Whilst a young man, the writer and expert in the supernatural, Elliott O'Donnell, spent some time in Pitlochry, a particularly charming town in that most lovely of counties, Perthshire. He took lodgings at Donald Murray House, in. the home of a spinster of the town, Flora Macdonald.
During his stay O'Donnell, a keen cyclist, made an excursion to nearby Loch Tay, a round trip of about 50 miles. He arrived back at Pitlochry at about ten o'clock in the evening and stopped at a crossroads just short of the town to admire the last moments of the dying day.
The sky was a deep crimson and the moon was bright in the sky. O'Donnell was standing soaking up the atmosphere when he suddenly became aware of a presence in the shape of a ghostly column of light in the middle of the road. That was frightening enough, but as O'Donnell watched the apparition, two figures on a hay cart arrived at the same spot. On seeing the spectre, the two passengers, a farmer and a boy, became very fearful; they seemed to recognise it. The boy pleaded with the farmer to keep the thing away from him, crying out that it had come to get him. At that point, the horse, which had previously been brought to a halt by the phantom, took fright and bolted down the road with the spectre in hot pursuit. As it flew down the road, the phantom became more shapeless, except that it formed tendrils that seemed to reach out to the couple.
At this point, O'Donnell was in such a state that he jumped on his bike and flew down the road himself, but in the opposite direction! When he reached the safety of his digs, he breathlessly told his landlady, Flora, of his weird encounter. She looked slightly sheepish and told O'Donnell that she should have warned him of that spot as the spectre had been seen there several times. She said that any person touched by the thing would die shortly afterwards. She went on to say that, as a girl, she had been driving home with her father along that road. They had been to a croquet party at the Blair Atholl house of Lady Colin Ferner and on reaching that spot the horse had suddenly bolted. It had been startled by the
same thing that O'Donnell had seen. Her father was also very scared, a novel sight for Flora, and instead of trying to calm the animal seemed to be encouraging it in its flight. She saw nothing at first but turned to see it chasing them down the road. It followed them with great bounding leaps, and as it overtook them, seemed to reach out towards her father and touch his arm with an eerie gentleness. He died later that year.
She went on to relate what she thought to be a story linked to that of the crossroads ghost, which was told to her by her mother. In her youth, her mother's family had been friendly with the family of Sir Arthur Holkitt, who lived in a house quite near to the crossroads called the Old White House. Flora's mother and grandmother often visited the house. The older people would play cards while the youngsters did their own thing. If their visit to the family was going to extend beyond about ten in the evening, it was their custom to stay over. One evening, however, Flora's mother visited the house alone, because her mother had taken to her bed with a bout of 'flu.
The Holkitts were having a dinner party, and it was likely to be a lively occasion and so the mother insisted that her daughter should go without her. Flora's mother planned to return home that night, but during the evening, there was a heavy fall of snow and she, along with numerous other guests, was forced to stay the night. The next morning the snow had not lifted, and it was several days before they could contemplate risking the journey. On her last night at the house, there was a remarkable occurrence that shook Flora's mother to her core. She, and the elder of the two daughters of the house, Margaret, were making their way upstairs to bed when the other daughter, Alice, called to them to come into the room of the maid, Mary. They found Mary in a state of deep shock. She was shaking and crying inconsolably. Mary told them that she had finished turning down the bed of one of the guests but when she tried to blow out the candle, no matter how hard she tried, she could not blow it out and this had frightened her greatly.
Margaret, the oldest of the three, was rather scornful of the young maid and told her to stop crying and stay where she was. They would extinguish the candle. When they got to the room, the three were not feeling quite as brave as they had been a few moments earlier. However, Margaret managed to pluck up her courage and was just about to cross the threshold when the door swung closed in front of her, shutting the three girls out. Margaret turned the handle but there seemed to be a weight behind the door. The three put all their strength into opening the door without any success, when suddenly it opened and Flora's mother fell into the room. No sooner was she in the room than the door slammed shut behind her, leaving her alone. Again the door could not be budged.
She immediately sensed some evil presence in the room, which seemed to emanate from the candle, which was burning with an uncanny glow. She reasoned that if she could blow out the candle the spirit would leave, but no matter how hard she tried she could not do this. This terrified Flora's mother and she cowered away from the light. Through her fingers she saw that the candle seemed to be moving around, and finally approached and lightly touched her, whereupon she fainted. She woke up in bed surrounded by anxious faces.
The next day the snow had melted enough for the guests to go home. There are two interesting codicils to this story. When she arrived back home, Flora's mother found that her own mother had taken a turn for the worse and she died shortly afterwards. Was her encounter with the spirit just coincidence? The Old White House was vacated by the Holkitts a few years later, and because of its reputation as being haunted could not be sold and was eventually demolished. The house had been built on an ancient burial ground. Driffield, Yorkshire | Aberdeen, Scotland | Arbroath, Scotland | Basildon, Essex | Blairgowrie | Cerro del vale | Edinburgh | Fife, Scotland | Ghost in Dumfries | Harrises | Hereford, England | Hertfordshire, England | Killiecrankie, Scotland | Littlecote, Wiltshire | London, England | South Lanarkshire | York |
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