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The Ghosts of Crathes Castle

A short distance from the town of Banchory in the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland stands Crathes Castle.

The estate was originally gifted to the Burnett family in the 14th century by King Robert the Bruce, following their appointment as the Royal Forester of Drum. Initially, they ruled their lands from a crannog fort, a structure built on an artificial island in Loch Leys.

In 1543, Alexander Burnett of Leys and Janet Hamilton were wed. Janet was the illegitimate daughter of Cardinal David Beaton, who was the Abbot of Arbroath before being appointed as the Archbishop of St Andrews and later a Cardinal. Beaton was fiercely opposed to the Protestant Reformation that was sweeping Scotland, which ultimately led to his murder outside St Andrews in 1546. Prior to this, however, he had taken advantage of his position as Cardinal at St Andrews to share some of the church's wealth with his children, including Janet.

The marriage significantly increased the Burnetts' wealth, and in 1553, they decided to build a castle as the family residence. The result was Crathes Castle, finished in 1596. The tower house remains much as it did when first built.

The castle's history has been relatively peaceful, with it never really being subjected to any significant military action. It remained the home of the Burnett family until it was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1951. In 1966, fire swept through the building, and while the castle structure was fortunately saved, some of the additional wings were too badly damaged and had to be demolished.

Paranormal Activity:

The castle is said to be haunted by two female spirits, one who wanders the grounds and one who wanders the castle.

Bertha's Tale:

One tale dates back to the original crannog structure when it is said a young lady was placed in the care of the family while her father was away fighting abroad. Soon, a romance blossomed between Bertha and Alexander Burnett, one which his mother, Lady Agnes, did not approve of, as she had plans for Alexander to wed into a family of higher status. Alexander was later sent abroad to fight as well, and when he returned he was distraught to find out that Bertha had died unexpectedly just before his arrival.

A banquet had been arranged by Lady Agnes to celebrate her son's safe return, and he was urged to attend to try to lift his spirits. During the meal, he reached for a wine goblet on the table, only for his mother to snatch it and throw it into the waters of the loch. This action raised suspicions about Bertha's recent, unexplained death, leading to speculation about whether the two incidents might be related.

In other versions of the tale, it is said that Bertha's father suspected foul play when he heard of the mysterious death of his daughter, and in revenge he cursed the castle and the family.

It is said that ever since, the ghostly image of Bertha can be seen walking from the site of the old crannog towards the new castle on the anniversary of her death.

The Green Lady:

One of the rooms in the castle is said to be haunted by a Green Lady who often appears carrying a baby. In Scottish Folklore, a Green Lady is often believed to represent great sadness. She is seen walking across the room before vanishing into the wall beside the fireplace. Many people, including Queen Victoria during a visit to the castle, have reportedly witnessed her phantom form.

The identity of the Green Lady has remained a mystery, although it is claimed that while carrying out some restoration work, the skeleton of a woman and a baby were discovered under the hearth of the fireplace in this particular room. However, the discovery of the skeletons raises the question of whether she was actually murdered. A search of the newspaper archives has not produced any evidence of the discovery of skeletal remains, although the claim is repeated in several stories published about the haunting.

An Energy Source?

As with all hauntings, some consideration turns to whether there could be a form of energy that 'fuels' the spirit activity, and this does appear to be the case at Crathes.

Excavations in 2004 in a field close to the castle discovered 12 pits that appear to be positioned to replicate the moon phases. The find was later investigated and studied by a team of archaeologists who concluded that it is likely that the pits once held wooden posts. They concluded that it is highly likely that the site was a lunar calendar which dates back 10,000 years, making it the oldest in the world.

For such a structure to exist on the land is an indication that our ancient ancestors used the area and that it was considered to be of value. Could it be that natural earth energy, recognised by our ancestors, drew them to this site?

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