jump to navigation
  • Tree-Felling Ghosts or Youth Vandalism? June 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    This is a very confusing story: perhaps one reason for taking it seriously. We are in Orkney in March 1907. There were certainly believed-in ghosts in Orkney but in 1907 there was also still strong belief in trows: the local fairy population.

    Ghostly happenings have disturbed the town of Kirkwall, the capital of the county of Orkney. On Wednesday night the wife of the bellringer went to St. Magnus Cathedral to sound the curfew at eight o’clock. This is an ancient custom still observed in the burgh. The bell had been tolled for less than a minute when, it is alleged, a figure suddenly appeared at the woman’s side, snatched her hands from the rope, and as mysteriously disappeared.

    So far so easy, a church ghost with a headache. Remember that spirits, particularly unclean spirits are supposed to loathe church bells. However, what should we make of this?

    Yesterday morning over twenty trees which a few years ago were planted in front of cathedral were found to have been cut down. The night was a calm one, with brilliant moonlight, and the trees were standing at one o’clock in the morning. Hundreds of windows have an outlook on the spot, and many people who were still astir at three o’clock in the morning did not hear the slightest sound outside. Yet an hour later every tree had been destroyed. The police are baffled.

    ‘Cut down’ must mean that they were hacked down with an axe, not blown over. We should also presume that the trees were still lying there when they were inspected in the morning. Surely if they had been carried off there would have been comments about this as well. Beach has several cases on file where supernatural entities resent trees being cut down, but if there really is the allegation here that local ‘entities’ chopped down the trees this would be a first.

    Another report suggests that this might not be a ‘spiritual’ event at all.

    The little island town of Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney group, which has population of about four thousand, has been afflicted for some months with a series of strange night outrages, and the perpetrators have baffled all efforts to capture them. Residents have been awakened after midnight by  loud knockings on their doors. One of the local policemen being aroused went down to his door, and a pail of cold water was dashed in his face. Private houses are daubed with crosses and circles in variously-coloured paints. A five-barred gate was carried some distance and deposited at the prison door one morning last week. The most daring outrage was fortnight ago, when fifteen trees, which the local patriotism of some of the inhabitants had planted around the mediaeval cathedral, were all cut down in one night. The cathedral is in the busiest street, and many people would be passing late at night and early in the morning to work at neighbouring distilleries.

    Interesting how one newspaper gives a ghostly gloss and another blames vandals.

    A reward of £50 offered by the Town Council has brought no clue. The police station was contemptuously given a coat of yellow paint, and the empty paint tin was laid on the chief constable’s doorstep. Friday night the station was again painted, this time in blue. Special constables have been placed on night patrol duty, but the malicious mischief continues. Its purpose is a mystery. An anonymous letter to one of the residents asks –  ‘If the British army could not capture De Wet, how can the police catch us?’

    De Wet was the Boer leader (obit 1922) who ran circles around the British army in the Second Boer War. What on earth was going on here? Young men with too much time on their hands… drbeachcombing At yahoo DOt com

    Chris from Haunted Ohio Books, 30 Jun 2017: I think it’s pretty plain that these were young hooligans out for a bit of fun. The gate removal was a standard 19th-century prank–it is memorialized in many Halloween vandalism reports from the United States. The trees being cut down quietly in one night suggests modern reports of hundreds of tombstones knocked over in the course of a night, while no one heard or saw a thing. There must be a particular witching hour when sleep is at its deepest, when these outrages are perpetrated.

    Beach replies: I agree. What I find fascinating though is that several newspapers reported it as a merely supernatural thing. Makes me wonder how much 19C supernatural reporting was actually about miscreants having fun.