One late Sunday night in 1979 or 1980 my mate Steve Bates and myself started walking homewards to Old Portlethen after spending the evening in the Leathen Arms. It was approaching midnight and it was a foggy night.
We crossed the bridge just before Portlethen Church and were just about to pass the final streetlamp of Portlethen before hitting darkness and a one mile walk down the road to Old Portlethen. We were deep in conversation when we noticed a figure approaching us in the darkness from the direction of Old Portlethen. At this point we continued to chat and as the figure, which turned out to be a man, neared us we stopped talking to each other and the man passed in silence. As he walked past us we were both struck by the old fashioned clothing that the man was wearing. A few seconds elapsed before we glanced at each other and started to talk again, at that point we both turned around to look at him, expecting to see a clearer vision as he made his way towards the streetlamp that we had just passed.
We were both very surprised to find that he had vanished and was nowhere to be seen. It would have been impossible for him to have walked so fast to have been out of view and he wouldnít have had time to suddenly jump over the nearby dyke into the field without us seeing him doing it. He had literally disappeared into thin air.
Neither of us thought too much about it at the time and continued our walk home and it wasnít until much later that we questioned what we saw that evening. Was it someone from the present or was it an apparition from the past?
Today I still donít have any answers as to who the man might have been, although based on what I have discovered since that night I now have a few suggestions about who (or what) it was we might have seen. The obvious choice is that we may had been seeing things since we had spent the previous five hours in the pub so that canít be discounted, although it would have been unusual for both of us to agree that we had seen something unusual at the same time. Alternatively it may well have been someone from the present and we had mistaken the old fashioned clothing in the fog and darkness, although that doesnít explain the quick disappearing act.
If it was an apparition or a ghost, who could it have been? I have three suggestions that could all fit the bill.
1. Could it have been John Burness, Rabbie Burnís cousin, that died on the road next to Portlethen church in the early 19th century? See Poetís Corner and the link to Thrummy Cap for the full story.
2. Could it have been Captain Andersen, the Norwegian Captain that drowned after his vessel Felix was shipwrecked near Downies, and is buried in Portlethen churchyard. See Wrecks and Rescues and the link to 1898 for that story.
3. Or maybe it was the ghost of the local youth who had pretended to be Captain Andersenís ghost for a few weeks after the funeral? See also Wrecks and Rescues and the same link to 1898.
Maybe you have a suggestion of your own as to who or what we saw on the road next to the church on that misty night?