In the runup to Jack-o’-Lanternmas, I’ll be featuring a series of, mostly free, suitably spooky e-books for the season. Obscure favorites for preference. First in line is Scottish Ghost Stories, by Elliott O’Donnell, available for free from Project Gutenberg in all formats. from a 1911 edition. O’Donnell was a bizarre figure: author, actor, and sometime ghost hunter, who wrote over 50 books, most of them about ghosts and the supernatural. His Project Gutenberg page has eight of them, but Scottish Ghost Stories is my pick, for personal and (obvious) patriotic reasons. Reading this in a caravan as a kid while holidaying in the Highlands scared the shits out of me.
Scottish Ghost Stories consists of 17 “cases” based on historic legends and reputed manifestations across Scotland. O’Donnell pretends to personal involvement in many of them. It’s now well known that he fabricated some apparitions with the help of actors while ghost hunting, and obviously he was just as imaginative in his accounts of his exploits. But he does succeed in faithfully recording some celebrated Caledonian hauntings, and in capturing the grim and savage nature of many Scottish ghost tales.
There’s the creepy, murderous “Grey Piper and the Heavy Coach of Donaldgowerie House, Perth,” “The Death Bogle of the Cross Roads, and the Inextinguishable Candle of the Old White House, Pitlochry,” “The Phantom Legend of Killiecrankie,” and “The White Lady of Rownam Avenue, near Stirling.” These are the best, albeit semi-fictional, accounts of some of these cases I’ve been able to find. Here’s Pearlin’ Jean of Allanbank, the ghostly nun who haunted her seducer, and the monstrous spectres of Glamis Castle, the phantom drummer of Cortachy and the floating head of Benrachett Inn. Definitely one to read with a fortifying glass of whisky at your elbow.