Am Fear Liath Mòr

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The summit of Ben Macdui

Am Fear Liath Mòr (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [əm fɛɾ ʎiə moːɾ]; also known as the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui or simply the Greyman) is the name of a presence or creature which is said to haunt the summit and passes of Ben Macdui, the highest peak of the Cairngorms and the second highest peak in Scotland (and also in the British Isles).[1]


It has been described as an extremely tall figure covered with short hair, or as an unseen presence that causes uneasy feelings in people who climb the mountain.[2] Evidence of the existence of this creature is limited to various sightings and a few photographs of unusual footprints.[2]

It is traditionally seen as a supernatural being, but Am Fear Liath Mòr has been compared to the Yeti of the Himalaya and the Sasquatch or Bigfoot of North America. References to wild 'Greymen' in Scotland and similar creatures elsewhere in Europe, sometimes called Wudewas or 'Wood Men', date back to the 13th century, and are believed by some to represent relict hominids.

In 1925, the noted climber J. Norman Collie recounted a terrifying experience he had endured while alone near the summit of Ben MacDhui some 35 years before. "I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. For every few steps I took I heard a crunch, and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own."[2] Collie was unable to make out the source of the noises because of mist, and continued "... [as] 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." Other climbers have also reported similar experiences, many describing uncontrollable feelings of fear and panic, some actually seeing a huge grey figure behind them, and others only hearing sounds or even succumbing to inexplicable feelings of terror while in the area.


Illusions, hallucinations or misinterpretation of natural stimulus brought on by exhaustion or isolation have been proposed by psychologists.[3]

An optical illusion known as the Brocken spectre is a plausible explanation for the Big Grey Man legend.[4] A Brocken spectre, "mountain spectre" can occur in certain atmospheric conditions when the sun is at a particular angle. The subject's shadow can be cast onto a cloud bank around them, creating the illusion of a large shadowy humanoid figure.[5]

British mountaineer Frank Smythe stated he had observed his shadow cast as a Brocken Spectre across the mist on Ben Macdhui.[6]


  1. ^ Townsend, Chris. (2010). Scotland. Cicerone Press. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-85284-442-4
  2. ^ a b c Knight, Jan (1980). A-Z of ghosts and supernatural. Pepper Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 0-560-74509-5. 
  3. ^ Reed, Graham. (1988). The Psychology of Anomalous Experience. Prometheus Books. pp. 44-45. ISBN 0-87975-435-4
  4. ^ Brown, Dave; Mitchell, Ian. (1987). Mountain Days and Bothy Nights. Luath. p. 157. ISBN 0-946487-15-4
  5. ^ Ross, Helen. (1975). Mist, Murk and Visual Perception. New Scientist. p. 658. "The Brocken Spectre (where one's shadow cast by the sun onto a cloudbank appears distant and gigantic)... The shadowy image appearing much farther away than it is, and consequently enlarged to a sufficient extent to give rise to such tales as the Grey Man of Ben MacDhui."
  6. ^ Smythe, Frank. (1949). Behold the Mountains: Climbing with a Color Camera. Chanticleer Press. p. 55
  • Nick Redfern (2004). Three Men Seeking Monsters (Chapter 15: "The Monster of the Mountains"). Paraview Pocket Books. pp. 217–26

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