Falkirk was a frightening place to be ... even before COVID-19

Halloween is almost upon us and people are looking for a safe way to celebrate it with their families in a year which has already been packed with unpleasant scares.

By James Trimble
Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 8:17 am

Like famous movie monsters Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, there is no getting away from coronavirus, which continues to haunt the world, but we can escape it for a while at least.

One way of leaving the stark reality of the present situation behind is to indulge in some story telling about some gruesome goings on which occurred in centuries past.

And if you’re looking for good ghost story, the Falkirk area has more than a few to keep you entertained during these long, dark lockdown nights.

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Kinneil House is said to be haunted by a ghost which has come to be known as the White Lady

The town of Bo’ness is our first stop and the foreboding confines of historic Kinneil House, which is reportedly haunted by a spectre known as the “White Lady”.

Believed to be the ghost of Lady Alice, a woman with a tragic back story that would be the envy of any classic Hollywood horror, the White Lady has supposedly been seen in various locations within Kinneil House.

Lady Alice is said to have killed herself by leaping from the building in the 17th Century to escape her cruel husband. She was traditionally supposed to haunt the nearby glen of the Gil Burn and her associated ghost story was recorded by a woman called Maria Edgeworth back in 1823, who observed Kinneil House was “an old but white-washed castle-mansion”.

Miss Edgeworth’s host, Helen D'Arcy Stewart, told her about “Lady Lilyburn”, a spook who “flutters” on top of the castle and leaps into the sea, or stomps around the house in boots frightening the maids.

Children from an orphanage vist Herbertshire Castle in Dunipace some time in the 1890s

Then there’s the old ruin of Herbertshire Castle, located on the Dunipace side of the River Carron which is said to be haunted by the ghosts of children who were killed in a fire back in 1914.

Charles Forbes, of Callendar House, with his wife and six children had gathered for Christmas, with 15 staff and two guests when fire broke out in the small hours of December 20.

The family escaped via the roof but the guests, sisters Cynthia and Clare Graham, aged 14 and 16, from Aithrey Castle, and the children’s governess, Rachel Littlejohn, were trapped in their bedrooms and perished in the flames.

Despite the efforts of the staff, the people of Denny and the fire brigade the castle was gutted and stood in a ruinous condition for decades before it was demolished in the early 1950s when the Barnego Road housing estate was built.

Callendar House is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who died while playing hide and seek

Airth Castle, in Airth, is also said to be haunted and a lot of sightings may have come about when guests to the popular hotel and spa are informed – or find out themselves – there is a 12th century graveyard on the grounds and the ruins of an old church.

A few years ago a photograph was taken at a wedding which apparently showed the ghostly figure of a groundsman – known as the Green Phantom – who is said to haunt the lower levels of the castle.

There are also reports of dusty footsteps on a staircase which is not used anymore and sightings of a ghost dog and even a ghost nanny.

Returning to the centre of the Falkirk area, Callander House has to have one of the most tragic ghost stories.

The Union Canal tunnel is said to be haunted by workers who died there during construction

The halls of the historic premises are said to be haunted by the restless spirit of a young woman who, when she was alive, attended a wedding at the house and took part in a game of hide and seek.

Unfortunately she chose an excellent hiding place – a trunk in the attic – and when she became trapped no one could find her.

She was eventually discovered three days later, having died a horrible death through suffocation.

It’s not just historic buildings which are home to spectres, modern facilities are not immune to ghost sightings – especially when they are built on the site of ancient Roman camps, which the Falkirk area had a fair few of those.

And if you’re looking for some spooky locations which are linked to real life horror stories then check out Falkirk’s 200-year-old 630-metre-long Union Canal tunnel.

The tunnel is one spooky proposition to walk through, even in broad daylight, and is said to be haunted by the ghosts of workers who lost their lives creating this fine piece of structural engineering.

That would be enough to scare anyone, but when you also consider that two of the Irish workers who were employed in the construction of the tunnel were William Burke and William Hare, and we all know what they did in the name of medical science and a few bob, don’t we?

Well, in case you don’t know – Burke and Hare were the Morecambe and Wise of true horror double acts, killing 16 poor victims in Edinburgh in the year of our Lord 1828.

Burke and Hare would kill their victims and sell the fresh corpses to famous doctor Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures.

When their game was tumbled Hare was granting immunity from prosecution for turning king's evidence and Burke was hanged – his body ironically dissected and his skeleton displayed at the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh Medical School to this very day.

Thankfully the murders did do some good, raising public awareness of the need for bodies for medical research and contributed to the passing of the Anatomy Act 1832.