Scotland

Glasgow’s Haunted Hotspot by M J Steel Collins

To quite a few in the city, Easterhouse is well known for its problematic history. It was one of many new housing estates built to rehouse those being moved from Glasgow’s inner-city slum tenements earmarked for demolition. By the 1960s, it had a severe gang problem, which prompted the singer Frankie Vaughan to step in and negotiate between rival gang members in an attempt to curb the violence. The area has an unfavourable reputation that precedes it. But if you take the time to scratch beneath the surface, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised to discover the hidden gems of Easterhouse. For instance, not many people in Glasgow seem to know that, tucked away in the corner of Easterhouse’s Auchinlea Park, a few streets away from The Fort shopping centre, sits Provan Hall and Blochairn House, dating from at least the 15th century.

Originally, Provan Hall was a fortified country house, with Blochairn House, a single storey house lying adjacent. It’s believed that Blochairn House originates from an earlier building. The practice back then was that if a property was damaged, instead of repairing it, the entire building was levelled and a new one built on the same spot, reusing the materials from the older building. Whilst Provan Hall from the start was quite a house of note, Blochairn House had an extra storey added as time went on. Both houses underwent changes befitting the eras down the centuries. These days, Provan Hall has been restored back to what it might have been in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, but is run by Glasgow City Council and open to the public. A variety of exhibitions is held there. Architecture buffs might be interested to learn that Provan Hall’s barrel vaulted ceilings on its ground floor were built using techniques dating back to the Romans, and are considered the best of their kind in Scotland. Blochairn House, which was eventually modelled on the style of a Jamaican Plantation House, serves as an administrative building for the Provan Hall site, accommodating an office. Provan Hall is probably the oldest house in Glasgow, predating the ‘official’ oldest house in Glasgow, Provand’s Lordship, by a few years.

The history of these buildings is quite colourful. The land around Provan Hall, known as the prebend of Barlanark, was one of 32 Prebends owned by Glasgow Cathedral, which were given to Canons of the Cathedral for their financial upkeep. Barlanark was the biggest of the lot, with around 5000 acres of land and Provan Hall as its manse house. It was also the only prebend not linked to a Parish, and was something of a catch thanks to its excellent hunting and fishing. The lands teemed with all kinds of game, attracting keen hunters from all over. A lot of the income on the land came from this. The appointment of the Barlanark Prebendary had much to do with the kudos of power. The appointee, who only had to work three months of the year for the church, could keep money obtained from the living. Incidentally, the name Provan derives from Prebend.

Notable people to hold the Prebendary of Lanark include King James IV of Scotland, who obtained it in 1491. James IV was an enthusiastic hunter, using Provan Hall as his hunting lodge. A highly intelligent man, speaking several languages, and a very effective monarch, James IV was only 15 when he took the throne. His death in the Battle of Flodden threw up quite a few mysteries: as he had been excommunicated from the Church, his body couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground, resulting in something of a mystery as to where he wound up being laid to rest. His granddaughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, apparently visited Provan Hall on a number of occasions. From James IV, the Prebendary passed down generations of the Bailie family, who rented the land out (though technically they weren’t meant to). Eventually, it ended up as private property belonging to Dr John Buchanan, the man responsible for Blochairn House resembling a Jamaican plantation house. His grandsons, William and Reston Mather, were the last in the family to own the property. They remained bachelors, and both died within a month of each other in 1934. With no one to inherit the houses, a group of locals purchased them at auction, who donated the property to the National Trust of Scotland. Without this, it was very likely that the Glasgow Corporation would have demolished Provan Hall and Blochairn House; thank goodness for small mercies!

Of the ghosts said to haunt the buildings, the Provan Hall website gives three – an elderly man haunting Blochairn House, and a mother and child in Provan Hall, but there appears to be more. There’s certainly enough activity to keep paranormal groups and psychics visiting the property in droves. The Ghost Club, the venerable old man of psychic investigation has visited approximately four times, which isn’t something they’ve done for other haunted locations. Several other groups have visited, but it seems that the results of the Ghost Club investigations are the most notable for bringing Provan Hall and Blochairn House to the attention of others as a prime haunted location. Caretaker, Stevie Allan, who took both my Dad and me on a tour of Provan Hall, knows the ghosts rather well.

In the kitchen, Stevie described the tough life of servants back in the 15th century, who were seen as disposable. The kitchen has a huge fireplace, in which half an ox could be roasted. A ‘spit boy’, a young lad of 11 to 12 years, would have turned this on its spit. The lifespan of these boys in general wasn’t more than six months on the job, as the effects of the extreme heat and smoke quickly killed them. Stevie mentioned that the spirit of at least one spit boy had been detected in the kitchen. A medium visiting the houses one day said that she could see the spirit of an elderly man walk through reception in Blochairn House. He had spent his entire life there, from birth to death, and loved the place, which was the only reason why he lingered on. Stevie felt a shiver up his spine when the medium described the spirit she communicated with as an old man with white hair, a full white beard, wearing a black suit and bowler hat. This matched a photograph of Reston Mather taken in 1934 Stevie had seen only a few days before, which he gave me a copy of. Reston Mather is believed to be the ghost haunting Blochairn House.

