Guest writer MARTIN R. SHAW reveals The Ringcroft Poltergeist, a particularly unnerving Scottish haunting from Dumfries and Galloway, all the way back in the 1600s.
In 1695, a farm called The Ringcroft of Stocking in the Parish of Rerrick in Auchencairn, Dumfries and Galloway, encountered one of the strangest and most severe cases of poltergeist activity ever reported in Scotland.
The farm was owned by Andrew Mackie and his family. The first strange incident took place in February. Andrew discovered one morning that his cattle had all managed to break free of their tethers during the night. Andrew thought it was strange that all his cattle would be able to do this all at the same time, but assumed it was an issue with either the strength of the tether, or how tightly it was tied. Annoyed, Andrew gathered up his cattle from around his farm.
That night Andrew used stronger tethers and tied them as tightly as he could. The next morning though, the same thing had happened. Every one of his cattle had escaped again.
Andrew then moved his animals to another outbuilding. The next day, he found one of the animals had been moved from the outbuilding and tied to the farmhouse itself. It was tied in such a way that it was suspended, its feet barely touched the ground.
The Spirit Gets Violent
Soon after the strange incidents of the escape artist cattle, something stranger and far more dangerous occurred. Late at night, while all the family were asleep, someone or something made a large pile of peat on the floor in the centre of the house. As if making this stinking pile of decomposing vegetable matter in the house wasn’t enough for whatever was tormenting the Mackie family, it then set it on fire.
Luckily the smoke woke the family, and they were able to put the fire out before anyone was hurt or any serious damage was done.
In March, volleys of stones began being thrown both at the house from outside, and at the family inside the house. They could not find where the stones were being thrown from, or what was throwing them. The stone throwing was worst on Sundays and was aimed mostly at those during prayer.
In April some of the Mackie children entered a room in the house and saw a strange figure covered in a blanket, sitting by the fire. They were obviously scared, given the recent unexplainable events in and around their home, but tried to talk to the figure and get its attention. The figure sat perfectly still and ignored them. One of the children eventually walked over to the figure and discovered it was simply a stool that had been turned upside down with a blanket carefully placed over it, intentionally to look like a human figure.
The Ringcroft Prequel
As the stone attacks got worse and worse towards those trying to pray, Andrew Mackie decided to contact the local minister; Mr. Telfer. Telfer arrived at the farm a day or two later and he and Mackie discussed what could be causing these strange paranormal events.
Telfer told Mackie that years before he and his family lived on the farm, it was owned by a family called McNaught. The McNaught father had constant bad luck on the farm, such as poor crops and a variety of health problems that only happened after he moved in. He started to believe the farm was cursed.
McNaught sent his son to see a woman who was known as a local psychic, thinking she could perhaps help. The son found her and got her advice. She told him that the farm was indeed cursed, and the way to break it was simple. At the entrance of the house there was a stone slab. If this slab is lifted, there will be a tooth beneath it. The tooth must be burned, or the curse will continue.
He rushed home to tell his father, but on his way he ran into a recruitment party. He was enlisted into the army there and then.
He was sent to Flanders, where he met another man, John Redick, who just so happened to be from the same Parish as he was, who was about to go home on leave. He asked John to pass on the psychics message to his father when he arrived home. He agreed.
When John arrived at the farm ready to tell McNaught his son’s message from the psychic, he realised he had arrived too late. McNaught had died, perhaps as a result of the curse.
John decided not to bother telling the new owner about the curse, and instead went to the local minister instead. Somehow word got around though and the new owner did move a slab and found a tooth or piece of bone. He burned it, as instructed, and never experienced anything strange at all on the farm.
This story had been told to Telfer by the minister that spoke to Redick.
The Ringcroft Battle Begins
Telfer had a look around the farm and strangely nothing untoward seemed to happen. As he was leaving though, stones began being flung at the house and the family declared it was the
work of the spirit. The minister agreed to return on the Sunday to lead the family in prayer, in hopes of driving this evil spirit out.
