Edinburgh is one of Britain’s oldest and most historically vital cities. So if anywhere is haunted, I’m sure Edinburgh is a good place to start. The first known human settlement in Edinburgh was dated at 8500 BC, and it has been an important theatre of history ever since. In 1650, the city was occupied by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. 95 years later it was occupied by Jacobite forces; during this period it saw a whole load of bloody violence. I’m sure some of which has been left undocumented. According to legend the streets of Edinburgh are walked by ghosts of dead soldiers patrolling a land that they no longer recognise. Some are Roman, some are Jacobite, and some are of Celtic warriors. This is a list of the 6 most haunted places in Edinburgh. This is the first in a series of articles I will be writing on haunted Edinburgh. Because haunted Edinburgh is haunted…
The Edinburgh Playhouse is essentially the largest theatre in Britain. It opened in 1929, and has hosted some of the most crazy nights Scotland has seen in modern times. But that’s not why I find it interesting.
The theatre is said to be haunted by a ghost known by the name Albert. He appears every night but until he does, you never whether to fear or welcome him. If in a bad move he will hide objects and push people. If in a good mood he will fix things and clean the floors. According to the old stories, he is the ghost of a maintenance worker who died in a horrific and unspecified accident. I guess that explains why he likes to fix things. Might get boring after a while though, especially seeing as ghosts can’t die. Haunted Edinburgh get’s a lot more creepy from here on.
The South Bridge Vaults
The South Bridge Vaults are a series of long inter-connected underground tunnels. The vaults were created when 19 stone archways were constructed underground the streets of Edinburgh. During the 18th century they were used by traders and poor locals as living space. It was the location used by many drinking spots, and it was even used to hide the bodies stolen by Burke and Hare. For some reason, it seems to have been completely abandoned in the early Victorian era and only rediscovered in 1985. It is thought that the industrial revolution drove people towards the brand new factories and workhouses, and out of the vaults. Towards the end of it’s time it housed brothels and saw all kinds of criminal activity.
So, they were rediscovered by a Scottish rugby player who used them to hide a friend of his. His friend was on the run from the Romanian secret police, and used the vaults to hide in. After being excavated, thousands of oyster shells and empty bottles were found inside – many poor Brits would have lived on just oysters and alcohol in the 18th century.
The Edinburgh vaults are now notorious for reported paranormal activity to the point that there have been several investigations inside them. In 2009 a BBC tv crew recorded 20 minutes of mysterious voices before they suddenly ended with the sound of children screaming. At first, people assumed it was a cheap hoax. But sound engineers could find no logical explanation for it. People regularly report seeing the ghost of a dog prancing around; there are some very dark legends associated with the tunnels. One legend describes the mother of a dead child. Distressed by the death of her child, she seeks refuge in the vaults where she commit suicide. Ever since that night her deranged ghost has haunted the tunnels. Any pregnant woman who enters the vaults is attacked by the ghost. So be careful if you’re thinking of visiting her.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a historic graveyard in Edinburgh’s old town. With recorded burials of the dead taking place there since the 15 hundreds, the yard is famous for the great number of noteworthy people it contains. But it is more well known for reports of ghostly sightings. Many local legends tell of the spirits who haunt the yard – one claims they were disturbed by body-snatchers in the 19th century, and have walked the earth ever since. It is known that the local medical school was regularly supplied with stolen dead bodies.
The most notorious legend is centred around the tomb of sir George Mackenzie. In 2004, a group of teenagers found a way into his tomb. They opened his coffin and stole his skull, with which the police found them kicking like a football. Some say this disturbed the ghost of ‘Bloody Mackenzie’. Between 1990 and 2006, 350 people claimed to have been attacked by his ghost; they claim to have been scratched, bitten, cut, and 170 people passed out. Mackenzie’s tomb is now completely sealed off – perhaps to keep us out… perhaps to keep him in.
Queensberry house is a 17th century mansion in Edinburgh. At one point it was lived in by James Douglas. Known as ‘the mad earl of Drumlanrig’, he was kept locked inside the house from a young age, as he was considered insane. At the age of 10, he killed a young kitchen worker. He roasted them on a spit and ate his body. Local legend tells that the house and grounds are haunted by the ghost of the child who was killed and eaten. They say he is searching for revenge, not knowing that James Douglas is long dead.
Rosslyn Chapel is a 15th century catholic chapel made famous by speculative connections the building has to the holy grail and the knights templar. It is considered the most mysterious building in Scotland, and some say the Holy Grail is contained within it, deep below the ground in a secret chamber. They say it is guarded by the knights Templar, who kill anyone who enters the secret chamber below the chapel – and that the disturbed ghosts of fallen treasure hunters haunt the chapel, as they were never properly buried. They say that anyone else who enters the chamber will be made to join them forever. Rosslyn chapel is the jewel in the crown that is haunted Edinburgh.
Haunted Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh castle has stood since at least the 12th century. It was long used as a royal and also a military castle, which led to it being known as Britain’s most besieged fort due to it facing 26 known sieges in history. It is also known as the jewel of Scotland; part of it’s beauty is the way it completely dominates the skyline of Edinburgh. With all the many bloody battles, and with the insane number of ghostly legends, Edinburgh castle is a serious candidate for the most haunted building in Europe.
Mysterious hidden tunnels stretch for miles underground the castle. According to legend – when they were rediscovered, a bagpiper was sent inside to explore them. A crowd gathered outside, listening to the sound of his bagpipes getting further and further away. Until the music suddenly stopped. The piper was never seen again even after the tunnels were fully explored… he simply disappeared. They say the sound of his music can still be heard in the tunnels today. But they warn not to follow the music, or you won’t be seen again.
In 1960, a guard started to hear the sound of a military drum. Walking towards the sound he claims to have seen a headless ghost that disappeared seconds later. I think mysterious music is a common theme of haunted Edinburgh.