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  • Writer's pictureGreg Stewart

The Ghosts of St. Andrews

St Andrews in Fife, Scotland is known worldwide for its first class university and as the home of Golf. It is also one of the most haunted towns in the country. Here is a quick run down of just a few of the spooks you might experience in just the small area around the cathedral.

The Pends is a narrow road lined either side by high walls with ancient city gateways at either end. Here stands the grand entrance to a long gone building known as the Hospitum Novum, or New Inn. Built in 1537, the Hospitum Novum was intended to be the main residence of Madeleine of Valois, the new bride of King James V. Sadly Madeleine became unwell while travelling to Scotland from France and died shortly after landing at Leith.

Arrangements were quickly made for King James to re-marry, and the Hospitum Novum was used for a reception for his new wife, Mary of Guise, when she arrived from France in 1538.

The building continued to provide accommodation for important visitors, yet quickly gained a reputation for being haunted. No one knows why, but as the building had been constructed in an almost impossibly quick time, some believed dark magic had been used.

Visitors and staff encountered moving furniture, ghostly horsemen and the phantom form of Archbishop James Sharp, who was curiously alive and well and in Edinburgh at the time of the sighting. Eventually visitors stopped staying there, and the building was demolished at the start of the 19th Century. A private school now stands on the site, with reports of staff still feeling uncomfortable in certain areas.

Within the Pends, there are also reports of cold blasts of air from the Eastern Cemetery, believed to be the guardian of the graveyard forcing people away, and a phantom coach that races down the street, some say being pulled by headless horses. The coach is believed to be that of Archbishop Sharp, who has been seen frantically banging at the window of the coach, with the Devil sitting beside him, before the horses and coach plunge into the harbour, taking the Archbishop’s soul to Hell.

Also watch for the phantom boar, a throwback to the origins of the town, when the land was woodland over-ridden with wild Boar. A lane that leads off the Pends is known as Nun’s Walk. This is home to one of the most feared spirits of St Andrews, the veiled nun. The story goes that she was a beautiful, but highly intelligent woman. Many men approached her father seeking her hand in marriage, but she was not interested. Eventually she did fall in love, only for her fiancé to die before the wedding. Heartbroken, she decided to make sure no other man would want to look at her, and with a knife she cut off her own ears, nose, lips, eyelids and sliced her mouth up her cheeks. She was cared for in a hospital run by the Nuns, that stood at the top of the lane, but sadly died from her injuries. Her ghost has walked the lane ever since, always wearing a veil. For those who have encountered her, the lucky ones simply sense or see her. A few are less fortunate, and see her lift her veil to reveal her face, a sight that is said to drive the victims insane. The last reported incident of this was in the 1960s, when a student was said to have been found slumped on the pavement at the bottom of the lane, only able to repeat the words ‘the Nun, the Nun’.

At the top of the Pends the grand Cathedral comes into view and, within the ruins, a distinctive square tower stands out. This is all that remains of St Rules Church, the first church built on the site, and is where the ghost of Robert of Montrose still lurks. Robert was the Prior of St Andrews in the late 14th century, and had a particularly unruly young monk named Thomas Platter in his care. Despite his best efforts, Platter continued to rebel and eventually murdered Robert in 1393.

Encounters with the Prior’s ghost did not however start to be reported until after the Cathedral ruins were opened as a tourist attraction. Visitors struggling on the old, worn steps of the Square Tower began to say a gentleman dressed in some form of robes had appeared offering assistance. It is not until later they realised that the spiral staircase is so narrow it would be impossible for anyone to pass on, yet none felt anything as the gentleman continued on his way down the stairs.

As for Thomas Platter, he was starved to death for his crime. During restoration work of the Cathedral grounds in the 1800s, reports were made of his ghost being seen. In 1898, he appeared directly to a workman and pleaded for a Christian burial. It was later found that bones had been disturbed in a section of ground that was an ancient cesspit. The bones were given a Christian burial, and Platter has not been seen since.

Another small square tower is built into the cathedral wall. Known as the Haunted Tower, this is home to the oldest ghost story of the town, the White Lady. Her figure has been seen walking the walls of the cathedral ruins for centuries, always walking towards the tower before vanishing. During restoration works in 1861, a secret chamber was found in the tower, and inside there were a number of coffins, one containing the almost perfectly preserved body of a young woman, dressed entirely in white. The chamber was sealed up again, with the bodies left inside, but it was re-opened a number of times to try to get to the bottom of who had been laid to rest in the tower, and why. Eventually the bodies vanished, with no reports of what happened to them.

Other ghosts of the cathedral include a figure seen falling from the top of the Square tower, that vanishes before hitting the ground, a lady, often described as a nun, around the bottom of the Square tower, and a phantom 3 legged dog!

Outside the cathedral walls on the opposite side of the Pends you get stunning sea views. From here the Castle can be seen, haunted by the phantom of Cardinal Beaton who was murdered after he oversaw the execution of Protestant reformer, George Wishart. The ghost of George Wishart, who was burned at the stake in front of the castle, is also seen, as is that of John Knox, the Father of the Reformation.

You may also hear the phantom bells of the cathedral ring from their murky grave. These were loaded onto a ship during the reformation, possibly to be taken to the Vatican City in Rome. The ship however sank in St Andrews Bay, and there have been many reports of their ringing being heard from the bay since. A ghostly ship sailing from a long collapsed cave in the cliffs beneath is also seen, which many believe to be that of St Rule, the Greek Monk who (according to legend) brought the relics of St Andrew to Scotland, and was shipwrecked on the rocks below where the Cathedral now stands.

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