Sorchia's Universe

Specializing in Bewitchment and Single Malt Scotch

Bucket List Haunted Tour (plus a side trip)

haunted tour map

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

High on my list of bucket list tours—Note to self: Great name for my travel agency—is a haunted tour of Scotland.  Apparently, you can’t swing a cat in Scotland without smacking into some kind of supernatural entity. The place is stiff with ghosts, spirits, mermaids, fairies, mysterious and shadowy figures, haunted castles, ladies of all the hues in the rainbow, and any other kind of paranormal critter you can imagine.

As I prepare for my tour, I’ve made a list of some of the places to visit. If you’ve visited a spooky place in Scotland, or if you have a great spooky story from anywhere, please share it by leaving a comment.

Culloden Battlefield—a very sober place and reputed to be the most haunted place in the entire pixilated country.  Culloden Battlefield is the scene of the last battle of the Jacobite uprising of 1745. The Loyalist amy who supported the House of Hanover,  overwhelmingly defeated the winter-weary and scattered Jacobite forces. And then they went on to clear the Highlands of any and all supporters of Prince Charles, brutally murdering families of clan members or turning them out to die of starvation. After Culloden, the British banned the wearing of tartans and the playing of pipes. The culture of Scotland, the Highlands in particular, changed irrevocably after the Battle of Culloden

I’ve talked to people who have been to Culloden and they all say the place has a tragic aura.  Several said they felt uneasy, but more sad than scared. This will be the start of my tour, I think.

Culzean (Kuh ‘Leen) Castle. Renting the Eisenhower Suite in the castle (or at least a room in it) — 150 to 340 pounds; hearing the ghostly piper and seeing the supernatural knight for myself–– Priceless!

Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh is ripe with spirits—and tours of death.  Besides a headless drummer and phantom piper are numerous other stories of apparitions throughout the city. This will take some time.

Eileen Donan Castle—a headless Spanish soldier wanders around with his head under his arm—that’s worth the trip.

Fyvie Castle is haunted by Lilias Drummond who was either starved by her husband or died of a broken heart. Either way, she was not pleased when he took a new wife. She carved her name in the stone windowsill of his bedroom on the night of his nuptials.  That’s neat but it might have been more fun to carve her name in hubby and/or the new wife.

Glamis Castle is crazy-full of spooks including Earl Beardie who plays a never-ending card game with the devil somewhere inside. A place is always set for The Grey Lady, Lady Janet Douglas. She was burnt at the stake as a witch in 1537. Whether she was really a witch or whether someone found it expedient to have her out of the way so that her property could be . . um. . liberated is a mystery.

Rosslyn Chapel in Edinburgh. If you’ve read or watched The Da Vinci Code, you know about this place.  I want to see the Green Men that festoon the entire building and, of course, whatever spooks want to come out. A Black Knight, a murdered apprentice, a white lady and a hound have all been seen in and around the Chapel and nearby castle.

Stirling Castle—A green lady and a Pink Lady are seen here among others.

I’ve also noted the position of the Laphroaig distillery on my map since a stop here both before and after my haunted tour seems to be a wise precaution.

Equinox: Balancing Light and Dark

At 3:44 P.M. CDT on Sept. 22, the earth will stand straight up in relation to the sun. The sun will shine directly down on the equator. Day and Night balance at 12 hours each (or as close as we ever get to it). Light and Dark are perfectly counterbalanced. In the next second, the earth begins the slow tip to the south which ends on December 21. We literally fall into winter to be caught by gravity on the Winter Solstice.

I put up Halloween decorations on the equinox, partly because inside I am thirteen years old, and partly because I’m trying to push the season. Samhain (Halloween) is the true beginning of Winter with the Solstice the midpoint in that season. The sooner we start, I think every year, the sooner we can get it over and back to Spring. Doesn’t ever work.

For me the Autumnal Equinox or Mabon signals the end of Summer –not quite the beginning of Winter, but a time to begin preparing for it. It’s a melancholy time when green leaves blaze in one last bit of glory and then wither and fall. I feel the cycle of the earth most at this time. My birthday falls near the Equinox and I’m a Libra so I value balance in all things. The Equinox is my time to consider the past and the future.

Melancholy is balanced by the warmth of home fires, spicy apple cider and a gathering of family. It’s a time to boil a pot of beef and noodles and drink mulled wine (or peaty Scotch) and watch the snow begin to fall. A time to sing old songs and tell stories late into the night. A time to rest after the summer’s labors, a time to honor those who have died, and a time to build the fires high. It’s hunting season, football season, harvest season.

My favorite Pagan symbol is the Green Man who is usually associated with Spring. I see him in the Fall trees, too, his face peeking out from the red, gold, and orange leaves—just as puckish and ornery as he is in the Spring. Easy for him—he’s immortal, but fall reminds me of mortality—not in a scary way but in a lost potential and wasted time way.

On the equinox, we balance––for that split second poised between light and dark, life and death. This year, the Harvest Moon, is on Sept. 19, just a few days before the Equinox. It’s a wishing moon for me and I’ll be wishing for wisdom to maintain balance through the seasons and skill to make the most of the light and the dark.

