The Red Cap Goblin/ Fairy

The Red Cap

If one mentions fairy folk, the common thing that springs to mind are spritely little forest nymphs dancing gaily through sun beams amidst the woodland critters. Seldom do we stop to think that there are sub genres of this cryptid species, let alone murderous, heinously violent kinds. Well, naturally, that is the type of fairy I would choose to start with.

Choose the most malicious fairy ever. Start with beast with story rife with French words I can’t pronounce then on to the most vicious fairy. Excited because it’s like true crime which I like every other woman on the planet apparently am obsessed with.

In today’s poddy, we will be closely examining the Red Cap, who is known to be one of the most devilish fairy folks around. Some in medieval times even said this sprite was the devil incarnate himself.

However, throughout Europe, the various Red Caps have very different personas, which we will take a closer look at as well. But the main guy we focus on is a scandalously wicked beastie so be prepared. So, get ready to be thoroughly disturbed as we travel back centuries to the Borderlands of the UK to face this red capped foul little fiend.


The borderlands which lie between Scotland and England were once a place rife with bloodshed. The land was often disputed by the two countries and thus fought over by opposing sides. The trauma that ensued however was not only limited to land war. From barbaric Lords to disturbing familiars, we are about to travel down a very dark and foreboding road.

The Anglo-Scottish borderland stretches for some 154 kms (that’s 96 miles for all the non-metric system folk out there). The borer was established in 973 and the war over it only ended in the first decade of the 17th century when the union of the crowns of England and Scotland ensued. That is roughly 600 years of pillaging, war and raids.

Obviously, there wasn’t a constant battle on the go, however the area became a somewhat lawless land during the time frame before resolution. Furthermore, families used to frequently jump ship to support the side of the border which better suited their needs.

Another interesting point is that sometimes, wars would not even be fought between countries, but rather between feuding families from opposite sides of the wall.

While this all may seem pretty droll, especially if you’re not a history fan or care little for wars of old, there is a reason we delved into the borderland disputes. It is rumoured that the violent surroundings either drew the Red Caps to this area in particular or birthed them all together.

You see, the Red Caps are dependent on blood shed for their survival.

The Name Red Cap

As their name suggests, this creature dons a red cap at all times – night cap style not baseball or trucker.

This cap is also imperative to the Red Cap’s survival. You see, the cap draws its colour from a dark place indeed. When the Red Caps slay their victims, they ensure the body pools blood in some fashion or another. The Red Caps then submerge their caps into the liquid, soaking up as much blood as possible.

It is rumoured that if the blood on their cap at any time should become dry, that the Red Cap will perish. Therefore, it is imperative that they kill regularly to ensure that their caps remain wet with the blood of their victims.

Do you see now why the Borderlands became a popular place for the Red Cap to inhabit?

The Red Cap’s Killing Choice And Hunting patterns

Here comes the gore! (mention how can’t stand medical dramas – Greys makes me sick – but am a sucker for gore)

So, as we’ve discovered, the Red Caps need blood to survive. As such, their methods of killing had to be incredibly specific. For example, poison and smothering were definitely out since there was no blood shed involved.

There are a few reported ways which were common for the Red Cap to kill its victims.

Firstly, if you were wandering amidst a castle ruin along the Border lands, you could expect to encounter a shower of large rocks being hurled your way. It was common for Red Caps to push large boulders towards or throw large rocks at random visitors to their lair.

The object of this being that the rocks would either kill or severely maim the human, leaving a large pool of blood for the goblin to soak up.

Another thing common to a Red Cap attack were their iron boots and pikestaffs which they carried in their left hands. A pikestaff is a spear like weapon. The Red Cap would kick their victim with their boots and repeatedly stab them with their pikestaff to amass enough blood to fill their caps.

So, in short, the red cap would stun you by knocking you out with a rock, then stab you multiple times with its pikestaff, whilst simultaneously clawing at you with its wretchedly long finger nails protruding from its slender fingers.

It would then drag you to its lair, where it would hang out upside down – almost like a cow in a butchery – and leave you to bleed out into their caps until complete exsanguination had taken place.

Another notable thing to mention is that these little critters were also cannibals. Not only did they enjoy dining on whatever flesh was available (humans included), but these okes had no skaam in eating their own. Now I’m not sure if this meant other fairies or other red caps specifically – not much can be found on the cannibalistic traits of the redcap, dunter or Powrie (the other names for them).

Another nother thing to note is that in some Irish recollections of the Red Cap, they are deemed to be vampiric beings. This is because not only would they douse their caps in the blood of their victims, but also drink from the wounded human.

The Horrors of Hermitage Castle

History Of The Castle

As I previously mentioned, the borderlands made for some scary freakin stories back in the day. But one castle worth paying special attention to is Hermitage castle – looks creepy.

In 1240, it was rumoured that this now still standing semi ruined castle was built by Nicholas de Soulis. The castle stayed within this family line for just under a century, when it was forfeited by one William de Soulis – this is the dude we shall be discussing at length.

The castle passed hands through the centuries, being passed through three prominent families of the time; the Douglases, the Hepburns and the Scots. It was owned by the Scots family until 1930, when it was handed over to the nation.

What led to the fall of the castle

Once the Union of the Crowns was formed in 1603, the castle became obsolete, and thus began to fall into disrepair. The Union of the Crowns is as the name suggests. It represents the period when James VI of Scotland took the crown in both England and Ireland to become James the 1st.

