It's the season for ghostly tales. I am a sucker for stories and folklore of the supernatural. The following was written by James Hogg, the "Ettrick Shepherd", and was taken from the 1873 edition of his WINTER EVENING TALES: Collected Among the Cottages of the South of Scotland. Picture yourself being told this story on a wild winter evening while sitting in front of a cozy fireplace.
DREADFUL STORY OF MACPHERSON
I received yours of the 20th October, intreating me to furnish you with the tale, which you say you have heard me relate, concerning the miraculous death of Major Macpherson and his associates among the Grampian hills. I think this story is worthy of being preserved, but I never heard it related but once; and thought it then made a considerable impression on my mind, being told by one who was well acquainted both with the scene and the sufferers, yet I fear my memory is not sufficiently accurate, with regard to particulars; and without these the interest of a story is always diminished, and its authencity rendered liable to be called in question. I will however communicate it exactly as it remains impressed on my memory, without avouching for the particulars relating to it; and in these I shall submit to be corrected by such as are better informed.
I have forgotten on what year it happened, but I think it was about the year 1805--6, that Major Macpherson and a few gentlemen of his acquaintance, with their attendants, went out to hunt in the middle of that tremendous range of mountains which rise between Athol and Badenoch. Many are the scenes of wild grandeur and rugged deformity which amaze the wanderer in the Grampian deserts; but none of them surpasses this in wildness and still solemnity. No sounds salutes the listening ear, but the rushing torrent, or the broken eldritch bleat of the mountain goat. The glens are deep and narrow, and the hills steep and sombre, and so high, that their grizly summits appear to be wrapped in the blue veil that canopies the air. But it is seldom that their tops can be seen; for dark clouds of mist often rest upon them for several weeks together in summer, or wander in detatched columns among their cliffs; and during the winter they are abandoned entirely to the storm. Then the flooded torrents, and rushing wreaths of accumulated snows, spend their fury without doing harm to any living creature; and the howling tempest raves uncontrolled and unregarded.
Into the midst of this sublime solitude did our jovial party wander in search of game. They were highly successful. The wood cock was interrupted in the middle of his exulting whirr, and dropped lifeless on his native waste; the meek ptarmigan fell fluttering among her gray crusted stones, and the wild roe foundered on the correi. The noise of the guns, and the cheering cry of the sportsmen, awakened those echoes that had so long slept silent; the fox slid quietly over the hill, and the wild deer bounded away into the forests of Glendee, from before the noisy invaders.
In the afternoon they stepped into a little bothy, or resting lodge, that stood by the side of a rough mountain stream, and having meat and drink, they abandoned themseleves to mirth and jollity.
This Major Macpherson was said to have been guilty of some extreme creulty and injustice in raising recruits in that country, and was, on that account, held in detestation by the common people. He was otherwise a respectable character, and of honourable connexions, as were also the gentlemen who accompanied him.
When their hilarity was of the highest pitch, ere ever they were aware, a young man stood before them, of a sedate, mysterious appearance, looking sternly at the Major. Their laughter was hushed in a moment, for they had not observed any human being in the glen, save those of their own party, nor did they so much as perceive when their guest entered. Macpherson appeared particularly struck, and somewhat shocked at the sight of him; the stranger beckoned to the Major, who followed him instantly out of the bothy: The curiousity of the party was aroused, and they watched their motions with great punctuality; they walked a short way down by the side of the river, and appeared in earnest conversation for a few minutes, and from some involuntary motions of their bodies, the stranger seemed to be threatening Macpherson, and the latter interceding; they parted, and though then not above twenty yards distant, before the Major got half way back to the bothy, the stranger guest was gone, and they saw no more of him.
"I cannot tell how the truth may be,
"I say the tale as 'twas said to me."
But what was certainly extraordinary, after the dreadful catastrophe, though the most strict and extended inquiry was made, neither this stranger nor his business could be discovered. The countenance of the Major was so visibly altered on his return, and bore such evident marks of trepidation, that the mirth of the party was marred during the remainder of the excursion, and none of them dared to ask him any questions concerning his visitant, or the errand he came on.
This was early in the week, and on the Friday immediately following, Macpherson proposed to his companions a second expedition to the mountains. They all objected to it on account of the weather, which was broken and rough; but he persisted in his resolution, and finally told them, that he must and would go, and those who did not choose to accompany him might tarry at home. The consequence was, that the same party, with the exception of one man, to hunt in the forest of Glenmore.
Although none of them returned the first night after their departure, that was little regarded, it being customary for the sportsmen to lodge occasionally in the bothies of the forest; but when Saturday night arrived, and no word from them, their friends became dreadfully alarmed. On Sunday, servants were dispatched to all the inns and gentlemen's houses in the bounds, but no accounts of them could be learned. One solitary dog only returned, and he was wounded and maimed. The alarm spread--a number of people rose, and in the utmost consternation went to search for their friends among the mountains. When they reached the fatal bothy--dreadful to relate! they found the dead bodies of the whole party lying scattered about the place! Some of them were considerably mangled, and one nearly severed in two. Others were not marked by any wound, of which number I think it was said the Major was one, who was lying flat on his face. It was a scene of wo, lamentation, and awful astonishment, none being able to account for what had happened; but it was visible that it had not been effected by any human agency. The bothy was torn from its foundations, and scarcely a vestige of it left--its very stones were all scattered in different directions; there was one huge cornerstone in particular, which twelve men could scarcely have raised, that was tossed to a considerable distance, yet no marks of either fire or water were visible. Extraordinary as this story may appear, and an extraordinary story it is, I have not the slightest cause to doubt the certainty of the leading circumstances: with regard to the rest, you have them as I had them. In every mountainous district in Scotland, to this day, a belief in supernatural agency prevails, in a greater or less degree. Such an awful dispensation as the above was likely to rekindle every lingering spark of it.