Of Things Wraithlike and Most Uncanny: Lowlands-L’s Crypt
Of Things Wraithlike and Most Uncanny: Lowlands-L’s Crypt


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The Neep Lantern

by Thomas Mc Rae

(Many years ago I heard this scary story one Halloween Night on the BBC Scottish Radio Service. Although I did not create the original theme the tale below is my paraphrased version).

(In the Scots Language)

Halloween Nicht’s back again bringin’ back times o’ lang syne. It’s differunt noo; tho’ the bairns still gang oot guysin’ thae days. Noo it’s juist plain’ beggin’. They stairt up aroon’ Neep Lantern (Jack o' Lantern)Siptaimbur an’ jist ask folks in the streets fur munny. No in oor time. We went guysin’ jist the yin nicht o’ the year. Nae beggin’ in the streets fur us. We ganged roon’ the village frae door tae door singin’ songs an’ sayin’ poetry. Nae munnie gien in thae days—jist sweeties, fruit, an’ nuts. But—och!—we hud great times until that last nicht lang ago when oor innocence cam tae an awfy endin’ an’ we nivver went guysin’ again.

It aye seemed tae be richt windy oan Guysin’ Nicht; aye, an’ cawld tae. Thair wur seevun o’ us whae aye used tae meet ootside the kirk, weel wrapt up agin the waithur and wi the wind howlin’ roon’ us in the dark. It was great when Jaimie cam up wi’ the neep lantern ’is faither aye used tae mak fur ’im.

He wid scoop oot aw the stuff inside. They made soup wi’ that. Then he cut oot eyes, nose, and mooth so it luiked like a deid skull. Twa holes cut in the toap fur a string tae cairry the thing, a caun’le inside, an’ it wiz ready fur the guysin’.

Efter awbuddy turnt up we stairted oan oor nicht’s fun. We goat awa frae that kirkyaird as fast us we cuid. We wiz only nine year auld an’ aw thay trees wavin’ an dauncin’ in the wind wiz a bit creepy. Jist aside the wa’ wiz the big yin we cawed The Giant. We goat past that fast fur it kep’ bendin’ an’ wavin’ its branches as tho’ it wiz tryin’ tae catch us. It wiz guid ta git awa frae thair an’ stairt walking taewards the folks’ hooses wi’ licht cumin’ oot thair windaes.

Furst hoose, Mr an’ Mrs McAnn, we chappit at thur door an’ Maister McCann opened it sayin’ “Wha’s thair oan a cauld nicht like the nicht?” We aw shouted oot, “Pleeze tae help the guysers,” an’ he sed, “Cum awa’ in, bairnies! Show us whoat Ye cun dae!” We sung twa songs tae thaim an’ wee Sandy wha’d brocht alang ’is chanter gave thaim a bit tune. Then Elsie did a Hielan’ daunce uz Sandy played anither sang.

Och it wiz great an’ we aw goat a big bag o’ sweeties an’ stuff. Oan we went tae the nixt hoose an’ the yin efter that an’ goat mair nice things. Then we cam by Dominie Duncan’s hoose wi’ its wild gairdun. Years back ’e wiz the teecher at oor wee school. Oor mithers an’ faithers hud learnt frae ’im an’ sum sed so hud oor grandads an’ granma’s. Thae days we hud the school bus tae Lasswade. Onywey, ’e wiz awfy, awfy auld an’ thae days a bit funny in the heid an aw.

It wiz scary tae gang in thair, but Sandy said, “Cum oan noo if ye’re no feer’t!” Intae that owergrawn gairden we ganged, past bushes an’ trees wavin’ in the wind, wild plamts catchin’ oor ankles. We knoacked at the door an’ heard ’im walkin’ slow tae open it. It creakit open an’ he stood luikin’ at us. Jaimie held his neep lantern up high so it shined in the Dominie’s face.

Afore we cuid say oor messidge he luiked at that lantern funny an’ stairted talkin’ wurds we didnae ken. Ah still mind ’im sayin’s sumthin’ aboot “Mary Antunett”, an’ “Raivulushun” an’ a wurd like “Gillyteen”, but us wee bairns cuildna unnerstaun’ whoat ’e wiz gaun oan aboot. Nixt thing ’e’s rinnin’ oot o’ is gairden an’ doon the road intae the windy dark. We gaed oan oor wey gled tae be awa frae ’im.

Hoose efter hoose we ganged tae an’ awbuddy enjoyed thairsels. We hud loads o’ stuff by noo and thair wiz jist yin coattage left tae veesit, Auld Miss Mclennan’s. She kep’ the shoap an’ wiz awfy nice tae us. So we kent we’d get guid things frae her. The wind blew a loat wurse uz we ganged up tae ’er door: it wiz open but the lichts inside wiz oot. We luiked intae the darkness an’ shouted “Miss Mclennan? Miss Mclennan?. Please tae help the guysers ?” An’ that wiz the verra last time ony o’ us ivver said thae wurds !

Thair wiz a lang coarridur through that door an’ up ben the back. In the gloom we cuid see sumbuddy movin’. Jaimie went up shinin’ is neep lantern an we aw went efter ’im sayin’, “Hullo, Miss Mclennan!” … But it wisnae her staunin’ thair. Naw, it wiz Dominie Duncan whae luiked uz tho ’e wiz huddin’ a neep lantern wi its caun’l oot thain by the licht o’ Jaimie’s caun’l we saw whoat ’e really hud.

No a neep lantern at aw but the heid of Miss Mclennan wi bluid drippin’ doon frae its neck oantae the flair. The een in ’er heid wiz aw turnt up so we cuid only see the white bits in the flickerin’ caun’l licht. In ’is ither haun’ ’e hud a shooge big knife whoat ’e waved ut us. We goat oot o’ that place fast as we cuid an’ telt folk in the nixt hoose whoat we hud seen.

They ganged intae the hoose but rin’ oot quick tae git the polis. Yin o’ thum wiz seek again the wa’, an’ we wiz aw taen hame. We nivver saw Dominie Duncan efter that nicht. The polis talk’t tae us aw, then telt us tae try no tae think aboot whoat we hud seen. But we nivver went guysin’ again. No lang efter that puir Elsie went funny in the heid an’ wiz sent tae a special hoaspitul whair she steys tae this day. Ah oaften gang fur tae see ’er thair. Sometimes Ah even think she kens whae Ah am.

That wiz aw sixty year back. But whain it’s a dark Oactobur nicht wi’ the wind blawin’ an the trees wavin’ thur braunches in the wind Ah still mind that nicht when we ganged oot guysin’ fur the verra last time. The Giant Tree in the kirkyard still scares kids gawn by. Uz fur mahsel’? A loack the door an’ stey hame at Halloween.

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