In 1655 to 1656, the Glenluce Devil is alleged to have terrorised the household of Gilbert Campbell, a Galloway weaver…
Did the Devil lead them all in a merry dance? Was it caused by spiralling hysteria? Or did the Campbell children lie behind it all?
The story appears to have been well known in Galloway. Three years after the strange events in Glenluce, Alexander Peden became the minister of the neighbouring parish of New Luce. Several stories about Peden record his encounter with the Devil, either in a cave, or entering a room, and his confrontation with a witch in Alloway
The Glenluce story was first recorded in 1672 by George Sinclair, a minister, mathematician and inventor of a diving bell used off Mull. However, it reached a wider audience in his later and more popular work, Satan’s Invisible World Discovered, which was published in 1685. A similar story of the Devil attacking people was also recorded in Glasgow in 1684.
The family at the centre of the story were those of Gilbert Campbell, a weaver, and his wife Grissel Wyllie. Their son, Thomas, aka Tom, was much troubled by the Devil, as was their daughter, Jennet and an further unnamed daugther. Another son, probably John, was a student of philosophy at the University of Glasgow, and two others, Robert, later a blacksmith, and Hugh, later a lawyer, are also mentioned.
The minister of Glenluce parish involved in driving the Devil from their home was John Scott (d.1655).
At a certain point in the narrative, the minister appears with his wife, Katherine Simson, in the company of Mr Robert Hay, a gentlewoman called Mistress Douglas, Alexander Baillie of Dunragit and James Baillie of Carphin.
Baillie of Dunragit probably lived in the old tower incorproated in Dunragit House in Old/ Glenluce parish.
Map of Dunragit
‘Carphin’ is possibly ‘Corfin’, aka, ‘Colphin’, now Colfin in Portpatrick parish. A tower house formerly stood there. Corfin lies a few miles west of Dunragit.
Map of Colfin
However, it is perhaps more likely that ‘Carphin’ is ‘Garplin’, which lay just over a mile to the south-west beside Freuch/Freugh. ‘Carphin’ was later used as site of the field preaching in the 1670s. Freugh was later the home of Patrick MacDougall of Freugh, a forfeited laird.
Map of former site of Garplin
The story in Satan’s Invisible World Discovered is as follows:
‘The Devil of Glenluce enlarged with several Remarkable Additions from an Eye and Ear witness, a Person of undoubted Honesty.
This is that famous and notable Story of the Devil of Glenluce, which I published in my Hydrostaticks, anno 1672, and which since hath been transcribed word by word by a Learned Pen, and Published in the late Book Intitutled Saducismus Triumphatus, whom nothing but the truth thereof, and usefulness for refuting Atheism could have perswaded to transcribe.
The Subject matter then of this Story, is a true and short account, of the Troubles, wherewith the Family of one Gilbert Campbell, by profession a Weaver in the old Parish of Glenluce in Galloway, was exercised. I have adventured to publish it De Novo in this Book, first because it was but hudled up among purposes of another nature. But now I have reduced it, to it’s own proper Place. Next, because this Story is more full, being enlarged with new Additions, which were not in the former, and ends not so abruptly, as the other did.
It happened (says my Informer, Gilbert Campbels Son who was then a student of Philosophy in the Colledge of Glasgow,) that after one Alexander Agnew, a bold and sturdy Beggar, who afterwards was hanged at Drumfries for Blasphemy had threatened hurt to the Familie, because he had not gotten such an Almes, as he required, the said Gilbert Campbel was often times hindered in the exercise of his calling and yet could not know by what means this was done. This Agnew, among many blasphemous expressions had this one, when he was interrogate by the Judges, whether or not, he thought there was a God, he answered, he knew no God, but Salt, Meal, and Water.
When, the Stirs began first, there was a Whistling heard both within and without the House. And Jennet Campbell [the weaver’s daughter] going one day to the Well, to bring home some Water, was conveyed, with a shril whistling about her ears, which made her say, I would fain hear thee speake, as well as Whistle. Hereupon it said, after a threatening manner, I’le cast thee Iennet into the Well. The voice was most exactlie like the Damsels voice, and did resemble it to the life. The Gentle-womans that heard this and was a witness, thought the voice was very near to her own ears, and said the Whistling was such, as Children use to make, with their smal slender Glass Whistles.
