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Janet Douglas: The Scottish Girl With Second Sight

by Doug MacGowan

What is Second Sight

According to Scottish folklore, some Scots have a paranormal gift called Second Sight. Some people can see things happening at a great distance. Others foretell the future or discover evil artifacts of witchcraft. A very few seem to have all three powers.

One of these was a young girl named Janet Douglas. A lengthy letter from the Reverend George Hickes to diarist Samuel Pepys gives the best history of young Janet. Hickes states that Janet was born in the Scottish Highlands in the middle of the 17th century.

janet douglas

The unfortunate fate of those accused of sorcery and witchcraft in the 17th century

Travel to Glasgow

At the age of 11, she journeyed to Glasgow (apparently alone) and told a gathered crowd where evil objects called “images” were located that caused their misfortune. Hickes wrote:

…As she was surrounded, she called out to one man, a goldsmith…and told him that of so long a time he had not been [successful] in his trade, though he was very diligent in it, [was] because an image was made against him, which he might find in such a corner of his shop; and when the man went home, there he found it where she said it was and the image was such both as to matter and form as she had described it…a little rude image made of clay.

Reverend George Hickes

After destroying it, the goldsmith enjoyed success thereafter.

Travel to Edinburgh

Because of the excitement of the crowd, and for her own safety, Janet was kept in protective custody in the Glasgow jail. When she traveled to Edinburgh in 1678, she was again placed in jail for the same reasons.

Edinburgh’s Underground City

While in Edinburgh, Reverend Hickes interviewed Janet about her powers and life. She would tell nothing of her parentage or early life. She merely repeated certain statements about her gift. Her vocabulary seemed to indicate some education, although Janet claimed to be an ordinary girl from the Highlands. Janet Douglas said she did not know where her paranormal powers came from. Hickes wrote Pepys that overall he found Janet to be a “bold, undaunted spirit” and “a girl of very great assurance.”

Privy Council of Scotland and Archibishop Sharpe

Historian Robert Wodrow recounts possibly a final tale, maybe more folklore than fact, in his 18th-century book “Analecta of Meterials “, Archbishop Sharpe, presiding in the Privy Council, was earnest to have Janet Douglas brought before that board, accusing her of sorcery and witchcraft. When she was brought, she vindicated herself, for she was endeavoring to discover those secret hellish plots and to countermine the kingdom of darkness.

The Archbishop insisted she might be sent away to the King’s plantations in the West Indies. She only dropped one word to the Bishop: ‘My Lord,’ says she, ‘who was with you in your [room] Saturday night last, betwixt twelve and one o’clock?’ upon which the Bishop changed his countenance, and turned black and pale, and then no more was said.

The Sleeping Prophet: Edgar Cayce

When the council rose, the Duke of Rothes called Janet into a room. he inquired at her privately ‘who was that person that was with the Bishop?’ She refused at first, but promising upon his word of honor to warrant her at all hands, and that she should not be sent to America, she says: ‘My Lord, it was the…black devil!’

After Edinburgh, Janet vanished into the shadows. Did she, as she had promised Hickes, journey to England after her release in Edinburgh? Did she return home to the Highlands? Regardless of her life after Edinburgh, in the history of Scots who claim to have possessed Second Sight, Janet is a notable Seer who was as mysterious as the powers she appeared to have.

Janet Douglas died sometime after 1678.

On Amazon: The Scots Book : Including Folklore, Clans, Recipes, Place Names, Proverbs and Prose

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