When he returned and was at prayer, he was belted by a hail of stones that seemed to come from nowhere. Now convinced that the family was indeed under attack from a malevolent entity, Telfer agreed to return in a couple of days, better prepared.
A few days passed, and Telfer returned. He started by leading another prayer. Predictably, he had stones launched at him again. This time though, the spirit decided to take it up a notch. A loud crack was heard, and the minister doubled over in pain. He claimed he felt as if he had been whacked on the back by a large, heavy staff. Though, there was no such weapon to be seen. He recomposed himself only to be hit again and again by the same invisible staff. The Mackie family all continued to hear the sound of it colliding with his skin.
As the prayers continued, knocks and bangs were heard around the room, with no obvious source. Those in attendance said the noises sounded like someone or something trying to find an entryway. The minister, still attempting to pray, then felt something pressing on his arm. When he looked down, he saw a pure white hand gripping him. The hand was connected to an arm that ran up to an elbow, then nothing. What seemed to be levitating in the air was a disembodied arm.
It appeared Telfer had failed in combating the spirit.
In the coming days, the spirit continued its violent spree. Neighbours that tried to visit the Mackies were driven away from the house by bombardments of stones being thrown at them and the feeling of being whacked by a large, unseen staff.
Inside the house, the spirit also continued to torment the family. Mathies were dragged around the house by an unseen presence. When they tried to sleep, their blankets were pulled off of them and they were pulled out of bed. Furniture was moved when no one was looking, chests and wardrobes violently shook and of course, the rain of stones continued.
Telfer called on some more ministers to help him fight what was now being known as “The Trouble”. They arrived at the house and The Trouble wasted no time getting to work. Rocks, much larger than before, were lobbed at them as they entered. One of the ministers suffered a bloody head wound from a stone hit and then, to add insult to injury, had his wig ripped off. More peat appeared and spontaneously caught fire, which was then also lobbed at the visiting ministers.
It seemed that the Mackie’s were out of options, no one could save them from The Trouble. This was when Mrs Mackie realised there was a loose slab by the front door. She lifted it, and underneath found seven small bones, flesh, and some blood all contained in an old, folded piece of paper.
She took these items and brought them to Telfer. While she removed them, The Trouble attacked again. Stones were thrown, fireballs landed in the house and bedsheets burst into flame. After the strange items were in the minister’s possession though, it stopped.
In the middle of April, the Mackie family briefly moved out and had some neighbours watch the house. The neighbours reported no strange activity, so the Mackie’s moved back in, thinking the curse was broken.
Almost as soon as they returned, so did The Trouble. Now when people were struck by the invisible entity they could hear it saying “Take you that!”. The stone throwing and pyromania also returned in earnest, along with mud flinging.
A few days after moving back in, The Trouble began to speak to Mackie. It told him he would be tormented for another four days.
End of The Trouble
The next day the house caught fire, and the Mackie family and neighbours fought all day to put it out. Three days later members of the community met in the cowshed and began a group prayer. As they prayed, they saw a black mass in a corner that grew like a dark cloud until it filled the whole room. Those praying had mud flung at them, and some felt like they were being violently grabbed, with such force it would leave marks and bruises for days to come.
Suddenly, after much prayer, the dark cloud disappeared and The Trouble was gone. On it’s way out, it set fire to a sheep shed, but this was its last act of terror.
It seemed they had got rid of The Trouble too late however, as the farmhouse was burned to the ground. The Mackie family soon after moved on.
All that remains on the site of The Ringcroft Farm today is a dead tree.
Whoever, or whatever, caused The Trouble to inhabit this farmhouse and torment those living in it, there is no denying it was a very real problem for the Mackie family. One that caused them nothing but problems and eventually destroyed their home and livelihood.
From ghosts to Grey Men, cryptids to Crowley, there’s more going on in Scotland than you might think. Join MARTIN R. SHAW on YouTube at Unexplained Scotland for your fix of folklore, mysteries and more!