One of the most historic and beautiful cities in the world, the medieval city of Edinburgh, is also one of the most haunted.
With its tragic and gruesome history, it’s little surprise that Auld Reekie is regarded by many as the world’s most haunted city! Let’s take a look at the ten most haunted places in Edinburgh.
1. West Bow House of Horrors, Old Town
For most of his time on Earth, Thomas Weir lived as an affluent and well-respected community member. He was devoted to his homeland and was a high-ranking member of the army, even serving in Ulster during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
Weir also professed his belief in the Presbyterian Church and would hold prayer sessions at his house, which often attracted large crowds, all eager to see the master public speaker at work.
In the later years of his life, however, Weir began to behave strangely, and it came as a great shock to the entire city when, after falling ill in 1670, he began to confess to a secret life. One of sin and evil.
The many horrific acts Weir confessed to were bestiality, incest, and witchcraft. His sister also admitted to these crimes and claimed that her brother had once travelled in a phantom coach driven by a demonic driver, such was his relationship with Satan. She also stated that her brother derived his satanic powers from the cane he carried with him everywhere he went.
Those who encountered Weir during his lifetime would later claim that the cane would dance in front of him as he walked down the street, though if that were true, nobody would have been surprised when he confessed to being a follower of The Lord of Darkness.
But they were surprised, so surprised that the authorities initially refused to believe the man. However, his continued confessions to a life a sin proved too much to ignore and Thomas Weir was sentenced to death after a short trial.
Weir’s house lay empty for many years as nobody wanted to live in the former home of such an evil individual.
Regarded by many as the most haunted house in Edinburgh during the 1700s, an elderly couple purchased it at some point towards the end of the 18th Century but were driven out after just one night.
According to the couple, they had encountered a series of demonic apparitions which made them rethink their investment.
For many years, it was believed that Weir’s house was demolished to get rid of the stigma surrounding the area. Still, recent evidence suggests it was just incorporated into another building, which is now the Quaker Meeting House. This would explain why many of the paranormal activity associated initially with Weir’s home now occurs at the meeting house.
Among various other spooky happenings, the staff at the meeting house have reported seeing Thomas Weir moving throughout the building, walking through walls searching for his former abode.
2. Edinburgh Castle
The site on which Edinburgh Castle is built pre-dates even the time of Jesus and has been the scene of hundreds, if not thousands, of gruesome deaths throughout the centuries.
Much blood had been spilt on the grounds, and many lives were lost well before Mary Queen of Scots began to rebuild the castle before being exiled from the country.
Because of its bloody history, it is no surprise that Edinburgh Castle is said to be home to a large number of spirits and ghouls, and paranormal activity at the site occurs with such frequency that staff and regular visitors have no choice but to get used to it.
Tourists have reported encountering the miserable ghosts of prisoners from both French and American wars, mourning the fact that even in death, they must waste away inside the walls of Edinburgh Castle.
Some have also claimed to have encountered musical ghosts such as a phantom piper and a headless drummer.
Other paranormal occurrences at Edinburgh Castle include sudden and unexplained drops in temperature, disembodied voices and footsteps, and an unseen entity tugging on the clothes and hair of guests.
William Brodie is often compared to Thomas Weir by those familiar with Edinburgh’s paranormal side.
Like Weir, Brodie was a well-respected member of society and was considered a master of his trade (manufacturing cabinets and the like). He was also the head of the Edinburgh Incorporation of Wrights and Masons, which repaired locks.
Also, like Weir, Brodie led a sinful secret life, which began when he copied the keys to a bank. Brodie went on to steal several hundred pounds from the bank, which he used to support his family, along with five mistresses (none of whom knew about each other).
William Brodie maintained his secret life (or lives) for quite a while, but authorities began to grow suspicious of him and were eventually tipped off to his side business.
Brodie realised he needed to get out of Edinburgh before the police came looking for him and managed to make it as far as Amsterdam before being arrested and brought back to his home city for trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
It was later said that Brodie attempted to survive the hanging by utilising his knowledge of carpentry and bribing the hangman.
If this is true, it did not go according to plan as Brodie was hung, buried, and his spirit soon began appearing in the area where he had his workshop and family home.
Reports of William Brodie appearing in Brodie’s Close persist today. Many who encounter his spirit claim that a demonic, fire breathing horse accompanies him as he strolls along.
4. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Old Town
Greyfriars Kirkyard, located in Old Town, is quite possibly the most haunted spot in all of Edinburgh, and that really is saying something.
Since the first burial occurred in the 16th Century, many notable people have been laid to rest. This includes Sir James Stirling, Allan Ramsay, and Sir Harry Munro.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is also the final resting place of Greyfriars Bobby, a mutt beloved by the city of Edinburgh for guarding the grave of his owner for more than a decade after his death.
When Bobby eventually passed away, he was buried in an unconsecrated patch of land inside the cemetery gates.
To this day, there are reports of Bobby’s disembodied bark echoing throughout the graveyard, and some passersby have even reported seeing the dog, still standing guard over the grave of his now long deceased master.
Perhaps the most famous ghost of Greyfriars Kirkyard is that of George McKenzie, a barrister who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Covenanters. McKenzie’s body rests in a large, black mausoleum in the graveyard, a fitting colour for a man who created so much misery during his time on Earth.
