A Ghost Story For Halloween
I no longer believe in ghosts, but I still love a good ghost story. It all goes back to my tortured childhood and the strange influence of my Auntie Jean and Uncle Jimmy. I would spend school holidays at their house in Tullibody and, in daylight hours, they would bundle me into the back of their Mini, drive around Clackmannanshire and fill my head with tales of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
At night, because they didn't own a television set, they provided a choice of entertainment. Sometimes that involved singing around the upright piano in their front room, or else Jimmy would wheel out a massive cine projector and show silent Laurel & Hardy movies.
But later, as the coal crackled in their fireplace, they would tell me spooky stories about local phantoms and the supernatural events that supposedly occurred in the various towns and villages that fall under the shadow of the Ochil Hills.
Often these tales centred on an old mausoleum known as Tait's tomb, which was all that remained of a local stately home. Tait, it seemed, was inclined to rise from the dead and pose as a hitch-hiker on the road between Dollar and Menstrie
"Come on Bairn," said Auntie Jean, "we'll show ye whereaboots that is!"
And so, under the half-moon of a midnight sky, we would get back into the Mini and drive through the countryside so that they could point out the tomb while telling me to keep one eye peeled for strange men thumbing for a lift.
To this day, nothing has ever frightened me as much as those night-time journeys.
But I keep hoping.
That's why we've commissioned five new ghost stories for BBC Radio Scotland, penned by some of the best contemporary Scottish writers. You'll hear the first of these in our special Halloween edition of the Culture Café...and there will be four more in time for Christmas.
I hope you enjoy them....and do have nightmares.