Feeling brave? Get along to Spirits of Scone for a spine-tingling illuminated tour around the grounds of Scone Palace. Gayle Ritchie made it out alive (just!)
A ghoul’s maze with a blood-spattered cannibal butcher, a gravedigger and a witch – just some of the characters you’ll meet if you head along to Spirits of Scone.
The event runs until October 31 – Halloween – and promises to give you the willies.
I headed along on the launch night and got the fright of my life.
Walking up the dark, pumpkin-lit path to Scone Palace, I’m welcomed by a scary voice booming out from the trees, warning me to keep to the path and avoid smoking “because the old hag in the trees doesn’t like it.”
After grabbing a warming bowl of beef “ghoulash” from the palace kitchens, I gear myself up for the tour, which promises to introduce me to some of Perthshire’s scariest folk.
I’ve come along on my own, but I tag along with a lovely group of folk I meet who have travelled from Edinburgh. (It would have been way too terrifying to do this alone).
Our nerves are jangling as we venture deep into the woods, and I just about pass out when a creepy hag leaps out at us, screeching loudly.
The girls behind us have worse luck – she chases them, and they flee, screaming wildly.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life!” one tells her friend.
Suddenly, we’re in darkness, and this is when I wish I’d brought a mate along to cling to. What creepy creature of the night is about to molest me?
The lights flash up and I see my worst nightmare – huge black and hairy tarantulas high up on the trees. Arghhh!
We’re ushered along to the next macabre section, where voices dare us to look through a hole in a tree trunk.
Inside, there are creepy dolls, plastic heads and other indescribably terrifying sights.
“Please help me find my dolly!” mourns a little girl’s voice, which then drops a few octaves and sounds like a demon possessed, or something from the Exorcist.
It’s at this point that I realise we’re trapped and the only way out is to pass a cloak-clad figure, threatening to leap out.
We make a move, and land up beside a woman displaying a table of odd charms and potions. She reveals she was a healer investigated for witchcraft in the early 17th century.
The graveyard is illuminated and enveloped in mist. Out from behind a tombstone steps a gravedigger who relishes telling the bloodcurdling story of a man who disappeared into the ground.
He’s very generous in his offer of giving us a room for the night – “a tomb with a view”, he guffaws, sending shivers down our spines.
The most terrifying point of the evening, as far as I’m concerned, is in the ghoul’s maze.
On entering, we encounter a pair of chopped off feet, and then proceed to be warned by a high-pitched disembodied voice that “he’ll get you”.
The tension ramps up, the lights flash on and off, and there’s a low growling noise.
Then he appears – Christie-Cleek, a 14th century Perth butcher who apparently turned to cannibalism. His apron is spattered in blood and his face is like stone – devoid of all emotion.
Knowing that he ambushes victims with his hook, or “cleke”, I squeeze myself tightly into a corner of the hedge, and try not to make a noise. When he turns away, I run!
Hopeful of reaching the maze’s exit, we are stumped – and scared – when we find a dead end with a white-clad nun-like figure wafting round an ornate pool.
The girls behind me scream blue murder and we all run in the opposite direction.
Thankfully, the exit is close by, and we catch our breath, exhilarated and relieved.
Stopping briefly to toast marshmallows over an open fire, we then head for a storytelling session inside the haunted chapel.
Here we meet a woman who tells us how to identify a witch by looking at her feet, her eyes, her nostrils and her hair. Is she wearing a wig? Does she scratch her head a lot? Does she cover her cat-like claws with gloves? I suspect she’s a witch herself!
The palace is an amazing setting, lending itself to being a true horrorscape, and the promise of keeping visitors on tenterhooks is most certainly fulfilled.
Be warned; you never know who you might meet when you go down to the woods at night! Go on, I dare you!
Spirits of Scone runs until October 31, with tickets starting at £5.
Enjoy a selection of ghoulishly hot and tasty food in the coffee shop or visit the monster marshmallow pit along the way.
For more details see www.scone-palace.co.uk