• Story by Derek Parker, taken from icRenfrewshire, 2 December 2003.
The rocky remnants of medieval Ellistoun Castle cling to a wooded hillside, where winter winds and howling gales scream scarily through the trees.
But it's more than the boreal blasts that send shivers up your spine in the blackness of night, when you pass the terrifying tower the ancestral home, 500 years ago, of the powerful Sempill family of nearby Castle Semple.
Your heart races when you remember the spooky story of the ghostly horseman, mounted on a jet-black steed, who is said to gallop furiously along a muddy track, which drops down into a gloomy glen, where roaring waterfalls cascade torrentially through the trees.
It's whispered the screaming spectre is the demonic spirit of a 17th century cavalryman, spurring his phantom horse from the corpse-covered moor at nearby Muirdykes Mount, where Scottish Covenanters and Jacobite dragoons fought a bloody battle on June 18, 1685, with the loss of several lives on both sides.
The rider's tattered tunic is crimson with blood, while under his gore-drenched hat stares a hollow-eyed, shrieking skull, instead of a human face.
The reins of his wild-eyed, snorting steed are held hard in the blood-stained, bony hands of a skeleton.
When the rain crashes through the branches of trees on dark, owl-haunted December nights and the wind wails like ancient banshees summoning the dead to their graves the thin veil between this world and the next melts in the mist and you stand on the abyss of eternity.
The strange story had an eerie sequel. A few years ago, mist-mantled marshes at nearby Castle Semple Loch were drained to provide more farmland.
In the ghostly gloom, a long, narrow object protruded from pool-pocked reeds. It was a 17th century sword, later displayed in a local museum. It is thought that the waterworn weapon belonged to a wounded soldier, fleeing the field at Muirdykes on horseback 300 years ago only to blunder into a marshy mausoleum at Castle Semple Loch and be sucked to a slow, lingering death in the choking mud and weed-strewn water.
It is also thought the bleached bones and shrivelled bodies of doomed rider and horse are still entombed in the rush-robed morass, where the sword was discovered. Leaving their tormented phantom forms to eternally wander the darkened countryside, which conceals their corpses.