Supernatural Magazine

The Sauchie Poltergeist

Location: Sauchie, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Central Scotland,

Date: November-December 1960.

Sauchie Pronounced (Saw-Key)

This is undoubtedly the biggest poltergeist case of its kind in Scotland, and that’s a fact. It occurred just a few miles from where I lived at the time. There isn’t a case in Scotland that comes anywhere near it. Sadly it was a case that was way before my time. I was only 3 years old when it was going on how I wish though that I had had been older to get involved in this one. This was a momentous case and I often wondered what happened to the little girl who was the main focus of the poltergeist events (Virginia Campbell) and did the classmates of Virginia still remember those bizarre events from all those years ago?

Well in 1987 I undertook to find out and I managed to track down and speak with a few of Virginia Campbell’s classmates who informed me in no uncertain terms that they ‘too’ witnessed some amazing bizarre paranormal happenings in the classroom. However, when I tried to interview the aunty of Virginia Campbell, the door was slammed firmly shut in my face, something that in all my years of Investigation has never ever happened to me before, what made it even more bizarre was the fact that this door was only about 500 yards or so away from where I lived at that time, the town of Sauchie. Somewhat disheartened, I foolishly abandoned all plans to keep searching for further people involved. However, thankfully that passion and desire to find out more, re-surfaced at a later stage (1994) and I once again was chasing potential witnesses to those events of yester year.

But first, and before I get into my re-investigation of this most impressive case, let me take you the reader, a trip down paranormal lane and take a look at those horrible events that occurred to the Campbell household in those winter months of 1960.

THE EVENTS AS THEY HAPPENED.

The Sauchie Poltergeist effectively began back in November 1960 when an eleven girl by the name of Virginia Campbell came to Scotland with her family leaving behind family and friends from the small village of Moville in Donegal Ireland. Virginia’s mother Annie had come to Sauchie to live with her married older brother and his wife at a house in Park Crescent Sauchie. Virginia was an attractive girl with blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. As with any young child leaving behind their family and friends and moving to a strange place, Virginia was at first most unhappy but at the same time accepted that her parents wanted the best for her as this move was also a big move for the rest of her family.

The first few weeks were fine and trouble free but soon the peace was broken by numerous scratching noises which came from various parts of the house, noises that no family member could account for. However, as the weeks progressed the strange noises increased in intensity and proved quite unsettling. As if the noises were not bad enough, the family noticed that various household items would disappear only to return at a later date. Ornaments would move of their own accord with no one near them. But probably the most unsettling and terrifying occurrence during these early weeks, was when the furniture starting to move around the living room of their own volition and various doors throughout the house would open and close when no one was near them.

Things were steadily getting worse and the nerves of all family members were getting frayed by every minute. Soon word was spreading about the ‘haunted house’ in Sauchie and being a relatively small village at that time, quite a few people were getting to know about it. Back in the family home things were getting even worse and a large and heavy linen chest was seen to rise several inches off the floor and its lid was seen to open and remain open for a short period of time then slam down quite violently. It soon became apparent that when all these events occurred, Virginia was in the house at the time, when she was out, all was quiet and peaceful, and it therefore began to dawn on the family that these events must somehow be associated with Virginia’s presence.

EVENTS GO PUBLIC

By now the family were at their wits end and they had to seek out someone who could possibly provide them an answer as to what was going on, they just couldn’t deal with these themselves. So it was at this point that they contacted their local GP a gentleman called Dr H.W. Nesbit who lived in a nearby village of Tillicoultry. Sadly Dr Nesbit couldn’t really alleviate the situation other than prescribe some drugs to calm their nerves. On the strength of all the paranormal happenings put together they soon realised that their house must be haunted, and on the basis of that, they sought out the services of a local Vicar by the name of Reverend T.W. Lund. Mr Lund attended the family home but could offer little support to the family other than to offer them prayers. However, and as a bizarre twist to this case, the poltergeist effects did not just contain themselves to the family home; incredibly they travelled with Virginia to her local school! For any poltergeist event this is very rare, it may happen occasionally, but in the main most if not all poltergeist effects will contain themselves to one location, and that’s usually the home or residence of shall we say’ the victim’ !

