December 1925, the highly respected scientist Professor Norman Collie was in Aberdeen to talk to his peers at the 27th Annual General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club. What his audience was about to hear would send a shock wave through the mountaineering world.
He spoke about an experience he had some 35 years previous…
“I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. Every few steps I took I heard a crunch, then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself ‘this is all nonsense’. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist . As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui and will not go back there again by myself I know.”
Professor Collie’s outburst was unexpected to say the least, he was reportedly an unshakable man certainly not given to flights of fancy. He was an experienced mountaineer, in fact ‘Mount Collie’ in Canada and the ‘Sgurr Thermaid’ (Norman’s Peak) on Skye were both named after the prominent Professor.
It was not long after the fateful Cairngorm Club meeting that other mountain climbers started to tell of their own experiences – previously too frightened of not being taken seriously they had kept silent.
Collie received a letter from a Dr A. M. Kellas telling of his own experience on Ben MacDhui. He and his brother had just reached the top when they spied a terrifyingly tall figure making its way towards them. Scared witless they fled as soon as it disappeared into a dip, not waiting to see it reappear.
Sightings of this mysterious being go back to the 1700’s and do vary, some tell of a tremendously tall figure – over 10 feet. Covered in short, grey hair. All seem to tell of the creature being more humanoid than ape, some have even reported seeing the figure wearing a long, dark coat and top hat.
Another common report is of overwhelmingly negative energy, feelings of despair and fear to the point of those experiencing these feelings wanting to commit suicide.
Quite what this creature is, is unclear. It is possible that it is a phenomenon called ‘Brocken Spectres’ which is when a climbers shadow is cast on lower level cloud in very particular atmospheric conditions. Another theory is that Big Grey Man is a ‘Wight’ a fear demon which somehow are able to control the weather as well as energy.
Interestingly you can find similar stories in Wales for a strange creature that haunts Mt Snowdon called Brenin Llwyd or the Monarch of the Mist.
If you want to learn more about the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui then be sure to take a look at books and websites under interesting reading.
If you have had any experiences or heard tales of then Am Fear Liath Mòr then I would love to hear them!
‘The Unexplained’ by Dr Karl Shukers
‘Always a Little Further’ by Alastair Borthwick