Scotland's Haunted Abbeys
Abbeys and history go hand in hand
Think of any kind of historical or dramatic event - murder, love, plots, jealousy, war - and abbeys will have been witness to them all. Is this the reason that so many are still haunted today?
Most of the paranormal activity could be due to residual energy, However, this still leaves other forms of manifestation suggesting earth-bound spirits still walk the hallowed grounds of the ancient abbeys.
This beautiful abbey was established as a Cistercian Monastery by King David I of Scotland in in 1136 - although the original is believed to have been established in 660 by St. Aiden and was situated only a few miles away.
At the present Melrose Abbey, the monks followed St. Benedict's Rule and this meant not only starting their day very early in the morning - before dawn - but would last until late evening and consisted of both spiritual work and hard labour. In addition, they also stuck rigidly to a vegetarian diet and their life expectancy, even in those far off days, was very poor - perhaps made worse by the lack of essential proteins from meat.
King Richard II of England was responsible for setting fire to the abbey in the 14th century. The re-built monastery was much more ornate and has the strange figure of a pig playing the bag pipes. In addition, King Robert the Bruce's heart, was brought back from the Holy Lands and interred at Melrose. The King always regretted not being able to fight in a crusade, so after his death his close friend and staunch supporter, Sir James Douglas, took Bruce's heart with him when he fought in the holy wars. In addition King Alexander II of Scotland is also buried at the abbey.
Melrose has some very odd paranormal activity. Firstly there are numerous accounts of monks still seen wandering around their former home. In addition, the so called black magician, Michael Scott is also said to haunt his own grave.
Michael Scott, a Scottish Laird, is an intriguing character from Scotland's history. He was born in Balwearie, Fife in about the year 1200 and from a very young age was fascinated in gaining knowledge of all kinds. So much so that he first attended Oxford University, before travelling onto Paris. His stunning aptitude for mathematics soon gained him a good reputation. While he was in Paris, he also studied for his degree as doctor of divinity. He finally moved on to Spain, to the university of Toledo which at this time was the leading centre for learning. He also studied at the famous university of Padua in Italy.
Michael Scott returned to Scotland and to his home in Fife where he resumed his studies. It's probably from this time that the rumours and stories of necromancy and the black arts began to circulate. Certainly anyone who was as well educated and intelligent as Scott, tended to be held in awe - but superstitions and paranoia usually followed.
He was noticed for example standing on top of his laird's tower at night and rumours circulated that he was communing with dark forces. Scott actually had a great interest in astronomy and was probably sky watching rather than having a blether with the devil! It's reputed that he eventually become a monk at Melrose Abbey where his remains were laid after his death. It was also said that he was buried with a 'mighty book'. An interesting story in ballad form from the pen of Sir Walter Scott is responsible for much of what we know about Michael Scott. However, is it possible that this fellow clansman knew much more about Michael the wizard and placed them in a ballad? We will never know.
Vampire Monk - Origin, probably 12th century:
The story surrounding an evil and vampiric monk said to stalk the grounds of Melorose, is centuries old. The story is likely to have been first recorded in the late 12th century. It couldn't have been earlier as the abbey wasn't founded or built until 1136. The account describes the events that happened after a monk had died and been laid to rest - or so the brothers thought. A few days after his funeral, local people claimed that they had seen the monk around the area of the abbey just after nightfall. Not only that, but the vampire monk was said to have started to 'feed' at the nearby nunnery. One of the brothers decided to wait for the monk to leave his grave. Axe in hand, he finally saw the monk emerge and beheaded him with the axe. It is said that although the monk never rose again from his grave, there is still an evil presence around certain areas of the abbey to this day.
It may not be that surprising to know that ghosts of monks are seen around the area. However, what is interesting about this particular manifestation is that it's a group of monks walking serenely together that is most often seen rather than just one of the brothers.
It's been speculated that another apparition witnessd around the grounds might be Michael Scott. What is creepy about this one is that the apparition is that it's dark and moves along the ground like a snake. Scotland only has one snake - the very small Adder - and it's not known to frequent old ruins during the night even if it was warm enough. In addition, this strange apparition has been seen in the winter months when the adder is hibernating.
In addition, there are some orbs (spirit lights) that instead of being round, appear in snake-like formations. This paranormal light curiously wriggles on or near to the ground rather than fly - very odd indeed!
