Thomas Lyon-Bowes was born as the heir to one of the noblest titles of Scotland, the first born child of the 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. But he would never inherit, and legend tells how he was cruelly locked up in a secret chamber. Named the “Monster of Glamis” because of his serious deformity, some say that he haunts the ancient Scottish castle to this day.
Thomas came into this world on 21st October 1821, at Glamis Castle, near Angus in Scotland. The official records stated that the newborn baby boy died on the same day as he was born. But rumors persisted that he had survived.
The rumors started when local people noticed there was no gravestone of the young boy Thomas. Stories started to circulate of chance meetings with a strange creature in and around the grounds of the castle, hushed up by the family.
Were these just rumors, or was the child hidden away by his family? Who was the monster of Glamis Castle?
A Desperate Secret
The stories certainly seemed to have some substance to them. A workman at the castle who saw Thomas in a passage close to the family chapel was bribed with money to not disclose what he had seen. He promptly emigrated to Australia.
Later, an estate manager refused to enter the castle after hearing the stories and rumors about a secret chamber hidden deep in the oldest part of the building, and what was locked within. Strange noises could be heard in the castle at night, perhaps just the unfamiliar sounds of an old building, perhaps something else.
Victorian-era guests of the 11th Earl were intrigued by the rumors, and several attempts were made to locate the secret chamber. Everyone wanted to know whether the rumored secret about his son was true or not.
As the years passed the story became more established. It was said that Thomas was born with a serious deformity, that made him look like a monster. This deformity meant that Thomas would not have been an acceptable heir to the title, and so his existence was suppressed.
Sadly this is nothing new in the British aristocracy, and there are other instances of mistreatment of family members who are considered undesirable by their relatives. Charlotte Grimstead and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, cousins of the present Queen, were both born with mental disabilities. Therefore, they spent their entire lives at homes and hospitals, locked away by the family.
A Monstrous Figure
The village men and the workers around the castle had a clear idea of what Thomas looked like. In the 19th century accounts, people referred to Thomas as “A human toad.” But no evidence of his appearance was ever provided, only descriptions and hearsay.
A writer, James Wentworth Day, approached the Bowes-Lyon family in the 1960s to propose writing a history of the Earls and their descendants. He requested that he be able to spend time at Glamis Castle during the course of his research.
The Earl at that time and other relatives, in interviews with Day, confirmed to him that a “monster” had been born in their family, and he was indeed the heir to a royal title. They were able to provide descriptions for the writer.
Thomas was described as having an enormous barrel chest, being excessively hairy “like a doormat,” with a large head running straight into the shoulders, and shrunken arms and legs. His body was completely warped and twisted.
The monstrous child was kept away from prying eyes in a secret chamber, with an estate manager charged with his care. He was allowed out of the chamber to exercise but the family always strove to keep him hidden.
Where is the Secret Chamber?
The secret of this chamber was known only to the Earl, his wife, and the estate manager. Nobody else was allowed to know the location, and even the existence of the chamber was denied.
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Several candidates for the location of the chamber exist. The estate papers and architectural plans of Glamis Castle reveal a small space, adjacent to the charter room in the base of the main tower.
A record also survives of one of the aristocratic guests, Lord Ernest Hamilton, who wrote that he had discovered a secret passage in the castle. The entrance was hidden underneath a trap-door embedded on the floor of a dressing room known as the Blue Room.
However most sources place the secret chamber near the chapel, hidden behind the ancient stonework. The layout of the castle interior, with its thick stone walls, certainly allows for the presence of hidden areas.
The Truth Will Out
Many other horror stories were linked to the secret chamber of Glamis Castle. It is said that, in the deepest part of the night, noises can still be heard from somewhere deep in the castle. Architectural renovations to the castle have revealed skeletons in a walled-up chamber. And even today, people report feeling an uneasy presence in certain rooms.
The Earls who came after the 11th Earl also believed in the rumors, and the story of Thomas remained as a dark family secret for a long time.
The stories of Thomas haunting the castle to this day are certainly in the realm of the supernatural, as he would just have celebrated his 200th birthday. But this should not detract from the sad story of a deformed child, hidden away by his parents, whose only fault was in his appearance.
Who then, was the true monster?
Top Image: Glamis Castle is over 800 years old. Source: Ian Robinson / CC BY-SA 4.0.
By Bipin Dimri
Thomas Lyon-Bowes, Master of Glamis (born 1821). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Lyon-Bowes,_Master_of_Glamis_(born_1821)
The 200-year-old mystery of the ‘Monster of Glamis.’ Available at: https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/200-year-old-mystery-monster-glamis-603388
Royal Ghost Stories: Glamis Castle. Available at: https://royalcentral.co.uk/features/royal-ghost-stories-glamis-castle-151768/
The Dark Secret Behind the Hidden Room of Glamis Castle. Available at: https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/dark-secret-behind-hidden-room-glamis-castle-006821
The Monster of Glamis Castle and other Scottish tales to terrify you this Halloween. Available at: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/scotland-now/monster-glamis-castle-scottish-tales-25301704