About the middle of November, the Foul Fiend came on with new and extraordinary Assaults, by throwing of Stones in at the Doors, and Windows, and down the Chimney-head, which were of great quantity, and thrown with force, yet by Gods Providence, there was not one Person in the Family that was hurt. This did necessitate Gilbert Campbel, to reveale that to the Minister of the Parish, [John Scott.] and to some other Neighbours and Friends, which hitherto he had suffered secretly.
Notwithstanding of this, his trouble was enlarged; for not long after, he found often-times his Warp and Threeds cut, as with a pair of Sizzers, and not only so, but their Apparel were cut after the same manner, even while they were wearing them, their Coats, Bonnets, Hose, Shoes, but could not discern how, or by what mean. Only it pleased God to preserve their persons, that the least harm was not done. Yet, in the night time, they had not liberty to sleep, something coming and pulling their bedcloaths, and Linnings off them, and leaving their Bodies naked. Next, their Chests and Trunks were opened, and all things in them strawed here and there. Likewise the parts of their Working-Instruments, which had escaped were carried away, and hid in holes and bores of the house, where hardly they could be found again. Nay, what ever piece of Cloath, or Household-stuff was in any part of the house, it was carried away, and so cut and abused, that the Good-man was necessitate in all haste and speed, to remove and transport the rest to a Neighbours house, and he himself compelled to quite the Exercise of his Calling, whereby he only maintained his Family. Yet he resolved to remain in his house for a season; during which time, some persons about, 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 the whole Family, but against some one person or other in it, whom he too willingly obeyed. Yet, for the space of four or five dayes, there were no remarkable assaults, as before.
The Minister [John Scott] hearing thereof, shewed him the evil of such a course, and assured him, that if he repented not, and called back his Children he might not expect, that his trouble would end in a right way. The Children that were nigh by being brought home, no trouble followed, till one of his Sons called Thomas that was farest off came home. Then did the Devil begin a fresh for upon the Lords day following in the afternoon, the House was set on Fire, but by the help of some Neighbours going home from Sermon; the Fire was put out, and the house saved, not much loss being done. And Munday after being spent in Private prayer, and fasting, the house was again set on Fire upon the Tuesday about nine a clock in the morning, yet by the speedy help of Neighbors it was saved, litle skaith being done.
The Weaver being thus vexed, and wearied both day and night, went to the Minister of the Parish, an Honest and Godly man desiring him, to let his Son Thomas abide with him for a time, who condescended, but withal assured him that he would find himself deceived, and so it came to pass, for notwithstanding that the Lad was without the Family, yet were they that remained in it, sore troubled both in the day time, and night season, so that they were forced to wake till Mid-night, and sometimes all the night over, during which time, the persons within the Family suffered many losses, as the cutting of their Cloaths, the throwing of Piets, the pulling down of Turff and Feal from the Roof, and Walls of the house, and the stealling of their Cloaths, and the Pricking of their Flesh, and Skin with Pins.
Some Ministers about having conveened at the place, for a solemn Humiliation, perswaded Gilbert Campbel to call back his Son Thomas, Notwithstanding of whatsoever hazard might follow. The Boy returning home, affirmed that he heard a voice speak to him, forbidding him to enter within the House, or in any other place where his Fathers calling was exercised. Yet he entered, but was sore abused, till he was forced to return to the Ministers house again.
Upon Munday the 12 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 till Mid-night too much vain discourse was kept up with Satan, 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. They came that length in familiar discourse, with the Foul-Thief, that they were no more afrayed to keep up the Clash with him, than to speak to one another. In this they pleased him well, for he desired no better, than to have Sacrifices offered to him.
The Minister hearing of this, went to the house upon the Tuesday, being accompanied with some Gentlemen, one James Bailie of Carphin, Alexander Bailie of Dunraged, Mr. Robert Hay, and a Gentlewoman called Mistris Douglas, whom the Ministers Wife[, Katherine Simson,] did accompanie.
At their first in-coming the Devil says, Quum Literarum, is good Latine. These are the first words, of the Latine Rudiments, which Schollars are taught, when they go to the Grammar School. He crys again a Dog.
The Minister thinking that he had spoken it to him, said, he took it not ill to be reviled by Satan, since his Master had troden that path before him.
Answered Satan, it was not you, Sir, I spoke it to, I meant by the Dog there, for there was a Dog standing behind backs.
This passing, they all went to Prayer, which being ended, they heard a voice speaking out of the ground, from under a Bed, in the proper Countrey Dialect, which he did counterfeit exactly, saying, Would you know the Witches of Glenluce? I will tell you them; and so related four or five Persons names that went under a bad report.
