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The Whole Bloody Business

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Episode 5.30 — Paisley Intro

Hi there, everyone, and welcome back to Neighborhood Haunts, your favorite podcast for haunted houses, creepy country, and the liminally strange. I’m your host, Morgan Crowe, and before we get started today, I have a question for you: did you know that you can look at abandoned places on Google Earth? Yep, Centralia, Chernobyl, Kolmanskop, they’re all there. You can look at any ghost town on earth anytime, anywhere, as long as you have a good internet connection.

This comes as a surprise to some people, but there are a lot of ghost towns in the UK. A lot of little villages were evacuated during the wars and then just never reinhabited — and those are just the modern ones. You could spend hours looking through the British countryside for modern ruins.

I was looking at one of them the other day on Google Earth and I just — there was just something about it. Have you ever been looking through an old photo album and you see a photo that you don’t recognize? And you don’t know who’s in it or exactly what was going on, but… you can just tell there’s a story there?

I felt that when I saw this place. And that feeling was what drew me to our topic for today. Welcome to the rabbit hole, friends. Today we’re going to talk about Paisley, Scotland.

[spooky intro plays]

Paisley, Scotland is not a modern town. In fact, it’s decidedly ancient. I couldn’t even find a historical source that talked about its founding or its naming or anything like that. It’s almost as if it’s always been there, woven into other people’s histories.

Y’see, when I was researching this place, I was surprised to see just how little anyone has talked about it. There are so many weird things that have happened in this place and as far as I can tell, no one’s written articles or books about it, no one’s made any videos, nothing. You just get these tantalizingly brief mentions of it in books about other things. A one-sentence allusion to something horrible that happened in a place far, far away.

It took weeks of hardcore research, but I think I’m finally in a place where I can tell you a few of Paisley’s stories. I’ve pieced these stories together as well as I could from some very unreliable sources, but I think I’ve done about the best a person can do.

The history of Paisley starts with a king. He didn’t live in Paisley, of course, no king would live in Paisley. But he visited once, when he was traveling across his kingdom. He stayed at the home of a trusted lord and his lady, not suspecting that there might be treachery afoot. But there’s never power without a power struggle, and the king’s lord was ready to fight. They say that the king’s lord believed that he was a prophesied ruler. That he had some kind of divine, or perhaps infernal, right to the throne. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe he wasn’t. All that we know is that the king died that night, and Paisley was thrown into uproar. There was a short-lived coup after the lord seized power for himself, but his madness, if that’s what it was, didn’t lend itself well to rule. The country was thrown into chaos while he murdered his way through the countryside until he was stopped by the king’s son and very unceremoniously dethroned.

That just sounds like your average power grab, right? But what was it that convinced the lord that he should try to take the throne for himself? Was there actually some magical force in Paisley that turned his head? Before you say no too quickly, let me tell you my next story.

In the late 1690s, long after most of the witch hunt craze had died down in Europe, Paisley was home to one of the nation’s last witch trials. Eleven-year-old Christian Shaw, the daughter of the local lord of Bargarran, accused two of their neighbors of bewitching her and sending her into fits where she would thrash and spit up bits of fur and feathers. Catherine Campbell and Agnes Naismith were the two she accused, though she would name several more before the bloody business was through, including Margaret Fulton and James Reid. By the time all was said and done, seven men and women who’d been accused of witchcraft were executed on the Gallow Green.

It’s the second story we find in Paisley that’s all tied up in lords and witchcraft and it’s enough to make you think. Are these just the stories of a power-crazed lord and a mad little girl? Or was there something giving them visions? Something trying to sow discord in a town that’s never stopped being discordant? With her dying breath, Agnes Naismith was said to have laid a curse on the townsfolk and all their descendants — but I ask you, doesn’t it seem like they were already cursed?

Whether or not the town was cursed before Agnes was hanged, it certainly seems like it was afterward. I’ve looked through dozens of news articles from as far back as I could find them, and there were miseries upon miseries in this town. Fires, murders, thefts — all kinds of unexplained happenings.

