Beware the witching hour

HALLOWEEN is upon us and while you sit in your homes tonight, just think what horrors could be lurking nearby. Forget silly masks, dooking for apples and turnip lanterns, areas of Levenmouth and the East Neuk are full of spooky stories – some gruesome, some tragic and others just plain bizarre.

The little lad who's been whistling for 400 years...

Near Crail stands Balcomie Castle, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a boy who was starved to death nearly 400 years ago.

At the time the castle was the home of a general who kept in his service a merry boy who went about the castle playing loudly on a penny tin-whistle.

One dark winter morning the general was disturbed by the noise of the whistle following a heavy night's drinking and, on rushing from his bedroom, grabbed the whistler by the throat.

To teach the lad a lesson, he threw the boy in the keep, only meaning to leave him there for a couple of hours, but he forgot about him for seven days. When he returned to the keep he found to his horror that the boy had starved to death.

For a long time since the castle has been shunned during darkness, for that is when the young minstrel's ghost is supposed to wander the dark corridors.

Green Jean rustles past the living...

Indeed, castles are a favourite hangout for ghosts in Fife.

At Wemyss Castle during the turn of the last century there was a party one Christmas and the eldest daughter of Lady Wemyss was sitting with a friend when they heard a rustling.

Suddenly, they saw a pallid form glide effortlessly across the room carrying a lamp. She was a beautiful lady clad in a green swishing gown who took no notice of the astonished onlookers.

The lady passed through into another room from which there was no way out but when the girls looked inside there was no one there. The girls were later told they had seen the infamous 'Green Jean'.

A head, a dog and the first Earl...

At Balgonie Castle there are allegedly nine castle ghosts, which are "like part of the family".

Among the spectres lurking there are a ghost dog, a disembodied head and the first Earl of Leven.

Put your red shoes on, we're going out...

In Kellie Castle there is the infamous, if rather bizarre, resident, lurking in the tower.

Many have witnessed the strange sight of a pair of dainty red slippers running up and down the stairs.

There have also been reports of the sound of a cradle rocking in the topmost room but there is little history to explain these strange phenomena.

A pale face in the gloom of the kirk...

Even holy places can't escape the spirits of Fife.

One dark, winter night a lad was cleaning the ashes from the furnace in St Monans kirk.

He was just locking up when he looked back and saw a light flash from the gloom of the tower and, to his horror, he noticed a pale face which shone.

He ran to the minister's home and he was rooted to the spot - to his amazement there was a portrait of the apparition he saw moments earlier.

It was a painting of Sir David Leslie of Newark who had long since been dead.

Lovers' tryst became a murderer's trap...

Like many ghost stories, tragedy is entrenched in the history of those found haunting local spots – none more so than that of Buff Barefoot who haunts the site of the former house of Grangemuir in Newark.

It was in the 17th century that she fell in love with a shipwrecked sailor but he had to return to the sea.

He promised he'd come back but it all turned sour with the arrival of a distant relative of Buff's who vowed to have her for himself.

This scheming relative intercepted letters between the young lovers and, one day, wrote a letter to Buff impersonating the sailor and asking to meet her that night on Doocot Hill.

When she turned up he shot her and framed her lover. Still to this day, you can hear the pitter patter of poor Buff's bare feet.

A horn still blows from a grave on the Law

Even the dominant, looming Largo Law holds dark secrets. It was widely believed that below its peaks there lies an untold treasure of gold.

Many years ago the shepherd of Balmain was confronted by a spectre who promised to reveal the gold if he was brave enough to meet the following night.

But the ghost would only tell him the secret if the cock didn't crow and the herdsman didn't blow his horn.

To ensure this didn't happen the shepherd killed every cockerel in the vicinity and told the herdsman in no uncertain terms not to blow his horn that evening.

The shepherd met the spectre at the allotted time but suddenly the herdsman's horn blew and the spectre disappeared before revealing the secret.

On blowing his horn on Norrie's Law, the herdsman dropped down dead and no one could move his body, for as soon as they touched it, their strength was drained. Instead, a cairn of stones was built where the herdsman lay.

It is said that if you stand where the herdsman is buried, you can still hear the mournful sound of his horn.

Tortured and crushed by the baying crowds...

Witches play a huge role in the East Neuk's grisly past with Pittenweem shouldering much of the shameful burden.

Between 1597-1705 the fishing village tortured and killed scores of women for practising witchcraft, some based on the flimsiest of evidence as the hunts reached fever pitch.

The most celebrated case was that of Janet Cornfoot who was tortured before escaping.

But she was betrayed by a minister who sent her back for trial and the baying crowds got hold of her.

She was taken to the shore where she was ducked in the sea before a board was placed over her and she was crushed as stones were slowly placed on top.

Witch Grizzie's droning revenge

But some would say not all the women were innocent.

Back in St Monans in the 15th century Witch Grizzie was found guilty and sentenced to burn to death.

But just before execution she closed her eyes and changed into a droning beetle.

Though Grizzie never returned to human shape those instrumental in condemning her were constantly infested with a droning noise in their ears.

The fish possessed by the soul of a man...

While many stories are frightening, gruesome or tragic, others are simply bizarre.

In St Monans the fisherfolk had a deep-seated fear of pigs which almost caused a civil war between themselves and the farmers.

But at Crail, something even more bizarre occurred.

Many years ago some of the fishermen were much alarmed by a skate they had caught.

This fish, having been brought on shore, lay quiet but when they began to cut it, and prepare it for the market, it leapt from the table, biting and wounding many of them, and the pieces they had cut off leaped from place to place into the street.

Eventually, they collected the pieces and buried the fish. As the skate was enormous, they all supposed it had fed upon some human body at the bottom of the sea and had imbibed some part of the nature and feelings of man.