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From folklore to the future: North and north-east spooky specialists are in high spirits ahead of Halloween

Gladys Sellar has been a psychic medium in Blackburn for the past 57 years. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson
Gladys Sellar has been a psychic medium in Blackburn for the past 57 years. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

“Oh my goodness,” shrieks Gladys Sellar as she turns over the angel cards during my first-ever psychic reading.

Lollipop lady by day, psychic medium by night, the bubbly 62-year-old from Blackburn has invited me to her house for a one-to-one spiritual reading, and to say I was a bit unnerved would be an understatement.

Gladys is one of three professional spooky specialists we feature in today’s Your Life Halloween takeover edition.

Lollipop lady by day, psychic medium by night: Every day is out of this world for Gladys Sellar.

From poltergeists and spirits to wizards and witches, it’s impossible not to be left intrigued and mystified by their otherworldly experiences.

So whether you’re a sceptic or not, it’s up to you to decide if you believe in the spirit world.

Pauline Cordiner, a spooky storyteller from Aberdeen

Every neighbourhood has one: the house that goes all out for Halloween.

Proudly taking the honours in Garthdee is Pauline Cordiner, a professional spooky storyteller who brings north-east folklore and history to life in schools, community groups and at events across the area.

Spine-tingling stories: Pauline Cordiner has unearthed some spooky folklore. Photo by Amanda Clubb.

“In every neighbourhood there is always that one house that is decorated from top to bottom for Halloween and all the kids flock round for sweets,” laughs Pauline.

“Well, we’re that house so I’m going to light a fire pit in the driveway so the children can toast marshmallows and I’ll tell some Halloween jokes and stories.”

‘Halloween changed my life’

Halloween is a milestone moment in Pauline’s life as it was on October 31, 21 years ago, when a storytelling event changed her life forever.

“I used to volunteer at Archaeology Link Prehistory Park near Oyne and they were looking for people to tell stories for Halloween,” says Pauline.

“I was shy, unable to stand up in front of people and talk, but for some reason, I found myself volunteering for this and it just went swimmingly.”

Unlocking her storytelling spirit, Pauline left her job as a laboratory chemist for Shell to pursue a career in the spoken word.


Now her terrifying tales and haunted history capture the imaginations of adults and children across the north-east.

“It’s such a rewarding occupation, people seem to have this attitude that stories are for children and very often parents will come up and say I really enjoyed that,” says Pauline.

And with Halloween only days away, Pauline is keen to share some of the spine-tingling local folklore she has dug up through her meticulous research.

Pauline Cordiner loves to share her spooky stories across the local community. Image: Kami Thomson

One fascinating tale dates back to 1825 when a man who lived in Longside near Mintlaw was tormented by a poltergeist.

“The man claimed he was being tossed in his bed and sheets would be thrown off him,” says Pauline.

“Everyone at the time thought he was a bit highly strung and an attention seeker.”

Gory murder

Face lighting up as she tells the tale of how a local news reporter spent the night at the house with friends, witnessing flying buckets and bowls and the sound of rocks raining from the ceiling, it’s easy to see how Pauline enthralls people with her storytelling.

Determined to get to the bottom of the story, Pauline delved deeper into the history of the site and made a startling discovery.

“What I then looked into was if anything had happened in that house before and I found that in the neighbourhood there was a woman who was murdered by her lover and it was quite a gory murder,” says Pauline.

“The woman was a widow and he was her lover.

“She was widely believed to be pregnant with his child and he came by her house and asked her to go for a walk before church on Sunday, and when they were down at the river he pushed her in and held her down, and she bobbed up and she managed to swim downstream, and he crossed the river and got a stick and basically bludgeoned her about the head until she went down again and drowned.

“After that there were other stories about a woman trying to beckon men off the road, pointing to the river.”

New chapter: Pauline hopes to inspire both adults and children alike with her fascinating stories. Image: Kami Thomson

Another Halloween story Pauline enjoys telling is a bit more light-hearted.

“During Victorian times, there was a bit of a fashion in Stonehaven where people would dress up in sheets and run around the streets and graveyard,” laughs Pauline.

“It’s was all quite Scooby Doo.

“One chap who decided to run round the streets dressed up as a ghost was chased by a group of people down the main street and into an alleyway where he was captured by a fish wife who was smoking her pipe.

“She pulled the sheet off him and he was dealt with.”

Captive audience: Pauline leaves children enthralled when she tells stories of local folklore and history. Image: Kami Thomson

Through her work, Pauline hopes to show that storytelling is for everyone.

“For people with additional support needs or those who are neurodiverse, the revelation that you don’t need to write to tell stories is huge,” says Pauline.

“For me to be able to stand there in front of them and tell a story without there being a book, a script, I think that’s quite an eye-opener for a lot of people.”

For more information about Pauline go to her website.

Gladys Sellar, a psychic medium from Blackburn

Staring at the table full of crystals, angel-shaped candles and gemstones, I started to feel a tad nervous about my first-ever psychic reading.

Having interviewed Gladys Sellar a few days previously about her experiences as a psychic medium in Blackburn, it was only right that I took her up on her offer to show me how it all works.

Gladys Sellar has been a psychic medium for the past 57 years. Images: Wullie Marr

“Oh well, that’s interesting,” Gladys loudly exclaims.

“You’ve got a really bright future and I know that a lot of psychics say that but you have.

“You just don’t believe in yourself at times and say to yourself, right I can do this.”

Psychic since the age of five

Somewhat relieved by my bright future prediction – and the advice to visit a dentist – it’s easy to see why people visit psychics like Gladys.

