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A Letter From Dundee Lunatic Asylum

A letter from Dundee lunatic asylum

Estimated reading time — 13 minutes

First I would like to begin by extending my eternal gratitude to you for reaching out to me with a genuine open mind. So many have come to me after I had ceased in my search for someone who will listen, but all have been naught but seekers of wealth out for a good story. You have brought relief to my troubled mind that you should seek truth, and I long more than anything to give it to you.

I have come to find that the date of the tragedy was 6 November 1855, when Lord Thomas Lyon-Bowes wrote to me in request for my services. His brother, Claude, had been taken ill by what he assumed to be an early stage of tuberculosis, and noted that my success in fighting the disease was what was required. He offered me room and board for as long as necessary, and to pay my travel expenses. The tragedy, then, was that I accepted. Of course I had been well aware of the running rumors of the secret monster being held at Glamis Castle, I was not such a simpleton, but I wasn’t superstitious either. Seeing is believing, and I’ve never been one to base my decisions on mere children’s stories.

So I wrote my response to the Earl of Strathmore, and arrangements were promptly made for my lengthy visit to Glamis Castle. My first order of business upon arrival was to examine Claude and his condition. The man was ill indeed, but he didn’t appear dire as his symptoms had only recently surface, and I found no need to move him to a hospital just then. I felt confident that treating him early would promise a speedy recovery. So I treated him for his cough, provided him with something for the pain, and prescribed rest and fresh air for the remainder of the day.


During this time, I was offered a tour of the grand estate, which had left me in an impressive awe. The castle is as glorious and majestic as tales foretell with its fortified stone structure, bright-colored walls, high ceilings, and grand fireplaces in what appeared to be every room. The details in the décor and various trinkets are quite exquisite and I felt forbidden to touch anything, as though I toured a museum rather than a home. We decided not to tour outside as the autumn rain hadn’t let up. I had arrived late in the afternoon anyway, and darkness fell quickly.

I was permitted to dine with the family, and I accepted this invitation as well. The lord is a greatly hospitable man and managed to lead entertaining conversation despite the recent anniversary of his late wife’s untimely passing only a couple days prior. While this was something on which I could relate, I had figured that our alternative topics of discussion were an effective distraction from our grief. I’m sure you’re wondering, and I’ll leave you to wonder no more: the subject of the castle’s secret was not broached here and I felt no need to inquire about it. We simply enjoyed conversation involving our similar interests in hunting and cricket, and I will submit that His Lordship would likely best me at both, though we hadn’t a chance to confirm my theories.

After a hearty meal and making light-hearted conversation, the earl thanked me for traveling all this way to render my aid, and I was shown to my most lavish and spacious chambers. I’m not certain such luxury was necessary, but as I have mentioned earlier, the earl is most accommodating. Once I was left alone, I unpacked and settled into my new quarters for the next several days. Before turning in for the night, I made sure to review the notes I had taken on the condition of the earl’s brother. Despite the posh surroundings making me feel as though I was on an extravagant holiday, I made sure not to forget the purpose of my presence there and the reason I was being afforded such luxurious hospitality. I managed to confirm the earl’s suspicions that his brother had tuberculosis, and proceeded to prepare my means of treatment.

It was then, on this first night, that I heard a distant groaning sound. At first, I thought perhaps I had misheard the sound of an animal from the woods nearby or the wind of the storm outside. But then I heard it a second time and confirmed it was surely neither.

Absolutely it was a tenant of Glamis Castle groaning, and there could be no other person emitting such noises besides the earl’s brother. So I gathered my medical bag and left my room prepared to administer treatment. I subsequently ran into the earl in the corridor.
“Evening, my Lord,” I greeted. “Never you worry, I can hear him from my chambers. I’m headed there now.”

“Pardon?” The earl appeared confused, which in turn confused me.


“Your brother,” I explained. “It seems he may be experiencing some pain as I can hear his groans. I was on my way to check on him, and I had assumed that you were on your way to summon me?”

