The Murder Hole
He tapped lightly on the window, and they all started up, with
consternation on their faces, and one of the men suddenly darted out
at the door, seized the boy roughly by the shoulder and dragged him
inside. He said, trying to laugh, "I am only the poor peddler who
visited you last year."
"Are you alone?" cried the old woman in a harsh, deep voice.
"Alone here—and alone in the whole world," replied the boy sadly.
"Then you are welcome," said one of the men with a sneer. Their
words filled the boy with alarm, and the confusion and desolation of
the formerly neat and orderly cottage seemed to show signs of recent
The curtains had been torn down from the bed to which he was shown,
and though he begged for a light to burn until he fell asleep, his
terror kept him long awake.
In the middle of the night he was awakened by a single cry of
distress. He sat up and listened, but it was not repeated, and he
would have lain down to sleep again, but suddenly his eye fell on a
stream of blood slowly trickling under the door of his room. In terror
he sprang to the door, and through a chink he saw that the victim
outside was only a goat. But just then he overheard the voices of the
two men, and their words transfixed him with horror. "I wish all the
throats we cut were as easy," said one. "Did you ever hear such a
noise as the old gentleman made last night?"
"Ah, the Murder Hole's the thing for me," said the other. "One
plunge and the fellow's dead and buried in a moment." "How do you mean
to dispatch the lad in there?" asked the old woman in a harsh whisper,
and one of the men silently drew his bloody knife across his throat to
The terrified boy crept to his window and managed to let himself
down without a sound. But as he stood wondering which way to turn, a
dreadful cry rang out: "The boy has escaed—let loose the bloodhound."
He ran for his life, blindly, but all too soon he heard the dreadful
baying About three hundred years ago, on the estate of Lord Cassilus
between Ayrshire and Galloway, lay a great moor, unrelieved by any
trees or vegetation.
It was rumored that unwary travelers had been intercepted and
murdered there, and that no investigation ever revealed what had
happened to them. People living in a nearby hamlet believed that in
the dead of night they sometimes heard a sudden cry of anguish; and a
shepherd who had lost his way once declared that he had seen three
mysterious figures struggling together, until one of them, with a
frightful scream, sank suddenly into the earth. So terrifying was this
place that at last no one remained there, except one old woman and her
two sons, who were too poor to flee, as their neighbors had done.
Travelers occasionally begged a night's lodging at their cottage,
rather than continue their journey across the moor in the darkness, and
even by day no one traveled that way except in companies of at least
two or three people.
One stormy November night, a peddler boy was overtaken by darkness
on the moor. Terrified by the solitude, he repeated to himself the
promises of Scripture, and so struggled toward the old cottage, which
he had visited the year before in a large company of travelers, and
where he felt assured of a welcome. Its light guided him from afar,
and he knocked at the door, but at first received no answer. He then
peered through a window and saw that the occupants were all at their
accustomed occupations: the old woman was scrubbing the floor and
strewing it with sand; her two sons seemed to be thrusting something
large and heavy into a great chest, which they then hastily locked.
There was an air of haste about all this which puzzled the waiting boy
outside..of the hound and the voices of the men in pursuit. Suddenly
he stumbled and fell on a heap of rough stones which cut him in every
limb, so that his blood poured over the stones. He staggered to his
feet and ran on; the hound was so near that he could almost feel its
breath on his back. But suddenly it smelled the blood on the stones,
and, thinking the chase at an end, it lay down and refused to go
farther after the same scent. The boy fled on and on till morning, and
when at last he reached a village, his pitiable state and his fearful
story roused such wrath that three gibbets were at once set upon the
moor, and before night the three villain had been captured and had
confessed their guilt. The bones of their victims were later
discovered, and with great difficulty brought up from the dreadful
hole with its narrow aperture into which they had been thrust.