Much poltergeist activity reported in Greyfriars Kirkyard has been attributed to George McKenzie’s unruly spirit. Many visitors to the cemetery have reported being shoved or hit when passing his mausoleum. Some have even been knocked straight to the ground by the powerful ghost.
It is said that some time towards the end of the nineties, a homeless man broke into Mckenzie’s mausoleum, hoping to find some shelter from the harsh Edinburgh weather.
Once inside, the man decided to entertain himself with a spot of grave robbing, hoping he would find something valuable to sell on.
After forcing open several coffins inside the structure, the homeless man came to the coffin where McKenzie’s body lay decaying.
Just before he could pry it open, however, a sinkhole developed beneath him, and the homeless man fell into a pit that was filled with the bones of peasants who were carelessly tossed into a mass grave during the Plague.
Given that grave robbing is one of the most despicable crimes a person can commit, we can put this down as a rare good deed performed by George McKenzie.
5. Edinburgh Vaults, South Bridge
Of all Edinburgh’s haunted locations, the Edinburgh Vaults are by far the most popular, and the amount of paranormal activity reported herein is almost unheard of.
The vaults were first opened during the 18th Century when Edinburgh was in a period of unprecedented growth.
The vaults were initially intended to house taverns, cobblers, and other above-board but ironically underground businesses. However, things began to go awry around 1795 when flooding led to a mass exodus, and the Vaults fell into a state of abandonment.
Eventually, the vaults became home to some less-than-legal practices, including brothels.
Many of the city’s poor were forced to take up residence in the vaults, and it has been reported that notorious serial killers Burke and Hare would visit one part of the vaults to find their victims and use another part of the vaults to store their bodies.
Though this claim is unsubstantiated, the level of paranormal activity that occurs here daily suggests that there have indeed been some evil dealings beneath Edinburgh over the past couple of centuries.
Much poltergeist activity has been reported in the vaults, particularly in one room today in a state of perpetual darkness as any lightbulb installed in the past would instantly explode.
An investigation of the wiring turned up no logical explanation for the repeated rejection of light. The consensus among the paranormal community is that it was caused by the same spirit known to push and pull anybody who dares to venture into its part of the vault.
Mary King’s Close is a labyrinth of underground streets and dwellings beneath the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland. The city’s poorest and most nefarious characters lived and worked here until the early 1900s when it was sealed shut.
The close was partially abandoned in the 1600s, as the Plague took a firm hold in Edinburgh. Residents of Mary King’s close suffering from the disease were forced to stay behind, many of whom died horrific deaths.
One of the more famous of Edinburgh’s ghosts is the little girl that haunts Mary King’s Close. She died here in the 1600s during the Plague. Her spirit is known to haunt the home where she died, pulling on people’s clothes and crying.
A medium who came into contact with her claimed the girl was lonely and looking for her favourite doll. People touring the close sometimes leave small gifts and toys for her to play with.
Located at North Bridge in Old Town, the one-time offices of The Scotsman newspaper and Edinburgh Evening News is now a luxury 5-star hotel.
From its time at the heart of Edinburgh’s news industry, the building is home to several ghosts of those that used to work there.
A former printer at the Evening News is one of the most prominent ghosts at the Scotsman Hotel. He continues to work hard even after death, his apparition seen countless times roaming the corridors and rooms.
Partially located in Edinburgh’s infamous south bridge vaults, the Banshee Labyrinth is the most haunted pub in Edinburgh. It’s haunted by a banshee (a female spirit known to appear to warn of impending death).
One run-in with the banshee came when a group of workmen were in the building. Hearing a terrifying scream followed by a wail, one of the workmen received word that a member of their family had suddenly died.
The pub is also haunted by a poltergeist, who’s been known to throw glasses across the room violently.
Located twelve miles south-east of Edinburgh, lies the 15th century Borthwick Castle. The castle has a rich history, having served as a refuge for Mary, Queen of Scots, during the 16th century.
One of its finest and best preserved 15th century keeps, it’s also on of Scotland’s most haunted.
This imposing fortress is home to no less than five ghosts, one of the most famous being that of Mary Queen of Scots. Her spirit is said to wander the through the structure in the dead of night, wearing a page boy outfit – the disquise she used in an attempted escape from the castle.
Another ghost at Borthwick Castle is that of a lady who haunts the Red Room. The story goes that she became pregnant at the hands of one of the Lords of the castle and was stabbed straight through her pregnant belly with a swordand left to die in that very room.
As one of Scotland’s most haunted castles, visitors staying at Borthwick have reported feeling constantly watched and some have even experienced sudden and extreme nausea, which terrifies them.
10. Dalhousie Castle Hotel & Spa
No list of haunted places in Edinburgh would be complete without the infamously haunted, Dalhousie Castle. Now a luxury hotel and spa 8 miles south east of Edinburgh, Dalhousie was first built in the 1200s as a stronghold for the powerful Ramsay family, who lived there until 1900 – making it the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland.
With such a long history, comes the inevitable tales of ghosts, and Dalhousie certainly has its fair share.
The most prominent ghost at Dalhousie Castle, is that of the Grey Lady. Believed to be the ghost of Lady Catherine, who died of a broken heart at 16, after being banished to the castle tower in 1695 after being caught with a stable hand.
People who stay here report hearing the rustling of her skirts, and some even get a sneaky pinch on the neck, which they attribute to her ghostly presence.
Lady C isn’t camera shy, as she’s often captured in guests’ photos, particularly during events and social gatherings.