“Not at all,” the earl replied. “I had just completed some late work. But if you say you can hear my brother suffering, let us go check on him together.”

The earl led the way to his brother’s chamber and gently opened the door. But when I cast the light of my lantern into the room, we found Claude fast asleep. I quickly exited to keep from waking the lad.

“I apologize, my Lord. I was certain that I could hear him groaning in pain, but perhaps he only did so in his slumber.”

“Perhaps,” the earl replied as we proceeded down the hall. “The storm is also increasing outside and the wind tends to make unsettling sounds along the walls and towers. I spent my boyhood on this estate, and to this day the sounds of the wind keep me up some nights.”

“I’ll keep it in mind, sir. Thank you. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

“Not at all. Get some rest, Doctor.”

“You as well, my Lord.”

I didn’t hear the sounds again that night, even with the storm blaring on outside my window. The following day was rather routine. I cared for Claude and made sure he received proper treatment, and his cough lessened throughout the day. The subject of the sounds I thought I heard the night prior was not raised. Instead, the earl and I thought perhaps a particular chambermaid had taken a liking to me. He offered to introduce us, but I confessed I had not yet found myself in a position to court another potential bride, and of all people I’m certain the Earl of Strathmore understood.

Before turning in for the evening, I checked in on Claude one last time to make sure he was doing well, and to provide him with something for pain, just in case he truly was what I heard the night prior. If so, this should ensure I heard nothing later that night. At this point, I felt I had a decent grasp on Claude’s condition and felt no need to review my notes. Instead, I prepared to head directly to bed. But as I was undressing, I heard the same distant groaning I had heard the night before. I paused for a moment to listen and heard it again. I was certain it couldn’t have been Claude because I had made sure to give him enough medication to lull him into a painless sleep. I decided to test the earl’s theory and opened my chamber window to listen for the wind. But the air was still outside as the storm had passed, and the only movement of the trees was from a bird fluttering about the branches out yonder. The earl was wrong. I shut my window and heard it yet again. As though someone within Glamis Castle groaned over a dull ache. I could surely hear it, and it had a distinct vocal tone as of a woman or a young boy. No, it certainly wasn’t Claude, I was sure of it.

I can’t tell you what it was that came over me, only that I felt a pressing need to discover the source of this distant moaning sound. I took up my lantern and exited my chamber into the darkness of the castle. I stood outside my door for a moment, listening. When I heard it again, I was still unsure where the sound was coming from, only that it was deep within the belly of the castle. So I decided to wander onward down the long, dark corridors on my own.

I must say, the beauty of Glamis Castle vanishes at night and gives way to a dark, ominous emptiness that demands deference from all who enter it. As I wandered these empty corridors, I felt the need to appease it and only assure the emptiness that all I cared about was discovering the source of the moaning and rendering aid if necessary. So with great caution, I proceeded to follow the sound to wherever it may lead. It echoed about the vast space almost as though there were many residents suffering on the estate. As it turned out, the source wasn’t far. At first, it seemed to come from a room at the end of the corridor, but upon entering the chamber, I found it completely empty. Dusty, even, to attest that no one had used this room for months, at least. I stood within the cold blackness of this room and waited for the sound again. And there it was, a painful moan, still distant, but somehow coming from the other side of a wall.

I exited the chamber and entered the chamber beside it. It, too, was empty, and I stood to listen again. To my disappointment, the moan failed to resound. I stood for what seemed about twenty to thirty minutes. I was afraid that it would resonate again if I left, but soon I was forced to relent. I would likely hear it again the following night. So at long last, I exited the room and took note of which room it was. I would return on the morrow to continue my investigation. I proceeded to make my way back to my chambers when I heard the earl call my name. I turned to acknowledge him.

“Is everything all right?” he asked me.

“I seem to be having trouble falling asleep,” I told him. “I meant to find a balcony of a sort to help myself to some fresh air, but these corridors appear mighty different at night and I found myself lost. I feel quite fortunate to have made it back to my chambers.”

“If it’s fresh air you need, Doctor, I can lead you to a balcony on this very level,” the earl offered.

