It’s a question that has haunted us since the dawn of civilisation.
Is there a life after death and, if there is, can the dead still communicate and interact with the living?
Spirits are always high around Halloween with ghosts, ghouls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles walking the streets, so what better time to look at this age-old question and identify some of the Falkirk area’s alleged paranormal locations and happenings.
Historian John Walker, who runs Stentmaisters Lamp Light Walks, knows a thing or two about Falkirk’s gory past. His local recollections include a bizarre case of spontaneous human combustion and reports of The Devil himself living in the Union Canal Tunnel.
He also tells a terrifying tale which stretches from the 19th century to the swinging 60s and beyond – and even involves an unfortunate Falkirk Herald reporter.
John said: “A story has been going around for years about a gravestone in Camelon Cemetery which people claim is haunted. It was standing over the grave of a servant from the Caribbean who died sometime in the 19th century.
“The servant always wanted to return home to the Caribbean, but servants’ wages would never have been able to fund a trip like that and she died without ever going back home.”
The tragic story took a sinister turn when cemetery workers notice the servant’s gravestone had fallen flat onto the grave.
“They fixed it and put it right,” said John. “But it would always fall down again and again. They also began to realise that bad things would happen to whoever tried to right the stone.
“People were having falls and breaking legs and suffering other misfortunes.”
Locals soon began to fear the gravestone carried a curse and this feeling persisted for decades.
In 1969 a freewheeling, headstrong reporter from The Falkirk Herald decided to cover the story when people attempted to lift the “curse”.
John said: “A church group had gone along to say some prayers over the grave and then, along with the reporter, lifted the gravestone and put it back into place once more.
“This was a cold day in February and when the reporter was leaving the cemetery to go and write his story he slipped on the ice and badly damaged his knee.”
Falkirk’s Callendar House may not be cursed, but it is said to be haunted.
The story goes that years ago young guests at a wedding arranged a game of hide-and-seek, taking full advantage of all the nooks and crannies the old house had to offer. One young lady made her way up the attic and found a large wooden chest – the ideal hiding place.
Tragically, it was such a good hiding place it took people three days to find her and by that time she had long since died of suffocation. It is said her spirit still wanders the corridors of Callendar House.
Historic Kinneil House in Bo’ness is also said to be haunted by a ghostly lady in white. People have the chance to meet her when the venue opens its doors to the public on Sunday, October 28, from noon until 3 p.m. - just as the sky begins to bruise and the day surrenders to dusk.
Some readers logged onto The Falkirk Herald’s Facebook page to reveal their scary experiences, while some used the forum to pour scorn on the paranormal - or at least advise us to take things with a pinch of salt.
- Elizabeth Wakeman: “I have had a cupboard in the kitchen closed when I went up the stairs and open when I came back down. I sometimes hear moving about upstairs when everyone is in bed, and my son, who has just turned four, held his hand out to the side of him and said to his dad, meet my friend. He told him his name and said he’s a ghost.
- Rachel Mote: “In my boyfriend’s house loads of crazy things happen all the time. We both got a slap on the face to wake us up. I’ve had my hair pulled, bathroom light goes on itself. The lamp in living room goes on and off all night even when switched off. The scary thing is the women who was in this flat before him hung herself in the bedroom.”
- Wullie Gardiner: “I’m sure there’s some sort of paranormal activity or something at my work - cos anytime I need a hand all my fellow workers seem to disappear.”