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News / Ancient graveyard at ‘most haunted house’

The Windhouse sits on top of a hill in Mid Yell. Photo: Shetland News

TWO human skeletons possibly dating back to the 13th or 14th century have been found just inches under the ground at what is dubbed Shetland’s most haunted property.

The find – at Windhouse in Yell – confirms long-held views that the dilapidated former laird’s house, which dates back to the early 18th century, sits on an old graveyard.

The remains were found when surveys had to be carried out on the site after Windhouse’s owner, who bought the property last year, started looking into redeveloping it back into a house.

The archaeological examinations were needed before any work can be done as there is a broch beside it, as well as a longhouse and a neolithic chambered cairn below it.

There were previously no physical signs of a graveyard – but that has all changed after skeletons were recently discovered right next to the property in shallow graves which are as little as six inches below the ground.

Local archaeologist Val Turner said it is “definitely” likely that there will be more human remains on site yet to be discovered, possibly directly under the house itself.

“The skeletons go right up to the door, and doubtless there were skeletons underneath,” she said.

“The house appears to be on top of the graveyard – hence its reputation for being haunted, of course.

“We don’t know where the boundaries of the graveyard are. It may never have had a physical boundary anyway.”

The skeletons will have to be lifted, and more excavations are likely to take place as a result of legal requirements relating to how to treat human remains.

Tests are due to be carried out in an attempt to date the skeletons before they are reburied in Shetland.

Reports of human bones previously being found in the Windhouse have long circulated, adding to its most-haunted reputation.

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It was previously sold in the early 2000s by the RSPB but plans to renovate the property fell through.

Ghostly inhabitants in the house are said to include a lady dressed in silk who is believed to be the spirit of a woman whose skeleton was found under floorboards of the main stairs.

There is also said to be a servant girl who mounts invisible steps and a ghost dog.

Jamie Hatch, from Lerwick, said he visited the site last year in the dark and picked up on some ghostly feelings – although his temperamental phone may have been partly to blame.

“I went up there one night in the pitch black at midnight, and definitely got some spooky vibes,” he said.

“My phone kept turning itself on when I was around the building – although I later discovered iPhones do that automatically when you look at it face up.”

Turner, meanwhile, added that there are likely to be other undiscovered graves dotted around the isles.

“They are sometimes marked on old Ordnance Survey maps as ‘chapel’ but the symbol can be in the wrong field, which is why we would always exercise caution when a development was planned to be nearby,” she said.

“We knew that there was an old chapel marked close to the house and I was always suspicious that this was why skeletons were found at Windhouse, hence its reputation for being haunted. It’s nice to be proved right!

“In other cases, and Upper Scalloway was an example found back in 1989, all memory of a graveyard might be lost. That dated to around the 14th Century.

“There is also sometimes an association between brochs and medieval graveyards. The Windhouse, Upper Scalloway – which was a total surprise – and Cullingsbrough, Bressay are all instances of this.”

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