For some reason, I suddenly found myself hesitant to accept the earl’s offer. I’m not sure what it was I was afraid of, but I could no longer find it within me to trust the man. Steeling myself, I resolved that my feelings were ungrounded.

“Yes, I would much appreciate it,” I said. “Thank you, my Lord.”

I followed the earl to the balcony where I lit my pipe and offered to light his cigar.
“Don’t tell me you were up late working again, my Lord,” I said with the hope of avoiding a potential awkward silence.

“There’s always work to complete, it seems,” he replied. “Don’t tell me you were hearing groans again.”


“Not at all,” I replied. “I’ve concluded it must have been your brother groaning in his slumber. I made sure to give him something for pain and sleep tonight, and it seems to have worked. No, I’m not sure what it is that keeps me restless this night. But I’m certain this pipe and fresh air will do the trick.”

While in truth I had not sought fresh air, I did find the cool autumn night rather refreshing. A thin mist swept over the woods in a comforting embrace, and I felt its chilly droplets kiss my cheeks. Autumn nights at Glamis Castle truly possess a unique breed of beauty. The earl’s presence kept me at unease, however. After some meaningless small-talk, I managed to dismiss myself back to bed where I only proceeded to toss and turn. I estimate that I only accomplished two hours of sleep before sunlight streamed through my window and awakened me thusly.

I proceeded with the day as normal. Claude appeared to be improving, so I kept treatment status quo. There was an air of apprehension between me and the lord of the household, but I hoped it was only in my mind and maintained civility between us. At one point I realized I had run out of a medication in my bag and I headed to my room to grab more. On my way, I ran into the chambermaid who greeted me with a gleeful smile, and I greeted her in return. But then I realized that this would be an ideal time to ask her a couple questions while we were alone.

“Do you ever hear strange sounds around these corridors, miss? Particularly groaning sounds? Particularly at night?”

“Oh, don’t you know, Doctor?” the chambermaid teased. “All castles have their ghosts.”

I opted to humor her. “Yes, but they tend to move about. But these sounds, I’ve found they lead to one place.”

“Oh, Doctor! No, you shouldn’t go around searching at night like that. His Lordship will think you’re searching for his secret room and he’ll dismiss your services!”

“Is that so,” I replied. “I appreciate the warning, miss. Thank you for your time.”

I ended the day intending to search for the cause of these mysterious noises again that evening, but thanks to my severe lack of sleep the night prior, I opted instead to retire early and catch up. I slept soundly that night and proceeded with the same routine the following day. I managed to question more of the staff, but was only offered similar answers to what I received from the chambermaid the day before. I wasn’t swayed, however. Rather, these evidently rehearsed responses only renewed my determination. It seems I am not the first to have gone snooping about Glamis Castle; other guests had been caught seeking out the earl’s mysterious room, and the earl had ended their visits promptly afterward. I began to wonder if the sounds I had heard were at all connected to this room, as the staff had clearly made this assumption. It wasn’t long before it became a need that I should discover the source of the nightly groans within the castle walls; I daresay it had become almost an obsession.

That evening, I checked up on Claude for what would be the last time, but it was no matter. Claude had stopped coughing and was only weak from being bedridden for so long. I advised him to start walking around the estate on the morrow, but to take it easy. As precaution, I gave him a final dose of medication for coughing, pain, and to help him sleep before I retired to bed myself.

Or so everyone thought.

I was prepared to begin my search the very moment the groans resounded. Now I knew exactly which room to head to, and come Hell or high water, I would uncover this secret and I would end the pain of the sufferer. Claude had been healed, and now this mysterious individual would be my new patient.

Much time went by without a single sound. Not even the wind which the earl had offered as a scapegoat blew outside my window. At length I grew impatient. I lit my lantern and made my way down the corridor to the last room I had visited during my most recent investigation. As I approached the door, the first groan of the night made itself known. I slowly opened the door and found the room empty, just as it was before. I made every effort to be silent with each step I took inside so not to obscure the sound of the groaning, and I listened intently.