The Weaver informed the Company, that one of them was dead long ago.
The Devil answered, and said, It is true, she is dead long ago, but her Spirit is living with us in the World.
The Minister replied saying (though it was not convenient to speak to such an excommunicat and intercommuned person) the Lord rebuke thee, Satan, and put thee to silence; we are not to receive Information from thee, whatsoever fame any person goes under; Thou are seeking but to seduce this Family, for Satans kingdom is not divided against it self. After which all went to Prayer again, which being ended (for during the time of Prayer no noise or trouble was made, except once, that a loud fearful youel was heard at a distance).
The Devil with many threatnings boasted and terrified the Lad Tom, who had come back that day with the Minister, that if he did not depart out of the house, he would set all on fire.
The Minister answered, and said, the Lord will preserve the house, and the Lad too, seeing he is one of the Family, and hath Gods Warrant to tarry in it.
The Fiend answered, he shall not get liberty to tarry; he was once put out already, and shal not abide here, though I should pursue him to the end of the world.
The Minister replied, the Lord will stop thy malice against him.
And then they all went to prayer again, which being ended, the Devil said, give me a Spade and a Shovel, and depart from the house for seven days, and I will make a Grave, and ly down in it, and shall trouble you no more.
The good man answered, not so much as a Straw shal be given thee, through Gods assistance, even though that would do it.
The Minister also added God shal remove thee in due time.
The Spirit answered, I will not remove for you, I have my Commission from Christ to tarry and vex this Family.
The Minister answered, a Permission thou hast indeed, but God will stop it in due time.
The Devil replied, I have Sir, a Commission, which perhaps will last longer than your own. The Minster died in the year 1655 in December.
The Devil had told them, that lie had given his commission to Tom to keep.
The Company enquired at the Lad, who said, there was something put into his pocket, but it did not tarry.
After this, the Minister and the Gentlemen arose, and went to the place, whence the voice seemed to come, to try if they could see, or find any thing. After diligent search, nothing being found, the Gentlemen began to say, We think this voice speaks out of the children, for some of them were in their beds.
The Foul Spirit answered, you lie, God shall judge you for your lying, and I and my father will come and fetch you to Hell with Warlock Thieves: and so the Devil discharged the Gentlemen to speak any thing, saying, Let him speak that hath a Commission (meaning the Minister) for he is the servant of God.
The Gentlemen returning back with the Minister, sat down near the place, whence the voice seemed to come, and he opening his mouth, spake to them, after this manner, The Lord will rebuke this Spirit in his own time, and cast it out.
The Devil answering, said, It is written in the 9th. of Mark, the Disciples could not cast him out.
The Minister replyed, What the Disciples could not do, yet the Lord having hightned the Parents Faith, for his own glory did cast him out, and so shall he thee.
The Devil replied, It is written in the 4th. of Luke, and he departed and left him for a season.
The Minister said, The Lord in the dayes of his Humiliation, not only got the victory over Satan, in that assault in the wilderness, but when he came again, his success was no better, for it is written, John 14. Behold, the Prince of this World cometh, and hath nothing in me, and being now in glory, he will fulfil his promise, and God shal bruise Satan under your feet shortly, Rom. 16.
The Devil answered, It is written, Matth. 25. There were ten Virgins, five wise, & five foolish; and the Bridegroom came, the foolish Virgins had no oyl in their lamps, and went unto the wise to seek Oyl, and the wise said, go and buy for your selves; and while they went, the Bridegroom came, and entered in, and the door was shut, and the foolish Virgins were sent to Hells fire.
The Minister answered, The Lord knows the sincerity of his servants, and though there be sin and folly in us here, yet there is a fountain opened to the house of David for sin and for uncleanness, when he hath washen us, and pardoned our sins, for his Names sake, he will cast the unclean Spirit out of the land.
The Devil answered, and said, Sir you should have cited for that place of Scripture, the 13 chap, of Zech. and so he began at the first verse and repeated several verses, and concluded with these words, In that day I will cause the Prophet, and the unclean Spirit, pass out of the land, but afterwards it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the Sheep shal be scattered.
The Minister answered, and said, well are we that our blessed Shepherd was smitten, and thereby, hath bruised thy head, and albeit in the hour of his sufferings, his Disciples forsook him Malta. 26. Yet now having ascended on high he sits in glory, and is preserving, gathering in, and turning his hand upon his little ones, and will save his poor ones in this Family from thy malice.
