Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Exposure: The devil plays cards at Glamis Castle

Haunted Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle teems with eerie tales.
In a land of haunted castles, Glamis Castle is reputedly Scotland's most mysterious and haunted of all. The tales are manifold. One narrative tells of a vampiric curse on the family. Other stories recount a menagerie of ghosts haunting the castle and its grounds, from the White Lady to a ghost in armor to a Grey Lady to a little servant boy. Supposedly, numerous children, oblivious to the ghostly reports associated with the castle, have awakened in the middle of the night to find a shadowy figure standing above them, who disappears when they scream. Older accounts declare that crowds of people, a hundred strong, all witnessed a ghost pass by. Even Queen Elizabeth II's mother, who was born and raised at Glamis Castle, claimed to have seen a ghost.

Further stories tell of secret rooms, where enemies of the Earl were bricked up and left to die; or where piles of bones were found by a stonemason, who had to be given a sum of money and sent out of the country; or where a deformed heir was kept out of sight while his younger brother became the next Earl. Dinner party guests have set about the house trying to locate the hidden room(s), hanging white napkins from every available window, only to go outside and find windows that had no napkins hanging from them.

One story tells of an Earl who loved to play cards, and the infernal guest who played with him:

There is a secret room in Glamis Castle, as everybody knows; a room no mortal eye may behold, and the locality of which is known only to the possessor of the Castle, his heir and his factor. This room is believed to have been the scene of a hideous gambling affair, and the hero of it was an Earl of Strathmore, said by William Howitt, in his account of Glamis, to have been "Earl Beardie," whose portrait is at Abbottsford. Whoever the nobleman was his name has been corrupted into that of "Earl Patie," by the Forfarshire peasantry, who, we are informed by Mr. Hugh Maclauchlan, tell the following story of his misdeeds.

"Many, many years ago, when gentlemen got regularly drunk at dinner-time, and had to be carried to bed by their servants, there reigned supreme at Glamis one Patie, known to fame as the wild Earl of Strathmore. Earl Patie was notoriously good at all the vices, but his favourite vice was that of gambling. He would play Lord's Day or week day, whatever day it was; and if he could find no one else to humour him in his fancy, he would hob and nob with the humblest menial within the castle walls.

"It happened once, on a dark and stormy November night, that Earl Patie had been wearied by his forced inactivity from horse and hound — for it was the Lord's Day, and that means complete abstinence from all worldly pursuits in bonnie Scotland — and, at last, with oaths and curses, he called for a pack of cards, and comforted himself with the anticipation of a pleasant game. The ladies were at their devotions, so he called the servants to him, one by one; but never since the days of the feast in the New Testament were so many excuses invented to cover disinclination. Of all those who had humoured him so often, not one could be found, from the steward to the scullion, to take a hand with the wicked Earl. In desperation the chaplain was attacked; but he, too, proved temptation proof, and strengthened the rebellion among the menials by branding the pack of cards as 'devil's bricks,' and hurling terrible anathemas at the head of any wight who should venture on so terrible a desecration of the Sabbath. For a time there was dire confusion and alarm in the Castle; and at last Earl Patie, swearing tremendously, and consigning everybody around him to an unmentionable locality, seized a pack of cards and went growling away up the old oak stairs to his chamber, saying he would play with the 'devil himself,' sooner than be thwarted in his desire.

"He had not sat long in the room before a knock came at the door, and a deep voice sounded from the corridor, asking the Earl if he wished a partner. 'Yes,' roared the Earl; 'enter, in the foul fiend's name, whoever you are.' And with that there entered a tall, dark stranger, wholly wrapped up in a cloak, who nodded in a familiar manner to the Earl, and took his seat on a vacant chair on the opposite side of the table. The Earl stared at his strange guest, and doubtless felt a momentary uneasiness as he remembered whom he had invited to play with him; but a look at the cards on the table reassured him, and they commenced the game in real earnest. The stranger, who did not remove his bonnet and cloak, proposed a high stake; and in reply the Earl said, if he were the loser, and had not wherewith to discharge his debt, he would sign a bond for whatever his guest might choose to ask. Fast and furious became the game, loud oaths resounded through the chamber, and the terrified menials crept up the corridor, wondering what brave man dared to bandy words with the wicked Earl, and who was sinful enough to hold his hand at the 'devil's bricks' on the Lord's Day. As they fearfully listened they could hear the fierce utterances of the Earl, and the fiercer and more unearthly utterances of the stranger, whose presence they were quite unable to account for.

"At last the old butler, who had served the family for two generations, ventured close to the chamber-door and peeped through the key-hole; but no sooner had he done so than he fell back and rolled on the floor with a yell of agony that resounded to the remotest part of the Castle. In an instant the door was rudely torn open and the Earl came out with fury in his face, and told them to slay anyone who passed, while he went back to settle with his guest. But his guest was nowhere to be found. They searched the chamber through and through, but in vain. He was gone, and he had taken with him Earl Patie's bond, but what for the confused and startled Earl did not exactly know. Returning by the old butler, Earl Patie found him stunned and bruised, with a yellow circle round the erring eye; and then he told the terror-stricken menials that, as he sat at play, the stranger suddenly threw down his cards and said, with an oath, 'Smite that eye!' whereupon a sheet of flame darted directly to the key-hole, and the mysterious stranger disappeared.

"Earl Patie lived five years before he paid his bond, but afterwards, on every Sabbath evening, the old chamber was filled with strange noises that echoed through the passages, as if the wicked Earl and the dark stranger were again wrangling and swearing over the 'devil's bricks.' For a time the unearthly noises were put up with, but at last the room was built up, and nothing now remains to tell where the chamber was where Earl Patie and his fiery guest played their stormy game of cards." Such is the story, according to local tradition, of the secret room of Glamis Castle.

                   The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain, pp. 462 - 465, by John Henry Ingram,
                   published 1897

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