Edzell is a quaint wee village, its graveyards peaceful and pretty, but appearance can be deceiving, especially here in Edzell.
For a start, the village Edzell is not really the village Edzell at all. Edzell was lost during the centuries and the Georgian planned town of today, was originally called Slateford. It took the name of a small village close-by that had been abandoned. That abandoned village was right here. All that is left, is the graveyard and burial aisle of the Lindsay family, originally part of the church which was destroyed in 1818.
burial vault of the undead
The burial vault and the Lindsay family that owned it, is quite another story, an even more intriguing and strange one than that of the lost village.
The lichtsome Lindsays they were called, a carefree family that lived in Edzell Castle close by. Head of the once wealthy family was the Earl of Crawford and like so many grand families, they lost their fortunes in the beginning of the 18th century.
The stories surrounding this family are numerous and captivating, some are romantic, some are scary, some are both. At a time when Victorian Gothic novels were popular and works like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mysteries of Udolpho widely read, readers were entranced with vampires, ghosts and life after death. The undead seemed more than just a far-fetched fear, they seemed real. And sometimes very local.
As the story goes, they were very much that here in Edzell graveyard.
a gruesome and romantic tale
There was a young and most likely beautiful women, her name not known but she was a Lindsay, rich and deeply mourned when she died. They took her to the burial vault, and covered her dead body with jewels. This shower of valuables for a dead woman was touching and it certainly was tempting for those who were considerably poorer and emotionally distanced enough to be tempted by money and not worried about the desecration of a body.
In this case that was the Edzell sexton, who saw the chance of a lifetime for a change of circumstance in what was openly displayed here in the burial vault.
At night he came back to steal everything of value he could, unseen by anybody he took the jewelry but tried in vain to get two large rings off the dead woman’s fingers. He hesitated, but not for too long.
The blade of his knife gleamed in the dark as the sexton started cutting off the dead woman’s fingers to get hold of the rings.
And in the pale light of a single candle, blood dripped to the floor and a weak cry was heard echoing in the burial vault.
a pale white hand that started bleeding
The lady was alive and the sexton close to death himself for fear of what he had just seen. He dropped the knife and fainted. And while he lay there on the debris of dust and bones, the bleeding corpse got up and shed her shroud. Then she helped up the scared sexton and led him outside into the graveyard.She was alive and had been buried prematurely.
The sexton begged and cried weakly.
She asked him to take her back to the castle.
She promised him a reward if he would take her through the night, the tiresome walk back to her husband’s castle.
He wouldn’t think of it.
She assured him of her forgiveness and thankfulness, but he wouldn’t hear it. He wanted gone. Once and for all, away from this place and the corpse that had come to life. Away from the picture that was burnt into his vision: his knife cutting into a pale white hand that started bleeding.
She finally let him go and made her way towards the castle, alive but cold and alone.
The sexton hurried off, away from Scotland, with him the valuable jewellery that would help him start a new life abroad. She had begged him to keep it. She owed him her life.
Hard to imagine what her husband felt when she came back home, pale, still dressed for her funeral, holding up a pale white hand that had started bleeding.
premature Lindsay burials
Strangely enough this was not the only case of a premature burial in the Lindsay family.
Sir William Lindsay of Covington, who, under like circumstances, was laid out for dead; and, but that his young great grand-daughter observed ” his beard to wagg,” he might, alike with the lady of Edzell, instead of personally greeting the large assembly of relatives and friends who had met to attend his funeral, undergone the sad ordeal of premature burial.
Andrew Jervise: The land of the Lindsays in Angus and Meaens, with notices of Alyth and Meigle. Edinburgh, Sutherland & Knox, George Street; 1853.
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Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years.
Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.