The Handless Haunt of Spedlin's Tower
A Lean and Hungry Galloway Ghost
Imagine being confined in a dark pit, a dungeon, and left manacled until, in an act of utter desperation, YOU EAT YOUR OWN HANDS.
Apparently, it really happened. In Spedlin's Tower, an ancient hellhole in Galloway that, according to a little touristy book called Scotland's Ghastly Ghosts, by "Charles Sinclair" (assuming it's a pseudonym; also, fellow could really use a copyeditor), a tiny tome that still manages to fascinate, despite a multiplicity of typos and grammatical puzzlements.
The basic story is that a fellow called "Dunty" James Porteous, about 300 years ago (give or take 50 years, perhaps), burned down his house... or his mill... or both, maybe; but, whatever the case, no reason is ever given.
The "Laird" of the land, a fellow by the name of Alexander Jardine, having jurisdiction in Dumfries and Galloway, took the inscrutable arsonist to task for his wrongdoing, locking him in the dark, suffocating, windowless dungeon, a manacled wretch, cowering in the filth with the rats.
(And, let's assume bathroom accommodations were not provided for.)
Jardine then went on a pleasant holiday on the continent, leaving his ill-starred prisoner to perish of want far below. One supposes the wife, Lady Margaret, knew all about the prisoner and his possible need for a bit of a nosh; and she just didn't care.
Alone, in the dark, Dunty, dear, soon-to-be-dead Dunty, became something a little less than human: he slowly began munching... himself. Soon, he had chewed his own hands to bloody stumps. Or so the legend goes.
Flash forward, and a very lean, hungry and angry ghost is said to have begun to haunt Spedlin's Tower, a ghost given to "ban ging aqnd battering," as well as howling and moaning to "Let me out! I'm starving to death!" According to Scotland's Ghastly Ghosts, a contemporary account states: "the dying man was so ravaged by hunger that he had gnawed at his own hands and feet in the last throes of torment."
But, did he really manage to scarf the whole things? Stephen King, that celebrated wordsmith of the supermarket checkout line, once had a horrible, grisly little thing published in his book Nightmares and Dreamscapes about a marooned cocaine dealer who, upon finding himself stranded on an island after a plane crash, survives by doing blow and eating his own arms and legs. I guess anything in this damned evil world is possible.
Whatever the case, the Jardines took some exception to the lean, half-starved specter. They began calling in exorcist after infernal exorcist. But, to no avail; the weird howling, moaning, and other phenomena continued, unabated, even, occasionally, growing in intensity.
It is said that, in the door leading to the dungeon, if a branch of wood was inserted in the keyhole, it would be drawn back to reveal that is had been gnawed as if by a starving man.
(But, surely, you don't believe that, do you?)
Finally, it took the intervention of a good book, called the 'Good Book,' placed outside the door to the dungeon pit, to quieten the Starving Specter. That, apparently, was the only thing that "did the trick," so to speak.
In 1710, when the Bible was removed for some reason, the manifestations continued. The Jardine family, by this point having changed their base of operations to the much more stately-sounding Jardine Hall, were aghast to find that the old family ghost had returned to torment them again. The poor dead fellow was so rude as to throw them, bodily, from their bed. Why, the nerve of the brute, they must have thought; all they did was starve him to death like an animal in a lightless pit. Was that, really, something to hold a grudge over?
When the Bible was returned, the Starving Specter again returned to his dark, eternal dungeon, to languish in silence, once more.
The Spedlin's Tower became a rocky ruin over the centuries. The specter of "Dunty James" Porteous was still occasionally witnessed, an unhappy-looking wretch with gnawed or no hands, very lean, howling and cursing imprecations against God, and presumably, those damn Jardines, bewailing his unhappy lot.
And, who knows? Perhaps, in that dark pit, his unblessed soul still waits, alone, in the black, losing his mind. And feeling oh, so very hungry.