Scottish Vampire Legends
Scottish and Irish lore about Vampires
Many of the legends and encounters with vampires from all over the world go back thousands of years. What’s particularly interesting from this article’s point of view is that Scotland was once viewed as the hotspot for vampirism hundreds of years before Eastern Europe became famous for its blood sucking counts.
Both Scottish and Irish lore give rise to the vampire stories and many other creatures of the night.
It has to be said that accounts of vampires and werewolves within the British Isles are not as prevalent as other parts of Europe.
However, the description given of encounters with the un-dead are every bit as eerie as their more famous counterparts from other countries.
The Vampire of Glamis Castle?
In addition to the legend of an imprisoned monster and numerous ghosts, Glamis also has a creepy ‘vampire’ story.
There are two main accounts associated with the vampire legend.
The Vampire Child
The first is that the 'secret' of Glamis is a child, believed to have been a vampire and born into the family. It was later kept away from people by being put in a secret room. Further legends state that the 'secret' is that within each generation a 'vampire' is born into the family.
A Blood Sucking Woman
The second legend is in relation to a worker at the castle.
A few hundred years ago a serving woman was caught leaning over a body and drinking the victim's blood. The penalty was severe, and she was walled up alive in a secret room in the castle.
Some stories suggest that the vampire is still alive and waiting to be released. It's interesting to note that no attempt was made to destroy the vampire in the classic way of a stake through the heart or as was more common in Scotland, dismemberment of the body and then burning it.
If this legend does have any truth to it, why was the serving woman not disposed off more quickly rather than the slow death of starving? Was she also responsible for the murder of her victim? If so, why was she not executed for the crime? This is an intriguing and puzzling story.
Scottish Highlands - home to the Biobhan Sith
The BaoBhan Sith - Scotland's Legendary Vampire
The baobhan sith (baa-van-shee) is one of the oldest forms of vampire in Scotland.
Mostly found within the Highland regions it invariably takes the form of a beautiful woman. The vampire is usually dressed in green - the colour of magic and the fairies. The baobhan sith like most forms of vampire, can shape-shift at will.
This ghost-vampire was always deemed to be very dangerous to humans. They also have a number of things in common with the classic vampire:
- They are creatures of the night
- Drink human blood
- May sometimes have fangs like the classic vampire
- They are seductive
- Cannot tolerate daylight
- Can shape-shift into another animal form
- They are telepathic and can read thoughts
However, there are some interesting differences:
- The baobhan sith will only rise once a year from her grave.
- Other names include 'The White Woman'.
- The vampires are all female.
- They stalk their prey in forests and other natural locations.
- They shun society, keeping to rural areas, but frequently hunt in packs.
- They have been known to invite men to dance with them, before attacking.
- They use their extremely sharp fingernails to draw blood from the victim rather than fangs. When attacking, the nails are said to turn into talons.
- Some are said to have cloven hooves for feet that are hidden under their long dresses.
- A man bitten by a baobhan sith will not turn into a vampire.
- Any woman who is attacked and killed by a baobhan sith will return as one of them.
- Building a stone cairn over their grave was thought to stop them from rising.
- Iron is one of the main weapons used against these vampires.
- They are afraid of horses, particularly if the horses are shod with iron shoes. Therefore, anyone who remained sitting on their horse while confronting the baobhan sith would be safe.
There are numerous stories of encounters with the baobhan sith. Most of the legends are usually about a brave young man who manages to escape from the clutches of the malevolent female vampire.
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Weird vampire encounters
The following are just a couple from the many interesting accounts of strange creatures attacking humans and animals. They're not your classic vampire with black cloak, blood shot eyes and fangs, but they do have similar characteristics.
As far as I can tell the stories were told and recorded in good faith, so it's up to the reader to decide what to make of them.
Blood Sucking Creature: 1920s Glen Tilt, Blair Atholl.
This is a well known account of two poachers who retired from their nighttime activities to rest in a nearby bothy*. Both reported that they were suddenly attacked while they slept by some kind of creature. They also reported that the creature had managed to drink a little blood from one of the men. After a hair-raising struggle with the shadowy beast, they both managed to fight the creature off. In some accounts the creature is said to have flown away. In others that it simply disappeared. (*a bothy is a shelter, usually an old cottage, that is used by travellers/mountaineers for resting before continuing their journey. They are only found in isolated areas usually many miles from public roads).
The William Brien House. 1915/1916 - Inverleith, Edinburgh.
This case involves the murder of a medical student. The reason I've included the case here is because of the wounds he is alleged to have sustained. The murder is still unsolved and the student was reported to have been investigating severe paranormal activity at the time of his death. The activity centred around an evil apparition witnessed by staff and visitors to the house now serving as a hotel. Several members of staff had left their employment and many guests had fled from the hotel in fear. They all claimed to see a very strange and evil apparition watching them. As a dare, medical student Andrew Muir asked the owners if he could hold an all night vigil in the most active room to see if he could catch whatever was responsible for the strange happenings. The owners agreed and gave Andrew a bell to ring if he needed to alert them to anything. A few hours after the vigil began, the owners were rushing back to the room. They had heard the bell, but they had also heard a terrifying scream. On entering the room they found the body of Andrew Muir slumped over. Some of the accounts state that the body had puncture wounds that were bleeding from the neck and shoulder. The murder is still unsolved to this day. Some claim that the apparition is the previous owner of the house - William Brien. He was a very strange man who lived as a recluse. On his death his body was removed by undertakers who were not known in the area. When he was buried, he left strict instructions that his grave was to be forty feet deep and the coffin to be kept secure. Whether this was to keep 'something' in or 'something' out of the coffin we will never know. But prior to the house being re purchased and turned into the hotel, there were numerous accounts of strange noises, voices and other activity coming from the empty house. So much so that many people avoided the building.
- Edinburgh, Princes Street, 1899 or 1900, 23rd November. Eyewitness account by Geoffrey Anderson. Geoffrey was making his way home on a dark Edinburgh evening and was just at the corner of Princes Street and Hanover Street. He saw a horse and carriage outside a large shop and the scene was lit up by the shop's lighting. Suddenly Geoffrey saw a black mass that seemed to come out of the drain about 15 feet away from the horse and carriage. He described the mass changing into a shape similar to that of an hourglass. It was about four feet long and two feet wide. The shape moved but it had no visible legs and was described as moving similar to a caterpillar. But unlike a caterpillar this mass moved rapidly and it suddenly sprang onto the horse's throat and clung on. Geoffrey and another passer-by ran forward to help the terrified animal. As they did so the black mass suddenly vanished into thin air! Luckily the horse seemed to be unharmed by the encounter and both men were able to quiten the animal down after a minute or two.
© 2012 Helen Murphy Howell
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