10 Scottish X Files – tales of the unexplained

Alien invasion, disappearing armies and buried Egyptian treasure – these are just some of the Scottish mysteries that have bemused, baffled and terrified in equal measure.

Some you may well have heard of, but others you may not.

We round up 10 of our favourites.

1. Loch Ness Monster

Tales of a monster in Loch Ness have been around for thousands of years. The exact form of ‘Nessie’ has varied hugely, although in the 1930s there were several sightings of a 40ft animal with a giraffe-like neck that overturned boats. Despite the extensive use of sonar and underwater cameras, no proof has ever been found and most images have been discredited as fakes.

2. The Holy Grail

Rosslyn Chapel shot to fame with the publication of The Da Vinci Code, which claimed that a code, hidden within Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, revealed that the Holy Grail was not the cup of Christ, but rather the fiercely-guarded secret that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers and had a child. The documents proving this and tracing the holy bloodline were protected by the Knight’s Templar who, the book claims, hid them somewhere within the walls of the chapel.

3. The Ninth Legion

One of the most feared units in the Roman army, legend has it that, in 110AD, the 4,000-strong veterans of the Ninth Legion marched to the mountains of Scotland to fight the Picts, and promptly disappeared without trace. The lack of any written references to them after that point have fuelled rumours of their demise, although some historians believe they simply disbanded and went overseas. It featured in a 2017 Doctor Who story starring Peter Capaldi, written by Scots playwright Rona Munro.

4. The Pyramid of Scotland

When spoon-bending paranormalist Uri Geller bought Lamb Island in the Firth of Forth in 2009 for £30,000, he announced that it was the ‘Pyramid of Scotland’. Geller’s ‘good feeling’ about the island stemmed from the fact that the rocky outcrop off the coast of North Berwick, which is flanked by two smaller skerries, mirrors the pyramid positions in Giza, near Cairo in Egypt. Geller believes that both Egyptian treasure and Tutankhamun’s half-sister are buried on the island, because of its location at the intersection of two ley lines.

5. The Falkirk Triangle

Alien abductions, shapes forming in the sky and more extraterrestrials than you can shake a stick at – no wonder the good residents of Bonnybridge, 50% of whom claim to have seen a UFO, refer to the West Lothian town as the UFO capital of the world. Since 1992 around 300 sightings a year have been reported, including one in which the Sloggett family claim that they witnessed a UFO ‘the size of a house’ land in a field before two small craft chased them all the way home. Bonnybridge is now twinned with Roswell.

6. The Grey Man of Ben MacDhui

The first recorded report of the ‘Big Grey Man’ – or Fearlas Mor as he is known locally – on Ben MacDhui, Cairngorms’ highest peak, came in 1889 from Professor Norman Collie. The well-regarded man of letters reported being followed, before experiencing a sudden panic: ‘An eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me and I was seized with terror and I took to my heels’. Several other claims of a large, shadowy presence have been made, but sceptics believe Fearlas Mor to be a brocken spectre, a phenomenon in which the sun projects the image of a climber onto mist or low-lying cloud.

7. The Monster of Glamis

When Thomas Bowes-Lyon was recorded as ‘born and died, October 21, 1821’ at Glamis Castle, tongues started wagging. The rightful Lord Glamis – described as having a ‘chest like a barrel, hairy as a doormat, his head ran straight into his shoulders and his limbs were toylike’ – is said to have been kept locked in a secret room for the duration of his unnaturally long life. His only exercise was to be led, dog-like on moonless nights, along a section of the battlements still known as ‘The Mad Earl’s Walk’.

8. Caledonian Marie Celeste

When a relief lighthouse keeper arrived at the remote Eilean Mor lighthouse on Boxing Day 1900, he discovered upturned chairs, a half-eaten meal on the table and ashes in the grate, but no sign of the three experienced lighthouse keepers. Various theories were put forward: perhaps they were swept away by a freak wave while repairing the twisted iron jetty, or perhaps, one went mad and attacked the other two before throwing himself into the sea. Or, as local legend has it, did they fall foul of the ghostly Viking longboat believed to patrol these waters?

9. Big cats

There have been countless reported sightings of big cats in Scotland, including some convincing footage taken by an off-duty Ministry of Defence police dog handler of a giant panther-like black beast happily sauntering along railway lines in Helensburgh. Sightings have been reported in other areas including Perth, Dundee and Fife, but nobody has managed to catch one of these four-pawed wonders that roam Scotland.

10. Isle of Lewis Explosion

At 5pm on 26 October 1996, a mid-air explosion lit up the skies over the Isle of Lewis and islanders witnessed an aircraft plunge into the sea. A search covering an area of over 1,000 square miles failed to locate any wreckage from the incident, which many believe was a military training exercise. However, The Ministry of Defence deny any knowledge of the event, which to this day is shrouded in mystery.