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?