Intrigued yet sceptical I was interested to delve deeper into Gladys’s background and how she came to be a psychic.

Gladys uses crystals and angel cards when she gives people psychic readings.

“The house where I stay in Blackburn is where it all began,” says Gladys.

“We moved into the house in 1965 just before my fifth birthday, and that’s where it all began as I started talking to myself.

“My mum came from a family of psychics so she realised that I had psychic abilities just like her grandma.”

Angels and demons: Gladys uses angel cards during the reading. Photo by Wullie Marr, DC Thomson.


Encouraged by her mum to explore her natural psychic abilities, Gladys has spent the past 57 years honing her skills.

“I often describe this job as being like a counsellor because that’s sometimes how you feel,” says Gladys.

“I might see someone who has lost someone close to them and they want to know that they’re alright on the other side, and then I might have someone else who wants to come along just to see what the cards are saying.

“But everyone comes for a different reason, it’s really amazing.”

‘I’m a nightmare when I go to funerals’

Her psychic abilities do sometimes get her into trouble though, especially at family funerals.

“My family will say that the worst thing for me is that I’m a nightmare when I go to a funeral,” says Gladys.

Psychic lollipop lady: Gladys Sellar also brings magic to her role as a lollipop lady. Photo by Wullie Marr, DC Thomson.

“I have to be very careful because I’m a great one for tuning in to see what’s happening on the other side and to find out what the person who has passed over is saying about who is in the congregation, who is there and who shouldn’t be there.

“Sometimes the things that come through make me laugh so it’s got me into a lot of bother.”

Talking so openly about the voices she hears and the spirits she sees and feels, is bound to leave some people sceptical though.

Video: Gladys gives Rosie a psychic reading

“Yes there’s people who are sceptics out there and they’ll always say to me, prove it, but I don’t see the need to do that because there will be a day when they find out that it’s right or something will happen that will make them shake to their foundation, and they’ll go to someone like me to question it,” says Gladys.

“I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s the same with religion.”

Back in the human world, Gladys uses her magic in a different way as a lollipop lady at Kinellar Primary School.

“I love being a lollipop lady, especially at Halloween when I’ll put a witch’s hat on to greet the children.”

For more information about Gladys go to her Facebook page.

Dr Ian Tait, curator, Shetland Museum and Archives

Halloween wouldn’t be the same without a fair sprinkling of supernatural beings such as ghosts, vampires and werewolves, but centuries ago in Shetland, they were more afraid of the njuggel.

If you want another thing to be afraid of on the spookiest night of the year, look no further than this most deceptive of creatures.

Dr Ian Tait believes there may be similarities between the njuggel of Shetland, which has a Scandinavian tradition, and the kelpie of Scottish folklore.

“There seems to be a degree of analogous detail in that it is a supernatural creature that takes the form of a horse and its habitat is fresh water,” said Ian.

Dr Ian Tait, curator at Shetland Museum and Archives, says that it wasn’t uncommon for people to encounter horses on the moors at night.

“The njuggel enticed people. It was a very tame, friendly animal and when it came trotting up to you, your inclination was to hop on to its back.

“As soon as you had done, it galloped off very briskly to the nearest water, be it a loch or a burn, but especially a loch because the water is very deep,

“Something that a lot of people probably don’t consider, even in Shetland, is the wider context of this.

“Today we tend to travel around on foot or in a vehicle and if we are going off track that is usually the exception, not the rule, whereas Shetland in bygone centuries was a landscape which didn’t have any roads at all.

The drawing “Njuggel and the Mill” by Davy Cooper.

Moors in the moonlight

“People were travelling over the moors 12 months a year for all different purposes, such as harvesting rushes, transporting peat or maybe driving sheep.

“Not only that, but the landscape was open in a way that it isn’t today. Today it’s all carved up with fences but in bygone centuries it was a very open landscape and the moors were common grazing, so cattle, sheep and geese were there – and horses.

“It wasn’t unusual for horses to be wandering around almost in the wild.

“It wouldn’t have been unusual for people to have been going across the moors at dusk or even in the dark, because in the moonlight you can see clearly where you are going, and so seeing a horse wasn’t an odd thing.

The causeway at Njuggelswater, Scalloway, one of several places named after the terrible creature that would tip a person who climbed onto its back into the nearest loch or burn.

Flowing tail

“I guess this is why the njuggel was able to do its dastardly deeds because it was just another horse!

“Except when you got near to it, it was a light colour and it had this very flowing tail, it was supposed to be in a circular shape.

“It was an attractive but unusual horse that might make you pause and take more notice than you would normally do when you’re in the moors, seeing a horse.

“You would be enticed to hop on its back then it went off at a gallop and pitched you into the loch.


“As is often the case with folklore stories, there is more to it than simply a supernatural creature that does a bad thing because there was a way to get out of it if you were quick.

“You were meant to articulate the creature’s name, if you said ‘Njuggel, njuggel, stop, I want to get off’ – effectively a cease-and-desist – then it was supposed to stop or slow down, giving you time to hop off and thereby you would no longer be under its spell.

Dr Ian Tait says that there was a way to break free of the njuggel’s spell, by saying its name and telling it to stop.

“The njuggel would only make itself visible to you when it was already close to water, and it would gallop off into the loch so quickly that you were so surprised and would be really lucky to get its name said!”

It would appear the njuggel got its way in the end because today its name is often said in Shetland, appearing as it does in several place names, including Njuggleswater at Scalloway.

For more information about Shetland Museum and Archives visit their website