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‘I love scaring people!’: Meet the Tayside and Fife folk getting into the spirit of Halloween

Gail Renwick tour guide at Glamis Castle: Image: Glamis Castle
Gail Renwick tour guide at Glamis Castle: Image: Glamis Castle

With Halloween upon us, Michael Alexander speaks to an Angus ghost tour guide, a Fife pumpkin farmer and several Perthshire jump-scare actors all having frightful experiences at this scariest time of year!

‘We have spirits in our cottage!’

What Glamis Castle tour guide Gail Renwick enjoys most about her job is watching the reactions of people when they come on her tours.

But having written the spooky script for the interactive ‘Ghosts of Glamis’ Halloween tours taking place at the castle this weekend, she reveals that she’s no stranger to the supernatural herself.

Eleanor Russell, Christine Cairns and Gail Renwick of the Glamis Castle staff, pictured in 2016

“I don’t call them ghosts but we have spirits in our cottage,” says Gail, who lives in Tannadice village.

“I’ve seen them a few times. I’ve got two dogs and a cat and they’ve seen them as well. They’ll suddenly stop and look up.

“There’s nothing that we can see yet they’ll track something and their tails will wag – like there’s someone there. The ‘who-ever it is’ passes and they just go back to sleep.”

Gail says she’s “always been pretty open minded” about the supernatural and has done some psychic medium work.

Glamis Castle looking spooky. Image: Glamis Castle

However, not long after she and her partner moved in, she knew there was something unusual about the cottage, which used to be part of Glamis estate.

‘Weird presence’

“I had the sense of seeing someone at one of the windows in the lounge/dining room,” she says.

“I had the sense of seeing a woman standing there in clothes from the early 1900s looking out the window wringing her hands.

“I wasn’t sure if she was looking for someone – it was just this weird presence that was there.

“Then when we started doing stuff to the cottage, I realised the stopcock was actually there.

Gail Renwick tour guide at Glamis Castle: Image: Glamis Castle

“That must have been the area where the original kitchen was because there’s quite a big fireplace.

“Then, not long after we moved in, one of the first things someone who’d lived in the village for years said to me was ‘so have you seen the ghost’?

“So it’s been noted for years that there’s a ghost in the cottage!”

Gail doesn’t feel frightened by this “presence”.

On the contrary, having lost a number of people close to her over the years, she feels “comforted” by the belief that spirits are still there.

Gail’s favourite Glamis ghost story

As a tour guide at Glamis Castle for five years from 2014-19, the Sheffield-born “Yorkshire-Geordie” is  well versed in lots of ghost stories at what is reputed to be the most haunted castle in Scotland.

Glamis Castle, Angus
Glamis Castle. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson.

Having recently returned to help this Halloween, however, her favourite story remains that of Janet Douglas and the Grey Lady.

“Janet Douglas lived at Glamis Castle in the 1500s,” she says.

“She was very happy there but unfortunately her husband died, and the king on the throne of Scotland at that time was James V who detested witches.

“But he also detested the Douglas family. His stepfather was Archibald Douglas who had been very cruel to him when he was a young boy.

“So when he got older he wanted to get revenge on the Douglas family.

“When he heard that Janet’s husband had died, he saw a chance to not just get at the Douglases but he also wanted to have Glamis Castle for himself.

“So he had Janet and her two young sons falsely accused of treason and Janet was accused of witchcraft.

“Eventually after some years in prison he had Janet convicted, and in 1537 she was burnt alive at the stake just outside Edinburgh Castle.

“The story is that when her son after the king’s death got Glamis Castle back, she came home in spirit with her son because that was the place where she was happiest.”

Glamis Castle ghost tours. Image: Glamis Castle

When do the tours run?

The family friendly Ghosts of Glamis tours – running from 5pm-9pm on Saturday October 29 and Sunday October 30 and from 5pm-10pm on Monday October 31 – see brave visitors guided through the castle (

As well as hearing creepy tales of the Grey Lady and the Tongueless Woman, visitors experience spine-tingling thrills and scares through a variety of atmospheric lighting and sound effects with ghostly figures waiting in the shadows.

Gail says people love being scared. However, she laughs that the idea is to “scare but not frighten them to death!”