One day at school, Virginia’s teacher looked up from her own desk and saw Virginia struggling with her desk lid. Virginia had both elbows trying to force down her desk lid which seemed to have a mind of its own. She at once said, “Virginia what are you doing”? to which Virginia replied “Nothing Miss honest” “Stop that at once Virginia” the teacher replied, and as soon as Virginia took her elbows away from the desk, the desk lid was flapping up and down. The screams of Virginia’s classmates resounded throughout the room as Virginia’s teacher looked on open mouthed in disbelief. Lots more paranormal disturbances occurred in the school which I will cover in a moment.

This case did not just go local, it did not just go national, it went worldwide and I’ve only scratched the surface of those terrifying events that transpired in that house in Park Crescent Saucier. Now as I was growing up and getting involved with research of strange phenomenon, people were still talking about this most fascinating case and in 1994 I decided to look back into the case, and see what I could find, I was not to be disappointed.

HOW THE LOCAL PRESS COVERED THE STORY.

Before I present my updates on this story, let me give you the reader the events as they were transcribed by the local newspaper at the time, ‘The Alloa Journal’. For this, I had to delve into the micro film archives at the local Alloa library a small town near to Sauchie. Boy, what an afternoon that was, phew, it was like going back in time, well in a sense it was! A full afternoon was spent in the library going through page after page of micro film and the following are extracts from the Alloa Journal of 2nd December 1960. In part it reads; “Just over a week ago strange things began to happen to Virginia. Heavy pieces of furniture were seen to move when she entered a room, doors opened when she approached them and then were found difficult to shut. Worried and anxious, Virginia’s brother asked the Reverend T. Lund to try and help and also Doctor H. W. Nisbett of Tillicoultry who was the Campbell’s family doctor. Both men have been greatly impressed with what they have been told and with what they themselves have seen”. “Their concern for the wellbeing of Virginia and their family had increased during the past week because of the effect which gossip and publicity are having upon them”. “Before she came to Scotland, Virginia lost a pet dog of which she was very fond of and a little girlfriend died. Both of these occurrences upset her very much. One night when sitting on the edge of Virginia’s bed, Mrs Campbell was roughly pushed off, and as she stood watching, she saw the blankets and sheets rising and falling above Virginia while the child made little moaning sounds like someone in pain”

The Alloa Journal in this very large article goes on at great length to state that Reverend Lund and Doctor Nisbet refused to make any public statements or comments regarding this case. As the days wore on, further and more worrying strange events occurred within the Campbell household. The National press soon got wind of the story and soon the village of Sauchie was awash with reporters. The Alloa Journal in this 2nd of December 1960 article goes on… “Mr James Henderson, Secretary of the Alloa Spiritualist Church said, “In my opinion, this little girl has certain unusual psychic qualities and I am convinced that some person who has passed on is trying to communicate through her”. “I believe that a responsible medium should be taken to see the little girl, for such a person could certainly help her”. “The medium might be able to take over from Virginia, the pressure which is being put on her from the other side, and so bring relief to her”. “I am convinced that this little girl, if properly looked after spiritually, might be able to help many hundreds of people as the late Helen Duncan did, (a famous Scottish psychic medium)”

Helen Duncan was a famous Scottish psychic medium that was arrested and charged with witchcraft during the Second World War). Her ‘crime’ was to channel information concerning a British warship that had been sunk before the Admiralty had even released the news to the public.) From the Alloa Journal’s sister paper the Alloa Advertiser, I take the following quotes. “Dr Nesbit said, “Virginia is not responsible for what has happened”. “The child is innocent”. “What has taken place was not conjured by the child herself, an outside agent is responsible”. “Believe me, something unfortunate has been going on in that house”. “The girl was hysterical all the time the phenomenon was appearing”. “We decided then to try sedation”. “Virginia was given mild tranquillisers to quieten her”. “If the phenomenon were being conjured by her own imagination, they would no longer appear if her brain was dulled”. “But even though the brain was not working normally, the phenomenon ‘STILL APPEARED’”

