Monday, August 6, 2012

Mary King's Close V : The Origin?

George Sinclair's account below, reported as if a true story, is usually considered the first report of a haunting in Mary King's Close. Sinclair was a Scottish mathematician, engineer and demonologist. The first Professor of Mathematics, Glasgow, he is known for writing this book called Satan's Invisible World Discovered, (c. 1685), a work on witchcraft. He wrote in all three areas of his interests, including an account of the “Glenluce Devil”, a poltergeist case from c. 1654, in a 1680 book mainly on hydrostatics and dealing also with coal.

An Apparition Seen in a Dwelling House in Mary King's Closs, in Edinburgh.

Sir, Within these few years, there was one T. C. by profession an Agent about the Session-house, who about flitting-time was removing his furniture from a lower part of the City to an higher. One in the afore-said Closs seing his Maid on the Saturday carrying some light furniture to such a house, asked her, if she was to dwell in that house. Yes said she, for I am hired for this half-year. Her friend told her, if you live there, I assure you, you will have more Company than your selves. And after twice or thrice, more going up and down, and several informations anent the business, she was perswaded to tell her Mistris, she would not tarry a servant in that house, it being haunted with a Spirit or Ghaist, and gave her the ground of her intelligence.

The Mistriss informed her husband, desiring him to forbear that house, least she might be afrighted, even with apprehensions. But he out of a natural courage and fortitude of mind smiled at the Relation, and resolved to tarry, lodging there that same very night.

To morrow being the Sabbath-day, they went both to Church in the forenoon. But in the afternoon, he being indisposed, fitted himself for a sleep. His Wife took the Bible, and at the head of the Table near the Bed, resolved to spend the time in reading of the Holy Scripture, appointing the Maid-servant to go to Church, which she did, but came no more to the Family.

As the Mistriss was reading to her self, she chanced to cast her eye to a little Chamber Door just over against her, where she spyed the head and face of an old man gray headed with a gray Beard, looking straight upon her, the distance being very short. At which sight, she endeavouring to awaken her husband fell a sown and fainted, and lay in that posture till she heard some of her Neighbours open their doors, after sermon was ended. Then she told her husband what was done, and what she had seen, the Apparition being evanished. He pleaded it was some fancy or delusion of her Senses, and bad her be of good courage.
After Supper, both being alone, the good-wifes fear still continuing, she built on a large Fire, and went to bed. After a little time, the Good-man casts his eye toward the Chimney and spyed that same old-mans-head in the former place. He told his Wife, who was like to fall into her former passion. He riseth, lighteth a candle, setteth it on the Table, and went to his Bed again, encouraging themslves in the Lord, and recommended themselves to GODS care and protection. After an hour and more was spent thus, they clearly perceived a young child, with a coat upon it, hanging near to the old mans head. At which sight, the Good-man Tom flew out of his Bed, and his wife after him. He taking her in his armes kneeled downbefore the Bed, and with fervent devotion they entreated the Lord to be freed from that temptation. He lighted a second candle, the first being spent, and knocked upon his Neighbours, but getting no answer, they both returned to their Bed, where they both kneeled, and prayed, an excessive fear and sweat being upon them.
By and by a naked Arm appears in the air, from the elbow downward, and the hand streatched out, as when one man is about to salute another. He then skipt out of hissed, and kneeling down begged help from heaven. The Arm had now come within its own length to him as it were to shake hands with him. Whereupon he immediatly goes to his Bed again, and at the opening of the Curtain, it offered another salutation to him. The man and his wife embracing one another through fear, and still eying the naked arm, they prayed themore earnestly. But the Cubit offering to touch him, he was in such a consternation and amazement, that he was as one distracted, but taking some courage from GOD, he boldly spake to it after this manner. In the name of the living GOD, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, tell me why thou troubles my Family? To my knowledge, I never wronged any man, by killing or cheating, but hath lived honestly in the World. If thou hast received any wrong, if I can right thee, I shall do my utmost for thee, but trouble me no more. Notwithstanding of this, the Arm and hand came nearer than before, still after a courteous manner, with an offer of acquaintance. They fell to prayer again, both of them being drowned with sweat, and in the mean time they saw a little Dog come out of that little Room aforenamed, which after a little time looking abouty and towards the Bed, and the Naked Arm, composed it self upon a Chair, as it were with its nose in its tail to sleep. This somewhat increased their fever. But quickly after, a Cat comes leaping out from the same Room, and in the midst of the hall began to play some little Tricks. Then was the hall full of small little creatures, dancing prettily, unto which none of them could give a name, as having never in nature seen the like.