Most troubling of all, though, are the disappearances. I have never heard of a town with so many goddamn disappearances. Children who wandered too close to the forest would go missing. Houses would burn to the ground and when villagers sorted through the rubble, the remains they found never matched the number of people who’d lived there. In one article I found, a woman who’d come to the town to find her missing sister noted that “people go missing all the time in Paisley. It seems to be the most natural and unnatural thing in the world.”

Shortly after the interview I read, she too would be lost.

And the villagers, for their part, seemed to believe that it was something in the woods that was stealing their loved ones. They’d complain of noises in the woods at night, of screams and raucous screaming, and after one little boy was glimpsed wandering into the forest as if being led away by some invisible being, parents started to refuse to let their children near the woods.

I found mentions of songs that they used to sing in Paisley, about the trees that moved and would steal you away if you didn’t fill your pockets with salt. They also sang about The Red Lady who waited for young children to disobey their parents so she could eat them up. I haven’t heard those creepy old songs being sung anywhere else. Have you?

It seems obvious to me that something is very wrong in Paisley. The whole town, every time I’ve found them mentioned, seemed to be one step away from a mental hospital. It’s like they were all just waiting their turn.

In the end, Paisley was one of the villages evacuated after WWII. And as if a spell had been broken, not one of its inhabitants chose to return when the war was over. I read one recollection by a gentleman who died just recently who said that it was as if a cloud had been lifted from them for the first time in his life. He felt it as soon as the train pulled out of the station, and he’d known, intrinsically, that he would never be returning to Paisley. Not in this lifetime.

He was one of the ones who escaped. But what of poor King Duncan, who died by way of treachery in the moors outside the village? What of the seven accused witches who died, or Christian Shaw who followed them herself years later? Some of the accused witches who died on the Gallow Green, were, like Christian Shaw herself, just children.

And what, I ask you, of the other children? Did that little boy who wandered into the woods ever escape from Paisley and his Red Lady? What about the children who went missing in no less than three house fires? Last night I was reading the story of a pregnant woman who was murdered in Paisley and her freshly-born baby stolen away from her. She, I’m sure, never escaped from the town’s dark grasp.

I believe that there’s something in Paisley. Something very dark and very wrong. I believe that it can lead people astray, both literally and figuratively, and poison their minds. But when I look at those photos on Google Earth, I can’t help but think how quiet the village looks now. How lonely. Like it’s been trapped in time, back there in the 1940s. Some of the homes still look furnished, like people never bothered finishing packing. Like they just assumed that they’d be back. One day.

Paisley looks like it’s still waiting. And that’s why I chose it to be the location for this season’s in-person exploration. I’ll be heading out there next week with Jen and Steve, and we’re going to take a look around the place and take some readings. As always, our episode will go over our findings, but if you want to heard the EVP recordings yourself, you’ll have to head to our Patreon and join our Neighborhood.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to find when we go, honestly. The place seems creepy as hell in every written document I’ve managed to get my hands on, but it looks so welcoming on Google Earth. I guess I just want to… see, I suppose. It’s the same thing any paranormal investigator wants. We hear a story and we just know that there’s gotta be more to it. That there’s gotta be something just beyond the obvious and the known. And when I look at Paisley, I know more than I’ve ever known anything in my life that there. Is. A. Story there. Probably thousands of stories all hidden in those woods.

I just want to see what’s there. I want to know if there really are ghosts of children peeking in windows or a Red Lady in the forest. I want to know if you really can hear a baby crying whenever there’s a storm on a full moon. I want to know if you really can hear footsteps on the Gallow Green to this day. I just. I want to know the whole bloody business.

So tune in next time, Neighbors. In about two weeks, we’ll have a brand-new episode of Neighborhood Haunts ready for you, and I hope that I’ll have the answers to even just one of those questions. Until then? Stay spooky.