“It’s hard work but it’s very varied,” she adds.

A young Princess Elizabeth plants a tree at Glamis, her mother’s ancestral home.

“It’s never the same each day. And it’s lovely being able to tell stories.

“I love it when the group you are taking around become engaged with you.

“I love watching their faces change as you tell them the story and they become more involved with the story. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”

The rise of the Halloween pumpkin

For Scots of a ­certain age, and long before the Americanism of ‘trick or treat’ entered the vocabulary, the tradition of guising was an integral part of Halloween.

Youngsters would go house to house and put on a small performance or tell a joke to be rewarded with food or treats.

Cairnie Fruit Farm near Cupar has been running a ‘Pick Your Own Pumpkin’ patch every Halloween for 23 years. Image: Cairnie Fruit Farm

However, another huge change over the years has been the rise of the pumpkin over the humble neep for carving into lanterns.

One family-run business which has capitalised on the rise of the pumpkin in recent decades is Cairnie Fruit Farm outside Cupar.

Run by husband and wife team John and Cameron Laird, their claim to fame is that they were the first to offer a ‘Pick Your Own’ pumpkin patch in Scotland.

Twenty-three years later, and Cairnie now sells thousands of pumpkins each October, mainly to families who are also attracted by the farm café, shop, mega-maze and fun yard.

Pumpkins at Cairnie Fruit Farm near Cupar. Image: Cairnie Fruit Farm

“Halloween is a big big thing in America and we were just looking at a way of extending our season,” says Cameron, who is herself American and has been in Scotland nearly 30 years.

“Obviously the strawberries we grow earlier in the season finish and pumpkins just seemed like a natural progression to our business, so we experimented planting some pumpkins in a poly tunnel.

“It just kind of evolved from that. It just kind of caught on and I think it’s here to stay.

“Our kind of core market is the family market if you will.”

Seasonal business

With the Laird family moving into their third generation of farming at Cairnie, Cameron explains they have four different pumpkin patches on the farm, which are rotated.

Pumpkins at Cairnie Fruit Farm near Cupar. Image: Cairnie Fruit Farm

They are “not super easy” to grow, she says.

The first couple of years they were “annihilated” by slugs. Frosts can also be devastating.

However, once they have been started out in a greenhouse and then planted out when sturdier, even they have a chance against the “hit and miss” of the Scottish climate.

“Pumpkins are much softer and for that reason much easier to carve out!” says Cameron when asked about the demise of Halloween neep lanterns.

“You can also eat them. If you want to be really efficient you can roast them and make soup and all sort of things.

“We try to encourage that as well to try and avoid them ending up in landfill.”

John and Cameron Laird, the couple who own Cairnie Fruit Farm.

Families market

Cameron, who oversees the Cairnie farm shop while her husband farms, says it’s been “a lot of fun” with pumpkins “growing arms and legs” for them over the years.

With such a busy summer season centred around the soft fruit industry, the pumpkins are a nice way to finish their season.

What she also enjoys is seeing smiles on families’ faces when they visit.

“In America I’m probably right in saying Halloween is the highest grossing marketing wise holiday in America because it’s not a religious holiday,” she says.

“This means everybody can celebrate it. It’s not Jewish or Christian or any religion.

“There’s something about dressing up as a kid – it just captures everyone’s imagination.

“I mean our children are in their 20s now and they loved Halloween. I loved it as a kid.

“I guess it’s just that spooky element – dressing up.”

Getting into the Spirits of Scone!

Vicky Glennie is director of Create Events Perth – the company which provides the acting crew for the Halloween fright-fest Spirits of Scone in the grounds of Scone Palace.

Vicky has a few regulars on her books – “mostly mad pals and their mad pals!”

However, she also recruits pupils from Ad-Lib Arts where she works as a teacher and community arts manager.

She also engages every year with musical and technical theatre students at Perth College, offering them paid performance opportunities.

Vicky explains it’s her job to come up with the creative content for the event as well as themes, set, sound and the all-important actors.

‘Jump scare’ actors are on hand to make the evening extra spooky. Image: Cunningly Good

Husband Steven, meanwhile, helps her make the spooky concepts a reality by making sets and installing and maintaining set pieces.

