A series of spooky goings on at a Lochaber hotel has led to the launch of a ghostbusters group to seek out spirits in the area.
Jim Morrison and his fiancee Heather MacLeod are former employees of Ballachulish Hotel, where they and others have reported experiencing paranormal activity.
Staff and guests alike have spoken of apparitions and unexplained occurrences at the hotel, which dates back to the 1830s, and some even have photographs.
The pair worked at the hotel in the summer and, following a spate of strange encounters during their time there, they felt the need to set up the new non-profit making organisation.
Jim Morrison (35), who is from Fort William but now lives in Kinlochleven, told the Lochaber News: “Both Heather and I have always been interested in the paranormal and had experienced paranormal experiences together so we thought we would get together to set this group up to do investigations and prove spirits exist.
“Our experiences happened when we both worked at the Ballachulish Hotel. When we started, other members of staff said they had experienced paranormal activity but we didn’t know whether to believe them until we experienced things for ourselves.”
Jim was a porter at the hotel, while Heather (44) was assistant housekeeper when they stumbled across strange goings on.
He recalled: “One day in room 112, I was helping Heather move a bed when we heard heavy footsteps coming along the corridor and stopping outside the door. But when I looked, nobody was there. Heather had experienced the same thing in the same room a few days before.
“On another occasion, I was in room 204 when the window which normally stays open twice slammed shut when there was no wind or anything to cause it. Then, when I looked over to the bed, there was an imprint on it as if somebody had been sitting on it. There would also be strange feelings in certain rooms like you were being watched.
“After we left the hotel we were watching a ghost-hunting programme on TV, which gave us the idea to set up our own group.”
Along with three others – Rob Price, of Fort William, and Natalie Milne and Jim Rogan, both of Aberdeen – the team will investigate people’s houses and other premises like hospitals, schools and hotels.
Their first probe will be in February at Old Inverlochy Castle. All investigations are free, though donations help buy equipment such as video cameras.
Gwen MacAskill, head receptionist at Ballachulish Hotel, said for some years guests have spoken of unexplained phenomena at the hotel.
She said: “There have been people who have mentioned things happening at the hotel.
“One guest who stayed a couple of years ago emailed us a picture he had taken in room 215 of what looks like a small boy standing beside the bed.
“One of our maintenance guys who has been here for 15 years has spoken of seeing the boy in the picture. People have mentioned just feeling things in a couple of rooms.
“In room 121, people say they have experienced seeing someone or feeling as though there is somebody standing in the room.
“Also in room 121, there was a driver staying a few years ago who was convinced he was being held on the bed by something and it wouldn’t let him go. He also said how he had heard children’s voices in the room. That room had been beside the children’s nursery when the hotel was first built.
“Other people have mentioned an old lady standing in corridors, while another time a member of staff was staying in a room while the hotel was closed when her partner heard footsteps coming down the corridor. When they looked, no-one was there and the hotel was closed anyway.”
A night porter reportedly heard the tinkling of ivories in the early hours of the morning. But when he entered the lounge he found the piano was playing – on its own.
Ms MacAskill has worked at the hotel for 15 years but hasn’t experienced anything untoward herself.
“It always happens to other people,” she laughed.
THE HISTORY OF BALLACHULISH HOUSE / HOTEL
Chieftains, Clansmen, Adventurers – all men met at the “crossing of the waters” in this celebrated drovers Inn.
Ballachulish House was built in 1640 as a country estate, although as the building was destroyed during the Jacobite rebellions the current house dates from around 1745. In 1692 it was occupied by Sir Robert Campbell of Glenlyon when he received orders signed by the king to put all of the MacDonalds of Glencoe under seventy years of age ‘to the sword’. This order prompted one of the most notorious massacres in Scottish History.
The house is also associated with the murder of the king’s factor, Colin Campbell, in 1752; an event known as the Appin Murder. Colin Campbell is perhaps better known as ‘The Red Fox’, so called because of his red hair, a common feature of the Campbell clan of which he was a prominent member. In May, 1752 he was leading a small detachment of government soldiers into Ballachulish, supposedly to collect taxes although it has also been suggested that he may have had the duty of purging the area of its Stuart Jacobite sympathisers, when he was killed by a musket shot. The site of the murder is about a mile seaward from Ballachulsih, where a signpost from the road will lead you inland and uphill to a cairn marking the spot. The assassin fled, carrying the weapon into Ballachulish where it was discovered in the yew tree behind Ballachulish House. Today ‘The Black Gun of Misfortune’ is exhibited in the West Highland Museum in nearby Fort William.
In the aftermath of the murder the authorities carried out a witch hunt in the area. Needing someone to take the rap they dragged the unwitting James Stewart to Inveraray where he was tried by a Campbell judge and jury. Predictably they found him guilty as charged. On the 8th of November, about six months after the murder, James Stewart was taken to Ballachulish where he was hung on a small knoll just at the southern end of today’s bridge, near Ballachulish House. A commemorative plaque marks the spot. His body was left to rot for several months, as a means of discouraging the locals, so that it was little more than a skeleton that the authorities finally allowed to be buried. The Appin Murder formed the basis for Robert Louis Stephenson’s famous novel, ‘Kidnapped’.
Set against the massive Ben Vair mountain range in a spectacular swirling lochside location, the building is a sentinel both to its own past and the rich history of the surrounding area. Visiting the Highlands, Queen Victoria commented in her diary on the “beautiful hotel” as she crossed the Ballachulish Ferry.
A ferry has run across the narrows for centuries with The Ballachulish Hotel on the southside and The Loch Leven Hotel on the northside acting as staging posts for travellers. The building next to the existing Hotel is a former stables and garage. The ferries finally ceased when the Bridge was completed in 1975.
A testimony to earlier times is a rock awash in the narrows known as Clach Phadruig or Peter’s Rock. This was named after a Viking who stepped onto it to try and save his son who was drowning. Local tradition has it that the sheltered waters of Loch Leven were much used by the Vikings.
Source: Phantoms and Monsters