Though the cycle of the earth is irrefutable, just as the cycle of life and death, the time in between is ours to do with as we will. It’s not a question of choosing good and evil; these are two sides of the same whole. And good and evil are such relative terms—my good may be your evil and vice versa. Rather it is a question of light and dark, push and pull, ebb and flow, weave and weft. These are dual concepts: one can’t exist without the other. It’s a question of how to balance the two, using the power of both to create a symmetry where we exist in peace.

The Equinox is a good time to consider how to accomplish that in the coming year.

Whisky

One week is not enough time to explore the awesomeness of Scotch.  Sorchia has declared the entire month of December as Whisky Month.  Go to SorchiaDubois.com for updates.

Early in the life of Just Like Gravity, I started researching. It’s a dirty job, but a necessary one and I want you to know just how seriously I take it. Since the book is set in Scotland, I obviously needed to know as much about the culture as possible and, well, whisky is kind of important there. As we speak, massive quantities of the stuff are being aged in vaults–guarded by bearded, kilted, pale Scotsmen who have never seen the sun. Nearly 100 distilleries dot the countryside—and Scotland is a small country—not quite as big as South Carolina. I learned a lot about whisky in those first few months of work on the book, though my adventures with liquor started much earlier.

When I was a dear sweet tiny girl living in the deepest darkest parts of Shannon County in southern Missouri, my sainted father cured my coughs, colds, fevers, and nearly all other maladies with a stiff hot toddy. We made our hot toddies with Jack Daniels, nutmeg, a little sugar, and hot water. Needless to say, after one or two doses, all signs of disease vanished and I felt as fresh and lively as a barefoot Ozarks kid ought to—maybe even a little more. I found that if I developed a cough early in the morning and worked it with increasing volume and intensity through the afternoon, by bedtime Dad would be waiting for me as I got ready for bed with a steaming cup. Ah, those were the days.

I learned to savor it, breathing the vapors, sipping slowly and letting the warmth spread from my tongue down the back of my throat to my stomach and outward. Soon my toes would be warm and my mind filled with happy visions. This all ended one day when someone–may that person be forever cursed to a life of sobriety–gave Dad a book about the virtues of vinegar. This is another story—a sad story of desire and betrayal that I will tell on another day.

Somewhere during puberty, I lost the magic (and a good many other things) and forgot how to really enjoy a good glass of whiskey. As teenagers are wont to do, I drank for effect and for the hell of it rather than as a true connoisseur. Then I got married and had children and I drank desperately for escape, becoming even more divorced from the rapture that is whisky. And I drank bourbon.

As I was working on this novel, I began to yearn for those happier days when I had been more connected with cosmic forces –-i.e. Scotch–so I bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. I settled back in my chair beside a nice fire with a healthy portion and took a sip.

Now, maybe my palate has matured or maybe Jack Daniels cauterized my taste buds for a time because I never knew such bliss existed. I’d always assumed that bourbon and Scotch were on the same plane. Such are the limitations of public education. When the smoky essence of that first drink made its way through my sinuses, I knew I was on the right track. I don’t think I actually said “WooHoo” or “Yowee” or “Eureka”, but only because that would have delayed the next drink.

Later, I tried Glen Livet, satiny smooth and fruity, but it lacks the smoke. Between Glen Livet and Johnny Walker Black, the Scotch sections of all the stores near my home were exhausted. The trouble is that as good as Black John is, I craved even more smoke.

My son again validated all the time and care it took to get him raised, by sharing his considerable knowledge and as a result I went on a search for Islay single malts, specifically Laphroig, which Kris assures me has plenty of smoke. And there’s the rub—I live in a secluded part of the world where most people drink Bud Light and Jim Beam—not that there is anything wrong with either of those, but come on—you got to grow up some day.

I started a quest for LaPhroaig and called all the liquor stores within easy driving distance. Most of my conversations went something like this:

“Hi, I’m looking for a particular kind of Scotch and wondered if you had it.”

“Whut kind are ya lookin’ fer?”

“LaPhroaige.”

“La Whut?”

“Laphroaige. L..a..p..h..r. . . Never mind.“

At last, I found an amiable chap who said he would be happy to order me whatever I wanted so I could give it a try. We looked in his Big, Black Book of Booze and, sure enough, there was LaPhroaig in several versions. Though I have J.K. Rowlings dreams, I am still a humble romance novelist so I could only afford the 10-year old stuff. We ordered it.

Now I am not a highly religious person though I do like to call myself spiritual. I believe in a higher power and I believe in the interconnectedness of all life. I don’t know if reincarnation is real, but with the first sniff of the peaty, iodine-rich amber juice, I felt a distinct jolt of déjà vu. Somewhere, somehow, in some form I’ve tasted it before—or is it just the collective memory kicking in?

Whoever first called whisky the “breath of life” or the “water of life”– uisge-beatha, in Gaelic—must have been talking about something like LaPhroaig.

In Just Like Gravity, the main character, Anna, is introduced to LaPhroaig by a wandering and completely inebriated Scotsman she finds on a rain-soaked hillside. Needless to say, her opinion of him improves considerably after a wee dram, and soon the two of them find they are connected by more than just their love of LaPhroaig. Through all the travails they encounter—Glaswegian gangsters, malevolent relatives, ghosts, past life terrors, and disapproving children (and I’m not sure which of these is the scariest)– they find that a little bit of LaPhroaig keeps them grounded.

This is why research is a good thing!