The first time I ever laid eyes on Carnsalloch House, it was late one night in 2007. We’d heard a story about the property the previous evening, a strange incident that had affected several young visitors who’d gone out to explore after hearing of its haunting reputation. Curiosity was piqued and I really wanted to see for myself this place that everyone was talking about; a creepy old mansion inhabited by numerous ghosts, its driveway said to be ridden by a headless horseman with a Pink Lady laying her ethereal claim on the nearby burial crypt which I’d visited in awe as a teenager.
This house was one of the key inspirational factors in creating Mostly Ghostly Investigations and within a month or two; the wheels were set in motion for a paranormal research team in Dumfries and Galloway.
I told my dear friend (and team member) Mary Wood about the house, knowing she had once been a volunteer with Leonard Cheshire Disability and spent regular time at Carnsalloch in the late 1990s. Mary could remember how it used to look and when we drove out in daylight to see the house properly, it came as quite a shock to her. She remembered a beautiful house, a care home valued by the nearby communities, a place were she met many great characters and brought joy to the elderly residents.
In a mere few years, Carnsalloch was transformed into a barren shell, a magnet for destructive vandals and local mecca for young couples and thrill-seekers. Mary had fond recollections of the home and could hardly believe what it had become. We often wondered if the unnerving happenings related to the vandalism – had the past owners of Carnsalloch returned to see off those so willing to disrespect their home? Very quickly though, we discovered that ghostly goings-on at Carnsalloch Estate were by no means a new entity. Both nursing home staff and residents spoke of apparitions, footsteps and uncanny feelings, they knew of the legendary Pink Lady and her alleged paramour, the horseman, whose hooves might be heard through the driving rain, galloping hard along the eerie driveway…
We too have experienced a variety of unexplained feelings, particularly team member John Hill, who is largely affected by the grounds. Many an evening has been spent attempting communication with John becoming a sort of conduit for a wealth of forthcoming information including many names, some traceable, most, frustratingly out of reach. On one eventful night, he witnessed a large brown horse standing tethered at the front of Carnsalloch just in front of our car – a glimpse of the past?
Since those early days, we have delved into the history and ghost stories connected with Carnsalloch building up a picture of some of the people and events that took place there. We can trace its rich and interesting past back to the 1200s when a man belonging to religious military order, the Knights Templar, built a castle or tower here. The lands passed to the Maxwells who occupied the site for hundreds of years before Alexander Johnstone built the current property, described as a fine Palladian mansion house, after making his fortune in London.
It’s so important to see more than the empty shell; this was once a vibrant place, full of life. In the 1960s none other than the great Dumfries-born actor, John Laurie, officiated over a summer fete, while all about him people in their droves milled around carefree enjoying a good day out with friends and family. In the years that followed, the people of Dumfries rallied to generate much-needed funds for the home with frequent features in the newspapers about the latest successful fundraiser. Folk recognised the valued role of Carnsalloch in their community and were keen to support it, dreaming up lots of ideas to help it weather tough financial challenges.
For a while now, we’ve been in contact with the Foster Bros, owners of Carnsalloch House, who are both passionate about building a positive future for the place, which clearly means a great deal to them. With numerous and at times, seemingly insurmountable stumbling blocks along the way, it must feel hopeless at times, however there is always hope and we certainly support them every step of the way – maybe one day we’ll see it transform again. Like the beautiful tangle of wild roses that grow at the rear of Carnsalloch, there is beauty and life within the the decay, perhaps a good omen for the future – here’s to happier times!
History and Hauntings of Carnsalloch House
A talk by Mostly Ghostly at Troqueer Arms, Dumfries
Saturday 12th September at 7:30pm
Tickets – £5, available from Midsteeple Box Office
Our thanks to the Foster Bros for their continued support regarding our research visits, Dumfries Ewart Library who’ve helped us learn about the history of Carnsalloch and Leonard Cheshire Disability who recently provided us with a treasure trove of old photos to assist with our upcoming talk. We also thank everyone who has taken time to share their personal memories including a gamut of ghostly tales!
Please note: Carnsalloch is in an extremely hazardous state, we would advise against entering the property. We have been granted permission by the owners to visit; however the house itself has deteriorated further and having taken advice from the owners, will spend our research visits in the grounds until we receive safety updates.