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Pearlin' Jean Of Allanbank

Scary Books: Scottish Ghost Stories

Few ghosts have obtained more notoriety than Pearlin' Jean, the

phantasm which for many years haunted Allanbank, a seat of the


The popular theory as to the identity of the apparition is as


Mr. Stuart, afterwards created first baronet of Allanbank, when on a

tour in France, met a young and beautiful French Sister of Charity of

the name of Jean, whom he induced
to leave her convent. Tiring of her

at length, Mr. Stuart brutally left her, and, returning abruptly to

Scotland, became engaged to be married to a lady of his own

nationality and position in life. But Jean was determined he should

not escape her so easily. For him she had sacrificed everything: her

old vocation in life was gone, she had no home, no honour,--nothing,

so she resolved to leave no stone unturned to discover his

whereabouts. At last her perseverance was rewarded, and, Fortune

favouring her, she arrived without mishap at Allanbank.

The truth was then revealed to her: her cruel and faithless lover was

about to be wedded to another. But despair gave her energy, and,

burning with indignation, she hastened to his house to upbraid him.

She reached the spot just as he was driving out with his fiancee. With

a cry of anguish, Jean rushed forward and, swinging herself nimbly on

to the fore-wheel of the coach, turned her white and passionate face

towards its occupants. For a moment, Mr. Stuart was too dumbfounded to

do anything; he could scarcely believe his senses. Who on earth was

this frantic female? Good Heavens! Jean! Impossible! How on earth had

she got there? And the tumultuous beating of his guilty heart turned

him sick and faint.

Then he glanced fearfully and covertly at his fiancee. She must not

know the truth at any cost. Possibly he lost his head! At all events,

that is the kindest construction to put on his subsequent action,

for, dastardly as his behaviour had been to Jean in the past, one can

hardly imagine him capable of deliberately murdering her, and in so

horrible a fashion. There was not a second to lose; an instant more,

and the secret, that he had so assiduously hidden from the lady beside

him, would be revealed. Jean's mouth was already open to speak. He

waved her aside. She adhered to her post. He shouted to the postilion,

and the huge, lumbering vehicle was set in motion. At the first turn

of the wheels, Jean slipped from her perch, her dress caught in the

spokes, and she was crushed to death.

Her fate does not appear to have made any deep impression either on

Mr. Stuart or his lady-love, for they continued their drive.

The hauntings began that autumn. Mr. Stuart, as was only fit and

proper, being the first to witness the phenomenon. Returning home from

a drive one evening, he perceived to his surprise the dark outlines of

a human figure perched on the arched gateway of his house, exactly

opposite the spot where Jean had perished. Wondering who it could be,

he leaned forward to inspect it closer. The figure moved, an icy

current of air ran through him, and he saw to his horror the livid

countenance of the dead Jean. There she was, staring down at him with

lurid, glassy eyes; her cheeks startlingly white, her hair fluttering

in the wind, her neck and forehead bathed in blood.

Paralysed with terror, Mr. Stuart could not remove his gaze, and it

was not until one of the menials opened the carriage door to assist

him down, that the spell was broken and he was able to speak and move.

He then flew into the house, and spent the rest of the night in the

most abject fear.

After this he had no peace--Allanbank was constantly haunted. The

great oak doors opened and shut of their own accord at night with loud

clanging and bangs, and the rustling of silks and pattering of

high-heeled shoes were heard in the oak-panelled bedrooms and along

the many dark and winding passages.

From her attire, which was a piece of lace made of thread, the

apparition became known as Pearlin' Jean, and a portrait of her was

actually painted. It is recorded that when this picture was hung

between one of Mr. Stuart and his lady-love, the hauntings ceased, but

that as soon as it was removed they were renewed. Presumably, it was

not allowed to remain in the aforesaid position long, for the

manifestations appear to have gone on for many years without


Most phantasms of the dead inspire those who see them with

horror,--and that is my own experience,--but Pearlin' Jean seems to

have been an exception to this rule. A housekeeper called Betty

Norrie, who lived for many years at Allanbank, declared that other

people besides herself had so frequently seen Jean that they had grown

quite accustomed to her, and were, consequently, no more alarmed at

her appearance than they were by her noises.

Another servant at the house, of the name of Jenny Blackadder, used

constantly to hear Jean, but could never see her--though her husband


The latter, when courting Jenny, received a rare scare, which suggests

to me that Jean, in spite of her tragic ending, may not have been

without a spice of humour. Thomas, for that was the swain's name,

made an assignation one night to meet Jenny in the orchard at


It was early when he arrived at the trysting-place--for Thomas, like

all true lovers, was ever rather more than punctual--and he fully

contemplated a long wait. Judge, then, of his astonishment, when he

perceived in the moonlight what he took to be the well-known and

adored figure of his lady-love. With a cry of delight, Thomas rushed

forward, and, swinging his arms widely open to embrace her, beheld her

vanish, and found himself hugging space! An icy current of air

thrilled through him, and the whole place--trees, nooks, moonbeams,

and shadows, underwent a hideous metamorphosis. The very air bristled

with unknown horrors till flesh and blood could stand no more, and,

even at the risk of displeasing his beloved Jenny, Thomas fled! Some

few minutes later, at the appointed hour, Jenny arrived on the scene,

and no one was there. She dallied for some time, wondering whatever

could have happened to Thomas, and then returned, full of grave

apprehensions, to the house.

It was not until the next morning that the truth leaked out, and

Jenny, after indulging in a hearty laugh at her lover, who felt very

shamefaced now that it was daylight, sensibly forgave him, and raised

no obstacle when asked to fix a day for their marriage.

In after years, Jenny used to retail the story with many harrowing

allusions to Pearlin' Jean, whom she somewhat foolishly made use of

as a bogey to frighten children into being good. A Mr. Sharpe, who

when he was a little boy was once placed in her charge, confesses that

he was dreadfully scared at her stories, and that he never ventured

down a passage in those days without thinking Pearlin' Jean, with

her ghostly, blood-stained face, clawlike hands, and rustling lace

dress, was after him.

Nurse Jenny used to tell him that the Stuarts tried in vain to lay

Jean's spirit, actually going to the length of calling in seven

ministers to exorcise it. But all to no purpose; it still continued

its nocturnal peregrinations.

In the year 1790 the Stuarts let the house to strangers, who, when

they took it, had not the least idea that it was haunted. However,

they did not long remain in ignorance, for two ladies, who occupied

the same bedroom, were awakened in the night by hearing some one

walking across the floor. The presence did not suggest burglars, for

the intruder behaved in the most noisy manner, pacing restlessly and

apparently aimlessly backwards and forwards across the room, swishing

the floor (with what sounded like a long lace train) and breathing

heavily. They were both terrified, and so cold that they could hear

one another's teeth chatter. They were too frightened to call for

help; they could only lie still, hoping and praying it would not come

nearer to them. The sufferings of these two ladies were indescribable,

for the ghost remained in their room all night, moving restlessly

about until daybreak. It was not until some days later, when other

people in the house had experienced the phenomenon, that they were

told the story of the notorious Pearlin' Jean.

But was the so-called Pearlin' Jean really the apparition of the

murdered French woman? To my mind, her identity with that of the

beautiful Sister of Charity has not been satisfactorily established,

and I think there are reasons to doubt it.

If, for instance, the apparition were that of a Sister of Charity, why

should it appear incongruously attired in a long trailing gown of

lace? And if it were that of a woman of the presumably staid habits of

a Sister of Charity, why should it delight in mischief and play the

pranks of a poltergeist? And yet if it wasn't the ghost of Jean,

whose ghost was it?