The air was still, still and crisp, the fresh scent of autumn permeating Dumfries’ town centre as the evening light began to falter. Two dubious-looking characters in period costume and their Gothic female associates strode towards the town’s historic Midsteeple, their cheery light-hearted smiles contrasting with the torrent of tension coursing through their bodies – classic first night nerves! This was to be an extraordinary night for the Dumfries-based group of paranormal investigators and tour guides – Mostly Ghostly Investigations – the first public airing of their exciting new dark history tour – Ghosts and Graverobbers!
The nerves eased ever so slightly as we welcomed our guests, an eclectic group with an equally diverse range of backgrounds including representatives from; Dumfries Theatre Royal, the Ewart Library, Dumfries Museum and St. Joseph’s College. We’d organised a special tour Preview Event in order to highlight Ghosts and Graverobbers to the wider world, unearthing Dumfries’ macabre past to local people, organisations and visitors to Dumfries & Galloway. There were four photographers covering the event; talented local newspaper editor and writer Sara Bain, the amazing Allan Devlin on behalf of Dumfries & Galloway Life Magazine, creatively inspiring Angus McDougall, who we’ve been delighted to work with in the past and the one and only Robin Baird of acclaimed news and media project Dumfries & Galloway! What’s Going On?
Things became a little surreal; were we actually standing here after almost a year of research and preparation, ready to bring Dumfries’ rich history to life – the time had come! Guests converged on the Midsteeple Plainstanes ready to embark on a thought-provoking journey. Our philosophy is to reveal hidden or unusual aspects of familiar locations, encouraging people to get excited about local history, thinking twice as they stroll past local buildings and landmarks. Without giving too much away, we visited a collection of iconic Dumfries locations marking each with accounts of remarkable characters, dramatic events and ghastly graverobbing. Stories varied widely; we are passionate about local history and keen to share the hidden and lesser-known tales that may otherwise become lost.
It was fascinating to watch guest’s reactions as they were drawn deeper into the unsettling world of bodysnatching, murder and religious persecution. Encircled by inky darkness, we presented some of our town’s ghosts; mainly those in the sense of dark historical echoes, grim events that haunt Dumfries and of course, a hint of the spiritual variety! Cameras snapped and flashes illuminated the blackness as we unearthed buried tales of cadaverous Resurrection Men and the impact of their dastardly doings! As the tour drew to a close, a joyful feeling kicked in; the tour has been a success, well received and passionately supported!
To end an amazing night, filled with encouraging comments from guests, we invited everyone back to The Globe Inn for a warming bowl of their famous lentil soup. Some guests said goodnight at this point and others joined us at the historic howff, one of Burn’s favourite haunts, where we gathered in the homely bar; soup, sandwiches and delicious cakes were served and lively conversation ensued. One teacher described our contribution to the town as ‘commendable’, others spoke of discovering new elements of Dumfries they had no idea existed. We’ve had some great feedback since the event and you can find out more at Tour Reviews. Before we said goodbye, Jane Brown, manager of the Globe, gave us a whistle-stop tour of the building with a series of engaging presentations about the pub’s long history; her Burns knowledge was amazing! What an incredible night; the perfect way to introduce our new walk to Dumfries!
Warmest, heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended our Ghosts and Graverobbers event; your interest, enthusiasm and support means so much to the team and it was an honour and a pleasure to share this experience with you.
Also, special mention to Sara Bain for the featured photos and Mark Alexander and Anne Aldridge of the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, who helped with costumes which really enhanced the tour and made John and James into a pair of (even more!) disreputable rogues – thank you!