Ghost In A Coffin
The following account was published in “The peat-fire flame : folk-tales and traditions of the Highlands & Islands” by Alasdair Alpin MacGregor (1937). ‘Connected with Breadalbain is the folk-tale of a ghost that attempted to lie its full length in an open coffin, in order to demonstrate to those concerned that the coffin was too short for the corpse for which it was intended.
There had died at one of the townships overlooking Loch Tay a man, whose body the local joiner had measured for kisting. On the evening of the day on which the coffin was completed, a footsore and weary beggar came to the joiner’s door, seeking a night’s shelter. The joiner’s wife informed him that, although there was no room available in the house, she had no objection to his spending the night in her husband’s workshop, so long as he did not mind the empty coffin lying on the bench. The wood-shavings, she observed, would make a soft, clean bed for him.
The beggar was too weary that night to have any qualms about accepting such an offer on account of an empty coffin; and scarcely a moment was he on his bed of shavings when he noticed a spectre, shrouded in white, climb up on the bench, and attempt to stretch itself out in the coffin that, obviously, was too short for it. The spectre then vanished; and the beggar decided to make the best of his shelter until morning.
” That coffin is too short for the body you want to put in it! ” said the beggar to the joiner on the following morning.
” Why that? ” enquired the joiner.
” Well, last night,” continued the beggar, ” I saw the ghost of the dead man trying to get into it, and he couldn’t.”
The joiner laughed at the vagrant, to whom he and his wife had given a night’s roofing; but, as a matter of interest, he thought he would just measure the corpse again, and compare its length with that of the empty coffin. And, sure enough, as the beggar had indicated, the coffin had to be enlarged. ‘