To celebrate Halloween, Tele features writer Amy Hall headed out to the area’s spookiest sites to see if she could find out what really goes bump in the night – today she gets a guided tour and does a paranormal investigation at two separate haunted castles in Fife.
Sitting just outside the Fife village of Arncroach, a short distance from Pittenweem, is Kellie Castle, a majestic tower house lovingly restored in the 19th Century.
Packed to the brim with antique furnishings, stately paintings and ghost stories, the castle has a spooky history that would send shivers down the spine of even the most cynical soul.
The castle has passed through many hands in its time, beginning with the Oliphant family back in the 14th Century.
It was then taken over by the Erskine Earls of Kellie. In 1878, however, Professor James Lorimer acquired the lease and began a much-needed restoration project.
Despite being handed down through the generations to his sons, painter John Henry Lorimer and architect Sir Robert Lorimer, it is Professor Lorimer’s spirit which is said to still haunt the building today, with some people claiming that he can be spotted roaming the castle’s corridors and sitting down in a chair in the library.
It is the northwest tower though, the oldest part of the castle, that most of the spooky sightings have been reported. One notable ghostly resident is Anne Erskine, a resident at the castle who “fell” to her death from a window in the tower.
Caroline Hirst, visitor services supervisor at Kellie Castle, explained: “Basically, she supposedly fell out of the window.
“Whether it was a suicide or an accident, nobody actually knows, but it is also linked to Janet Erskine who eloped out of the landing window downstairs with a Robert Anstruther.
“She did actually survive, she had many children, so that’s not quite a ghost story but whether the two are linked?
“Both jumped out of a window, one survived, the other to her death. There’s some quite sad feeling in that room I’d say.”
Last year, one of the castle’s guides had a particularly chilling encounter with an 18th Century Venetian mirror, located in the southwest tower’s blue room – aptly named after the room was painted a duck egg blue by one of the Lorimer children.
The guide looked in to the mirror and instead of seeing her own reflection she saw that of a young woman in a period costume.
“Over the past year, one of our guides has been looking into that mirror and seeing the figure of an 18th Century woman looking back at her, in a green costume,” Caroline said.
“She said it looked like a youngish woman in her mid twenties. The guide was so taken aback by seeing this woman on a number of occasions that she actually went and did some research into her background.
“It turns out it was a lady who was the fifth Earl of Kellie’s first wife and she actually died in childbirth.
“She’s actually gone on to write a short story about her, she feels that that’s maybe going to put her at peace because she was obviously trying to contact someone to tell her story.
“There’s definitely a presence in this room. There are also a number of staff still working here that will hear children laughing at the southwest tower, or in the earl’s room. There’s nobody there, but it’s always the sound of children.”
So, did Amy get a sense of anything out of the ordinary during her tour of the castle?
While we didn’t do an investigation at Kellie Castle, I really don’t think it was needed to make me believe that there was definitely some sort of presence within the building. With more than 600 years of history, it would be silly to think that we were alone in the castle.
As Caroline gave us a tour and explained the history and significance of each room it was clear that she thinks there could be paranormal activity in the air!
Even when we arrived and Caroline nipped to another room before we began filming, something strange happened.
Two pieces of mortar seemed to fly out of nowhere and hit her on the back. The two pieces lay at the bottom of the stairs and she could see no apparent reason why that would have happened.
Caroline laughed it off and put it down to whatever spirits live in the house having a little joke with her.
The earl’s room was probably the “spookiest” of the evening for me. I’m not sure what made me so fearful whilst inside. Was it the tales of staff hearing footsteps in the room or perhaps the creaky floorboards that seemed to make a bang each time someone moved even an inch?
Caroline agreed that she feels a bit more freaked out in this room compared to the others.
Amy’s trip to Balgonie Castle
Today, Amy’s paranormal investigation took her away from Kellie Castle to Balgonie Castle near Glenrothes. After a spine-tingling afternoon, it was time to strap herself in for an evening of ghost hunting at the 14th Century site.
I’m not going to lie, when I heard we would not only be visiting Balgonie Castle but doing a paranormal investigation in the chapel I was scared.
I didn’t know what to expect and mixing the paranormal with a religious place seemed like a bad move, however I trusted the Scottish Paranormal team and the Laird at Balgonie Castle trusted them too.
In fact they are the only paranormal team with regular access to the site and have held many spooky events at the castle.
Team member Greg Stewart explained that in previous investigations they had encountered apparitions of a monk and an older woman sitting in one of the pews.
He said that the chapel was a room that “likes to play with you” and quite often messes about with their equipment. Bangs and noises also seem to be par for the course when you’re in the chapel too.
It was, generally, a pretty quiet night for us at Balgonie. I am assured that there has been much more activity in previous sessions – but that doesn’t mean we didn’t find anything at all.
While using a voice recorder to pick up answers to questions that are inaudible in the room, we heard a growling noise that we first thought was maybe a hungry tummy, but nobody laid claim.
It was also during this session that a chair seemed to scrape along the floor with no one touching it.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit fearful, especially after I was told the monk-like spirit that they have seen on previous occasions hated women, but there definitely wasn’t as many jump scares as I was expecting.
Team member Kyle Stewart also had the sense of a female spirit who he thinks has been following him for some time.
He tried the mirror technique and said he could see her face staring back at him with blue eyes, dark hair. He felt a strong sense that the year 1860 could have been when she died.
It was an interesting evening. Perhaps not as active as previous investigations, but still spooky enough that it took me a little longer than usual to get to sleep that night…