CLIMBER Phil MacNeill has revealed how a brush with a poltergeist in a Highland bothy has haunted him for nearly 50 years.
Phil claims he and his friend Jimmy Dunn were terrorised by a ghost throughout a long winter’s night nearly 50 years ago in February 1973 while taking shelter at the abandoned house in Luibeilt in the shadow of Ben Nevis.
Now the 65-year-old will recount his spine tingling story in a new BBC podcast Uncanny – presented by writer Danny Robins who hit the headlines earlier this year with his Battersea Poltergeist investigation
Chief Features Writer MATT BENDORIS speaks to Danny and Phil about the remarkable encounter.
PRESENTER Danny Robins has been inundated with ghost stories since his international hit podcast The Battersea Poltergeist – but admits Phil’s story was more like something from a “Stephen King novel.”
The broadcaster spent two years investigating the mysterious case of Shirley Hitchings who in 1956 encountered a powerful force which began scrawling messages on the bedroom walls of her London home, starting fires in the house and making the teenager levitate.
Now he’s followed it up with stories from other real-life incidents for his BBC Radio 4 podcast Uncanny – but maintains Phil’s encounter with the supernatural is the scariest of them all.
Danny says: “Phil’s story sounds like a Stephen King novel. It’s utterly terrifying and gave me sleepless nights after hearing it.
“But the memory of that night weighs even more heavily on Phil. It was many months before he could sleep without the light on.”
And no wonder, Phil’s story takes place on February 4, 1973, when he and his best pal Jimmy Dunn were making their way to climb Ben Nevis.
Although still in their teens they were experienced and well equipped mountaineers, who bedded down at Luibeilt bothy for the night after hearing a commune of hippies living there would welcome climbers.
But when they arrived they could see something is not quite right – the house was fully furnished but appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry.
There are still dishes in the sink and the dining table is still set for Christmas dinner with the crackers unpulled.
Upstairs they find a metal bed and a large rock on the window sill before deciding to crawl into their sleeping bags in the living room with only their candles for light.
But they are soon roused by the sound of the bed upstairs being dragged across the floorboards – while they can hear the rock from the window sill rolling around.
Exhausted, they manage to fall into an uneasy sleep only to be woken with a start at 4am.
ICE PICKS FLYING AROUND ROOM
Phil says: “The entire room erupted. There were things flying around all over the place.
“It turned out to be our climbing equipment – razor sharp ice axes, ice hammers, crampons, ice screws, and everything’s flying over all heads. It was absolutely terrifying.”
Phil fumbled for a match to light a candle – only for an invisible foot to kick them from his hand.
Then they hear heavy footsteps pacing the floor above them before they leave the bedroom and head downstairs, stopping outside the living room door.
FEARED FOR OUR LIVES
Phil retrieves his ice axe ready to protect them and throws open the door to confront whatever is on the other side – only to find that there is no one there.
The 65-year-old, who was raised in Aberdeen, says: “We did fear for our lives that night.
“Any sensible person would want to get the hell out of there but bear in mind it was four o’clock in the morning and in the middle of winter and extremely cold.
“We felt we had no choice but to huddle in our sleeping bags while this thing was parading around the house.
WE WERE AT THE END
“I just crawled into a foetus like ball as our sharp ice axes and ice screws were flying around all over the place.
“In a temporary silence Jimmy said he could actually hear my heart beating through my clothes and sleeping bag. But we felt we were at the end.”
He adds: “When we left at first light we were still in a state of shock and couldn’t talk about anything else for days.
“We made our way back to Kinlochleven and came across another bunch of walkers who must have thought we were a couple of loonies as we couldn’t stop talking about what had happened.”
“DO NOT SLEEP HERE” WRITTEN ON WALLS
Surprisingly Phil has returned to the property several times since his nightmarish experience.
One time – still during the 70s – he discovered graffiti left by other visitors which read: “Do NOT sleep here – this house is haunted.”
Danny adds: “It seems Phil wasn’t the only who experienced terror in that bothy.”
Phil went on to be a trained locksmith, but admits he’s still trying to unlock the mysteries of what happened to him and his mate all those years ago.
He says: “I have spent a lot of time thinking about it but the things that went on are undeniable – they were real-life, physical experiences.
CAN FINALLY TALK ABOUT IT AFTER 50 YEARS
“Over the years I’ve spoken very little about it and told only a few close friends partly because if you haven’t experienced something like this yourself, you simply won’t believe it.
“But a lot of time has passed and I’m much more confident about telling my story. I’m perfectly happy to talk about it now and if people don’t believe me, then that’s up to them.”
Danny adds: “Throughout the whole series I’ve never come across someone like Phil who still had such an intense level of fear over what happened.
“He’s basically spent the last 50 years trying to understand and make sense of what happened went on that night.”
*The latest episode of Radio 4’s Uncanny is available on BBC Sounds now.
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