"The second ghost said to haunt Hermitage castle is that of Lord Soulis - 'Bad Lord Soulis' or 'Terrible William'. Lord Soulis had a ghastly reputation indeed, for it was widely believed that he practised black magic and used the dungeons of the castle to hold young children from the surrounding area captive before incorporating them into his hideous rituals and eventually murdering them. People from the surrounding area gathered in force and stormed the castle taking him captive and binding him in chains. We are told that he was wrapped in lead and then thrown into a boiling cauldron to meet a horribly painful death.
Another version of the story of Terrible William says that he entered into a pact with the devil. He traded his soul in return for a licence to live however he pleased, indulging in whatever debaucheries took his fancy. Then, as he grew older and faced up to the inevitability of his approaching death, he panicked at the thought of the fiery furnaces of hell. It was in order to protect him from this fate that he was wrapped in lead and boiled by loyal subjects. This story seems even less credible than the first one."
It is popularly said that Lord Soulis, "the evil hero of Hermitage," in an unguarded moment made a compact with the devil, who appeared to him in the shape of a spirit wearing a red cap, which gained its hue from the blood of human victims in which it was steeped. Lord Soulis sold himself to the demon, and in return he was permitted to summon his familiar, whenever he was desirous of doing so, by rapping thrice on an iron chest, the condition being that he never looked in the direction of the spirit. But one day, whether wittingly or not has never been ascertained, he failed to comply with this stipulation, and his doom was sealed. But even then the foul fiend kept the letter of the compact. Lord Soulis was protected by an unholy charm against any injury from rope or steel; hence cords could not bind him, and steel could not slay him. But when at last he was delivered over to his enemies, it was found necessary to adopt the ingenious and effective expedient of rolling him up in a sheet of lead, and boiling him to death, and so:
On a circle of stones they placed the pot,
On a circle of stones but barely nine;
They heated it red and fiery hot
And the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.
They rolled him up in a sheet of lead--
A sheet of lead for a funeral pall;
They plunged him into the cauldron red
And melted him, body, lead, bones and all.
This was the terrible end of the body of Lord Soulis, but his spirit is supposed to still linger on the scene. And once every seven years he keeps tryst with Red Cap on the scene of his former devilries.
And still when seven years are o'er
Is heard the jarring sound
When hollow opes the charmèd door
Of chamber underground.
More details of Hob's 'Robin Redcap', as found in Briggs's 'Dictionary of Fairies':
One of the most malignant of old Border goblins, Redcap lived in old ruined peel towers and castles where wicked deeds had been done, and delighted to re-dye his red cap in human blood. William Henderson gives a full account of him in 'Folklore of the Northern Counties'. He describes him as 'a short thickset old man, with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers armed with talons like eagles, large eyes of a fiery-red colour, grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand, and a red cap on his head'. Human strength can avail little against him, but he can be routed by scripture or the sight of a cross. If this is held up to him he gives a dismal yell and vanishes, leaving one of his long teeth behind him. [It was Redcap who made Lord Soulis weapon proof, so that the only way to get rid of him was by boiling him in oil at Ninestane Rigg.]
Sounds ideal if you want to psychologically damage your children at this site or give them nightmares for weeks.
In medieval times, the black magician the Evil Lord De Soulis was said to have drilled holes in the shoulder blades of local peasants to assist in the moving of the stones needed to build nearby Hermitage castle. He also kidnapped and imprisoned their children. Robert the Bruce supposedly captured De soulis and the Locals took him to the stone circle to be dispatched. In a vat of molten lead if the tale is true. His ghost, and that of the curiously named Robin Redcap may still occasionally be seen
People have said that there may have once been other monuments and/or settlements in the vicinity:
"On a careful examination of the ground we found that a great extent around the circle (Nine Stones on Nine-stone Rig 35 SW 2) appeared to have been occupied and to the south a number of the same kind of circles had existed but were now entirely destroyed. The hollow in the centre of each circle is still to be seen and the appearance of the herbage and the marks in the earth around clearly indicate the position of the upright stones".
A Jeffrey 1855
On the top of Nine Stone Rig there is a whole street of circular pits running directly from the stone circle. They are planted at regular distances, and fairly close together, and they gauge from 8 to 10 feet deep, with rather more of diameter. They have in most instances a gently sloping side, in some more marked than others, and runs in a kind of curve towards the north. These, or some of them, may have been originally natural subsidences, although their number, regularity and uniformity of size are against that idea. All the suggestions are that these formed the shelters of the men who set up the Circle and heaped up the barrow... The ground is dry and lying as the pits do, just a little over the edge of the Rig, there would be no danger of flooding".
J Snadden 1923
But then, more recent accounts dismiss this idea:
"No archaeological significance could be attributed to these 'pits' which lie a few metres NNE of the stone circle. They appear to be simply caused by natural subsidences in the mossy ground."
Visited by OS (JLD) 28 September 1960
Pehaps even more dubious is the report of a possible long barrow (unusual in this area):
"On the western slope (of Ninestone Rig, NY 51 97) and towards the Roughley Burn, I found a long barrow, or earthen burial mound. It is oblong in shape, and the lines of the mound are composed of earth and small stones so firmly compacted together that they cannot be pierced by a spade. The earth has been dug and thrown up from the inside, which leaves the space between the lines hollow. There is a line of mound at each end which meets the main lines at right angles. The length over all is between 80 and 100 yards. The breadth of the base may be eight to nine feet. The barrow is intersected in the centre by a fifth line of mound, which meets the main lines at right angles. The most probable explanation of this is that the barrow was originally square, and was afterwards elongated. Lying on the inside slope of the mound is a stone about three feet in length, in which a deep hole has been cut six to nine inches square. In its place it looks as if it had served some sepulchral purpose".
J Snadden 1923
Later visitors relate:
"This feature was not located during an extensive perambulation of the area around the stone circle. From the description it is doubtful if this is of any archaeological significance. "
Visited by OS (JLD) 28 September 1960
An entry from Ancient Stones, an online database that covers most of the standing stones, stone circles and other stones found in South East Scotland. Each entry includes details, directions, photograph, folklore, parking and field notes on each location.