One clear dry evening in April 1963, two brothers stopped to refuel their car before continuing their drive home to Annan. The pair, Derek Ferguson, 22, and Norman, 14, had just spent the previous week on holiday touring Scotland in their father’s car. They had 15 miles to go before reaching their home in the South of Scotland. It was probably the most memorable 15 miles they ever traveled.
Just outside Dumfries, a large chicken like bird suddenly flew through the air, seemingly hitting the car windscreen and causing Derek to swerve. The brothers scarcely had to time to breathe, when suddenly the shrieking figure of an old woman with outstretched hands ran at the moving car, disintegrating into thin air at the point she would have been hit. Following this, an unearthly cavalcade of ghoulish figures appearing on the road as Derek drove. Cats, strange dogs, goats, other weird animals and the apparition of a longhaired, screaming old man preceded the car on its journey. Derek swerved this way and that trying to avoid them, but each one vanished when the car was about to collide with it.
Thinking his imagination had run riot, Derek cast a glance at his brother in the passenger seat next to him. Norman was silent; a look of terror plastered on his face, convincing Derek that what he saw was real. The temperature in the car dropped rapidly, but both brothers were covered in sweat. It seemed to Derek as though something was trying to take control of the car as he felt inexplicable pressure on his hands as he held the steering wheel.
The two opened the car windows because they felt as though they were suffocating, but got little relief. The sound of screaming and loud laughing came from outside. Feeling as though something was trying to force them off the road, Derek stopped the car. And they were instantly attacked by an invisible force. The car was bounced violently up and down on the road, like a basketball, and rocked violently from side to side, making the brothers dizzy.
Feeling sick, Derek leapt out the car, and at once, everything stopped. The road was quiet. However, once he got back inside the car, it started again, with disembodied laughing, a strong wind and fists pounding the car all over. He decided it would be best to go on, and started to drive. The strange figures reappeared in the road. This time, Derek drove straight through them as they vanished. He felt the pressure return upon his hands and he kept a tight grip on the steering wheel, his hands in pain. Norman still sat glued to the spot in horrified silence.
The red light of a furniture van appeared in front, much to both Derek and Norman’s relief – something normal after all the madness! However, it was short-lived; Derek realised they were closer than he thought to the van and they were about to crash into the back of it, with no time for evasive action. He screamed at Norman to prepare for the impact, when the van disappeared. After this, the car slowed to a crawl, the brothers exhausted. Their strange experience stopped when they reached the outskirts of Annan, Derek thanking the stars he had topped up the petrol tank in Dumfries and that they hadn’t become stranded.
This was the first experience anyone in the Ferguson family had ever had of the paranormal. Later, discussing the incident with a friend who was stationed outside Annan during World War Two, Derek was told that the area had a history of witchcraft. Another friend had also read about a phantom van haunting the vicinity.
The A75, the road where the Ferguson brothers had this experience, has a history of motorists reporting strange things going back over 50 years. The road itself follows the Scottish south coast from its junction with the A74 and Gretna, travelling through towns such as Castle Douglas and Gatehouse of Fleet, as well as Dumfries and Gretna. It carries on into Wigtownshire, past Newton Stewart and ends at Stranraer. As the link up road between the M6 and M74, and the main route to the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan, it also sees a lot of heavy freight traffic heading to the Irish ports. The Scottish Government has put in place some ‘road improvements’ in recent years to accommodate the heavy freight – and to alleviate the frequent fatal traffic accidents that occur there. As a teenager, I attended school in nearby Kirkcudbright. My family visited Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Gatehouse of Fleet on a regular basis; so the A75 is a road I know well. I got quite a chill to find out that it is considered the most haunted road in Scotland, known to many as simply “The Ghost Road”.
Other motorists have reported experiences akin to what the Fergusons’, albeit not quite as extreme. As a teenager, I remember travelling on the A75 late at night. I didn’t know of its haunted reputation at the time, which is probably just as well. I daresay my aunt wouldn’t have been amused if I had told her of its haunted reputation when we travelled along it in the wee small hours enroute to Ireland for my 16th birthday! When I was younger, I can recall my grandfather, who took great pleasure in scaring us all with his ghost stories, telling me of a haunted road. It was one we used often travelling to my grandparents’ caravan. Once, he said saw the ghost of a woman who had been murdered float over the road when driving past late at night. He certainly got a kick when, every time we drove past it, I closed my eyes in case I saw the woman’s spirit. I can’t help but link this with the A75. In between the towns, it’s rather lonely road – just pitch black with fields, the odd set of trees and the cat eyes to mark out the road surface – not especially different from many of the roads around Dumfries and Galloway. Except not many of them have the haunted reputation that might have killed my deep rooted passion for ghosts early on if I’d seen anything…
The earliest recorded sighting occurred in 1957, though it wouldn’t be surprising if there were experiences going back further than this on the A75. In 1957, a lorry driver drove into a couple who crossed the road arm in arm. He stopped, but on looking, the couple had vanished. During the 1970s, women from the town of Eastriggs reported seeing a weird ‘phantom figure’ in the middle of the road, one of the many reported out there. There are also notable encounters from the mid to late 1990s, when I lived in the area. In March 1995, Garson and Monica Miller from Annan were driving east, just outside their hometown at a speed of 60 miles per hour. The figure of a middle-aged man appeared in front of their car, wearing a folded hessian sack over his head. His hands were stretched out towards the Millers and he held a rag. At the speed they were driving, the Millers thought they had struck the man. Reversing back, they found nothing, and reported the incident to the Annan police.
Two years later in July 1997, Donna Maxwell, 27, was driving on the A75 with her two children near Swordwelling when she was convinced she had run over someone. A man in his 30s dressed in a red top and dark trousers stepped out in front of her car. Donna hit the brakes and closed her eyes on reflex, getting ready for the impact. However, no one was there when she opened her eyes. She contacted the police, who made a thorough search, but found no one. A week later, a report was made of the incident in the local press, but this failed to gain any more information on what had happened.
Motorists commonly report the figure of the red-topped man. Other figures include the screaming old woman encountered by the Fergusons in 1962, an aging woman in Victorian clothing and varying descriptions of the Fergusons’ long haired, screaming man. In some reports, he has no eyes. Of course, many people have encountered the phantom furniture van. The couple, as reported in 1957, are also of varying description. Some describe them as also being in Victorian clothing, with the male missing his eyes. In addition, there are reports of the unearthly screams, cackling and unearthly creatures similar to what the Fergusons saw. It is interesting to note that Annan is also the site of Spedlins Tower. Centuries ago, violent poltergeist activity tormented the family there after the Laird locked a local miller in the dungeon and forgot about him, leaving the hapless prisoner to starve to death. Some maintain it’s still haunted.
Locals are convinced there is something strange about the A75, some refusing to travel there after dark. When the Scottish Government announced its plans to improve the road in recent years, many locals said it would stir up the ghosts. Haunted or not, it is still a road to take great care on because of its many accidents.