Haunted Ayrshire: Restless spirits, sea monsters, cannibals and curses

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Hallowe’en – the tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

It’s also said that on Hallowe’en night, demons rise up and walk among us.

We look at the top five spooky stories from around Ayshire to send a shiver down your spine...

1. Electric Brae – optical illusion or a witch’s curse?

Electric Brae is not famous for ghostly sightings but a very different kind of supernatural phenomena. Despite appearing to run uphill, a suitably free-running vehicle will slowly move off from a standstill. For years, it was widely believed that vehicles were being propelled by a mysterious magnetic force, and some even claimed that the road had been cursed by witches.

Witchcraft was a very serious matter throughout Britain and Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and Ayrshire has its share of recorded trials and executions.

So is there some truth that the road was cursed by a witch who was excuted? Or is Electric Brae ultimately a ‘gravity hill’, whereby the road’s apparently uphill slope is actually an optical illusion?

We will let you decide...

2. The many spirits that walk the halls of Culzean Castle

Perched high on the South Ayrshire cliffs, the castle is shrouded in tales of terrible deeds and evil spirits, from the 4th Earl of Cassillis, who in 1570 captured the abbot of Crossraguel Abbey and roasted him alive until he agreed to sign over his lands to tales of Sir Archibald the Wicked of Culzean, a man so evil that the devil himself attended his funeral.

Behind the grand facade, lurks at least seven ghosts. Heard above the rising gale on windy nights, the musical notes of a long dead piper still haunt the castle. The cries of someone being tortured have also been recorded, while visitors have been talking to a raven-haired girl who vanished as he moved too close. There is also a lady in a ball gown, a hazy mist seen on the staircases and a servant girl who was mistreated who all haunt the grand building.

3. Bennane Cave – home to a 16th-century cannibal and his family of 48

So the story goes, Alexander “Sawney” Bean and his 48-strong clan was responsible for murdering and eating more than 1000 people. They would leave the cave at night bringing people back where they would be dismembered and cooked. Residents of nearby towns reportedly found body parts occasionally washed up on shore. But one night, the Beans met their match. When they tried to capture a man he fought back attracting the attention of nearby locals. The clan fled, but a search party was organised to find their hideout. After being captured, the clan were taken to Edinburgh before being executed. The local authorities had established what must have been, and what must still be, the longest missing persons list ever produced. Although mass searches of the area were carried out to find the missing people, nobody has ever been brave enough to searchthe dark depths of Bennane Cave...

4. Is Ravenspark Asylum Scotland’s most haunted hospital?

The Ravenspark Asylum in Irvine was in use from around 1846 to 1995, and housed the criminally insane. After it closed its doors, the hospital quickly acquired a repuation for being the home to many

restless, very dangerous spirits and other paranormal activity. Those brave enough to enter the abandoned building have reported hearing banging doors, whispering, bloodcurdling screams, the sound of running footsteps, and even a little boy in a wheelchair that slowly rolls towards them before disappearing. But not all the spirits are patients. There have been sightings of a warden still checking on his patients and shouting at anyone who enters some of the wards. The spirits are agressive and don’t like visitors and continue to live on in the place they knew as home...

5. Did a sea monster really wash up on the coast of Girvan?

When fishermen discovered the rotting body of a creature about 30 ft long, with the head of a camel and a neck resembling a giraffe’s, in the 1950s, the media immediately compared the creature with the Loch Ness Monster. Experts dismissed it as a basking shark. But local fishermen knew better. They reported seeing the monster’s grief-stricken mate, in the waters between Girvan and Ailsa Craig. And it wasn’t the first time that the creature had been spotted. It was often seen swimming alongside fishing boats

A lighthouse keeper also claimed to have seen the creature carrying a dead sheep into an unexplored cave on Alisa Craig. Was this it’s lair? There has been no sightings of any creature since, but a small band of die-hards, still maintain the monster was no basking shark.