The ghosts in Provan Hall are a slightly more mixed bunch. The Master Bedroom is regarded by Stevie as the most haunted room in the building. He told us that the man who lived there, a few hundred years ago had only been married a month, when on a regular night out to the pub, he decided to take ‘the King’s Shilling’ and left to serve in the army for four years. He left his wife, who stayed on at Provan Hall. On his return, he discovered his wife now had a two year old son, who definitely wasn’t his own child as he hadn’t been back to visit during his time serving. Given to violence and alcoholism, the ex soldier went out and got drunk. On his way home, he grabbed a knife from the kitchen, went up to the Master Bedroom, dragged his wife from the bed and stabbed her over twenty times. The young boy woke up just after his mother was killed; the irate soldier grabbed the child and slit his throat. The authorities caught up with the soldier, who hanged at Glasgow Green with approximately 700 people watching. There are records of such a murder taking place in the building.

Since the murders, the ghost of the mother has been seen flitting around the house and grounds. Her murderer is also there, a rather malign entity, who regularly upsets people in the room. The energy of the room certainly made itself known during the investigations of the Ghost Club. During the first investigation in 2005, Stevie showed the team around. There had already been very interesting activity in the kitchen, which had been sealed off early in order to carry out experiments with trigger objects. This is where certain items are placed in flour or marked out carefully by pencil or chalk in a room that is locked off from the investigation to see if any ghosts or energies move them. Stevie said when he and the investigators returned to the kitchen, all the trigger objects were out of their original position – and no one had been able to get into the kitchen. He had the keys, and it certainly wasn’t him!

During the séance held in the Master Bedroom, Stevie sat off to one side watching. He got very, very cold, shivering. Those participating in the séance reported seeing a dark shadow stand just behind him. At the same time, the room temperature dropped dramatically. The séance was brought to a close. As it wrapped up, the heavy door leading to an outside entrance to the room flew open with force and knocked the table over. Stevie noted wryly that everyone was very keen to run out the opposite door leading to the rest of the building after that! During a later investigation by the Ghost Club, Stevie was again on hand to supervise as they walked around the building, but didn’t want to participate after what happened the previous time. However, it appears the ghosts weren’t happy to accommodate the investigators, without Stevie’s presence. Stevie has worked in the building for a quarter of a century, and the resident spirits had taken a liking to him. So off he went.

This time, he was asked to take part in the séance held in the Master bedroom. Stevie joined the circle and doesn’t remember what happened next. It appears he was possessed, talking in a strange language and crushing the hands of the women next to him so hard that they were crying. Following that, Stevie was unable to sleep for three nights and became ill at work. The mediums made a return visit and carried out a closing ceremony. After that Stevie was alright, and able to move about the buildings quite freely without any harm from the ghosts.

During my own visit, some interesting things happened in the Master Bedroom. Stevie pointed out that although he keeps a heater on constantly, the room never heats up. It was particularly chilly. My Dad, who is rather sensitive to spirits, immediately noticed the strange atmosphere in the room – and he knew nothing of the murders. He said on entering that he felt it was ‘full of tears’. He also stood where the bed of the murder victim once stood and felt as if something was trying to pull him back. Then, after Stevie rounded off his discussion of Provan Hall’s history, Dad noticed a female spirit, cowering in the corner behind Stevie, describing her as having dark hair. Stevie confirmed that other mediums had described this ghost in the same way. The Ghost Club investigation reports also mention a young woman with black hair.

Meanwhile, I was beginning to feel extremely cold, although I was standing next to the radiator. Things felt a little intense behind me, so I moved to another spot to err on the side of caution. The cold remained for a little longer, and then soon faded. I remained in the upstairs section of the room to take some photos, whilst the others went back to the office in Blochairn House. I have to admitted, I got to the door of the Master Bedroom, peered in and decided not to bother going in, as it felt just a bit too spooky. Dad told me on the drive home that the negative energy of the murderer entered the Bedroom just as we left. So I was rather glad I didn’t go in. The investigation reports of the Ghost Club make frequent mention of a male entity being picked up during séances and experiments held in the Master Bedroom – whether or not it’s the murderous soldier, who knows?

The mediums accompanying the Ghost Club also detected other spirits, who appeared to date from the various eras of Provan Hall’s history. The names given later were backed up by the house’s history, none of which the mediums knew. Who knows the number of ghosts that walk Provan Hall and Blochairn House? With a history so colourful and long, it is a safe bet that the buildings are rather packed…

Photographs:

Entry into dairy – that unique barrel ceiling on display!

Looking at Provan Hall across the courtyard from Blochairn House

The fireplace large enough to cook half an ox, notably much larger than the author’s kitchen as a whole…

Old spinning jenny – much of the furnishing about Provan Hall has been there for centuries

Door out to the courtyard from the dairy

The haunted Master Bedroom

The stairway to the second floor of Provan Hall, accessible only from the outside

The fireplace in the Master Bedroom, where the author felt extra chilly. Note the heater… which was switched on…

Staircase up to dining room

















Further information:

Website of Provan Hall Heritage Group

Ghost Club 2005 Investigation

Ghost Club 2007 Investigation

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