The tale of Alexander Lindsay, the 4th Earl of Crawford is by far one of the most popular ghost stories of Glamis. Known as “Earl Beardie”, Alexander Lindsay is alleged to have been a cruel, evil man with a wicked temperament and a searing bloodlust. Born to nobility and of a particularly influential character, he was involved in the battles against King James II as part of the Douglas clan uprisings. As we mentioned, he was an evil man, and it is alleged that he once had a black house-servant stripped naked and forced to run around in the grounds for his and the other Earls’ entertainment. In a macabre twist, the ‘entertainment’ was actually a hunt, and the poor man was chased down by Earl Beardie, his guests, and their hunting dogs. His screams rang out over the land as he was stabbed with spears and literally torn apart by the dogs, defenceless and stricken by mortal fear.
It is further alleged that the display was watched by the noblewomen from the safety of the castle, where they laughed in delight. What happened to the body after the hunt was over does not appear to be recorded, but is more than likely he would have been eaten by the dogs or other animals on the land. The ghost of this manservant is reputed to be that of ‘Jack the Runner’ – a spirit who runs through the halls at night screaming in pain and terror. The Earl’s indulgences in vices lead us directly to his own ghost story, as it was whilst gambling that Earl Beardie is reported to have met his demise. There are various different takes on how the story begins, but they all centre around a game of cards being played late on a Saturday night at the castle. Whether a fight broke out over alleged cheating, failure to notice the lateness of the hour, or perhaps just from sheer petulance, we will never know, but the legend leads us to believe the Earl was forewarned by a servant that it was close to midnight, and that gambling on the Sabbath was sacrilege. The Earl is said to have scoffed at the servant, ordering him out of the room. Again, depending on the story you read or hear, either the other players take heed and leave, or they do not, and the game continues.
At the stroke of midnight, a knock is heard on the door of the room in which the card game is still being played, and a dark, mysterious figure asks to join the game. The Earl agrees that the mystery man can play, and a new game begins. Sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, arguing and shouting was heard coming from the room. When the servant opened the door, the Earl was engulfed in flames. The mystery man is always reported to be the devil himself, having won the Earl’s soul in a game of cards, and condemning him to play until Doomsday for daring to play cards on the Sabbath.
In other versions of the story, a cloaked devil appears out of thin air, taking both Earl Beardie and his playing companions back to the underworld where are destined to gamble for all eternity. Sounds such as shouting, stomping feet, banging doors and swearing are all reported to come from the West Tower of the castle – the alleged site of the card game (according to some). There have also been reports of residents and guests sighting a bearded man wandering the castle, again, believed to be the spirit of Earl Beardie, and others have even described being touched by the spectre itself.
As far as legends go, it’s certainly a vibrant tale, adapted and altered over time to suit the listener or reader, but, with so many inconsistencies in the tale, we’ll probably never know the real story of what happened to the man nicknamed by many as the “wicked Earl.”