I am partly of Scots descent. Scotland, like all the British Isles, is a haunted land. Some of its hauntings can be traced to an appallingly violent history. Others are tales of treacherous love and adulterous intrigue. My favorite, in this latter category, is of Aberdeenshire’s Fyvie Castle and its Green Lady.
When Lillias Drummond married Alexander Seton, Lord Fyvie (and later first Earl of Dumferline), in 1592, she married into a family already cursed by the legendary bard and seer Thomas the Rhymer, who had predicted in the thirteenth century that no male heir to Fyvie would ever be born within the castle walls. It’s said that Thomas was, in this instance, accurate; no male heir was born at Fyvie for some six centuries. There were sons born to the lords of Fyvie, but always at their other holdings.
Lillias Drummond lived with Lord Seton for nine years, and in that nine years gave birth to four daughters. However, Alexander Seton, a man proud as Lucifer, wanted sons to succeed him, and as was the belief of the day, blamed his wife for their lack. He began an affair with a lady named Grizel Leslie, who lived some miles away, and quietly began making plans to be rid of Lillias.
Some say that Lillias, upon learning of the affair, wasted away of a broken heart; others lay her death to poisoning or starvation at the hands of her faithless husband. At any rate, she died on May 8, 1601. She was only twenty-nine years old.
In October, a bare six months after Lillias died, Alexander Seton married Grizel Leslie. At the time, construction of Fyvie’s so-called Seton Tower was going on. Seton and his new bride would have a suite of rooms there, but for the time being they were living in a room at the top of a spiral stair in one of the castle’s older sections. On their wedding night–October 27, 1601–they retired to bed, but not for rest or, for that matter, lovemaking. They both were distracted by loud, piteous sighing noises from outside their room, and no source could be found for the sounds, though both Seton and the manservants checked to pacify a frantic Lady Grizel.
The noises were nothing compared to what Seton and his bride found in the morning, though. Their room had a single window, over fifty feet from the ground below. That morning they found the words D. LILLIAS DRUMMOND scratched into the stone windowsill, in letters three inches high and upside down to boot.
God knows how they got there. They can still be seen on that sill to this day.
The Setons eventually lost Fyvie; it was taken over by the Gordons in 1733, and Lillias seems to have adopted them, for the Gordons saw her sad ghost more than the Setons ever had. The Gordons regarded her as a death omen, as several members of the family died after a sighting of her, the most recent in 1925.
There are other Green Ladies in the ghostlore of the British Isles; the most famous of these is Lady Louisa Carteret, who haunts Longleat House, the seat of the Marquesses of Bath in Wiltshire. Lady Louisa, though, merely haunts a cold upper hall where she watched in horror as her husband killed her lover in a duel to the death.
She, unlike Lillias, has displayed no talent for calligraphy in stone.
For more about Lilias Drummond and Louisa Carteret, see Brian Innes’s book GHOST SIGHTINGS (1996).