According to a pamphlet first published by local minister Alexander Telfair in 1696, a farm called The Ring-Croft of Stocking inhabited by the family of stonemason and farmer Andrew Mackie was the site of mysterious occurrences such as stones being thrown, cattle being moved, buildings set on fire, voices heard, family members beaten and dragged, and notes found written in blood.
Telfair wrote that neighbors were hit by rocks and beaten by staves, and that he had seen and felt a ghostly arm which quickly vanished. In the pamphlet, Telfair described things he had considered “to have been the occasion of the Trouble”, including Mackie supposedly taking an oath to devote his first child to the Devil, clothes left in the house by a “woman of ill repute”, and failure to burn a tooth buried under the threshold stone by a previous tenant advised by a spey-wife. According to the story, after Telfair and several other clergymen said prayers at the farm, the trouble eventually subsided.
Telfair’s pamphlet, entitled “A TRUE RELATION OF AN Apparition, Expressions and Actings, OF A SPIRIT, Which Infested the House of Andrew Mackie in Ring-Croft of Stocking, in the Paroch of Rerrick, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, in Scotland. By Mr. Alexander Telfair, Minister of that Paroch: and Attested by many other Persons, who were also Eye and Ear-Witnesses”, was published by an Edinburgh printer in 1696 and sold at the shop of George Mosman. Telfair’s account ascribed the activity to a “violent noisy spirit”, and in later years the tale became known as the “Mackie poltergeist”, the “Ringcroft poltergeist”, or the “Rerrick (or Rerwick) poltergeist”.
The October 4, 1890 issue of the Saturday Review dismissed Telfair’s story as folklore and “a curious mixture of obvious naked imposture”, saying, “Five ministers, a few lairds, and a number of farmers signed this account, in which there is not a single suspicion breathed that the business was merely a practical joke. Mr. Telfair recites it as an argument against atheism, and for other reasons of edification.”
Sacheverell Sitwell in his book Poltergeists (1940) wrote that events described in the story were created by one of Mackie’s children using ventriloquism. Sitwell observes that a voice awoke Mackie, telling him he would “be troubled till Tuesday” and that if Scotland did not “repent” it would “trouble every family in the land”. According to Sitwell, “Here, again there can be no doubt whatever that the actual Poltergeist was one of the children of the family. It had, in fact, learnt to ventriloquise. This, though, does not make the mystery any less unpleasant”.
Academics, such as historians Lizanne Henderson and Ole Grell, wrote that Telfair’s pamphlet was intended to communicate to a “less sophisticated audience” and counteract what was felt among clergymen of the period to be the dangerous influences of skepticism, atheism and deism. Henderson and Grell note Telfair’s pamphlet’s stated purpose to disprove “the prevailing Spirit of Atheism and Infidelity in our time, denying both in Opinion and Practice the Existence of Spirits, either of God or Devils; and consequently a Heaven and Hell…”
Ring-Croft of Stocking, described as “a smallholding on the topside of Auchencairn”, was located in the parish of Rerrick. Reportedly, a dead tree is all that remains of the MacKie farm today.