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Scottish Corpse

The reasons given for watching the corpse differed in different localities. The practice is still observed, I believe, in some places; but probably now it is more the result of habit - a custom followed without any basis of definite belief, and merely as a mark of respect for the dead; but in former times, and within this century, it was firmly held that if the corpse were not watched, the devil would carry off the body, and many stories were current of such an awful result having happened. One such story was told me by a person who had received the story from, a person who was present at the wake where the occurrence happened ... The corpse was laid out in a room, and the watchers had retired to another apartment to partake of refreshments, having shut the door of the room where the corpse lay. While they were eating there was heard a great noise, as of a struggle between two persons, proceeding from the room where the corpse lay. None of the party would venture into the room, and in this emergency they sent for the minister, who came, and, with the open Bible in his hand, entered the room and shut the door. The noise then ceased, and in about ten minutes he came out, lifted the tongs from the fireplace, and again re-entered the room. When he came out again, he brought out with the tongs a glove, which was seen to be bloody, and this he put into the fire. He refused, however, to tell either what he had seen or heard; but on the watchers returning to their post, the corpse lay as formerly, and as quiet and unruffled as if nothing had taken place, whereat they were all surprised.

James Napier, 1810-84.



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