Following this incident, in an attempt to alleviate the situation, Virginia was moved to another house in the neighbouring town of Dollar, unfortunately, this did not improve matters. The phenomena followed her and she returned to the house in Sauchie. By now the press were getting wind of the story and the Campbell family were being hounded every time they set foot out of their house. It didn’t take long before the story leaked out in the national press. Soon, due to constant press attention, the Campbell’s were virtually prisoners in their own house. Other family members as well as friends were tracked down by the media for information. No matter how hard they tried, Virginia’s family were unable to protect her from the continuous pressure and inevitably the strain began to tell. Meanwhile, the events intensified. The Alloa Journal of 16th Dec. 1960 reports, “Two Tillicoultry doctors used a tape recording of sound phenomena that had been heard during the ‘psychic illness’ of little Virginia Campbell, In the Scottish Home Service programme ‘Scope on Tuesday’. The sounds in themselves were not terrifying, but when a child’s voice started screaming ‘Mummy, Mummy’; that happened when Virginia saw the lid of a linen basket starting to open, the doctors explained that it was then that the listeners realised that something unusual was happening”

“Mr. MacDonald, Reverend of St. George’s West Church, in Edinburgh, described the sounds and movements witnessed, and he considered that there were two possible explanations, and he favoured the explanation that the phenomena were caused by some ‘lower forms of intelligence” It’s fair to say that whilst all this was going on the Church of Scotland throughout all these traumatic events was non-committal. Which is no real surprise I suppose as the Church tend to distance themselves from episodes such as this.

After my fact finding afternoon in the Alloa Library looking back through the old mirco fiche files of the Alloa Advertiser, I decided to start a re-investigation of the facts in an attempt to find out for sure if all which was said before on this case was true.

MALCOLM ROBINSON’S RE-INVESTIGATION OF THE SAUCHIE POLTERGEIST.

I first of all decided to launch an appeal through the local Alloa newspapers for anyone who knew Virginia Campbell to come forward with any information concerning the events in 1960/61. Fortunately a local lady who although she had not been in Virginia’s class, was friendly with her teacher at Craig bank Primary School. The lady, who wished to remain anonymous, supplied the telephone number of the teacher, formerly Miss Margaret Stewart, but since her marriage to a minister, it’s now Mrs Margaret Davidson. I remember that call well. As I lifted up the receiver and started to dial the number I thought that if anyone could confirm or deny these amazing claims, then it would certainly have been Virginia’s teacher, I was not to be disappointed. Here is what transpired on that telephone call when I spoke to Margaret (Virginia’s teacher) Margaret stated;

“Virginia was a shy withdrawn girl, but very pleasant” Although she wasn’t really forthcoming, she was in every other way quite normal” “She was also good at her lessons. I had never really heard the word poltergeist before, indeed, I thought it was the name of some kind of medicine, that’s how naïve I was.” “The first time I became aware of anything strange was when I had given the class an essay to do”.” The class was quiet and all the children had their heads down bent over their jotters busily writing away. In 1960 we still had the old desks that had a lid top. Anyway, I looked over at Virginia and noticed that she was sitting with both hands pressed firmly down on top of her desk lid” “I rose from my chair and walked over to Virginia. I was then surprised to see the desk lid rise and fall with Virginia trying her best to keep it shut with her hands”.