“As it’s just the two of us, we’re very grateful to our friends who help us with set-up,” she says. “It doesn’t get any easier as we get older!”


The Courier spoke to several of the Spirits of Scone acting crew to ask what they get out of it.

Daniel Roberts of Perth. Image: Spirits of Scone

Daniel Roberts, 17, who moved up to Scotland last year, studies musical theatre at Perth College UHI.

He got involved after Vicky visited during a lesson and invited applicants.

“I play a psycho clown who is hungry for blood and guts,” he says.

Daniel Roberts as a psycho clown. Image: Spirits of Scone

“I love scaring people. It’s so funny because they run away!

“I had a woman in her 20s run from me screaming “mum I want my mum!”

“Halloween is my favourite holiday and I will always look forward to Spirits of Scone.”

Zombie nurse!

Caroline Smith, 44, works at SSE in Perth. She knows Vicky through Ad-Lib and has become “hooked”.

“I play a zombie nurse in the hospital area,” says Caroline.

Caroline Smith. Image: Spirits of Scone

“I didn’t think I’d enjoy scaring people at first but once you get going, an evil acting streak definitely arises within you. The adrenaline that it brings is phenomenal!”

Halloween has always been her favourite time of year.

But as well as playing a spook, Caroline also reveals she believes in ghosts.

Caroline Smith as a zombie nurse. Image: Spirits of Scone

“I used to live in the oldest farm house on the Crieff Road and trust me – they DO exist!” she says.

“I’ve seen and heard them in there which scared me deeply.

“My husband is a non-believer yet saw a man facing into the corner of the room mumbling!

“He only told me this a few years ago as he knew I’d never set foot in the house again!”


Kyle Wylie. Image: Spirits of Scone

Former Perth Grammar School pupil Kyle Wylie, 19, works at TAN International as his day job which involves making chemicals.

He found about Spirits of Scone through a friend and plays a zombie.

“I don’t like scaring people – I absolutely love scaring people” he says, “especially when I scare a grown man and he throws his wife to the front.

Kyle Wylie as a zombie. Image: Spirits of Scone

“I never actually used to like Halloween until a few years ago.

“I don’t know what happened. One year it just clicked and now I love Halloween!”

‘Bloody Mary’!

Brooklyn Robertson, 23, is a drama degree student at Perth UHI and also works part time at Mountain Warehouse in Pitlochry where she lives.

Brooklyn Robertson. Image: Spirits of Scone

Last year she played a clown.

This year she plays a mix of characters ranging from a zombie and hospital patient to ‘Bloody Mary’.

“It’s the best experience ever!” says Brooklyn, who “100% believes in ghosts”.

Brooklyn Robertson plays a zombie and ‘Bloody Mary. Image: Spirits of Scone

“I definitely prefer being on the actor side and not being scared myself.

“It’s without a doubt my favourite time of the year!”

Pennywise the clown!

Pennywise the clown is played by 35-year-old bus driver Phil Ross.

Phil Ross. Image: Spirits of Scone

He’s friends with Vicky and Steven and first got involved in 2018 playing various roles.

“I love scaring people,” he says.

Phil Ross as Pennywise the clown. Image: Spirits of Scone

“It’s all part of the fun, especially when the majority of people are petrified of clowns. It makes my job just that little bit easier!”

Psychotic doctor!

Corben Bruce, 22, an HNC music theatre student at Perth College and full-time chef and takeaway manager in Dundee, plays a psychotic doctor in the hospital section.

Corben Bruce. Image: Spirits of Scone

“I enjoy scaring people a lot more than I thought I would!” he says.

“It’s such a great atmosphere and people genuinely love to get scared!”

Corben Bruce as a psychotic doctor. Image: Spirits of Scone

Psychotic prom queen!

Meanwhile, Abigail Jakeman, 17, is playing a psychotic prom queen.

“I love scaring people so much!” says the teenager who is studying musical theatre at Perth College and working for SHIP and Cee Cee Entertainments.

Abigail Jakeman. Image: Spirits of Scone

“There is something just so funny and enjoyable about scaring people.

“It’s very fun and some of the reactions you get are the best things ever!”

Abigail Jakeman as a psychotic prom queen. Image: Spirits of Scone