Mr. Sinclair professes that his proofs of the existence of Devils “are no old wife’s trattles about the fire, but such as may bide the test.” He lived, one should remember, in an age when faith was really seeking aid from ghost stories. Glanvil’s books—and, in America, those of Cotton Mather—show the hospitality to anecdotes of an edifying sort, which we admire in Mr. Sinclair. Indeed, Sinclair borrows from Glanvil and Henry More, authors who, like himself, wished to establish the existence of the supernatural on the strange incidents which still perplex us, but which are scarcely regarded as safe matter to argue upon. The testimony for a Ghost would seldom go to a jury in our days, though amply sufficient in the time of Mr. Sinclair. About “The Devil of Glenluce” he took particular care to be well informed, and first gave it to the world in a volume on—you will never guess what subject—Hydrostatics! In the present work he offers us
“The Devil of Glenluce Enlarged With several Remarkable Additions from an Eye and Ear Witness, A Person of undoubted Honesty.”
Mr. Sinclair recommends its “usefulness for refuting Atheism.” Probably Mr. Sinclair got the story, or had it put off on him rather, through one Campbell, a student of philosophy in Glasgow, the son of Gilbert Campbell, a weaver of Glenluce, in Galloway; the scene in our own time, of a mysterious murder. Campbell had refused alms to Alexander Agnew, a bold and sturdy beggar, who, when asked by the Judge whether he believed in a God, answered: “He knew no God but Salt, Meal, and Water.” In consequence of the refusal of alms, “The Stirs first began.” The “Stirs” are ghostly disturbances. They commenced with whistling in the house and out of it, “such as children use to make with their small, slender glass whistles.” “About the Middle of November,” says Mr. Sinclair, “the Foul Fiend came on with his extraordinary assaults.” Observe that he takes the Foul Fiend entirely for granted, and that he never tells us the date of the original quarrel, and the early agitation. Stones were thrown down the chimney and in at the windows, but nobody was hurt.
Naturally Gilbert Campbell carried his tale of sorrow to the parish Minister. This did not avail him. His warp and threads were cut on his loom, and even the clothes of his family were cut while they were wearing them. At night something tugged the blankets off their beds, a favourite old spiritual trick, which was played, if I remember well, on a Roman Emperor, according to Suetonius. Poor Campbell had to remove his stock-in-trade, and send his children to board out, “to try whom the trouble did most follow.” After this, all was quiet (as perhaps might be expected), and quiet all remained, till a son named Thomas was brought home again. Then the house was twice set on fire, and it might have been enough to give Thomas a beating. On the other hand, Campbell sent Thomas to stay with the Minister. But the troubles continued in the old way. At last the family became so accustomed to the Devil, “that they were no more afraid to keep up the Clash” (chatter) “with the Foul Fiend than to speak to each other.” They were like the Wesleys, who were so familiar with the fiend Jeffrey, that haunted their home.