“At this point a child in front of Virginia rose to take her jotter over to my desk, no sooner had she left her seat, than her desk rose a few inches off the floor on its four legs.” “I then explained to the class that I would be back I a few minutes and during this time I went to see the school headmaster, a Mr. Peter Hill. I told him that there was something funny going on in my classroom and explained to him what I had just seen.” “Mr. Hill said that he had heard talk of strange things going on in the Campbell household”. “He then asked to see Virginia and asked me to explain to her classmates that Virginia would be going home for a few days because she was feeling unwell” “I was also to say that there might be talk from others of ghosts centred around her but they were not to believe this that they were just rumours, this is what he more or less told me to say”

“Anyway, I went back to the classroom and summoned Virginia over and told her the headmaster wanted to talk to her. As Virginia left the room, I found that I could not shut the door behind her and had to summon help from three of the children to help me push the door shut.” “I remember saying to the class, ‘It must be very windy today!” “Virginia was not distressed at this time”. “I then mentioned to the class telling of what the headmaster had told me to say and I found that the class was quite responsive and very supportive”.

THE VIBRATING TABLE

Margaret went on to tell me; “The most unnerving thing that I experienced in the classroom was when on one occasion I was sitting behind my large oak table, Virginia was standing at the other side of the table with her hands clasped firmly behind her back” “Suddenly, a large blackboard pointer cane which was lying flat on my table, started to ‘vibrate’. “ At first it vibrated slowly, and then increased as the seconds wore on” “I sat transfixed looking at this, then the table, which was quite heavy, started to rise up slowly into the air, and also vibrated” “I put my hands on the table and tried to push it back down but with no success”. “I was quite horrified, but it did not stop there”. “The table continued to vibrate as it hovered a few inches off the floor” “ Then the table rotated through 90 degrees so that where I had moments before sat behind the long edge of the table, the table had rotated so that it’s narrow edge was now directly in front of my stomach”. “I looked up at Virginia and saw that she was quite distressed and I remember her saying, ‘Please miss, I’m not doing that honest I’m not’. “I calmed her down, just then, a bowl of flower bulbs shot straight across the table”.

Margaret went on to discuss with me other aspects of strange events that had occurred within the classroom more so the school jotters (books) which would rise up into the air and move away from the direction of where Virginia was at the time. These objects never seemed to move towards Virginia, they always moved in a direction ‘away’ from her. Margaret also informed me that she had noticed that strange things seemed to occur on a 28 day cycle!

SUPPORTIVE CLASSMATES.

During this time, the newspaper hacks hounded poor Virginia at school but thankfully Virginia’s classmates were very supportive to her. Indeed, on one occasion as the pressmen gathered at the school gates, a classmate of Virginia’s who bore a striking resemblance to Virginia, put on Virginia’s coat and rushed from the school building going towards a different direction from where Virginia lived. Hot on the heels of this masquerading Virginia, were the merry band of pressmen hot in pursuit, what happened when they caught up with the copycat Virginia was not stated. Margaret also mentioned to me that she too was hounded by the press and went on to say that there were two incidents that stood out at the time both of which were complete and utter crazy

One story concerned a woman who asked if she could touch her (Virginia) because she was, “One of God’s chosen ones”. She also recalls receiving a letter from a Witch doctor in Africa who advised her to, “Pound down some bones and dance over them”, this, she was told might get rid of Virginia’s ghosts. The Church of Scotland arrived at Craig bank Primary School and held a service in the classroom not an exorcism Margaret explained, this however failed to work. And events continued in their absurdity. Margaret concluded the interview with me on the phone by saying “These events really did happen, Mr Robinson, I remember them as if it was yesterday, I’ll never forget them”.

A MAJOR WITNESS RECOLLECTS.

