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Ghost Tales from Stirling

The Ghosts trail

Between 1929 and 1932 Stirling was plagued by hauntings, a white-robed figure lurked in dark alleys and on countryside roads, and even went as far as terrifying people on thoroughfares like Port Street in the city centre. Thankfully, intrepid journalists recorded these hauntings, and we thought Halloween was the perfect time to research these ghost tales from Stirling little further.

One Wednesday the 10th of April, 1929 the Dundee Courier reported on a troubling new development in Stirling:

Stirling is at present being haunted by a “ghost”.

Every night for the past three weeks, it is declared, a white-robed apparition has been seen on one of the main roads in the district, leading from the St Ninians end of the burgh to Millhall Colliery.

The police have been making investigations with a view to running the “ghost” to earth, but so far the apparition has eluded all attempts at capture.

Pit workers, it is stated, are now going to work in large groups.

There is reason to believe that the scare is the work of a practical joker, especially as an occurrence on similar lines took place on the same road recently, when a woman dressed in long flowing black robes caused much alarm to foot passengers, until some miners encountered the “ghost” and stoned it to such purpose that it has never been seen since.

 

Millhall Colliery, which sat between Stirling and Fallin, opened in 1904 and at its peak employed over 700 people. It closed in 1958 and was eventually demolished. Caledonian Auction Mart now sits on the site.

The ghost appears to have recovered from its run-in with the miners of Millhall Colliery and lived to haunt another day, as the next month it was bothering the inhabitants of Bannockburn:

Dundee Courier, Wednesday 1st May, 1929

STIRLING “GHOST” REAPPEARS

Miner’s Encounter in Wood Near Bannockburn

Just when Stirling people were thinking they had heard the last of the “ghost” who has been making ill-timed appearances on lonely country roads and frightening people, the apparition has again appeared, this time near Bannockburn.

A local miner, Mr Alexander Gowans, who resides at Firs Crescent, accompanied by his dog, was taking a stroll through Bluebell Wood, when he was confronted by the “ghost”, standing with outstretched arms and attired in white. Mr Gowans challenged the “ghost”, whereupon it made off, followed by Mr Gowans. The “ghost” ran on to the main road at Bannockburn and disappeared down a steep flight of steps, the last Mr Gowans saw of it.

Mrs McKay, living at the Haugh, Bannockburn, has also seen the nocturnal prowler. She has gone to her kitchen window about midnight, and was greatly alarmed to see the head and shoulders of a man in white peering in at the window.

The affair is causing annoyance in the whole district, many people fearing to use lonely roads by themselves.

You can still visit Balquhidderock Woods today, which are cared for by The Woodland Trust, although perhaps you shouldn’t walk there at night, to avoid any spectres.

129 map of St Ninian's and Bannockburn, featuring ghost outlines.
Stirlingshire Sheet nXVII. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

By October of 1929, a much more appropriate month for hauntings, the Aberdeen Press and Journal had picked-up on the story of the Stirling ghost, who was in for a bit of a shock when local youths took matters into their own hands. They attempted to mete out some vigilante justice on the irksome apparition:

Aberdeen Press and Journal, Wednesday 16th October 1929

SHOT AT “GHOST”

Stirling Youths Try to Lay Fugitive Spirit

The Stirling “ghost”, which last winter haunted countryside roads in the districts, has resumed its pranks with the approach of the dark nights.

Believed to be a man dressed in a long white robe, last year he succeeded in frightening people so well that many folks gave up using the roads he was known to be on.

Last night some youths from Bannockburn who were desirous of seeing the ghost ventured into the haunted area, the outskirts of Balquidderock Wood.

A man jumped out from the roadside and made off when chased. One of the youths is stated to have fired a revolver at him, but he escaped in fields nearby.

The Stirling ghost was, naturally, having a busy October, even managing to make an appearance in a haystack in Bannockburn, much to the surprise of local farm workers:

Dundee Courier, Wednesday 16th October, 1929

STIRLING “GHOST”

WHITE-ROBED FIGURE REAPPEARS

Bannockburn residents report that the practical joker who annoyed them last year by touring roads in the district dressed in a white-sheet is up to his pranks again.

He has been seen in Bannockburn Wood late at night by peter Cowan, farm foreman, and the same evening in the farmyard by Tom Hamilton, ploughman there.

The description is that of a tall man dressed in a white robe which comes to his heels.

The other night a search party scouted around. A man darted out from a haystack, but whether he was the “ghost” no one knows. He made good his escape.

Having had enough of Balquidderock Woods, the ghost seems to have moved on to Bannockburn Woods, which sit next to Bannockburn House. The M9 now runs through them so they aren’t as suitable for haunting these days. The ghost seems to have had one too many run-ins with angry folk from Bannockburn by the end of 1929, and laid-low until the next Winter, where it made appearances in Cambusbarron and the Raploch. Perhaps Bannockburn locals had finally scared it off.

Dundee Courier, Wednesday 1st October 1930

STILRING “GHOST” AGAIN

YOUNG WOMAN SENT INTO HYSTERICS

The practical joker who dons a white sheet and plays the role of “ghost” in and around Stirling has become active again.

He scared a young couple at the Raploch, where her revealed himself in a lane, sending the young woman into hysterics. The “ghost” wore a cloak of a greyish hue.

When the young man returned to the spot after leaving his lady friend safely on the road, the spook had vanished.

It was only a few weeks ago since the “ghost” was at Cambusbarron. Last winter and the winter before he was at Millhall and Bannockburn. As he never visits the same place twice, it is difficult to catch him.

Although Stirling had rapidly expanded in the 19th century, it was still largely rural. The Raploch area wouldn’t be developed until the middle of the 20th century, when council housing was designed by Stirling Architect Eric S Bell. People who lived in the Old Town, which was crumbling and unsanitary by this point, were moved to new housing in the Raploch as their old homes were demolished. Until the 1930s/40s, the Raploch was just a farming fishing village on the banks of the river, visited every year by gypsy travellers, it’s quiet rural streets were ideal for hauntings.

black and white photo of port street in the 1940s
Image courtesy of The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum

The ghost went quiet for two whole years, but finally reappeared in April of 1932, where he presented himself to confused fellow on Port Street before making a quick escape up Dumbarton Road:

Dundee Courier, Wednesday 20th April, 1932

STIRLING “GHOST” RETURNS

SEEN IN EARLY HOURS BY TWO MEN

A practical joker threatens to revive the Stirling “ghost”.

When an Alloa man, James McKay, Candleriggs, was going along Port Street, Stirling, early in the early hours of yesterday morning he saw a white-clad figure at the top of the Craigs, a street branching off Port Street.

At first he thought it was a policeman in a traffic coat, but when the figure began to walk towards him he saw it had a cowled head, with slits for eyes and mouth.

A miner going to his work came on the scene, and he and McKay saw the white-clad figure disappear up Dumbarton Road.

A policeman arrived from the opposite direction, and the matter was reported to him, but a search failed to find the “spook”.

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