In response to Alan Murdie’s Ghostwatch column ‘Spirits of Glencoe’ [FT428:18-21], let me describe my own experience at Glencoe. About 20 years ago, my girlfriend of the time and I were driving north from Glasgow to Inverness via Fort William. She was driving while I was looking at the scenery. We had been driving for quite some time when the road twisted around a bleak landscape with high crags on either side. My exact words to her were: “[Expletive deleted] I wouldn’t want to be stuck here for the night…”
The only words to describe the sensation I experienced were those of horror cliché – it was a sense of foreboding, of oppression. That stretch of road seemed to have a peculiar air of menace about it, almost, in fact, as if I were encountering a hostile presence. Unlike the experiences mentioned in the FT column, there was no fog, mist, or rain. It was early afternoon with a clear sky. Only a little further on we passed a sign – Glencoe. Prior to that, I had no idea where we might be and nor did my girlfriend, who was English and unfamiliar with the trip, as was I… and we had no Sat-Nav then. Also, other than the name ‘Glencoe Massacre’ I knew nothing at that time about the events of the massacre, so there was no sense of expectation or anticipation that might have explained my experience. In fact, I had no idea that the route we had taken passed through Glencoe and I wouldn’t even have been able to pinpoint Glencoe on a map.
In later years, after reading Jacques Yonnett’s Paris Noir,I wondered whether Glencoe had an ominous, oppressive atmosphere because of the events which had taken place there, or whether there had already existed an ominous and oppressive atmosphere which invited such a happening.