[outro, and probably a mattress commercial]

 

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Episode 5.31 — Paisley Exploration

Crow, crow, crow… Crowe. Morgan Crowe. Welcome. [clears throat] Welcome to the Neighborhood Haunts podcast.

Last night I dreamt of it again. Trees spiraling — spiraling upwards, no light, only darkness. Laughter in the leaves. The dead ones beneath my feet, crackling and popping like a fire climbing out of its hearth.

She’s there. She’s there, she’s there, she’s there, she’s waiting. She was waiting for me.

I went to Paisley alone. I didn’t want Jen or Steve there. Interlopers. I needed to see her myself. She is myself. I need—

Okay. Okay. Things are. Things are a little fuzzy right now. I went to Paisley alone last night. It just seemed like the thing to do. I thought I’d just scout it out a little before the three of us started recording.

And it’s there. It’s all there, guys, just like you can see online. The trees. The market street. The ashes of the old De Winter house. It’s all there. And from the minute you walk in, you can feel it. Something — something off.

Blanketing, cloaking, whisking you away. A field of smoke and dreams, nightmares perchance, the eyes in the windows and the woods, hollow eyes staring you down as you walk downstage.

A heartbeat in the brick beneath your fingers, a sigh, a song, in the wind in your ears. She’s there, they’re here, they—

[a shaky breath] I didn’t get any readings. Nothing electronic works there. Nothing. Even my watch stopped as soon as I got in there and like — how does that even happen? Like I guess it has a battery in it, but… It was like time just ceased to exist the moment I set foot into Paisley.

I walked down the streets of Paisley, and they’re still there. The streets, I mean. Just bits of brick and cobblestone in the dirt now, but you can see traces of the lives that lived there before us. But it feels — different, somehow. Like maybe they never left. Like maybe they’re still living their lives right there in the street and you just can’t see them. Somehow.

I stood there in the market square and it was as if there were eyes all around me and ghosts beneath my feet. I could hear a bell in the distance, but there was no church. Screams — screams in the air, old screams, new screams, one long scream always there hanging in the distance, unending like time itself and…

And…

I felt the lips before I saw her. They rasped at my ear, not soft, and I could feel nails stuttering down the back of my neck. A flash of red. A beating thrum beneath my feet, the heartbeat of the earth and the intrinsic rhythm of call. Beating, beating, my heart beating in time with hers, with Paisley’s, a bass crescendoing far and away and inside my soul.

She whispered something. I can’t tell you what it was. I need to find something. I need to go back to Paisley, I couldn’t record there, but I have to go back. I have to find it.

The crows in the trees looking down on me and the smoky outlines in the windows looking on. A sewing machine, a typewriter, rhythms clashing with the one that beats now in my bones.

She calls to me and I listen. I stirred up the dust and now I can never return to it. The cobwebs have been stripped from my eyes and I see a world not my own that I am trapped in nevertheless. Her song calls to me and all I can do is — is sing —

I see their faces now. The children who’ve grown up in this no man’s land, who’ve grown old and weary and fae-kissed in the half-light. A laird coated in blood. His lady coated in darkness. The searchers who search and search and search for the culprits who stand in the shadows just behind them. The burnt-up ladies who smell of smoke and despair. The witches. Her witches.

They call to me…

Last night I dreamt of Paisley again. Tonight, I’m going back.

Fortune favors the bold, my loves, and I must find Her ring.

 

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Episode 5.32 — PSA

Hello, Neighbors, this is Jen. I know that a lot of you found the last episode disturbing. We’ve been reading all of your messages and taking them to heart. We’ll be taking down episodes 5.30 and 5.31, Paisley Intro and Paisley Exploration, and turning them over to the proper authorities. Like we said over on Twitter, if any of you have any information about Morgan, it would be much appreciated. I can’t say much else because the investigation is still ongoing.

We’re gonna put some numbers and websites on the blog, and if you’ve heard anything at all, please let us know. And please. Don’t go to Paisley.