Tag Archives: Folklore

In which the author gives a talk on poltergeists at Kinross…

On Monday 21st December I’m delighted to be the guest of the Kinross-shire Historical Society. Topics for the evening will include local big cat sightings, a particularly dastardly bodysnatching crime involving a hidden door and a secret underground dissection chamber, and an eighteenth century poltergeist that specialised in the relocation of pins inside slices of meat and boiled eggs. Just the usual stuff, then.


Everyone is welcome. The event kicks off at 7.30 in the parish church on Station Road, and as usual I’ll have copies of books for sale and signing.

In which the author reflects on ghostly atmospheres…

In many ways, I distrust a place that has ‘atmosphere’ because it gets in the way of investigation. The imagination takes over and we see and feel – or think we see and feel – evidence of the supernatural. When it may just be our emotional tendency to prefer the crepuscular to the unspectacular.

I’ve been spending time in St Andrews recently, doing fieldwork and library research for Haunted St Andrews and District. Pretty much anyone who writes about this part of Fife – and the east coast of Scotland in general – eventually gets around to the weather. The wind (oh, the wind). The rain. And the haar, or sea-fog. When the haar rolls in off the ocean, the coast can be blanketed in the thick fog, while just a few miles inland the sun can be shining.

The other day I spent several hours at book research. It was sunny when I arrived. But when I quitted the library after dark, the haar was in. And a ghostly atmosphere had settled on the town.



St Andrews is a place of medieval buildings and narrow cobblestoned lanes. In the fog the streetlights glow like gaslamps. Sounds are muffled. Sharp edges become hazy. Arched ruins loom out of the edge of vision. It was like being transported back to a previous century. I almost expected a horse-drawn carriage to clatter out of the gloom. Shades of Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and Murder by Gaslight. And, perhaps for the first time, I could see why St Andrews has always been regarded as a ‘haunted town’. Once wrapped in its mantle of luminous fog, the ancient fabric breathes an atmosphere of things half-seen and half-feared. An environment of anxiety and anticipation. A place where ghosts might indeed walk.

The next time I visited St Andrews, it was drizzly and dull. I got rain on the camera lens and everything looked flat and grey. No ghostly fingers stroked my imagination this time.

In which the author looks in on ‘Poltergeist Manor’…

The other day I attended a talk by the fine author Lorn Macintrye, who had many interesting things to say about his family background of second sight in Argyll and Mull, and his own dealings with people involved in the paranormal, such as the Scottish medium Albert Best.


My main focus of interest, however, was Lorn’s investigations into Pitmilly House, which he dubbed ‘Poltergeist Manor’. The house in East Fife was demolished decades ago, but I’ve been pursuing its supernatural history for my forthcoming book Haunted St Andrews and District, so getting hold of a copy of Lorn’s booklet on the subject was a bonus.


Now here is the key question: does anyone reading this have a family tradition of a connection with Pitmilly? Perhaps you have a relative who visited the house, or worked there? If so, I would be delighted to hear from you – especially if the memories are from the 1930s or 1940s, as this was the period when the poltergeist was reportedly active.


You can get in touch via the contact form here.

**CANCELLED** – ‘Paranormal Glasgow’ Talk and Signing

Wednesday 19th October 2011


7.00pm, The Ladywell, 
268-270 High Street,
 Merchant City,
 G4 0QT. Tickets £7 – limited numbers available, so please call 0141 552 7810 in advance to reserve your ticket.

In this intimate setting (see www.theladywell.com) I will be giving an extensive talk on the topics covered in Paranormal Glasgow:




    • Witchcraft in Glasgow, including the Witches of Pollok, and the Possessed Children of Bargarran and Govan
    • Miraculous Fasts, Emissaries from Hell and Murderous Doppelgangers
    • Spontaneous cases of Precognition, Crisis Visitations and Clairvoyance
    • Big Cats and Anomalous Racoons
    • Hunting The Vampire With Iron Teeth


Following the talk there will be time for questions. Copies of all of my books will be available for sale and signing.

In which the author visits a village of fairy houses….

As part of the research for Paranormal Cumbria I sought out a group of ‘fairy houses’ that have mysteriously appeared near Gelt Wood in East Cumbria.


The ceramic dwellings first appeared among the boles and tree roots in the summer of 2009, only to vanish in September – as the fairies explained when they emailed the local paper, it was just getting too cold for them.


The fairies have returned each subsequent summer, and in 2011 there were more than ever, with around 20 or so houses scattered over a two-mile area.



Several of the houses have evidence of their inhabitants’ lives, such as tiny wellington boots, wheelbarrows, letter-boxes, and rope ladders to reach front doors set high up in a drystone wall. One house close to the river even has a canoe.

This year, several people have left gifts for the fairies, in the shape of cards, letters, hand-made textiles, and chocolates.




The beautifully-fashioned dwellings and accessories are utterly enchanting, and seeking them out was a delightful task. Whoever made them deserves a big thank you for bringing wonder into our lives.

Paranormal Cumbria will be published in 2012 and has a full history of fairy sightings in the county, including a plethora of twentieth-century reports of nature spirits, devas, gnomes and other denizens of the fairy otherworld.
















In which the author is nominated for two awards…

Well I’m pleased to learn that two of my books have been nominated for prestigious awards. Scottish Bodysnatchers: A Gazetteer is up for the Katherine Briggs Folklore Award, awarded by the Folklore Society. And The Jacobites and the Supernatural has been nominated for both the Katherine Briggs Folklore Award and the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award.


The winners of both awards are announced in November.