It came again, long and growing in its suffering. But it sounded as though it was coming from within the wall… or above it. When I heard it again, I confirmed both theories simultaneously and escaped the room to make my way up to the third floor of Glamis Castle. I kept watch for the earl whom I imagined to be working late again, and endeavored to be clandestine in my pursuit. Upon my arrival to the third floor, however, the moans didn’t grow any clearer. They sounded just as distant, perhaps even more so. I followed them inside another empty room, where they now seemed to come from below me.


I presently found myself growing frustrated. I knew I wasn’t imagining this or the sounds would follow me evenly about the estate, both day and night. When the moans came again from beneath my feet, I finally yielded and began searching the floor. The mystery was maddening and the need for answers was absolute. I tell you I had come to a point where I would have torn up all of Glamis Castle if that was what was necessary to find this suffering person and bring peace to my mind. And when the light of my lantern caught an unnatural groove beneath a peculiarly-placed rug, I knew on the moment I was that much closer. I lifted the rug and I uncovered a trap door. I felt my heart leap with excitement—surely, I would find this poor, lost soul now! I threw the door open and climbed down the rickety ladder which led me to a short tunnel. The air was blacker than black here; the light of my lantern only reaching inches ahead of me, it seemed.

Now some may think I slowly made my way down the tunnel one cautious step at a time, but I assure you I was in a hurry to get to the bottom of this. I made haste down that tunnel and approached the wooden door at the end rather quickly. Only then did I hesitate, feeling a bit nervous about what I might find on the other side. I am only human after all. The groaning came again, louder, and was now clearly female. It provided me the courage necessary to twist the knob and slowly push it forward. What lay beyond is why I am here today.

The room was average in size, lit by dying candles burnt to the base. The air wreaked of death and formaldehyde, masked by a hint of safe. The shelves which lined the walls of this rather cold space were stocked with bottles of preservatives and medications, jars of body parts and herbs. There were tables of surgical tools and journals, and soiled rags and sheets were tossed to the filthy floor. But what I recall most of all was the horrifically decayed body of a young woman lying on the long, steel, surgeon’s table. Her arms were missing, a metal rod protruded from one socket. Half of her left leg was also missing, replaced by another steel shaft. Her body was riddled with cuts and sutures, and her torso had been left open with metal tools jutting from the massive incision. Upon my fearful gasp, I swear on my mother’s grave the woman turned her gray head to gaze at me with a single glass eye.

“Help… me,” she croaked. “He won’t… let me rest.”

She must have seen the stark look of terror in my eyes, and to this day I regret doing nothing to help her. At that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to move, much less speak. But the living corpse-woman attempted to sit up and acknowledge me further, which as you could imagine was rather a chore with no arms. She twisted and jolted about the table, grunting from the effort

“Please,” she groaned. “Help me…”

The corpse soon managed to sit up, the tools tumbling out of her abdomen and spilling onto the floor. That was when I finally rediscovered my ability to move. I didn’t scream or even yelp, I still hadn’t rediscovered my voice. I didn’t even close the door, I simply ran. I no longer intended to spend another day in Glamis Castle, I didn’t even care to receive pay for my services. I wanted out.

So I left.

As you well know, I endeavored to bring this matter up with the police. The earl had unearthed his late wife, Charlotte, and was bringing her back to life—and dare I say successfully! I begged and beseeched them to go and see for themselves, but of course the earl had managed to convince them that I had gone insane from the grief of losing my own wife, and I had invented this story of fantasy out of pitiful hope. Thus you write to me here, at Dundee Lunatic Asylum.

Now I find myself begging and beseeching you to go and see for yourself. Take the curious public with you and if need be, I can show you. I remember the way vividly. But I am not insane, and I fear for the next person who passes beneath the earl. They will not be able to rest in peace as he will subject them to his unholy ways—his unethical experiments.

Again, I am eternally grateful to you for taking the time to read this in full. I await to hear about your tour of Glamis Castle, and I pray it will bring me liberation. Much luck to you.

Credit: J.D. Buchmiller

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