Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Guest Post: The Headless Earl of Dean Castle, by Catherine Cavendish

Robert the Bruce gave the land on which the castle stands to the Boyd family to thank them for their support of him at the Battle of Bannockburn and in 1350 work was begun on building a fine castle keep. In the 1460s a palace was built following Thomas Boyd’s marriage to Princess Mary.

For over four hundred years, Dean Castle was home to successive generations of Boyds until the 4th Earl – William – was captured at the Battle of Culloden. Fighting as a Jacobite, the Earl fell victim to an ambush created by his own son. It would prove the ruination of him. He seems to have gone willingly to his inevitable death by beheading. His only wish was that his severed head be caught in a large cloth. He couldn’t stomach the idea of it rolling around in the dirt.

His wishes were duly carried out but it seems his head is still around. People have reported seeing it rolling along the floor of the corridors as if propelled by someone using it for a bowling ball.

But the headless Earl is not the only spirit apparently tied to the Castle. The 4th Earl was the last of the Boyd family to live there and even then – as a result of a devastating fire in 1735 – the building was in a parlous state which he couldn’t afford to repair. James Boyd sold the castle in 1746 and it passed through a number of hands until the 8th Lord Howard de Walden inherited it and commenced some serious restoration work. Finally in 1975 the 9th Lord Howard de Walden gifted the keep, the estate, his father’s collection of militaria and his grandfather’s collection of musical instruments to the people of Kilmarnock. Since then it has been open as a museum and the ghosts have been active.

Guides and visitors alike have reported seeing an elderly woman in an ankle length dress, with a plaid shawl covering her head. She is most frequently witnessed along the walkway overlooking the courtyard but has also been known to manifest in the kitchen. In 1992, the ghost beckoned to a guide who then followed her into a room used as an office. Immediately, the guide became violently ill, yelling for something to get out of her and apparently oozing a nasty substance from her skin. She subsequently recovered and continued working at the Castle.

Other people have reported hearing ghostly medieval music coming from the Minstrels’ Gallery and a portrait of the ill-fated William Boyd has a habit of dropping off the wall in the study.

In keeping with many castles, Dean Castle has a dungeon complete with an oubliette. Here, prisoners would be thrown down and left to rot without food or water until they died. It is believed that the last woman to suffer such a fate still haunts the dungeon to this day. She was a supporter of the Covenanters and affects visitors by constricting their breathing.

Sadly, if you want to visit the Castle you will need to wait as its website reports that it is currently closed for restoration work (reopening in 2020 I believe). The park and grounds are open though and some beautiful walks are to be experienced there.

For ghosts of a different kind, here’s what to expect from The Haunting of Henderson Close:

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone… 

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released. Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face? The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real. 

The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is available from:

About the author:

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. In addition to The Haunting of Henderson Close, Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy - Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine. 

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife 

She lives near Liverpool with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. 

You can connect with Cat here:

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