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Published October 29th 2016
Explore The Darker Side of Edinburgh
I thought I'd do a special post dedicated to the wonderfully sinister underbelly of Edinburgh. Mainly, because there are so many parts of the city that have a long, dark, and particularly nasty history….
Most of the venues listed have no admission charge to visit, so you don't have to spend any money (apart from your travel costs) and you can scare the living daylights out of yourself and your nearest and dearest for free. If that's not a fun day out, I don't know what is.
Edinburgh's Royal Mile and surrounding areas are FULL of ghost stories and things that go bump in the night. Brodie's Close is located just off the RM and is named after Deacon Brodie, who was a respectable locksmith by day and low down dirty burglar at night. I guess if you have the ability to clone people's keys, you'd find it difficult not to do a little 'after hours' work, wouldn't you? Brodie was eventually caught and sentenced to death by hanging. His ghost roams the close, jangling his keys to frighten the local tourists.
A short walk from Brodie's Close is Candlemaker Row, which is the location of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Unfortunately, the Kirkyard isn't haunted by the ghost of Bobby, the famous little dog, whose gleaming statue sits on the path near the entrance, but rather of far more sinister presences. Are you scared yet?
The grave of George McKenzie, who was a local jailer, is next to Covenanter's Prison, where he revelled in consigning many a man to his gruesome death. Clearly, being in such close proximity to the prison tortured poor Geordie's soul and his ghost wanders around the graveyard at night.
Edinburgh Vaults, South Bridge: The spaces that comprise the EV are a set of underground chambers that occupy the space in the arches beneath the city's South Bridge. The vaults have a long and colourful history and were used to house illicit drinking dens, as well as serving as a space for various trades.
The Vaults, being situated where they were, were damp, with no clean air and no sunlight and, therefore, housed many of the poorer souls living in Edinburgh, who had no other shelter. Sounds lush. And if living in the cess pit wasn't horrific enough, it is alleged that infamous Scottish serial killers, Burke and Hare, also trawled the vaults for suitable victims. And when I say suitable, I think that pretty much covers anyone who had a body that could be sold to the University medical school.
In addition to the lovely history of the vaults, there have been many reports of paranormal activity beneath the bridge. Such is the activity that the vaults were featured on an episode of Most Haunted, as well as further televised investigations.
These days the Vaults are mainly used for ghost tours, which are run by companies based in the area and are of a really high quality. You know, if you like that sort of thing. I certainly do and spent a thoroughly creepy hour at the hands of the wonderful Mercat Tours. The Vaults can only be accessed by taking an organised and paid for tour.
views of South Bridge
The White Hart Inn, Grassmarket: The WHI is alleged to be the oldest pub in the centre of the city and has racked up around 500 years of history, so it's not really that odd to find out that it might be a touch spooky. The pub was named Most Haunted in 2005, which would definitely convince me to go in for a couple of spirits… (boom boom).
For years, the public executions were held in the Grassmarket, just a tiny wee distance from the front door of the bar. In addition, Burke and Hare spent much of their free time luring unsuspecting 'clients' back to their lodging house nearby and then promptly killed them and sold their corpses to medical science. The White Hart Inn has been at the centre of many a gruesome happening on the streets of the capital city and who knows what else it might see in the future?
The World's Inn, Royal Mile: This infamous local pub is not the home of any ghosts or ghouls, but rather the last known location of two young ladies, Christine Eadie and Helen Scott. The bar is the last place that the 17 year old women were seen back in October 1977.
The following day, the bodies of the women were found, bound, beaten, raped and unclothed, six miles apart, in the neighbouring region of East Lothian. The Police had no leads and eventually, in 1978, they were forced to scale back the criminal investigation.
Unfortunately for the families of the victims, a conviction was not achieved in the case until very recently. The perpetrator, Angus Sinclair, was initially tried in 2004 and acquitted. He was then re-tried and finally convicted in late 2014. Sinclair is also suspected in the murders of several other women and has, to date, been sentenced for the murder of three.
The World's Inn Murders, as they were known locally, sent shockwaves across the country because of the violent nature of the crimes and the fact that the person who committed the crimes proved so difficult to catch. Angus Sinclair received the longest sentence ever imposed in a Scottish Court.