Guest writer and psychic medium ANGELA MACKENZIE recalls her time living in an old, sprawling mansion in Inverness, complete with a spirit or two keen to make themselves known…
I had just turned 21 and moved into Stratton Farmhouse on the outskirts of Inverness.
I was really delighted to find a fantastic house for myself to rent with lots of space and a massive garden with apples and orchids and only a 20-minute walk through some fields to work. It had a long gravel driveway, large, grand metal gates, secluded by trees and fields on either side with sheep enjoying their quiet country life, grazing away peacefully and calmly.
The farmhouse itself was lovely, overlooking outbuildings and cottages. It even had its own church on the grounds with stained glass windows. Inside it had two reception rooms, a large conservatory, a nursery, an office, four bedrooms and three bathrooms. I remember the bathroom suites were made of Royal Doulton.
I remember thinking: “Wow, like the Queen”.
My bedroom had a lovely walk-in wardrobe the size of another room! Large windows from the bedroom looked onto the church over vibrant fields of golden-yellow.
The large farmhouse kitchen was complete with a very vintage aga oven in the centre. I was delighted, I love cooking!
In the pantry, there was an old, large wooden box on the shelf. Intrigued, I opened it: there was an extensive set of heavy metal keys, presumably for various cupboards and outbuildings.
There was a row of brass bells above the pantry next to the kitchen door. Each bell had a room name under it. I thought to myself, these must be from when they had maids and nannies to buzz them for help or when meals were ready.
The whole of Stratton Farm needed a lot of renovations. Clearly, no one had lived in this house for well over ten years or more. In the office, which was a lovely space, I was not impressed with the mushrooms growing through the carpet!
Strangely, in the reception room, there were two dead crows on the hearth – as if they just freshly fell down through the chimney – with dried roses and fruits around them…
…almost like a witchy offering.
It was really strange and bizarre looking back, but I thought little of it at the time. I wish now I had taken more notice of the small signs.
All in all, though, I loved the atmosphere and energy of the house, and Stratton Farm really felt like my first home.
The Beginnings of Paranormal Happenings
During my first night in the house, I heard a couple of odd noises here and there, almost as if the back door handle had turned and opened and the key had turned in the lock. So, at 2 AM, I got up to check all the windows and doors.
There were a lot of windows to check and it was a very stormy night also.
I got down to the all-glass conservatory to find a large window was open and there was a black cat sitting on a seat close to it. There was blood all over the window sill area; must be from the cat, I thought. Where did this black cat come from, I wondered. It seemed a friendly wee thing, so I did not mind it sheltering from the storm that night.
I was later to notice this same cat on the night when the paranormal activity was at its most active in the farmhouse.
Was this cat, a shapeshifter?
The thunder and lightning continued throughout the night, so I blamed the storm for the funny noises I would hear.
Then another peculiar thing happened: one day, as I walked up the very large grand staircase, I got a vision of a lady in a Victorian ball gown standing looking down at me from the balcony of the stairs – just for a split second.
A few days had passed and I settled down one evening to watch some TV after being exhausted from work. I soon had this really uneasy feeling, I couldn’t shake off. I felt someone or something was staring at me from outside. In fact, I felt queasy with the energy of being watched. Yet, in my head, I attempted to rationalise the feeling.
Oh, this is silly. There’s no one around for miles.
I went to the front door and had a lookout on the porch. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything.
Just then a bat flew into my long dark hair and got caught.
Oh my god, what’s this?
I could feel the leathery skin of its wings as I tried to get it away from my neck and hair. I got it free and ran back inside.
Extremely shaken, I went back inside through the hall, passed the nursery doorway and stopped in my tracks.
From the corner of my eye, I could see a lady dressed all in black in the corner of the room.
I screamed and ran into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.
The Unsettling Activity Intensifies
Things didn’t stop there, however.
Large door keys would just disappear and reappear and the keys were bigger than my hand and heavy. How could they be lost from the pantry then appear in odd places in a random cupboard? Under the stairs nowhere near the door it was used for.
I always kept all the keys together in one place only.
Black masses would come through the walls and walk past me and through the wall on the other side of the room in broad daylight – the hauntings were not always at night. I often sensed a presence, because, being a psychic medium, I could feel spirit’s energy. They were always around.
