Now for a ghost whose kiss burned the cheek of the man she kissed. . .
In Scotland’s Glen Lyon valley, in Perthshire, there stands Meggernie Castle. Originally a holding of Clan MacGregor, it was taken from them by attainder around the time of the first Jacobite uprising in 1689, at which time it was handed over by the British crown to Clan Menzies, who held it until 1776. Thereafter, it passed through various families. In 1862, it was owned by an English couple surnamed Wood.
Wood and his wife were hospitable folk, who loved nothing more than having a houseful of guests. To one such Victorian house party, in 1862, they invited two friends, strangers to each other, named E.J. Simons and Beaumont Featherstone. So full was the house at the time that Simons and Featherstone were assigned single, seldom-used rooms in Meggernie’s square tower, in the oldest part of the castle.
Simons and Featherstone, almost immediately, noticed something odd about their tower rooms: they were separated by a blocked door. In Featherstone’s room, there was a small space that looked as if it might have been a closet, deep in the wall. On Simons’ side, this space behind that odd door was blocked off.
Strange, indeed, but the two shrugged their shoulders, bid each other good night, and went to sleep.
Simons was awakened, sometime in the wee hours, by what he would later describe as–something–that felt like a branding iron touching his cheek. Oh, how it burned–almost, he thought, to the bone! Fully awake now, he leaped out of bed just in time to see a strange sight: the upper half of a woman’s body, disappearing through the blocked door into Featherstone’s room.
Simons lit a candle and first examined his still-burning cheek in the mirror–to find that whatever had touched him had left no mark. He spent the rest of the night wide awake, turning the incident over and over in his mind, slowly admitting that he had just had a brush with the supernatural.
In the morning, he and Featherstone compared notes, and agreed: they had both seen the upper half of a woman’s body, floating through the air.
Featherstone had been awakened, not by a burning touch, but by a sudden pinkish light that lit up the whole room. He sat up to find a woman standing at the foot of his bed. Thinking she might be a sleepwalking houseguest or one of the Woods’ servants, he hesitated to take action.
The woman floated to the side of his bed, and as she came level with him began to lean toward him. Featherstone, startled, jumped a little, and the woman backed away from him, turned and vanished into that odd closet. Only then did he notice that she appeared only from the waist up.
The two shared their experiences with Wood and his wife, who took great interest. It seemed that they had been receiving complaints from their servants about the lower half of a woman’s body walking in one of the corridors leading out of the tower. One servant in particular, a housemaid who had told Mrs. Wood what she had seen and given her four minutes’ notice before leaving the house in an uproar, said that the legs were concealed by a skirt, but that there was a copious amount of blood where the waist should have been.
So. Meggernie Castle was haunted by two halves of a ghost; the upper half seemed to confine its movements to the two bedrooms adjoining the blocked-off closet and some of the adjoining corridors, while the lower half had been seen in the corridors and even outside the castle, in an alley of lime trees and in the old castle graveyard. Wood and his wife, oddly, had never seen either half.
Simons and Featherstone were moved out of the tower rooms that very day, to rooms vacated by departing guests. Featherstone left a few days later, still puzzled by his encounter. Simons stayed on a couple of weeks, and was, by careful questioning of the locals, able to piece together a truly horrifying story explaining the haunting.
One of the chiefs of Clan Menzies, during their tenure as owners of Meggernie, had been married to a breathtakingly beautiful woman, and like many a man so wed, he was pathologically jealous, constantly accusing her of infidelity with visitors to the castle. She was guilty of no such thing–although, given the tenor of the hauntings, she may have been somewhat of a flirt–, but he could not be convinced otherwise. During one of his insane tirades, he hit her so hard she fell against a bedstead and died of a fractured skull on the spot.
That spot, incidentally, had been in the tower room where she had almost kissed Beaumont Featherstone.
The Menzies, a coward as well as an abusive jerk, set out to cover his tracks as best he could. In the closet between the two rooms, there stood, in his day, an immense chest of drawers. He first hid her body in that chest, although, to do so, he had to cut his wife’s body in half at the waist. He then nailed up the door to the room Simons had occupied, locked the one on Featherstone’s side, then locked up both rooms from the corridor.
He gave out a story that he and his wife were going on a trip, to visit relatives and possibly on to the continent, sent the servants home on board wages, and pulled off a successful getaway, driving the coach himself. The servants, already gone to their homes, didn’t see that he left alone.
He remained away for several months, and when he returned, gave out another story: that his wife had drowned while boating in Italy, and her body never recovered. He accepted the condolences of neighbors and servants alike as a bereaved husband ought.
He decided, though, that he had to make a more permanent disposal of those grisly remains in the tower chest of drawers. He had to get drunk to nerve himself to do so, and at that only managed to remove and bury the putrid lower limbs in a hastily dug hole in the graveyard.
The next night, he got drunk again and made preparations to move the upper half of her body, as vile in its decomposition as had been the lower. He wasn’t so drunk that he could ignore the stench and oiliness of the remains, though, and he couldn’t bring himself to pick it up and haul it to its hole in the graveyard.
He happened, as he backed away in repulsion from the chest, to tread on a loose floorboard, and that gave him an idea. He peeled back the carpet, lifted the broad board, and found that there was enough of a cavity beneath the floor to conceal his wife’s torso. He thrust the stinking remains into the cavity, replaced the floorboard and carpet, and turned to leave.
He never made it out the door.
No one knows the name of the man who confronted Menzies–possibly one who had been in love with the lovely wife and unconvinced by Menzies’ tale of her death in Italy–in that ghastly room. They do know that Menzies apparently rushed him but was cut down by a blade through his heart. The servants found Menzies dead in a pool of blood the next morning, and no sign of his killer.
For some reason, no search was conducted, at that time, in the tower room for the remains under the floorboards of that second bedroom, so that tradition said Mrs. Menzies’ upper half still lay there, while her lower half lay in the graveyard nearby–and each half haunted different areas: the upper, the rooms and corridors around which she died, and the lower, the corridors, lime alley and graveyard through which her husband carried it.
Simons saw her ghost again before he left Meggernie: the upper half, passing by the library, then looking in through a glass panel in the corridor, where once had been a window. He was taken aback by the beauty of her face, and the sorrow in her eyes.
The torso was finally located and removed during renovations in the late nineteenth century, but reports say that sightings of either half continued for some years, the last dating to 1928. Again, the upper half-ghost was seen, in a room just below the one in which Beaumont Featherstone had stayed on that eventful night in 1862. That time, she did not kiss the young doctor who occupied the room; he merely saw her in a halo of pink light, and then she vanished.
The castle remains troubled by strange noises that have no source, however, right up until the present day.
For more about the Ghost in Two Halves, I recommend the following sources:
Ronald Seth, “The Ghost in Two Halves”, in 50 Great Ghost Stories, edited by John Canning (1971)
Dane Love, Scottish Ghosts (1995)
Lily Seafield, Ghostly Scotland (2006).
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