Haunted Annan

Have you ever wondered what connects the mysterious mound upon which Annan Castle stood to a grim plague that seized the town? Have you glanced up at local street names and puzzled at their origins or heard hushed whispers of a ‘ghost house’? Perhaps you’ve been driven to distraction on one of Annan’s haunted roads or visited an ancient site that feels a little…odd.

 

Harking back to Roman times, Annan’s history has it all: battles and bloodshed, legends and lore, and with its precarious position on the Borders, the Reiving times left their mark. Following the daring rescue of Reiver, William Armstrong (better known as ‘Kinmont Willie’) from Carlisle Castle, the town of Annan was burnt to the ground!

 

Annan now lies, rather uneasily, on another border of sorts – between two famously haunted roads! The A75 is renowned for eerie activity, with the notorious Kinmount Straight topping the bill of Scotland’s most haunted thoroughfares, indeed its eldritch reputation is world famous. But let’s not forget the old A75 (now the B721), which snakes its way from Annan to Gretna…

 

It’s 1998, the road is pretty deserted, and in the dead of night, a couple are travelling from Annan after a visit to the out-of-hours doctor. Catching them by complete surprise, an elderly, mist-shrouded woman, manifests in front of their car – they appear to drive straight through her. A lady of similar description has been seen on the Skew Bridge at Dornock, dressed all in black. Just a year earlier in 1997, on a balmy summer’s evening, Donna Maxwell was driving home to Annan when she got the fright of her life. A man, wearing a red jumper, leapt out in front of her vehicle, causing a terrified Donna to slam on the breaks. Thinking she had hit the man, Donna, heart racing, climbed out of the vehicle to look for the injured (or worse) victim. The dread chill she felt on ‘impact’ was replaced by a different kind, when Donna realised he was no-where to be seen…

 

There are times when the everyday converges with the extraordinary. Take a pleasant, unassuming flat in the town’s Bank Street. Passers-by would never guess it once played host a ghost! Previous occupants described an uneasy sensation, to the point they no longer wanted to live there. One tenant reported seeing the figure of a woman standing at the bottom of her bed. In another property, in Ednam Street, past residents bore witness to a series of strange events. Objects would shift around the house, and a little girl of around 8 or 9 years old, wearing a long dress, with flowing blonde hair, was seen. Household furniture, including a settee, was witnessed moving all by itself. The girl’s identity remains a mystery…

 

There is one wee street in Annan, whose name hints at links with one of Scottish history’s most cruel and notorious characters – the murderer, William Hare, one half of Edinburgh’s deadly ‘bodysnatching’ duo – Burke and Hare.  Hare is best known in our region for an unforgettable stop-over in Dumfries, where his presence fuelled the town’s largest ever riot, but what, if any, connection does he have to Annan? Hare’s Den, a group of cottages just off the High Street, has its name embedded in local folklore. The story goes that Hare, on his stopped briefly in Annan on his flight across the border. No evidence exists to substantiate the tale, but the very mention of this merciless murderer, causes eyes to widen and inspires curious minds.

 

Some readers may be familiar with the infamous case of the Lochmaben Vampire – but did you know the story’s roots are buried in Annan’s dark history? On the banks of the River Annan, a mysterious tree-shrouded mound is all that remains of the town’s motte and bailey castle. Once a strategically important Borders fortress, it was abandoned after only a few decades, with different theories, such as continuous flooding, cited. Others believe a devastating plague was the catalyst and it is within that troubling period in Annan’s past that a vampire legend was born. Cursed by Saint Malachy for a betrayal, the Bruce family are thought to have sheltered a plague-stricken stranger from Yorkshire, who died soon after from the disease. Post-mortem however, the man refused to rest, rising nightly from his grave, and unleashing the pestilence, till the townsfolk were too afraid to leave their homes. In his Historia Rerum Anglicarum, William of Newburgh, refers to the castle in question as ‘Anantis’. Though there are others that vie for this dark crown, Annan Castle is one of the key contenders. Far-fetched? Consider this: the main eye-witness was a monk, whose account was recorded in Newburgh’s detailed Chronicles – more than just folklore?

The A75 'Ghost Road' at Kinmount
Skew Bridge at Dornock
Mostly Ghostly Team by Allan Devlin