OUT of a haze of moonlight, a frowning mansion towered in the gloom at the end of a dark drive.
Banshees shrieked from shadowy rafters and ghostly silhouettes flitted across the ancient stonework as a heavy door creaked open.
Two tiny journalists held their breaths and resisted the temptation to run for their lives.
Like the opening scene of a vintage horror movie, they half expected a hairy gnarled hand to curl around the door and shake out their souls.
“Are you here for the Raehills Fright Night?”, asked a cheery voice. “I’m Allan from the Anthony Nolan Trust. Welcome. Hope the peacocks didn’t spook you too much!”
Stepping into Raehills, stately home of the Earls of Annandale and family seat of the Johnstone clan, it was not difficult to imagine why the trust had organised its latest fundraising fright night for courageous ghost hunters there.
Johnstone ancestors glowered from the walls, their disapproving eyes following the large group of strangers to the stately drawing room where the Lord and Lady; TV medium Derek Acorah; the Borders Paranormal Group; and Dumfries’ own Mostly Ghostly were waiting to host a spirited evening of spooky activity to entertain the living visitors — all hoping to catch a glimpse of Raehill’s infamous Green Lady who stalks the upstairs corridors.
But the audience was in for a shock when Mr Acorah announced that there was more than just the spirit of a lady to contend with.
“I am picking up five individual spirit people,” he said, “as well as some residual energy in this house. Bless them.”
Derek told his audience that there were two women and three men, before he also picked up on the presence of a mischievous child. A light tapping on the door at that moment confirmed that, living or dead, at least something was listening.
“Elisia and Anne,” Derek called the women’s names. He later described two men, William and John, who were in “visitation” together. He gave a date of 1867. He also said that there was another male presence, at least 100 years older, who was a lot meaner than the others: “he had an attitude to show anger in his day,” was the chilling description.
A few members of the audience were given messages from their deceased relatives — most reporting to be uncannily accurate — before everyone re-grouped in a room in the labyrinthine cellars, aptly named Ghost Central, to be given their itinerary for the evening — a ghost hunt and night vigil to find the lurking phantoms.
Armed with night vision cameras, electro magnetic flux (EMF) metres, a few dousing rods, some crystals and a large portion of courage, the visitors were split up into smaller groups and each accompanied to certain parts of the house by members of the Borders Paranormal Group and Mostly Ghostly to begin their investigations.
Blithe spirits or Scotch mist? To the sceptics, the evening was inconclusive. To the believers, the night revealed some real evidence of paranormal activity.
Fortunately for the most daunted, the spirits were reasonably quiet on the night but no one went home disappointed.
A light trail was recorded on one of the cameras close to where the Green Lady had been seen; an EMF metre was drained of battery power before it was put to use; a glass moved four or five inches during a divining session in the library; there were some inexplicable knocks and bumps around the house; cold spots; and sudden, strong smells of pipe smoke and lavender in some of the rooms.
This was all just as well, since no one really wants to be scared out of their wits on a Friday night and the event ended peacefully in the early hours of the morning as a hazy rain fell.