Through further research, (Oh how I love digging away!) I uncovered another major witness to the events in the Campbell home a Mr. James Carruthers (pseudonym) who at the time of the poltergeist event was closely associated with the family and witnessed many of the strange events taking place. Here is what Mr. Carruthers had to say to me over the phone, “On one occasion, I was in Virginia’s bedroom with a number of other individuals and I was standing close to the bed in which Virginia was lying, she had the bedcovers pulled up to her chin. Suddenly I observed the covers making a’ rippling movement’ from the bottom of the bed right up to her chin. I am convinced that Virginia did not produce this effect, there was no movement from below the covers, i.e. from her legs, just this peculiar rippling movement running up and down the top bedcover”. Mr Carruthers continued…” Seconds later, I then observed the pillow next to Virginia which had been plumped up; suddenly take on what appeared to me the shape of someone’s head. A clear indentation of the pillow was seen by me and others in the room. Now during this time, strange knockings, banging’s, scratching and what sounded like ‘sawing noises’ were coming from all over the room, you couldn’t really pin point the exact source of the noise, ‘it was coming from everywhere’. Most unusual was the sound of what appeared to be like a ping pong ball constantly being bounced. Virginia was quite distressed by all this” “On another occasion when the Church of Scotland were in attendance in the home, these noises, these banging’s and rapping’s intensified during the exorcism ceremony, they were really loud I remember when the church members started singing ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’.

Mr Carruthers continued,

“Someone mentioned at this time that animals are to some degree psychic, so I decided to test this theory and I took my pet dog along to the Campbell house and even although these same knockings and rapping’s could be heard in Virginia’s bedroom, my dog was at no time disturbed by it all. My feelings on the matter are that these events have nothing to do with ghosts or spirits. I believe that the shift in environment from a rural farming community life in Ireland, leaving behind her friends and such and coming over to Scotland, was, in a sense, a bit of a trauma and that somehow, this suppressed emotion was externalised to objects and items close to Virginia”.

Mr Carruthers also stated to me during this phone call that he remembered seeing a diary, which was kept by an uncle of Virginia at that time and there was an entry in it that stated that marks ‘appeared and disappeared’ on Virginia’s hands but he had never seen these marks himself. I must admit that I had hoped for a better response to my request from people to contact me with information on this case from the readers of the Alloa Advertiser, but there is of course the fact that any witnesses to this phenomenon may have moved away from the area (or just that they were reluctant to talk about what they themselves saw!) I did however, track down and interviewed two of Virginia’s classmates who, more or less confirmed the events of which their teacher had experienced.

AFTER THOUGHTS ON MY RE-INVESTIGATION

I must admit I really enjoyed looking back at the Sauchie Poltergeist case (Scotland’s biggest ever case of its kind). My telephone call to Virginia’s school teacher proved very illuminating, ‘how I wish that I had have been in Virginia’s class at that time to see all these weird and paranormal events’. Now whether you subscribe to the belief that ‘spirits’ were involved here, or, as Mrs Carruthers puts it, that Virginia ‘herself’ through this ‘suppressed emotion’, somehow caused these events to occur, is a matter of some debate. What is abundantly clear is the fact that these events DID occur, and they were witnessed by sound and very reliable high standing people in the community. The village of Sauchie was, as the Alloa Advertiser so aptly put it, ‘ Descended’ upon by swarms of the press like one of the plagues of Egypt’ And me, what do I believe? Well that state that the world is in right now, there must be countless millions suffering from this so called, ‘suppressed emotion’ and I don’t think that strange events are occurring to them. Dr Nesbit, who attended Virginia, saw a heavy linen chest rise up from the floor, now it would take some ‘suppressed emotion’ to cause that! ‘Suppressed Emotion’ or Poltergeist? We could argue about it all day. Whether it’s one or the other, or a combination of both, one thing is for sure, these events are so fascinating to researchers the world over, but obviously not so to the people involved.

Malcolm Robinson

Malcolm Robinson

I’ve been interested in the strange world of UFOs and the paranormal for as long as I can remember and in 1979 I formed my own research society entitled, Strange Phenomena Investigations, (SPI). Since forming this society, I have moved down to Hastings in East Sussex where I have started up a sister branch to SPI, entitled, Strange Phenomena Investigations England). SPI Scotland is now in the hands of a fellow researcher.