Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Late Night Reading

Mija and I have been reading at night. I log off the game earlier than I usually do, turn out the lights in the rest of the house, prepare for bed and grab the book. Mija follows me into the bedroom and curls up next to me, motor at full throttle.

This book is a very quick read. I finished the chapter on castle ghosts last night. It's the longest so far and contained the names of castles with which I was familiar and others I'd never heard of.

I've discovered that this isn't so much a "spine-tingling" book as a collection of stories. Unlike some other ghost books, it doesn't seem as if the authors have experienced any of the ghosts about which they have written so far. I'm a third of the way into the book. Maybe there will be personal experiences later, but this has been just a collection. Some ghosts I am familiar with, such as Major Weir and the ghosts of Glamis Castle. Others, such as the fiddlers who played for fairies and the black crab are new. I might have the book finished by the weekend.

One thing has struck me as quite curious in the write-ups of the castle ghosts. The male owners of the castles have been described, by and large, as being "cruel", "mean", "vicious", "hot-headed", "prone to violent temper" and usually often drunk. The wives were "long-suffering" and bore their husband's mood stoically and without comment. What invariably happened was the husband did something stupid which caused a haunting.

One man humiliated his wife in front of his drinking buddies by saying he'd sleep with the devil's mistress instead of her because she was so ugly. He became embroiled in an affair with what turned out to be a witch. When he figured out who she was and attempted to end the affair, she flew into his bedroom at night and strangled him. His ghost is said to haunt that room.

Another laird wanted to play cards and his wife and servants did not as his game playing was heading into the Sabbath. He flew into a rage and said he'd play cards with the devil himself. Yup, at that moment, a strange gentleman arrived at the castle and the two of them played cards until the a servant tried to peep through the keyhole and was blinded by a ray of flame. The laird flew into a rage at the servant eavesdropping but when he went to continue the game, the devil was gone and so was his soul. It is said sounds of raucous card playing is heard from that room.

I'm trying to understand if the unexplained phenomena of ghosts gives rise to the man being a horrible tyrant or if this is a magnification of personality quirks or if these men really were terrible people. Generally, the castle hauntings date from the 16th and 17th and 18th Centuries. This was a time of great upheaval in Scotland. I've encountered 3 stories that date from 1900 upwards and those are from the early part of the 20th Century. Was life abnormally hard on land-owners during the 1500 to 1800's or did they believe they could do whatever they wanted to those people who lived on their land, pledged them fealty or passed through? I just find it curious that most of the stories so far have involved men who are described in very poor terms. Maybe, as I read more, things will change.

So, that's what I'm doing before bed this week, curling up with a cat and a good book. Yes, I am sleeping well at night. No ghosts in my house.

Beverage: Mr. Pibb because Wendy's doesn't have Dr Pepper


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