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Glenluce Devil

During the 17th Century an incident linked to poltergeist like activity in Glenluce became was recorded and published by Glasgow’s first Professor of Mathematics and demonologist, George Sinclair (died 1696) in his 1685 work, 'Satan's Invisible World Discovered'. The story has of course been retold many times and the account below appeared in 'The Devil In Britain And America' by John Ashton (1896) (with some minor amendments to some spelling).

It happened in October 1654, that after one Alexander Agnew a bold and sturdy Beggar, who, afterwards, was hang'd at Dumfries, for Blasphemy, had threatened hurt to Gilbert Campbell’s family, because he had not gotten such an Alms as he required; the said Gilbert was oftentimes hindred in the exercise of his Calling, all his working Instruments being, some of them broken, some of them cut, and yet could not know by what means this hurt was done. Which piece of trouble did continue till about the middle of November; at which time the Devil came with new and extraordinary Assaults, by throwing of Stones in at Doors and Windows, and down through the Chimney head, which were of great quantity, and thrown with great force, yet by God's good Providence, there was not one Person of the family hurt, or suffer'd damage thereby. This piece of new and sore Trouble did necessitate Mr. Campbell to reveal that to the Minister of the Parish, and to some other Neighbours and Friends, which, hitherto, he had endured secretly. Yet notwithstanding this, his Trouble was enlarged; for, not long after, he found oftentimes his Warp and Threads cut as with a pair of Scissors, and the Reed broken ; and not only this, but their Apparel cut after the same manner, even while they were wearing them, their Coats, Bonnets, Hose, Shoes, but could not discern how, or by what means. Only, it pleased God to preserve their Persons, that the least harm was not done. Yet in the Night-time they wanted liberty to Sleep, something coming and pulling their Bedclothes and Linnens off them, and leaving their Bodies naked.

Next, their Chests and Trunks were opened, and all things in them strewed here and there: Likewise the parts of the working Instruments that had escaped, were carried away, and hid in holes and bores of the House, where hardly they could be found again : Nay, whatever piece of Cloth or Household stuff was in any part of the House, it was carried away, and so cut and abused, that the Good-man was necessitated, with all haste and speed to remove, and to transport the rest to a Neighbour's House, and he himself compell'd to quit the Exercise of his Calling, whereby only he maintained his Family. Yet he resolv'd to remain in the House for a season. During which time some Persons thereabout, not very judicious, counselled him to send his Children out of the Family, here and there, (to try whom the Trouble did most follow, assuring him that this Trouble was not against all the Family, but against some one Person or other in it) whom he too willingly obeyed. Yet for the space of 4 or 5 Days after, there were no remarkable assaults, as before.'

After the Devil had twice set this poor man's house on fire, and the persons within the family suffering many losses, as the Cutting of their Coaths, the throwing of Peits, the pulling down of Turf and Feal from the Roof and Walls of the House, and the stealing of their Apparel, and the pricking of their Flesh and Skin with pins, the Presbytery set apart a day for a solemn humiliation, which seems to have had some effect upon Satan, for soon after he found a voice.

Upon Monday the I2th of February, the rest of the Family began to hear a Voice speak to them, but could not well know from whence it came. Yet, from Evening to Midnight, much vain Discourse was kept up with the Devil, and many idle and impertinent Questions proposed without that due Fear of God that should have been upon their Spirits, under so rare and extraordinary a Trial. The Minister hearing of this, went to the House upon the Tuesday, being accompanied with some Gentlemen, who, after Prayer was ended, heard a Voice speaking out of the Ground, from under a Bed, in the proper Country Dialect, saying, “Would you know the Witches of Glenluce, I will call them”, and so related four or five Persons Names, that went under an evil report. The said Gilbert informed the Company that one of them was dead long ago. The Devil answered, “It is true, she is dead long ago, yet her Spirit is living with us in the World”. The Minister reply'd, saying: “The Lord rebuke thee, Satan and put thee to silence we are not to receive any Information from thee, whatever Fame any Persons go under; thou art but seeking to seduce this Family, for Satan’s kingdom is not divided against itself”.

Then the Devil and the minister had a most unseemly wrangle, both battering each other with texts of Scripture ; and the holy man's visit did no good, for all their annoyances returned, until poor Campbell again appealed to the Presbytery; which body ordered that a solemn humiliation should be kept through all the bounds of the Synod. This was in February, and Campbell's persecutions gradually decreased till April, when they altogether ceased, and so continued till August.

'About which time the Devil began with new Assaults, and taking the ready Meat that was in the House, did sometimes hide it, in holes by the Doorposts, and at other times did hide it under the Beds, and sometimes among the Bed cloaths, and under the Linnens, and at last did carry it quite away, till nothing was left there save Bread and Water to live by. After this he exercised his Malice and Cruelty against all the Persons of the Family, in wearying them in the Night time, with stirring and moving through the House, so that they had no rest for noise, which continued all the month of August after this manner. After which time the Devil grew yet worse, and began with terrible Roarings and terrifying Voices, so that no Person could sleep In the House In the Night-time, and sometimes did vex them with casting of Stones, striking them with Staves on their Beds, In the Night time, and upon the (?) of September about Midnight, he cryed out with a loud voice: I shall burn the House: and, about 3 or 4 nights after, he set one of the Beds on Fire, which was soon extinguished without any prejudice, except the Bed Itself, and so he continued to haunt them.'

As suggested above the haunting was blamed on the begger Alexander Agnew (known as the ‘Devil of Luce’) who is said to have brought about the events after cursing Campbell after his lack of charity. Agnew was hanged in Dumfries for blasphemy after saying ‘there was no God but salt, meal and water’.

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Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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Re: Glenluce Devil

I found another reference to Alexander Agnew which throws the date into dispute:

Alexander Agnew of Dumfries (known as Jock of Broad Scotland) held that the Bible was false. There was no God, no Christ, no Heaven or Hell, and no human soul. There was only nature. For these beliefs he was hanged from a gibbet on 21st May 1651.



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