On a cold winter’s night in the wilds of the Scottish mountains, two young climbers in need of a place to bed down where they can stay warm and dry think they get lucky when they come across an old house. But all is not what it seems. What happened in that remote house is forever carved on the memory of Phil MacNeil. “It was many months before I could sleep without the light on,” he says. Phil is 65 now, but, lithe and athletic, looks at least a decade younger. As I meet his piercing blue eyes, it is clear that night has obsessed him for nearly 50 years.


We need to cast our minds back to February 1974. Phil and his friend Jimmy have been tipped off about this place, known as Luibeilt. It’s a bothy, a simple dwelling used by climbers and hunters. They’ve been told it’s owned by people happy to let climbers stay the night, but, when they arrive, the two lads have the odd sensation that the house has been abandoned – and in a hurry. The dining table is still set for Christmas dinner, with the crackers unpulled. It has a whiff of the Mary Celeste, the 19th-century ghost ship whose occupants vanished, never to be accounted for.

Phil and Jimmy search the house. Upstairs, the rooms are empty except one containing a dismantled metal bed and a large rock sitting on the windowsill. Satisfied that they are alone, the pair make their beds in the living room. They blow out the candles and darkness envelops them. And then they hear it... the bed upstairs – yes, the one that was dismantled – is now sliding across the floor. More unnervingly, the rock falls with a bump and starts to roll around.

Entirely alone?

The pair eventually fall into an uneasy sleep until they are wrenched awake at 4am. “Things in the room were flying around, all over the place,” says Phil. I can feel his stunned disbelief even now, as he remembers objects hurtling towards him. The chaos continues until, above them, footsteps start. It sounds like someone in hard shoes, pacing. The steps leave the bedroom and start to come downstairs, closer, closer, until they are by the living room door. Phil grabs his climber’s ice axe, ready to confront whoever or whatever – is there, but when he throws open the door... they are entirely alone.

More like this

Phil is telling me of his experience for my new BBC podcast, Uncanny. The series is full of people who have sent me their stories in the hope that I can help find an answer. Phil’s tale is one of the oddest. If you search for the bothy online, you can find pictures of what it used to look like. It’s a ruin now, but back in 1974, it felt to Phil that the house itself had come to life.

You’d have assumed that Phil would never go back – his night there ended with him and Jimmy scrambling out of a window and running away, terrified. But, determined to make sense of it, he returned and found on the living room wall graffiti left by another visitor. It read: “Don’t sleep here. This house is haunted.” It seems Phil is not the only one to have seen the dark side of Luibeilt.

Find out more

From ghostly phantoms to UFOs, The Battersea Poltergeist's Danny Robins investigates real-life stories of paranormal encounters on his BBC Radio 4 podcast Uncanny. Episodes available now on BBC Sounds

This article was first published in the October 2021 issue of BBC History Revealed


Danny Robins is a writer, broadcaster and journalist. He has presented podcasts including 'The Witch Farm'.