Balmerino Abbey and Deer Abbey
Balmerino Abbey, Kingdom of Fife.
Balmerino Abbey, situated in Fife on the east coast, was founded in 1229 by Queen Ermengarde, mother of King Alexander II of Scotland and widow of William the Lion, King of Scotland.The name 'Balmerino' comes from 'Balmerinach' which basically means 'St. Merinac's Place'. He was one of the monks who accompanied St. Regulas/St. Rule when they brought the bones of St. Andrew to the area that was there after named 'St. Andrews'. St. Merinac is thought to have established a chapel on the site of Balmerino, hundreds of years before the stone abbey.
Balmerino Abbey was a 'daughter' house from the Abbey of Melrose and about twenty monks lived and worked at Balmerino. It came under attack on numerous occasions both from Scottish raiders and during wars with England. Today it's under the stewardship of the National Trust for Scotland.
The ghosts of these beautiful ruins are said to be monks still walking around what was once their home. There are a couple of theories that may explain them. Either they are residual energies - play backs. Alternatively they could be restless or trapped souls traumatised by the brutality of attackers both from other countries and at the time of the Reformation in Scotland. Some of the monks of course could be simply be visiting this beautiful area because they loved it so much.
However, it's not only ghosts that may be taking an interest in Balmerino. An interesting video shot around the Abbey shows a strange shape in the sky - from a distant it does look like an RAF jet of some kind, but on zooming in, it does look odd. The strangest phenomenon however, was a weird beam of light hitting the ground. Have a look at the video and see what you think - is it just natural phenomena caught under unusual conditions or something a lot stranger? Just to add that Fife is no stranger to UFO incidents and the area lies just outside the hotspot for UFO's in Scotland known as the 'Falkirk Triangle'.
Deer Abbey, Aberdeen.
This beautiful area is another abbey that is steeped in history and perhaps even ghosts. The abbey was established by a nephew of St. Columbas known as St. Drostan in about the 6th century. The oldest form of Scottish Gaelic writing in existence - 'The Book of Deer' - was written by the monks of the abbey.
The stone edifice of Deer Abbey was built by the Earl of Buchan (William Comyn) around 1219 and housed a Cistercian order of monks.
The main ghost of Deer Abbey is a monk, which in itself is not too surprising. What is interesting is that no one has ever seen this ghost's face. For some reason the face is always kept hidden or as some believe, the monk has no face at all. His ghostly form has usually been seen on the road just outside the abbey.
Which one of the abbeys do you think would be the most interesting to conduct a paranormal investigation at?
Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfriesshire
The abbey was founded in 1273 by Lady Dervorgilla an heiress from the Royal House of Dunkeld in Scotland. Broken hearted on the death of her husband - Lord John Balliiol - she founded the Cistercian order in honour of him. She named the abbey Dulce Cor - in Latin meaning 'sweet heart'. She also had his heart embalmed and carried it around in a beautiful little casket until she died, when the heart was also buried with her at the high alter in the church. This was a common practice in a number of countries including Scotland. The reason being that the heart at this time was thought to be the seat of life, emotion, memory and learning.
The beautiful sandstone building was designed and built by her Italian master stone mason, Macolo. The building was built in cruciform shape with the bell tower in the centre.
Dervorgilla is the ladies first name not a surname and comes from very old Scots 'Diorbhail' which means 'gift from god'. Her Grandfather was brother to King William the Lion. Her mother was Matilda, wife to Prince David of Scotland. She was also closely related to the Bruce family who would of course finally inherit the throne through King Robert.
There has been a number of sightings over the years of what is described as a very graceful lady. She is usually dressed in a long grey skirt - or the colour of the phantom itself might just be the classic 'grey'. More often than not she's witnessed walking up the stairs at the abbey.
Curiously another sighting that took place was one where the witness saw a long grey skirt suddenly moving behind a safety barrier - but there was no torso.
Whether this graceful lady is Lady Devorgilla is open to question. However, it suits most people - including me - to think that this fascinating lady still walks the old abbey grounds.
I hope you've enjoyed this journey around a few of the abbeys of Scotland. Needless to say there are many more of these ancient buildings who have yet to tell their story and that is for a future time.