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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Stawen awa in the nicht

While it is weel seen that sindry fowk haes haen near encoonters wi objects fae abuin, faur less haes claimed tae be taen abuird ane o them. A near encoonter is ane whaurby a body haes some kind o contact, near haun, wi an object, either roonaboot it, or mibby seein whit appears tae be a spreet comin or gauin fae a craft, but the nearest contact is ane whaur it is claimed ootrels come in aboot a body.

A wheen fowk haes speculate that ootrels micht be ahin mony o the stories o the elfin fowk or fairies that used tae steal humans awa til anither warld for a day or twa but on returnin fund that mony or hunners o year haed gane by. This loss o time, o traivel til ither places, an affen the orra looks o the ‘eflin’ fowk, haes lang been embeddit in thir stories. Ane o the first accoonts fae Scotland that deals wi this subject wis wrutten bi kirk o Scotland meenister Robert Kirk (1644-1692), meenister at Balquhidder an Aiberfyle. In his buik The Secret Commonwealth, feenisht in 1691 but no set furth until 1815, Kirk wis gey serious anent the Elfin or fairie fowk, spreets atween ‘Man and Angel’, that cuid  mak thairsels kythe an diskythe as thay willed. At ane pynt Kirk said that the fairies wis “...aerial people or species of creatures not vulgarly known...” that is, spreets that existit throu or in the air that humans didna commonly see or ken. He spak o ae instance o a wumman cryed MacIntyre and said:

she tarry’d in the fields over night, saw and convers’d with a people she knew not, having wandred in seeking of her sheep, and sleept upon a hillock, and finding hirselfe transported to another place before day...

This soonds muckle like an encoonter atween a human an ither-wardly spreets, spreets that took the wumman awa some ‘ither place’. It soonds akin tae the claims that we hear fae a puckle modren day fowk that threaps ootrels staw them awa in the nicht. Conseedert in this licht, whit are we tae mak o the poyem bi Farfarshire fermer John Watson, set furth in 1875. In his The Farmer an the Horned Deil, drawin on tradeetions o haunling fae the 1730’s (‘aught score o’ years a-back’), the poyem is ootwardly aboot eldritch gauins-on at the ferms an places aboot Westerha on the Braes o Angus, jaloused tae be the wark o the deil. In twa curious verses Watson threapit:

For things were done about the toon

That made the folks a’feared;

Strange lichts were seen to blink an’ sheen,

An’ eldritch sounds were heard


At times like thunder cam’ a birr,

That gar’d the house a’dinnle;

Anon there cam’ a whirly-whirr,

As frae an oo-wheel’s spinnle.

The description abuin is aw the mair intressin for his description o “forky lightning frae a cloud” an syne a ‘horned deil’ wis seen wi een like fiery coals an he cawed it ‘the goblin grim.’ Daes this no pit us in mind o ane o thae claimed veesitations bi the grey ootrels o mair modren times? Whit wis it that fowk on the Braes o Angus seen back in the 1730’s? Apairt fae the antrin accoonts o this ilk, that micht be miskent sichtings fae auld fernyears, or aiblins no, the’r nae shair accoonts o fowk claimin ootrels staw them awa until mair modren times. Throu the 1960’s an 1970’s the publict got tae hear o grades o encoonters, first, second an third. The near encoonter – an idea that took on wi fowk efter the picture Close Encounters of the Third Kind cam oot in 1977 – is ane that maist o us kens weel bi noo throu contemporar pop culture.

Ane o the first reportit near encoonters in Scotland – that is, atween a human an a craft jaloused tae come fae aff-warld – wis the case o forestry warkar Bob Taylor that happent tae come by an orra circular craft at Dechmont wids by Livingstoun on 9 November 1979. He wis taen aback an lookit at the craft a whilie but threapit that twa spheres noo drappit oot the craft tae the grund, rowed taewards him, an tried tae rug him awa taewards it. The spheres haed spikes that left teirs in his breeks. He minds that the war a shairp bumming soond comin fae the craft alang wi a stink but syne he passt oot. Whan he cam alist the craft wis awa. Syne he gaed back an brocht the polis tae the scene. Thay fund sindry roondit impressions in the grund an it wis weel seen that something o wecht haed been gauin aboot thare. This case is reckont ane o the maist kenspeckle near encoonters in Scotland, an is open yet. 

The first offeecial report fae Scotland o fowk claimin that thay war stawen awa bi ootrels is anent a happening fae 17 August 1992. On this date twa freens, cryed Gary Wood an Colin Wright, wis drivin in a caur doun the A70 atween Embra an Tarbrex in Sooth Lanrikshire. No faur fae Harperrig Reservoir thay cuid see a disc hingin ower the road that gied aff an eerie haar o sorts an syne the caur gaed ablow it. Baith men wis on nettles. The neist thing thay kent wis drivin alang an soon winnin at a freen’s hoose. It wis noo that thay realised thay haed tint some 90 meenits that thay cuidna accoont for. Baith jaloused thay haed blackit oot for jist twa-three seconds but syne, unner hypnosis, thay claimed that three sma spreets haed come oot the craft, taen them oot the caur, an brocht them up intae the orra craft. Here thair claes wis taen aff an ilk ane pit throu a medical examen o some kind bi the ootrels. Thir spreets wis grey wi muckle black een, some fower feet, ithers sax feet. The twa men cuid see ither fowk forby, held in gless or plastic kists. In the months and years efter baith men took lee detector tests on the TV an thair stories checkit agin ane anither. Whitever it wis that haed happent tae the men thon day thair stories adhered. In 1996 the Meenistry o Defence pit this claim throu an offeecial speir, but tae this day haesna come up wi ony ither answers.

Are the veesitors in the nicht ootrels come til oor warld tae try pratticks oot on us, willin or no, or micht thay be oor ainsels come fae a forrit time in time machines, as some haes suggestit? Or is awbody that threaps on bein stawen awa jist dreein some distractit dwam, sprung fae oot o fause memory an pop culture, as yet ithers haes suggestit insteid? The’r nae stracht answer tae this, but keep a calm souch an open mind.

  • Stawen awa in the nicht