The Phantom Regiment Of Killiecrankie





Many are the stories that have from time to time been circulated with

regard to the haunting of the Pass of Killiecrankie by phantom

soldiers, but I do not think there is any stranger story than that

related to me, some years ago, by a lady who declared she had actually

witnessed the phenomena. Her account of it I shall reproduce as far as

possible in her own words:--



* * * * *



Let me commence by stating that I am not a spiritualist, and that I

have the greatest possible aversion to convoking the earthbound souls

of the dead. Neither do I lay any claim to mediumistic powers (indeed

I have always regarded the term medium with the gravest suspicion).

I am, on the contrary, a plain, practical, matter-of-fact woman, and

with the exception of this one occasion, never witnessed any psychic

phenomena.



The incident I am about to relate took place the autumn before last. I

was on a cycle tour in Scotland, and, making Pitlochry my temporary

headquarters, rode over one evening to view the historic Pass of

Killiecrankie. It was late when I arrived there, and the western sky

was one great splash of crimson and gold--such vivid colouring I had

never seen before and never have seen since. Indeed, I was so

entranced at the sublimity of the spectacle, that I perched myself on

a rock at the foot of one of the great cliffs that form the walls of

the Pass, and, throwing my head back, imagined myself in fairyland.

Lost, thus, in a delicious luxury, I paid no heed to the time, nor did

I think of stirring, until the dark shadows of the night fell across

my face. I then started up in a panic, and was about to pedal off in

hot haste, when a strange notion suddenly seized me: I had a latchkey,

plenty of sandwiches, a warm cape, why should I not camp out there

till early morning--I had long yearned to spend a night in the open,

now was my opportunity. The idea was no sooner conceived than put

into operation. Selecting the most comfortable-looking boulder I could

see, I scrambled on to the top of it, and, with my cloak drawn tightly

over my back and shoulders, commenced my vigil. The cold mountain air,

sweet with the perfume of gorse and heather, intoxicated me, and I

gradually sank into a heavenly torpor, from which I was abruptly

aroused by a dull boom, that I at once associated with distant

musketry. All was then still, still as the grave, and, on glancing at

the watch I wore strapped on my wrist, I saw it was two o'clock. A

species of nervous dread now laid hold of me, and a thousand and one

vague fancies, all the more distressing because of their vagueness,

oppressed and disconcerted me. Moreover, I was impressed for the first

time with the extraordinary solitude--solitude that seemed to belong

to a period far other than the present, and, as I glanced around at

the solitary pines and gleaming boulders, I more than half expected to

see the wild, ferocious face of some robber chief--some fierce yet

fascinating hero of Sir Walter Scott's--peering at me from behind

them. This feeling at length became so acute, that, in a panic of

fear--ridiculous, puerile fear, I forcibly withdrew my gaze and

concentrated it abstractedly on the ground at my feet. I then

listened, and in the rustling of a leaf, the humming of some night

insect, the whizzing of a bat, the whispering of the wind as it moaned

softly past me, I fancied--nay, I felt sure I detected something that

was not ordinary. I blew my nose, and had barely ceased marvelling at

the loudness of its reverberations, before the piercing, ghoulish

shriek of an owl sent the blood in torrents to my heart. I then

laughed, and my blood froze as I heard a chorus, of what I tried to

persuade myself could only be echoes, proceed from every crag and rock

in the valley. For some seconds after this I sat still, hardly daring

to breathe, and pretending to be extremely angry with myself for being

such a fool. With a stupendous effort I turned my attention to the

most material of things. One of the skirt buttons on my hip--they were

much in vogue then--being loose, I endeavoured to occupy myself in

tightening it, and when I could no longer derive any employment from

that, I set to work on my shoes, and tied knots in the laces, merely

to enjoy the task of untying them. But this, too, ceasing at last to

attract me, I was desperately racking my mind for some other device,

when there came again the queer, booming noise I had heard before, but

which I could now no longer doubt was the report of firearms. I looked

in the direction of the sound--and--my heart almost stopped. Racing

towards me--as if not merely for his life, but his soul--came the

figure of a Highlander. The wind rustling through his long dishevelled

hair, blew it completely over his forehead, narrowly missing his eyes,

which were fixed ahead of him in a ghastly, agonised stare. He had not

a vestige of colour, and, in the powerful glow of the moonbeams, his

skin shone livid. He ran with huge bounds, and, what added to my

terror and made me double aware he was nothing mortal, was that each

time his feet struck the hard, smooth road, upon which I could well

see there was no sign of a stone, there came the sound, the

unmistakable sound of the scattering of gravel. On, on he came, with

cyclonic swiftness; his bare sweating elbows pressed into his panting

sides; his great, dirty, coarse, hairy fists screwed up in bony

bunches in front of him; the foam-flakes thick on his clenched,

grinning lips; the blood-drops oozing down his sweating thighs. It was

all real, infernally, hideously real, even to the most minute details:

the flying up and down of his kilt, sporan, and swordless scabbard;

the bursting of the seam of his coat, near the shoulder; and the

absence of one of his clumsy shoe-buckles. I tried hard to shut my

eyes, but was compelled to keep them open, and follow his every

movement as, darting past me, he left the roadway, and, leaping

several of the smaller obstacles that barred his way, finally

disappeared behind some of the bigger boulders. I then heard the loud

rat-tat of drums, accompanied by the shrill voices of fifes and

flutes, and at the farther end of the Pass, their arms glittering

brightly in the silvery moonbeams, appeared a regiment of scarlet-clad

soldiers. At the head rode a mounted officer, after him came the

band, and then, four abreast, a long line of warriors; in their centre

two ensigns, and on their flanks, officers and non-commissioned

officers with swords and pikes; more mounted men bringing up the rear.

