Torry Battery’s Haunted Echoes of the Past

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Torry Battery in Aberdeen, once a defensive fortress, now whispers tales of ghostly apparitions and eerie encounters. GRAEME MILNE reveals firsthand accounts of the paranormal from this spooky historical site

Torry Battery

With its unparalleled views of Aberdeen Bay, the Torry Battery was built between 1859 and 1861 as a defence against possible attack from France. Its defences included 200 pound Armstrong guns capable of ‘dropping a ball from Torry as far as Newburgh’ (a village a good tend miles away).

Despite the fearsome weaponry the Battery was mainly used as a training ground for soldiers and served this purpose until the end of the Great War. It was then used periodically for both temporary housing and for defensive purposes until the end of WW2.

A steady flow of returning servicemen and women were now returning to the city and the City Council on realising the magnitude of the housing problem formalised a plan to allow families to take up residency in an array of huts and outbuildings. From contemporary accounts and images, it was without doubt basic accommodation. This situation lasted until 1953 when the last occupants moved out, but did they?

Haunting at Torry Battery

I met with Connie who told me about the following incident whose main protagonist was her mother. In the late 1960s, her mother Sandra, and three friends witnessed events at both the Torry Battery and the nearby Duthie Park which were to say the least very frightening. Her mother takes up the story:

“It was in the summer of 1968 at approximately 10pm. There were four of us on two motorbikes and we decided to stop at the Battery for a ciggie. We drove in the gate and parked beside two cellars. We were standing next to the bikes and chatted for about 15 minutes when two girls entered the gate in front of us.

“We all saw them and in fact, I said to them jokingly, to watch out for the ghosts. They both turned and stared directly at me for what seemed like ages, it was a cold stare that went right through me. They never said a word and turned and walked away from us to the back of the Battery.

“We all started talking about their strange behaviour as the girls disappeared over a large mound. One of the guys who had been to the Battery before wondered where they were going as there was no way out that way.

“Anyhow, we decided to follow them as it was beginning to get dark, and we were very puzzled. We looked over the mounds and in the old buildings which were ruined but we could not find them.

“We decided to get on our bikes behind the Battery which in those days was walled and had barbed wire round it, but there was still no sign. We felt uneasy and so decided to leave and go to the Duthie Park.

“When we got there the guys parked their bikes in the shelter and chained their front wheels together and we went to the duck pond where we sat chatting and having a ciggie. It was around 11pm. We had only been there a matter of minutes when we heard the motorbikes revving.

“My boyfriend Hughie immediately recognised his bikes engine, and so we all ran back towards the shelter. When we got there both bikes were lying on their side. The chain connecting them had been snapped and all the wheels were spinning. Everyone was frightened including the guys. They had their keys in their pockets, so we got on the bikes and took off.

“A few weeks later while discussing the matter two different people told us that after WW2, two young girls had been found murdered on a mattress, in one of the cellars at the Battery.” Sandra finished off by saying: “All of us believed the incident was paranormal and never went back.”

I was indebted to Sandra for recounting her experience which is among one my favourites but could find no evidence of any murders taking place.

Torry Battery

The next incident at Torry Battery

The next incident took place in 1995 and as is often the case came to light through a series of coincidences.

In January 2008 I was taking photographs of an old building and got chatting to the site manager Ian. He told me about an incident that happened to some of his friends in the 1990s at the Torry Battery which he claimed involved numerous apparitions.

At the time we were unable to complete the interview, so I returned around a week later and as we sat in the bothy, I began by asking him to recount the story.

He began to speak in greater detail about the incident and on finding out that I was a serious researcher admitted that he had also been present that night but had been reticent to say so for fear of ridicule. I assured him that I was taking his story seriously and mentioned as an example Sandra’s story, without mentioning her name.

The only other worker in the bothy immediately spoke up and asked if the ladies name was Sandra. I confirmed it was and it transpired she was his closest friend’s grandmother. After I had picked my jaw up, he told me he was aware of the ‘motor bike incident’ having heard the story first-hand before. Talk about co-incident, or was it?

I do believe certain things are meant to be and assumed this to be the case here. Anyhow after the initial shock, Ian began to describe his experience and as I was given permission to repeat it in full, I have included it here.

“It was in the summer of 1995, and I was an apprentice at the time. We used to meet down at the breakwater near the mouth of the harbour and stay out playing football and having parties. On this night there were three of us heading towards the breakwater, myself and my two mates, Kevin Porter and Alan Black.

“It was a perfect night in the height of summer, no breeze and still hot. It was starting to turn dark and as we were running late someone suggested cutting through the Battery. We were walking through the Battery when out of the corner of my eye I noticed Alan looking at something. We were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a group of people wearing old-fashioned clothing, like out of the television programme ‘Foyles War.’ There were women wearing long dresses, just standing there, and a soldier standing nearby wearing army greens and a cap. There were others wearing flat caps.

“We were rooted to the spot and though I suppose it only lasted seconds, time seemed to stand still. It was surreal and though not exactly frightening. The air was perfectly calm, and I felt at peace. The strangest thing was that there were also children playing, and one wee boy wearing what looked like plus fours and of Asian appearance was running along with a hoop which he was directing with a stick. Like an old-fashioned toy. The only noise I could hear was the sound of the hoop rattling on the ground and the stick hitting it. We looked at each other and bolted across the Battery over the other side and ran all the way to where our mates were.

“When we arrived, we were breathless, and my friends looked pale. We told the rest of them what had happened, and they laughed and thought we were winding them up. After some persuasion they agreed to come back with us and so we did. Between us running to our mates and returning must have only taken around ten minutes but when we got there the place was deserted. There was no sign of life not even a crisp packet on the ground, silence.

“My mates continued to dispute what we saw claiming that it must have been someone making a film. They did not believe us, but we knew it wasn’t a film set as there were no cars or vans about, nowhere for anyone to go. There is no way they could have cleared the place out in the ten minutes it took us to return. The experience has stuck with me and felt more surreal and peaceful than frightening, though we were alarmed to an extent.”

It goes without saying that both military personnel and civilians used the battery in the past, so the descriptions provided are very accurate.

Perhaps what was witnessed will never again be repeated, maybe it was the right combination of time and the elements that opened this window to the past. If that is the case, I suggest that Ian was very lucky indeed.

Today I am pleased to say that there is now a well-established café, porpoise watching and community space within the remaining walls of the battery. Whether anyone else have or will see those figures again is a matter of conjecture.

Perhaps they were just there at the right time, as appears to be the case. As always, the witnesses had no intention of hoping to see a ‘ghost,’ it was to say the least unexpected. Ghosthunters should perhaps take note.

Graeme Milne at Torry Battery in Aberdeen

Author and guide GRAEME MILNE has been writing about and researching the paranormal for over 20 years in his home town of Aberdeen where he met and interviewed many locals collating their experiences into what became, ‘The Haunted North’, volumes one and two. Unsurprisingly the city with its ancient history has more than its fare share of haunted locations.

Now out of print, both books were recently collated and expanded under the title, ‘Aberdeen’s Haunted Heritage. In more recent years a move to Edinburgh and a new career as a tour guide provided further inspiration and helped shape, ‘Tales from an Edinburgh Tour Guide’, a wry look at the capitals obsession with the paranormal. Recently a foray into supernatural fiction, ‘When Day Becomes Night,’ has rounded off a busy few years. As of now the author is currently working on a new volume of true ghost stories under the title of, ‘Scotland’s’ Haunted Heritage’. Discover Graeme’s books on Amazon.

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