Frequently I heard what sounded like a woman crying and wailing in distress. I would look out from my window onto the church, as it seemed to be coming from that direction. Yet no one would be there.
When I once had had flu I had been forced to take the week off work. A couple of times while dozing, I awoke to hear someone calling my name as if shouting me from the bottom of the stairs. Yet, there was no one there; also no one in the entire house.
On another occasion, I got up to get a glass of water from the kitchen and, as I switched the hallway light on, it suddenly blew. I could not see a thing. Then, someone had taken under my elbow as if to guide me down the stairs to where there was another switch. I switched the light on, muttering thank you.
By now, I was growing far more used to the paranormal activity going on at Stratton Farm.
A few times, I would see a faint light on in the church and as if people were in there. I would also see shadows by the doorway and through the stained glass windows. I would rarely hear as if a small congregation were singing, but it was very faint. All the old hymns would really scare me when this happened.
One night, I got up out of my sleep, convinced someone was knocking on the front door. Yet, once I had gone to check no one was there and back to bed, the knocking would come from the back door. Again, I would check – nothing there. Once back in bed, the knocking would recommence at the front door, and so on.
This incident really, really freaked me out. I knew then the farmhouse was definitely haunted, and the spirit – or spirits – were trying to play games with me, or at least get my attention.
I phoned my grandmother scared. I told her what I had been seeing and feeling. She asked me the name of the house again.
Stratton Farm, I said.
Her reply was: “Oh yes, some terrible things happened there years ago, but I can never remember all that it was. It may come back to me”.
It never did, and I just left it at that.
Many times, I would mention where I lived, and people would freeze and just look at me.
Yet, I still knew nothing of the house’s history, and no one ever said a thing and quickly changed the subject.
I did eventually learn to live with the spirits. They didn’t seem to do any harm, they just wanted me to know they were there.
Learning of the Tragic History of Stratton Farm
I moved out of Stratton Farm after five years back to nearer town, and it was then that I learned of the house’s history through my own research.
The house was built by the brother of Duncan Forbes of Culloden as a wedding gift to his new bride, Lady Sarah Stratton. The house was later owned by Elma Rose Mackenzie, who had five sons (the family shared the same surname as me).
Two of these sons were in love with the very young maid of Stratton Farm, with one having gotten her pregnant. The other son was so angry when he discovered what was going on that he went and got a gun while they were having a massive dispute about who loved the young woman more.
The young man shot his mother in the arm while she tried to stop the argument. Then, after shooting his brother, he shot one of the older maids who was deaf and had walked into the room not hearing the argument.
(Was this the lady in black I kept seeing in the nursery and heard crying at 2/3 AM in the morning on the stairs?)
This was a considerable scandal at the time, which was hushed up by the young boy appearing in private at court and quietly being sent to Carstairs Hospital, a high-security facility for the criminally insane.
I was later at a dinner event and seated across from a man I just mentioned to about where I had lived. He said: “My father’s family are descendants of Stratton Farm, and in fact, my father’s cousin owns it; it’s been in the family for years and years since it was built.”
I told the man the history of what I had researched painstakingly, looking through old newspapers and the large meter-sized books in the Inverness Courier archives as this was before the internet.
The man verified with his father what I had said, with his father confirming that the story was all true.
He was able to learn from his father and later relay to me that one man had tragically died on the property when the VW campervan he was working on fell and crushed him instantly, next to an outbuilding over by the church grounds.
Any ghostly tapping or clicking of metal heard in the night was said to be him still fixing his VW, which he loved in life.
The man had later said he was adopted from Aberdeen. It could be a coincidence, but the young maid went on to have her baby in Aberdeen (where the said family also had links and business even to this day) with the baby being adopted back into the father’s family.
The man who committed the murders at Stratton Farm was later released and was said to have worked in Aberdeen in the family business.
Just last year, Stratton Farm and the surrounding buildings have been knocked down and a new development of houses and shops now stands where they used to be.
I wonder if any of the new builds have paranormal activities going on or ghostly visitors in the night.
ANGELA MACKENZIE is a mother of three born in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Having had a psychic gift from childhood, she now specialises in spirit realm work, tarot, tealeaves, fortune telling, predictions through dreams and visions, as well as psychic and life coach/guidance. She can often be found as a guest on various podcasts and radio shows as well as in paranormal magazines. Be sure to check out her Facebook page, Mystikal Mayhem, Tarot and Tea.