The Minister returning back a little, and standing upon the Floor, the Devil said, I knew not these Scriptures, till my Father taught me them.
Then the Minister conjured him to tell whence he was.
The Foul-Fiend replyed, that he was an evil Spirit, come from the bottomless Pit of Hell, to vex this house, and that Satan was his Father, and presently there appeared a naked hand, and an arm from the Elbow down, beating upon the Floor till the home did shake again, and also he uttered a most fearful and loud cry saying, come up Father come up, I will send my Father among you, See there he is behind your backs.
The Minister said I saw indeed an hand, and an arm, when the stroak was given, and heard.
The Devil said to him, Say you that? It was not my hand it was my Fathers: my hand is more black in the loof.
O said Gilbert Campbel, that I might see thee, as well as I hear thee!
Would you see me, says the Foul-Thief; Put out the Candle, and I shal come butt the house among you like fire balls. I shall let you see me indeed.
Alexander Bailie of Dunraget says to the Minister, let us go ben, and see if there be any hand to be seen.
The Devil answered, No, let him come ben alone; he is a good honest man, his single word may be believed. About this time the Devil abused Mr. Robert Hay a very honest Gentleman very ill with his Tongue, calling him Witch and Warlock. A little after the Devil cryes (It seems out of purpose and in a purpose) a Witch, a Witch, Ther’s a Witch sitting upon the Ruist, take her away: he meant a Hen sitting upon the balk of the House.
These things being Past, all went to Prayer during which time he was silent. Prayer being ended, the Devil answered and said, If the Goodmans Sons prayers at the Colledge of Glasgow, did not prevail with God: my father and I had wrought a mischief here ere now.
To which Alexander Bailie of Dunraged replied, well, well, I see you confess there is a God, and that prayer prevails with him, and therefore we must pray to God and commit the event to him.
To whom the Devil replied, yea Sir, you speak of prayer with your broad lipped Hat, (for the Gentleman had lately gotten a Hat in the fashion with broad lipps) I’le bring a pair of Shears from my Father, which shal clip the lipps of it a little. Whereupon he presently imagined, that he heard and felt a pair of Shears, going round about his Hat, which caused him lift it, to see if the Foul-Thief had medled with it.
During this time, several things but of less moment passed, as that he would have Tom a Merchant, Bob a Smith, John a Minister, and Hue a Lawier, all which in some measure came to pass.
As to Jennet the Goodmans Daughter he cryes to her, Jennet Campbel, Jennet Campbel, wilt thou cast me thy Belt.
Quoth she, what a widdy would thou do with my Belt? I would fain (says he) fasten niy loose bones closs together with it.
A younger Daughter sitting busking her Puppies, as young Girls use to do, being threatned by the Fiend, that he would ding out her hams, that is brain her, answered without being concerned, no if God be to the fore, and so fell to her work again.
The Good Wife of the house paving brought out some bread was breaking it, to give every one of the Company a Piece. Cryes he, Grissel Wyllie, Grissel Wyllie; give me a peice of that hard bread (for so they call their Oat Cakes) I have gotten nothing this day, but a bit from Marrit, that is as they speak in that Countrey Margaret.
The Minister said, beware of that, for it is a sacrificing to the Devil. The Girle [Margaret] was called for, and asked if she gave him any hard bread, no says she, but when I was eating my due piece this morning, something came and clicked it out of my hand.
The Evening being now far spent, it was thought fit, that every one should withdraw to his own home. Then did the Devil cry out fearfully, let not the Minister (goe home, I shall burn the house if he go, and many other ways did he threaten. After the Minister had gone foorth: Gilbert Campbel was very instant with him to tarry, whereupon he returned, all the rest going home. When he came into the house, the Devil gave a great gaff of laughter: you have now Sir done my bidding.
Not thine, answered the other, but in obedience to God, have I returned to bear this man companie whom thou doest afflict. Then did the Minister call upon God, and when prayer was ended, he discharged the Weaver, and all the Persons of the Familie, to speak a word to the Devil, and when it spake, that they should only kneel down, and speak to God.
The Devil then roared mightily, and cryed out, What? Will ye not speake to me, I shall strike the bairns, and do all manner of mischief. But after that time no answer was made to it, and so for a long time no speech was heard. Several times hath he beat the Children in their Beds, and the claps of his loof upon their Buttocks would have been heard but without any trouble to them.