This left the borderlands in a harmonious state, no longer being fought over by English and Scottish families alike. During the borderland struggles, the Hermitage castle was a hot commodity. Hence, when there was no more need for fighting, it became unneeded.

The Bloody History Of the Castle

So remember I mentioned one William de Soulis in an introduction to Hermitage castle? Well, this gent has quite the history behind him. He was just an all-round noble knob. What he wanted, he took, with no thought to consequence to those around him.

William de Soulis was the lord of Liddesdale as well as the Butler of Scotland and was known to regularly rape women of the surrounding area, and, worse yet, murder little boys to practice his witch craft. Yes, William was a keen student of the dark arts, known to have studied under Michael Scot, the wizard of the north.

Now I know you must be thinking, what does this lunatic 14th century dingbat have to do with Red Caps? A lot actually. You see, William considered himself to be a witch of sorts, and as such, took a familiar. A familiar who would become to be known the most notorious Red Caps of all time.

Quick Side Note On Familiars

If you are wondering what a familiar is, because for whatever reason you have chosen to deny yourself the pleasure of indulging in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix (like are you living under a rock?), let me briefly explain.

A familiar is a companion taken by a young witch to help them along their transformative journey into the witching world. A familiar is a goblin or fairy which takes the form of an animal when serving their human.

Interestingly, cunning folk also were known to take familiars. So, if you don’t know what the cunning is because you haven’t watched Sabrina because you live under a rock like we established and don’t know who Roz is, someone who possesses the cunning is sort of a soothe sayer fortune teller type person who possesses the power of divination.

Now, this is where things get super duper interesting. The familiars of witches and cunning folk couldn’t have been more different if they tried. People viewed cunning familiars to be kind spirits, with no evil or anything similar attached to them.

Witch familiars however were basically viewed as the anti-Christ. They were suspected to be malevolent spirits, usually demonic in nature.

Robin Red Cap

Now that we’re all caught up on what familiars are, let’s get to the sinister familiar of William de Soulis, Robin Red Cap. So, William de Soulis expressed a desire to practice the dark arts, and got heavily involved in the study of the occult. As such, he took the familiar in the form of Robin Red Cap. Robin taught William the ways of the occult, versing him in their spells and practices.

However, Robins teaching methods were fucked up to say the least. Most of his spells and sacrifices required the blood of a child to work, hence, the pair would pick off peasant children in their surrounding areas. They would lure the children to the castle with the promise of work, but when they went in, they never came out.

Furthermore, Robin was said to partake in the rapes carried out by his master. This just gives me the heebeejeebees.

The town folk eventually were getting tired of the torture being inflicted on them on a constant basis by the disgusting pair. And rightfully so. So, they decided to take law into their own hands and inflict a bit of vigilantly justice. However, they found that their attacks were often rebuffed by the noble, as he had a protective charm cast over him by his familiar. Their blades could not pierce his breast nor cause any harm to him at all.

But the townsfolk were scrappy and resourceful. As such, they wrapped the evil bastard in lead sheets and boiled him alive. Once this had happened, it was rumoured that the spirit of Robin Red Cap left the human world that we know, although some people believe his spirit still haunts Hermitage Castle to this day.

William’s Actual Death

So, there are actually two accounts of how William died making the rounds. Whilst this guy was a rapey, child murdering jackass, he was also rumoured to be plotting regicide (planned death of a monarch) against King Robert the 1st of Scotland. As such he was jailed and killed in his cell.

It is suspected that the boiling death happened to his uncle, Ranulf de Soulis of Liddle, who was murdered by his servants for being a bastard.

However, no matter how the bastard died it was strongly supported within the borderlands that he practiced the dark arts.

Other Renditions Of The Red Cap

Now, as I previously mentioned, there are other versions of the Red Cap throughout Europe, but before we go abroad, it is interesting to note that one Red Cap in the borderlands wasn’t as douche as the rest.

The Redcap of Perthshire was described as a benign little man living in a room high up in the Grantully castle. If you happened to come across – or even hear – this little fella going about the castle, it was rumoured that he would bestow good fortune and well wishes upon you.

So not all Red Caps in Scotland and the borderlands were monumental ass hats.

The Stouter Kabouter

I was today years old when I found out stoute kabouter means naughty gnome, not naughty bum. Boudt means bum in Afrikaans.

So anyways, side track aside, the Kabouter is a little gnome which hails from Dutch folklore. And this little guys is just an absolute delight. Unlike its murderous counterpart of Scotland, the Kabouter is a jolly little elf who lived underground and was known to help with chores around the house – where’s my Kabouter at?

They were very benign little creatures known to only help humankind, not kill us or rape us or drink our blood or use it for cap dye. The only time they would punish people is when they caught humans spying on them. You see, Kabouters were incredibly shy little beings.

So HOW and WHY are they linked to the borderland red cap? Well, because they wore red caps too. The end case closed end of the cute little Kabouters.

What I Think The Red Caps Are

So, in all honesty the red caps just sound like full blown douches if you ask me. As such, I do not think it is too far a stretch to pin them on a weird old murderous man who liked hanging around abandoned castles. We all know that folklore is hella strong. When a rumour spreads, it is often embellished and fantacized. As such, I don’t think it is too hard for locals to have caught wind of the weird little old murder hermit living alone and blow the whole thing waaaaaay out of proportion.

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