Scottish bagpipes and Scottish Ghosts get equal billing in Sorchia’s Universe for this post. Maligned as much as they are loved, bagpipes and bagpipers play a huge (yuuuge) part in Scottish paranormal lore.
But before we get to the ghosts:
Why do bagpipers walk while they play? A moving target isharder to hit.
What's the difference between a bagpiper and an onion? Nobody cries when you chop up a bagpiper.
I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made object never equalled the purity of sound achieved by the pig. -Alfred Hitchcock
The Handless Piper at Duntrune Castle
Duntrune Castle, on the north side of Loch Crinan in Argyll, is thought to be the oldest continuously occupied castle on mainland Scotland. At least one ghost roams the castle, a handless piper.
One legend dates to the time the MacDonalds besieged and captured the castle from the Campbells. The MacDonald leader, Alastair Mac Colla, left a garrison to guard the castle. The garrison included Mac Colla’s personal piper. While Mac Colla was a way, the Campbells recaptured the castle but soon sighted Mac Colla’s boats across the loch, returning to the castle with no knowledge it had changed ownership in his absence. Hoping to keep it that way and lure Mac Colla’s men within bow shot, the Campbells put the piper on the ramparts and told him to pipe the traditional welcome. The piper did as he was told, but as soon as Mac Colla got close enough to hear the music clearly, the piper changed his tune, piping out Scottish aire the Pibroch—“The Pipers Warning,” the Scottish equivalent of an alarm .
Mac Colla turned his boats around and lived to fight another day. The piper wasn’t so lucky. The Campbell’s cut off his hands and watched him bleed out in the courtyard. Now the ghost of the piper haunts the castle, playing his pipes which are often heard clear across the loch. To make it even more fun, in 1880 during renovations, workmen found a skeleton beneath the flagstones in the courtyard. A skeleton with no hands.
Headless Drummer and the Phantom Piper of Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most haunted places in the entire haunted country. Among its ghosts are a headless drummer and a phantom piper. The piper is supposed to be the ghost of a piper who was sent to explore the mysterious tunnels beneath the city. The idea was that he would play as he walked the caverns while those above followed the sound and made a map. Everything was going just fine—which proves that the sound of bagpipes will penetrate nearly anything––when the music abruptly stopped. Despite repeated searches, the piper was never found. Muffled piping coming from beneath the streets is often heard throughout the city, as well as in the castle.
The headless drummer appeared in 1650 just before Cromwell attacked the castle. Though he hasn’t been seen since, many visitors report the sound of drumming inside the castle. Some suggest he warns of imminent danger.
The Disappearing Piper of Culross Abbey
Tunnels play a part in the genesis of the blind piper of Culross Abbey. Built on the sight of an ancient Pictish church, a hidden tunnel is purported to exist beneath the structure. Supposedly, the tunnel leads to treasure—some say a man sits on a golden chair willing to give treasure to anyone who is brave and persistent enough to find their way to him. A blind piper decided to give it a try. He and his dog entered the tunnel and, as he roved the subterranean passageways, people above the ground reported hearing his pipes miles away from his starting point. The dog eventually found his way out, but the piper was never seen again. Now the occasional muffled piping and hooded figure in the Abbey suggest he may linger in the area.
For a tour of the Abbey, accompanied by spooky music and Scottish accents, here’s a little video.