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Edinburgh has been a favourite of tourists for decades now. Every summer, hundreds of would-be comedians descend upon the city for the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as do crowds of comedy fans and reviewers. However, Edinburgh also attracts a large number of paranormal enthusiasts every year. This is because as well as being a hub of comedic promise, the city is also the scene of some of the most infamous hauntings in the United Kingdom and beyond. Those who come searching for Edinburgh ghosts visit countless sites during their stay in the hopes of encountering something from the other side. In the following Edinburgh ghost stories, we’re going to be discussing the most popular and active of those sites.
Here are five of the most haunted places in Edinburgh.
5. West Bow
For the majority of his time on Earth, Thomas Weir lived as an affluent and well-respected member of the community. 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 of people, 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.
Upon the many horrid acts Weir confessed to were beastiality, incest, and witchcraft. His sister also confessed 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 which 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, in fact, 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.
The house which Weir occupied during his time on Earth lay empty for many years as nobody wanted to live in the former-home of such an evil individual. An elderly couple did purchase 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 in order to get rid of the stigma surrounding the area, but recent evidence suggests it was actually just incorporate into another building, which is now the Quaker Meeting House. This would explain why many of the paranormal activity originally associated with Weir’s home now occurs at the meeting house. Among a variety of other spooky happenings, staff at the meeting house have reported seeing Thomas Weir moving throughout the building, walking through walls in search of his former abode.
4. Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle Ghosts
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 battles down throughout the centuries. Much blood had been spilled on the grounds and many lives lost well before Mary, Queen of Scots began to rebuild the castle prior to being exiled from the country. Because of its bloody history, it really 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 just 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, with both musicians playing their instruments with the same gusto they displayed during their time among the living.
Other paranormal activity at Edinburgh Castle includes sudden and unexplained drops in temperature, disembodied voices and footsteps, and an unseen entity tugging on the clothes and hair of guests.
3. Brodie’s Close
William Brodie is quite often compared to Thomas Weir by those who are familiar with the paranormal side of Edinburgh. Like Weir, Brodie was a well-respected member of society and was considered to be 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 wicked 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 mistress (none of whom knew about each other).
William Brodie managed to maintain 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 sprit soon began appearing in the area where he had his workshop and family home. Reports of William Brodie appearing in Brodie’s Close persist to this day, and many who encounter his spirit claim that he is accompanied by a demonic, fire breathing horse as he strolls along.
2. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Krikyard, 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 on the site in the 16th Century, a number of notable people have been laid to rest here. 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, and 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 a number of coffins inside the structure, the homeless man came to the coffin in which 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 which was filled with the bones of peasants who were carelessly tossed into a mass grave during the Plague. Given the fact 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
1. Niddry Street Vaults
Of all the Edinburgh ghosts, The Niddry Street Vaults is by far the most popular, and the amount of paranormal activity reported here in 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 and 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 Niddry Street Vaults fell into a state of abandonment. Eventually, the vaults became home to some less-than-legal practices, including a number of 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 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 which occurs here on a daily basis would suggest that there has 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 which is 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, and the general consensus among the paranormal community is that it was caused by the same spirit which has been known to push and pull anybody who dares to venture into its part of the vault.
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Other haunted places in Edinburgh: