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The Terrible Ghoul of Glamis

Situated just west of Forfar, Scotland, Glamis Castle is referred to by Shakespeare in Macbeth; Macbeth of its title having killed Duncan there in 1040. And it is also at the castle where assassins murdered King Malcolm II in 1034. In addition, Glamis Castle was the childhood home of both Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother, and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. And then there is the castle’s very own monster.

Jon Downes – of the Center for Fortean Zoology – notes that “he castle is the site of a well known and semi legendary beast known as the Monster of Glamis. It’s said that the creature was supposed to have been the hideously deformed heir to the Bowes-Lyon family and who was, according to popular rumor, born in about 1800, and died as recently as 1921.”

Downes digs further into the puzzle: “Legend has it that the monster was supposed to look like an enormous flabby egg, having no neck and only minute arms and legs but possessed incredible strength and had an air of evil about it. Certainly, there is a family secret concerning the monster, which is only told to the male heir of the Bowes-Lyon family when they attain majority.

“But according to the author Peter Underwood, who has looked into this case, the present Lord Strathmore knows nothing about the monster, presumably because the creature has long been dead, but he always felt that there was a corpse or coffin bricked up behind the walls.”

There is another other matter worth noting, too : according to James Wentworth Day, an author who extensively researched and wrote about the legend, the creature of the castle was “hairy as a doormat.” Should we, therefore, ponder on the possibility that the monster of Glamis was a strange, wild animal, rather than a deformed human?

According to folklore and oral tradition, the existence of the creature was allegedly known to only four men at any given time, namely the Earl of Strathmore, his direct heir, the family’s lawyer, and the broker of the estate.

At the age of twenty-one each succeeding heir was told the terrible secret and shown the rightful – and horrendously deformed – Earl, and succeeding family lawyers and brokers were also informed of the family’s shocking secret.

As no Countess of Strathmore was ever told the story, however, one Lady Strathmore, having indirectly heard of such rumors, quietly approached the then broker, a certain Mr. Ralston, who flatly refused to reveal the secret and who would only say by way of a reply: “It is fortunate you do not know the truth for if you did you would never be happy.”

The crypt at Glamis Castle

The crypt at Glamis Castle

Was the strange creature of the castle a terribly deformed soul with some bizarre genetic affliction, a captured wild man or something else? While the jury, inevitably, remains steadfastly out, it’s an intriguing reality that in 1912, in his book, Scottish Ghost Stories, Elliott O’Donnell published the contents of a letter that he had received from a Mrs. Bond, who had spent time at Glamis Castle and who underwent an undeniably weird encounter.

In her letter to O’Donnell, rather notably, she described a somewhat supernatural encounter with a beast possessed of distinct ape-like qualities.

Mrs. Bond wrote to O’Donnell the following words:

“It is a good many years since I stayed at Glamis. I was, in fact, but little more than a child, and had only just gone through my first season in town. But though young, I was neither nervous nor imaginative; I was inclined to be what is termed stolid, that is to say, extremely matter-of-fact and practical.

“Indeed, when my friends exclaimed, ‘You don’t mean to say you are going to stay at Glamis! Don’t you know it’s haunted?’ I burst out laughing. ‘Haunted!’ I said, ‘How ridiculous! There are no such things as ghosts. One might as well believe in fairies.'”

Despite her skepticism, after retiring to her room, and having fallen into a deep sleep, Mrs. Bond had a vivid, horrific nightmare that actually sounds far more like an encounter with something supernatural, experienced in a profoundly altered state, rather than just a regular dream. She told O’Donnell:

“Slowly, very slowly, the thing, whatever it was, took shape. Legs – crooked, misshapen, human legs. A body – tawny and hunched. Arms – long and spidery, with crooked, knotted fingers. A head – large and bestial, and covered with a tangled mass of grey hair that hung around its protruding forehead and pointed ears in ghastly mockery of curls.

“A face – and herein was the realization of all my direst expectations – a face – white and staring, pig-like in formation malevolent in expression; a hellish combination of all things foul and animal, and yet withal not without a touch of pathos.

“As I stared at it aghast, it reared itself on its haunches after the manner of an ape, and leered piteously at me. Then, shuffling forward, it rolled over, and lay sprawled out like some ungainly turtle – and wallowed, as for warmth, in the cold grey beams of early dawn.

“At this juncture the handle of the chamber door turned, someone entered, there was a loud cry – and I awoke – awoke to find the whole tower, walls and rafters, ringing with the most appalling screams I have ever heard – screams of something or of someone – for there was in them a strong element of what was human as well as animal – in the greatest distress.

“Wondering what it meant, and more than ever terrified, I sat up in bed and listened,–listened whilst a conviction – the result of intuition, suggestion, or what you will, but a conviction all the same – forced me to associate the sounds with the thing in my dream. And I associate them still.”

Just a bad dream, born out of hearing disturbing stories of the Glamis ghoul? Or, an encounter of the supernatural kind, one in which the aforementioned ghoul supernaturally invaded the sleep state of terrified Mrs. Bond…?

Perhaps the answer still remains hidden, somewhere within the dark confines of Glamis Castle…

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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