The Sauchie Poltergeist was a Poltergeist outbreak that occurred in Sauchie, Scotland, in 1960–61, centred around an 11- year-old girl. Various phenomena, witnessed by five persons, were concluded to be paranormal. No discarnate or disembodied being manifested, and the most likely explanation of the cause was a combination of rapid puberty and intense, repressed emotions on the part of the girl.
The child, Virginia Campbell, was the youngest of several children of James and Annie Campbell, who were in their mid-fifties. The family was Irish, and Virginia had been raised in County Donegal. Her father worked a farm near Moville. Virginia, the only remaining child at home, appears to have been a shy child. Her only companions in addition to her parents were her dog, Toby, and another girl, Anna.
Around 1960, the Campbells decided to relocate to Scotland. One of their sons, Thomas, lived near Sauchie and worked in coal mining. In the fall of 1960, Virginia and her mother went to live with Thomas and his family while Mr. Campbell stayed behind in Ireland to dispose of the farm. Thomas’s family included his wife, a daughter, Margaret, age nine, and a son, Derek, age six. Virginia was left to live with the family while her mother took a job at a boardinghouse in Dollar, a community some miles from Sauchie. Virginia was required to share not only a bedroom with Margaret, but also a double bed.
Virginia was enrolled in primary school. The teacher, Margaret Stewart, found her bright, well behaved, and shy. She had difficulty making herself understood to the other students, and had difficulty understanding their speech.
At about this time, Virginia began undergoing a rapid pubescence.
The first disturbances began on the night of November 22, 1960, in the Campbell home. A “thunking” noise, like a bouncing ball, was heard in the girls’ bedroom. When they came downstairs and into the living room, the noise followed them. It ceased when Virginia went to sleep.
The next day, Virginia was kept home from school. At teatime, the Campbells witnessed a sideboard, untouched by anyone, move out from the wall and back again. More knockings were heard all over the house that night after Virginia went to bed, but not to sleep. Several neighbours also heard the noise.
At midnight, the worried Campbells summoned a local pastor from the Church of Scotland, Rev. T.W. Lund, to the house. Lund heard the knockings and noticed they emanated from the bed head. When he took hold of it, he felt it vibrating in accordance with the knocks. Lund also witnessed a large and heavy linen chest rock, rise, and travel about 18 inches. When Margaret was told to get back into bed with Virginia, a burst of violent knocking erupted, as though her presence was unwelcome.
For the next several days, through November 27, knockings and movements of objects occurred in the household. The family doctor, W. H. Nisbet, saw unusual movements and rufflings of Virginia’s pillow while her head was on it. In school, Stewart witnessed a desk behind Virginia rise off the fl oor about an inch and settle down. Stewart immediately checked the desk to make sure it had not been manipulated through trickery and satisfi ed herself that it had not.
On the night of November 27, Virginia seemed to enter a “trance” in bed and called out for her dog, Toby, and friend, Anna, in Ireland.
More disturbances of noises and movements occurred at the Campbell home and at school through December 1. On that date, Nisbet and Logan set up a movie camera and a tape recorder in the girls’ bedroom. Virginia retired at 9 P.M. Beginning at 10:30 P.M., a variety of noises were recorded, as well as another of Virginia’s near-hysterical “trances.” At 11 P.M., Lund and three other ministers conducted a rite seeking divine intercession (not the same as an exorcism), which seemed to have no effect; in fact, knockings sounded throughout the rite.
Distinctive noises included loud knocks and a rasping sawing noise. Logan attempted to reproduce the sawing noise himself by drawing his fingernails across various materials, but he could not.
Following this episode, Logan and Nisbet thought it best to curtail publicity. They announced that a “cure” had been effected. Apparently, phenomena began to diminish, for few evidential occurrences were reported after December 1. The most remarkable event occurred on January 23, 1961, with the movement of a bowl of bulbs across Stewart’s desk at school. The bulbs had been placed on the desk by Virginia.
The case was investigated by A. R. G. OWEN, a mathematician and parapsychologist, who interviewed the witnesses. The Campbells appeared to be well-adjusted people, and the atmosphere of their home seemed to be a stable, normal one. The phenomena were determined to be paranormal. Other incidents occurred that seemed less reliable.
Trickery on the part of Virginia, the other children, or adults was ruled out. Also, there were no geophysical conditions, such as earth tremors, tidal action or the movement of underground water, that could account for the phenomena. Finally, the movements of objects were not due to any temporary states of weightlessness, as has been theorized might happen in atmospheric drafts.
Discarnate beings were eliminated as a possible cause, for none had manifested during Virginia’s “trances” or had communicated with the knockings. None of the witnesses sensed anything malign present; in fact, the phenomena had been awe-inspiring but not frightening. And, Virginia had never complained about being possessed or harassed by unseen agents.
The most likely cause was Virginia herself. Her rapid pubescence may have generated the energy to create poltergeist forces. These forces also may have been exacerbated by repressed homesickness, shyness and feelings of alienation. She may have been extremely self-conscious about her physical changes, which may explain the violent eruption of knockings on the occasion when Margaret was instructed to get back into bed with her. The “trances,” which were not comparable to mediumistic trances, did give evidence of emotional upset. Finally, the entire episode may have been in part an attention-getting device.
Owen found the case similar to other poltergeist cases of record, in particular the DRUMMER OF TEDWORTH, which occurred in the 17th century in England.
- Owen, A. R. G. Can We Explain the Poltergeist? New York: Helix Press/Garrett Publications, 1964.