On they came, the fifes and flutes ringing out with a weird clearness

in the hushed mountain air. I could hear the ground vibrate, the

gravel crunch and scatter, as they steadily and mechanically

advanced--tall men, enormously tall men, with set, white faces and

livid eyes. Every instant I expected they would see me, and I became

sick with terror at the thought of meeting all those pale, flashing

eyes. But from this I was happily saved; no one appeared to notice me,

and they all passed me by without as much as a twist or turn of the

head, their feet keeping time to one everlasting and monotonous tramp,

tramp, tramp. I got up and watched until the last of them had turned

the bend of the Pass, and the sheen of his weapons and trappings could

no longer be seen; then I remounted my boulder and wondered if

anything further would happen. It was now half-past two, and blended

with the moonbeams was a peculiar whiteness, which rendered the whole

aspect of my surroundings indescribably dreary and ghostly. Feeling

cold and hungry, I set to work on my beef sandwiches, and was

religiously separating the fat from the lean, for I am one of those

foolish people who detest fat, when a loud rustling made me look up.

Confronting me, on the opposite side of the road, was a tree, an ash,

and to my surprise, despite the fact that the breeze had fallen and

there was scarcely a breath of wind, the tree swayed violently to and

fro, whilst there proceeded from it the most dreadful moanings and

groanings. I was so terrified that I caught hold of my bicycle and

tried to mount, but I was obliged to desist as I had not a particle of

strength in my limbs. Then to assure myself the moving of the tree was

not an illusion, I rubbed my eyes, pinched myself, called aloud; but

it made no difference--the rustling, bending, and tossing still

continued. Summing up courage, I stepped into the road to get a closer

view, when to my horror my feet kicked against something, and, on

looking down, I perceived the body of an English soldier, with a

ghastly wound in his chest. I gazed around, and there, on all sides of

me, from one end of the valley to the other, lay dozens of

bodies,--bodies of men and horses,--Highlanders and English,

white-cheeked, lurid eyes, and bloody-browed,--a hotch-potch of livid,

gory awfulness. Here was the writhing, wriggling figure of an officer

with half his face shot away; and there, a horse with no head; and

there--but I cannot dwell on such horrors, the very memory of which

makes me feel sick and faint. The air, that beautiful, fresh mountain

air, resounded with their moanings and groanings, and reeked with the

smell of their blood. As I stood rooted to the ground with horror, not

knowing which way to look or turn, I suddenly saw drop from the ash,

the form of a woman, a Highland girl, with bold, handsome features,

raven black hair, and the whitest of arms and feet. In one hand she

carried a wicker basket, in the other a knife, a broad-bladed,

sharp-edged, horn-handled knife. A gleam of avarice and cruelty came

into her large dark eyes, as, wandering around her, they rested on the

rich facings of the English officers' uniforms. I knew what was in

her mind, and--forgetting she was but a ghost--that they were all

ghosts--I moved heaven and earth to stop her. I could not. Making

straight for a wounded officer that lay moaning piteously on the

ground, some ten feet away from me, she spurned with her slender,

graceful feet, the bodies of the dead and dying English that came in

her way. Then, snatching the officer's sword and pistol from him, she

knelt down, and, with a look of devilish glee in her glorious eyes,

calmly plunged her knife into his heart, working the blade backwards

and forwards to assure herself she had made a thorough job of it.

Anything more hellish I could not have imagined, and yet it fascinated

me--the girl was so fair, so wickedly fair and shapely. Her act of

cruelty over, she spoiled her victim of his rings, epaulets, buttons

and gold lacing, and, having placed them in her basket, proceeded

elsewhere. In some cases, unable to remove the rings easily, she

chopped off the fingers, and popped them, just as they were, into her

basket. Neither was her mode of dispatch always the same, for while

she put some men out of their misery in the manner I have described,

she cut the throats of others with as great a nonchalance as if she

had been killing fowls, whilst others again she settled with the

butt-ends of their guns or pistols. In all she murdered a full

half-score, and was decamping with her booty when her gloating eyes

suddenly encountered mine, and with a shrill scream of rage she rushed

towards me. I was an easy victim, for strain and pray how I would, I

could not move an inch. Raising her flashing blade high over her head,

an expression of fiendish glee in her staring eyes, she made ready to

strike me. This was the climax, my overstrained nerves could stand no

more, and ere the blow had time to descend, I pitched heavily forward

and fell at her feet. When I recovered, every phantom had vanished,

and the Pass glowed with all the cheerful freshness of the early

morning sun. Not a whit the worse for my venture, I cycled swiftly

home, and ate as only one can eat who has spent the night amid the

banks and braes of bonnie Scotland.





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