Folklore Friday - Skaill House
On the spectacular bay of Skaill (in Orkney), sits Skaill House. The finest 17th Century mansion in Orkney, it is home of William Graham Watt, 7th Laird of Breckness. The house was originally built in 1620 by Bishop George Graham and has been added to by successive generations throughout the centuries. In it's evolution over 400 years, all 12 Lairds have been related and have contributed to the history and collections of the house.
Late one night, the present Laird of the house was up and doing some work to the house. He heard the faint sound of footsteps so turned to see who was approaching him, but there was no one there. Hearing the footsteps too, his dog raised her hackles and began barking loudly into the darkness. Running out of the room terrified, his dog hid and would not come out until the following morning.
This presence has been attributed to Ubby, who many years ago built the small island in the middle of Skaill Loch. Ubby would row out to the middle of the loch in a boat and drop stones in a pile. The small island can still be seen today. Living on the island he built, Ubby is known to have died out there and now he is rumored to haunt the wing of the house in which he once lived.
Other sightings have been reported around the main house by both visitors and staff. One employee reported seeing the reflection of a man in the visitors shop. Going through to help him, she found there was no one there. She described him as a tall man with dark hair that was going thin on the top. She was sure her imagination wasn't playing tricks on her and had the entire house searched to find the man she had seen, but the house was found to be empty.
When visiting the house, a tourist was partaking in a tour around the house. They got to the gun room and when the group was asked a question about the house she swears that a male voice answered, however there were no males present that day.
There have been a number of strange sounds, such as doors opening and closing of their own accord, and even unexplained smells around the house. The owner of Skaill House, Malcolm Macrae, reported that he was in the attic office when he could smell cigarette smoke. Both himself and an employee commented on it, but could not find the source of the smell.
Through all the spooky sightings and unexplained happenings at Skaill House, one thing that is certain is that there are skeletons lurking under the floorboards. When preparations were taking place to open Skaill House to the public, 15 skeletons were discovered, Some were south of the south wing and others under the gravel in front of the east porch. Radio Carbon dating showed the skeletons to be Norse.
Before this creepy discovery, more skeletons were found under the flagstone in the main hall, when it was lifted to be replaced in the twentieth century. The floor of the main hall was replaced with oak flooring, and before doing so, the skeletons were put back carefully in their place before the oak flooring was laid. They remain there to this day and can assume they were part of a Norse Graveyard.
No matter how many ghost stories come from Skaill House, there seems to be an underlying consensus that the ghosts, no matter how terrifying, are fairly friendly.