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  • The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #1: Blackness Quarry Ghost April 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    In early 1883 in Dundee, the coastal Scottish city, a ghost was glimpsed in Blackness Quarry. Here we have a ghost flap, a ghost riot and a ghost hunt all combined. It is an interesting case because contemporary reports were rich in details. This, though, is the only report, known to this blogger, from the first Blackness Quarry phase.

    For some weeks past people living in the neighbourhood of Blackness Quarry have been kept in a feverish state of alarm by the erratic movements of a nocturnal apparition, haunting the quarry and the adjacent lanes leading it from the Hawkhill. The locality chosen by the apparition for the scene its nightly rambles is a dreary, gruesome region at all times, but more particularly at night. It is an open space adjacent to Blackness Road, and situated between Ure Street and Wilkie’s Lane, and was formerly worked as a quarry, but the rock was exhausted long ago, and for many years has been unoccupied, with the exception of some portions which have been taken up as sites for stables, woodyards, and such like purposes. It has an entrance from Blackness Road, and access can also be had to it from Bellfield Lane and Louden’s Alley, lanes running north from Hawkhill. The appearance of the ‘spectre’ has been variously described, but the general impression was that he was a ‘big black man,’ enveloped from neck to heel with dark cloak or ‘topcoat.’ His head was covered with a bread slouched hat, pulled well down to conceal his face.

    The only other writer on the internet to deal with these facts, describe how the ghost ‘conformed to the standard Victorian supernatural stereotype’. Note sure about that. It is true that ghosts and bogles are often dressed in black (the black boggart etc, the blackman and other child scarers of choice). However, a dark cloak and a bread slouched hat (didn’t know what one was either) sound better designed to hide than to haunt. Notice also that ‘big’ returns in subsequent reports.

    In this guise he was seen nightly gliding noiselessly about the quarry, appearing suddenly to stray children and timid ‘auld wives,’ but ‘ne’er a word he spak’ to any of them. Some asserted that he was occasionally seen about midnight and the small hours of the morning promenading the quarry with a candle in his hand. Humours of the doings of this ‘black spectre’ first spread amongst the children, the old people being or pretending to be sceptical on such matters, disdained to listen to the ‘bairns’ havers.’ The bairns, however, stuck to the story, and fear gaining the mastery over their unsophisticated minds, they could not be got to quit the fireside after night for love nor money.

    Of course, Fortean events often begin with children and spread into the adult population. However, this is more likely, surely, to be the ghost being unsure of himself with adult males, see below.

    The scare, however, spread to older heads; the spectre was seen of [weird preposition, is this Scots?] women and then of men, and the whole neighbourhood got into a state of chronic excitement. Women became afraid to leave their houses at night either to the wells for water, or to their cellars for coals. When the ‘festive season’ came round the ‘ghost’ showed himself possessed of human appetites, and longing for a share of the good cheer, he followed a woman to her house and demanded if she had anything left in her New Year’s bottle.

    So he did speak sometimes…

    Again one Sunday night the denizens of that terror-stricken locality were startled by the report of a gun in the quarry at midnight. One woman, whose house adjoins the quarry, declared that the shot was fired right under her window, and that the concussion shook the whole house, but this phenomenon was explained away by some practical persons who believed it was the London steamer that fired the gun. Matters reached a crisis on Saturday night week, when a staid old couple coming home pretty late saw the ‘black spectre’ standing grim and solitary in a dark lane. The couple fled in terror and shut themselves up in their own house.

    Now enter a hero in the last days…

    On the following night an ex-policeman and a son of Erin, who had all along ‘pooh-poohed’ the whole affair, was sitting at his own fireside, when some one came rushing in, and with bated breath whispered that ‘the black man’ was in the lane. The ex-constable had seen customers of the same stamp before, and he was ready to encounter him, be he ghost or devil. Cautiously he opened a leaf of the window shutters and peeped out. Yes, there it was! By the light of street lamp he saw black figure of Herculean proportions standing against a wooden paling. Arming himself with the kitchen poker, he boldly left the house, declaring, like Macawber, that he would make the fellow speak, or if he would not, if his ‘head was human he would break it.’ He advanced within three or four yards the ‘spectre,’ demanding in loud voice who he was and what he wanted. The ‘spectre’ uttered no sound, but, when the poker glittered the light of the lamp, the ‘black fellow’ turned tail, and, darting through a gate, leaped down into the quarry, splashed into a quagmire, and disappeared in the darkness.

    The Irish policeman proved to be influential in the area.

    A few nights later a professional gentleman, on an errand of mercy [a doctor?], got bewildered among the narrow lanes in the neighbourhood of the haunted quarry. His black garments and his bewildered movements attracted the attention of some women, who, having taken courage after the Irishman’s adventure with the poker, followed the footsteps of the unfortunate ‘gent.’ They were quickly joined by others of both sexes, and the general cry was raised, ‘That’s the man. Look at his sleeve; he has got a pistol there.’

    Was the ghost armed?

    In vain he protested that was a gentleman on lawful business, but his tormentors were obdurate. While the confusion was at its height, and the mob were muttering threatenings loud and deep, the ex-policeman arrived upon the scene. The crowd appealed to him if ‘that was his man,’ but the first glance he got satisfied him that the mob had made mistake, and assured them that the ‘black man charged with the poker was big again that chap.’ The benighted gentleman was then set on his way rejoicing. Since then the ‘Quarry spectre’ has disappeared from that neighbourhood. Probably wholesome dread of Paddy and the poker has induced him to abandon his nocturnal rambles.

    A subsequent report in The Dundee Courier, for 6 Feb describes how

    The publicity given in our columns the matter was the means of drawing to the vicinity of the Blackness Quarry large crowds of young men, boys, and girls nightly for about week, all eager to see his ghostship, for whom, judging from their demeanour, they intended a warm greeting. But the ‘ghost’ evidently did desire company of this description, for he made no manifestation of himself, and the ghost seekers had each evening to return home without obtaining a glimpse of the pretending unearthly visitant.

    As it was no ghost was to be seen, but the ‘ghost’ had not finished with Dundee… more on Dundee ghosts, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com