Glamis Castle is thought to be the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland, and since 1372 has been the seat of the Bowes Lyon family, later Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. It is also the childhood home of the late Queen Mother, who's maiden name was Elisabeth Bowes Lyon.
There are over ninety rooms in the castle, many permanently empty, but it is the legend of `the secret room', and `the monster of Glamis' that has given the castle it's widespread notoriety over the years.
It is said that at some time towards the start of the 19th century a monster was born to the heir of Glamis. This poor twisted creature, more like a toad than a man, was immensely strong and was imprisoned in a secret chamber within the fifteen-foot thick walls of the castle. The awful secret of his whereabouts and exact identity could only be known to the then Earl, and his next eldest son on his coming of age. The mystery remains to this day, although rumours have circulated that the unfortunate monster, having achieved a great age, died in 1921, but alas, there is no record of his death.
Lord Halifax, in his Ghost Book (1936), tells of large stones with rings in them, in several bedroom cupboards, which were later made into coal stores to deter inquisitive guests. There is also a report of a workman, who unsuspectingly uncovered a hidden passage near the castle chapel, and after lengthy interrogation by his superiors, was encouraged to emigrate with his family. An area on the roof of the castle is still known as the `Mad Earl's Walk', but whether this was used for exercising the monster at night, or referred to another member of the family, is not known.
Another story claims that, due to an ancient family curse, a hideous vampire is born into every generation of this haunted family, which must be continually imprisoned to control it's unquenchable thirst for human blood. Whatever the truth of the legend, the late fifteenth Earl is reputed to have said, "If you could only guess the nature of the secret, you would go down on your knees and thank God that it was not yours."
Lady Glamis, the beautiful widow of the sixth Lord Glamis, was burnt alive as a witch on Castle Hill, Edinburgh in 1537, and her ghost, surrounded by a reddish glow, has been seen hovering above the clock tower. It is said that the supernatural phenomena began at the castle only after her death.
In the oldest part of the building is Duncan's Hall, traditionally the scene of the murder of King Duncan by Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, in the Shakespearean tale. Lady Elphinstone, the Queen Mother's sister, is said to have been frightened by the sinister atmosphere of this room when a young girl. In another room, King Malcolm II of Scotland was said to have been murdered and as his bloodstains were indelible, the floor was boarded over.
Another horrific apparition is the pale face of a terrified young girl, seen staring from a barred window of the castle. She is said to have had her tongue cut out, and her hands amputated at the wrists because of some terrible secret she discovered. There is also the spectre of a small mischievous negro servant boy, who frequently appears to visitors in the Queen Mother's sitting room.
But the most gruesome tale concerns the `Haunted Chamber', said to be somewhere within the crypt. Members of the Ogilvy clan sought shelter at the castle during a feud with their enemies, the Lindsays, and were permitted to hide in this remote dungeon. The then Lord Glamis had the room bricked up and the unfortunate men starved to death. It is said that when the chamber was opened over a century later, their skeletons were found strewn across the floor, some in such a position as to suggest that they had died literally gnawing the flesh from their arms. Terrifying poltergeist noises are said to originate from this part of the castle late at night.
Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, who stayed the night at this troubled building in 1793, wrote, "I must own, that when I heard door after door shut, after my conductor had retired, I began to consider myself as too far from the living, and somewhat too near the dead."
I don't know about you, but this scaredy-cat's off for a stiff drink.