that they went willingly to their deaths, ready to serve their masters in the next life.
Once, during an epidemic of smallpox, people fled a village in terror, but Mary stayed to nurse and feed the stricken victims and, without assistance, buried the many of the dead. In a letter describing her experiences she wrote: “It is not easy. But Christ is here and I am always satisfied and happy in His love.”
Further to this, superstitions of violent deaths being solely attributed to witchcraft were rife. When one of the sons of a village chief was crushed by a tree and subsequently died, blame was attributed to a nearby village. Armed warriors besieged the village, capturing a dozen villagers to bring back to their village in chains. Another superstition concerning the use of poison to determine guilt, caused Mary considerable alarm. The chief who had lost his son believed that if the accused were not guilty, they would not die from the poison, despite Mary’s protestations that this was not the case. After days of arduous discussions, most of which were heated and threatened extreme violence, all of the prisoners were released, and a cow was sacrificed, its blood used to soak the grave of the chief’s son in the place of the blood of the villagers. It was noted this this was “the first time in the entire district that a chief’s grave had not been saturated with human blood“. (www.wholesomewords.org).
The birth of twins was considered a particularly evil curse. Natives feared that the father of one of the infants was an evil spirit, and that the mother had been guilty of a great sin. Unable to determine which twin was fathered by the evil spirit, the natives often abandoned both babies in the bush. It wasn’t uncommon for the mother to be banished to the bush also until the village elders deemed her “safe”, usually to the detriment of her own life. The beginnings of the gin trade created even more problems, as violence inevitably ensued between traders as well as drunks, leading Mary and her missionaries to live their lives in a constant state of alert. All of these things – a mere snapshot of what life must have been like for her – coupled with the illnesses that dogged her throughout her life, must have been an incredible strain on her both physically and mentally. Whilst Mary returned home on a few occasions to convalesce, her heart and soul remained with her African family. She eventually succumbed to a severe fever on 13th January 1915, having become so weak she could no longer walk, and was given the colonial equivalent of a state funeral. This amazing, remarkable woman achieved everything she did by refusing to succumb to the darkness that surrounded her every day, threatening to engulf her. By reflecting on the horrors that she must have encountered during her time as a missionary, it makes her story all the more remarkable.