While the Minister and Gentle-men were standing at the Door readie to go home, the Ministers Wife, [Katherin Simson,] and the Good- Wife[, Grissel Wyllie,] were within. Then cryed Satan, Grissel put out the Candle. Sayes she to the Ministers Wife, shall I do it?
No says the other, for then you shal obey the Devil.
Upon this he cryes again with a louder shout, Put out the Candle. The Candle still burns. The third time he cries Put out the Candle, and no obedience being given to him, he did so often reiterate these words, and magnify his voice, that it was astonishment to hear him, which made them stop their ears they thinking the sound was just at their ears. At last the Candle was put out. Now says he I’le trouble you no more this Night.
I must insert here, what I heard from one of the Ministers of that Presbytrie, who with the rest were appointed to meet at the Weavers house, for prayer, and other exercises of that kind. When the day came, five only met. But before they went in, they stood a while in the Croft, which layes round about the house, consulting what to do. They resolved upon two things, first there should be no words of Conjuration used, as commanding him in the Name of God to tell whence he was, or to depart from the Familie, for which they thought they had no call from God. Secondly, that when the Devil spake, none should answer him, but hold on in their worshipping of God, and the duties they were called to. When all of them had prayed by turns, and three of them had spoken a word or two from the Scripture, they prayed again, and then ended, without any disturbance. When that Brother who informed me had gone out, one Hue Nisbit, one of the company, came running after him, desiring him to come back, for he had begun to whistle. No, sayes the other, I tarried as long as God called me, but go in again I will not.
After this, the said Gilbert suffered much loss, and had many sad nights, not two nights in one week free, and thus it continued till April; from April till July, he had some Respite and ease, but after, he was molested with new assaults; and even their Victuals were so abused, that the Family was in hazard of starving, and that which they eat gave them not their ordinary satisfaction, they were wont to find.
In this sore and sad affliction Gilbert Campbel resolved to make his Addresses to the Synod of Presbyters, for Advice and Counsel what to do; which was appointed to conveen in October 1655. namely, whether to forsake the house or not? The Synod by their Committy appointed to meet at Glenluce in February 1656. thought fit that a solemn Humiliation should be kept through all the Bounds of the Synod; and among other causes, to request God in behalf of that afflicted Family; which being done carefully, the event was, that his troubles grew less till April, and from April to August, he was altogether free. 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 door-posts; and at other times did hide it under the Beds, and sometimes among the Bedcloaths, and under the Linnings, and at last, did carry it quite away, till nothing was left there, save Bread and Water. This minds me of a small passage, as a proof of what is said. The Good-wife one Morning making Pottage for the Childrens Break-fast, had the Treeplate wherein the meal lay, snatched from her quickly. Well says she, let me have the plate again. Whereupon it came flying at her,without any skaith done. ‘Tis like, if she had sought the meale too, she might have got it; such is his civility when he is entreated. A small homage will please him ere he want all. After this he exercised his malice and cruelty against all persons in the Family, in wearying them in the Nighttime, by stirring and moving thorow the house, so that they had no rest for Noise, which continued all the Moneth of August after this manner. After which time the Devil grew yet worse, by roaring, and terrifying them by casting of Stones, by striking them with staves on their Beds in the Night time. And upon the 18. 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 put out, without any prejudice, except the Bed it self.
Thus I have written a short and true account of all the Material Passages which occurred. To write every particular, especially of lesser Moment, would fill a large Volum[e]. The Goodman lived several years after this, in the same house: and it seems, that by some conjuration or other, the Devil suffered himself to be put away, and gave the Weaver a peaceable habitation. This Weaver has been a very Odd man, that endured so long these marvellous disturbances.’ (Sinclair, Satan’s Invisible World Discovered, 75-94.)
A Traditional Site?
I’d like to thank David Baird, below, for his comment that pointed to the placenames around Campbell’s Croft. The ‘croft’ may be of more recent in origin, but there a strange conjunction in the placenames in the east of Old Luce /Glenluce parish. Next to Campbell’s Croft lies the De’il’s Well and Ghaist Hall. In the story, young Janet Campbell, aka. Jennet, was threatened by the Devil by the well:
‘Jennet Campbell going one day to the Well, to bring home some Water, was conveyed, with a shril whistling about her ears, which made her say, I would fain hear thee speake, as well as Whistle. Hereupon it said, after a threatening manner, I’le cast thee Iennet into the Well.’
The well on the map, above, lay about a third of the way (left to right) along the southern field boundary.
Map of De’il’s Well
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