On the night of Black Jean’s hideous death, dark forces intruded into the human realm in a grotesque tribute to this acolyte of demons. Perth’s natural order was overthrown and weather systems were interrupted as the veil between the living and the dead was briefly parted.
The memory of her howling exit from this world struck terror into people in the town for decades and was quoted by the press well into the mid-1800s.
Black Jean was an interpreter of dreams. It is thought she came to Perth from Glen Coe. In the 1700s, the social connections between Argyllshire and Rannoch in Perthshire were stronger.
She lived in Meal Vennel, now the site of the St John’s Centre, close to where the old Central District School stood.
While her power may have had a dark origin, Jean took care to affirm the positive in her readings and sent no one away with a heavy heart. She followed the belief that morning dreams were signposts to fate.
As she advanced in years, some in the town began to doubt her power. One was a matron who scorned Black Jean for refusing to predict the date of her death.
It seems Jean had good reason for staying quiet. The matron was to die within a week.
However, the one event Black Jean did not predict was her own untimely death.
Despite her age she enjoyed rude health and seemed destined to push human existence to its limit.
A minor illness confined the spaewife to bed, but she refused medical help.
Her withdrawal coincided with a series of sinister events which many interpreted as portents of her death.
It began when a stray dog found its way to Jean’s door after dark and howled piteously for hours. Then an old visitor to Jean saw images of the dead in a bedside candle.
A little girl who sat by the dead was disturbed by the rustling and tapping of a strange bird at the garret window.
That same night a woman returned home in terror declaring she had seen the wraith of Black Jean at the gate of Greyfriars burial ground.
Perth people experienced a ringing in their ears. They took it to be death bells.
Black Jean at last consented to medical attention but the doctor could do nothing. A minister was called but his word of faith disturbed Jean who began chanting spells.
On her final night a furious storm of wind and rain broke. Between gusts, Jean emitted guttural roars. The window was opened to allow her soul to flee and a calm came over Jean.
Her attendants were huddled round a table when between gusts, a growl of distant thunder was heard. Then the near-lifeless Jean sat upright in her bed, eyeballs distended and waving her arms. She broke into a grotesque song predicting a rising from the grave.
As she breathed her last the house was shaken by an earthquake. Few in Perth forgot Black Jean’s passing.