It is not possible to narrate the hight of Passion, and Fear these two were under, having all these Apparitions at once in their eye, which continued a long time. The honest couple went to their knees again within the Bed, there being no standing in the Floor of the Room. In the time of prayer, their ears were startled, with a deep, dreadful, and loud groan, as of a strong man dying, at which all the Apparitions and visions at once evanished, and as the honest couple thought, they retired to the little Room, whence they came, and the house was quiet.

After this, they both went hand in hand to the little Room where the Drink stood and refreshed themselves therewith. After they had taken a second draught, the husband said my Dear, God hath made me this night to bear, that which would have afrighted to death the stoutest of them all. The day approaching, they dressed themselves, and made no secret of it. But looking back upon what happened, they wondred that none of them had the wit to open the Door, and to flie from the house, which had been easier to have done, than to light the first Candle. But they behoved to undergoe this Trial, having nopower to escape it. And by this means, the Goodman had the courage to dwell in the house after till he died: yet would never want some Good-fellows or others with him, concluding the worst was over as indeed it was.
A few weeks after, he on a Sabbath day went with his wife to Carstorfin, a Village two miles from Edinburgh, to hear Sermon. In the evening he took some refreshment there, at a publick Inns: and steping to the Door, to ease nature, he was instantly surprised with a vehement Shivering and trembling in all his joynts. Coming from the end of the aforesaid Village, with a purpose to come home, he was accompanied with some crows flying above him, and almost keeping pace with him, till he came to Portsburgh, a part of the surburbs of the City, Where they left him, and returned to their own lodging. These Crows (my dear says he) Do prognostick that I must die shortly. He fell sick of a pain in his head, with an excessive aiking. But before I go furder on in this narration, I must make a visit to the Countrey.

A Gentle-man near Tranent or in it, a town about seven miles from Edinburgh, whose Agent this man was, in managing his Lawaffairs, and keeped his Papers for that effect, had a singular kindness for Thomas, as he had for him. This Gentleman being in Bed one morning with his Wife, his Nurse and a Child laying in a truckle Bed near them, the Nurse was afrighted with something like a cloud moving up and down the Room, but not shaped as such. She called to her Master, and his Wife, and awakned them. He seeing the Cloud figured like a man, nimbly skipt over the Bed, and drew his sword. And going to Bed again, layed it by his side, and recommended the Family to God. For a time it continued in the forementioned dark form, but anone they all saw perfectly the body of a man, walking up and down. The Gentleman behaved himself more like a Christian, than a combatant. At last this Apparition looked him fully and perfectly in the face, and stood by him with a ghaistly and Pale countenance.

At rage said to the Spectre, what art thou? Art thou my dear Friend Thomas Coltheart? for so was the Agent called. Art thou dead my friend? Tell me, if thou hast any commission to me from Almighty God, tell it me and it shall be welcome? The Ghost held up its hand three times, waving and shaking it towards him, and immediatly disappeared. This was done about the very hour (as was guessed) of the Agents death.

The Sunday after his death, among many accompanying his Corps to the common burial place, some of the Town Ministers were there, and by chance a friend of his, thanked one of them for his attendance: and said (sir) it was a pity, that some of you saw him not before he died. The Minister asked him, if any remarkable thing was the cause of his sicknesse? So much was told, as gave the Minister ground to make a visit to the Widow, who made him very welcome with many tears in her eyes. A fter she hadcomposed herself heprayed. Prayer being ended, she began thefore-related story, andtold it from the beginning. Butwhenshe came to the Dogs part, she telling him, that that he was just now sitting upon the Chair, where the Dog lay asleeping, the Minister rises up, and taking the Mistris by the hand, come (said he) if I have seen his Chair: in the name of Almighty God, I will see his Chamber too; and so went in to see the little Room from which the Apparitions came, and to which they returned, in which Room she gave the Minister an account of what followed the Dog. In the mean time a Gentleman came in, whom she knew by his voice, and running to him with great fervor, they embraced one another affectionatly with tears. To make an end, this stranger was the Gentleman, to whom the Ghost of the deceased husband appeared, about Tranent, the very hour, when he was expiring at Edinburgh. He told likewise, that, that morning the Ghost appeared to him, he was resolved to attend the Duke of Lauderdaile from Lithingtoun to Edinburgh, but this Apparition discomposing his Wife, he could not. But with his first conveniency, (he told her) he had come in, to see her, and get an account of his papers, being touched with what he saw at his house. These things coming to the Duke of Lauderdails ears, as remarkable Stories, he called for that Minister, and had the same account of the Particulars, before many of the Nobility narrated to him.


  1. It's so interesting to follow your serie about Mary Kings close. Good work and well written.

    1. Oh, thank you! I was afraid no one would read it! :)


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