Edinburgh is Haunted. And now, so am I.

 I started researching various Scotland ghosts and haunted places, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my life won’t be long enough to get it done.  If there are such things as ghost conventions, I’m pretty sure they’re held in Edinburgh.  That way the majority of them don’t have to travel anywhere new.  There doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the city that’s completely ghost free, really.  I tend to be drawn to the more obscure ones for some reason or other.  Here’s some of what I dug up, in completely random order:

Ann Street, Edinburgh:  An old house in Ann Street is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Mr. Swan, a former occupant.  His apparition has been witnessed in one of the bedrooms and described as a small man dressed in black.  His ghost is said to be friendly and has wished people ‘good night’ who are sleeping in the room.

This would be your Casper-type ghost.  They are not all as sweet as the late Mr. Swan.

Bell’s Wynd, Edinburgh:  The body of a Mrs Guthrie lay undiscovered in a room along this wynd for 21 years. It is said that her ghost manifested itself to a locksmith who broke in, as he was curious to know why the flat was not being used.  Her apparition is also said to haunt the existing close today, many people have witnessed a tall white figure which seems to glide towards the entrance of the close.

This would be one of the numerous white lady gliders.  They are extremely popular.  And patient to a fault.  Imagine spending 21 years dead, waiting to be discovered.  Then you’d have all that floating around to get caught up on. 

Blair Street Vaults, Edinburgh: The vaults were built within the foundations of Edinburgh’s South Bridge. It was agreed that a great ceremonial procession would take place to mark the first carriage of traffic across the bridge, and a rich elderly lady was chosen for this great honour.  A few days before the ceremony she died, but the promise was honored, and thus the first carriage to cross the South Bridge carried the coffin of the old lady.  The folk of Edinburgh being very superstitious felt that this was a terrible omen, and proclaimed that the bridge was cursed.  Over the early years many of the vaulted rooms situated under the nineteen great stone arches were used to help accomodate the over crowding problem in Edinburgh and local tradesmen set up various small businesses.  Eventually it was decided to abandon the vaults beneath the South Bridge because many of the underground chambers let in water.  Most of the vaulted rooms were sealed off and only a few were used during World War II as air raid shelters.  In the early 1990’s the vaults were rediscovered, cleaned out and opened again for public access.  Since 1997, many strange occurances have been reported in the Blair Street Vaults by people in tour groups.  The manifestations include breathing on the neck, footsteps, smell of alcohol, tugging on vistors clothes, dragging sounds, breathing sounds, strange smells and battery failure in torches and search lights.  Alleged sightings have included a tall woman dressed in black, a bird which flys over visitors heads, a child, a cobbler, a dog, strange balls of light, a man in victorian clothing and the very erie sighting of a faceless man who wears a blue coat, tri-corner hat and knee length boots.   Between 2003 and 2004, the prestigious Ghost Club held three investigations under South Bridge and have reported footsteps, the sound of boots scrunching in the dried mud, an evil growling sound which was witnessed by two investigators, a male voice, a childs voice, strange smells and strange EMF readings. 

Those would be some of your more prolific money making ghosts for the Edinburgh supernatural tourist industry.  There are many businesses in the city raking in the thrill seekers who are eager to part with their money for a chance to be scared to death.  I scoff from the comfort of my desk chair, but I cannot imagine going on one of these midnight tours myself.    

Buckinham Terrace, Edinburgh:  An unknown house in Buckingham Terrace was the scene of a terrible murder followed by a suicide in the nineteenth century.  A former sea captain took his own life after murdering a baby whilst drunk.  His apparition which had been described as a scruffy form was seen racing around the building on a number of occasions, although no recent reports have been recorded.

The scruffy sea captain is one of those historic ghosts who perhaps finally saw the light.  In many accounts there’s almost a great sense of disappointment when a ghost appears to be no longer active.   But seriously, how many times can you race around a building before it gets old?  Even ghosts eventually need to get a grip and move on.

Caroline Park House was alleged to be haunted by the apparition of Lady Royston.  Her green tinted spectre was said to rise from the ground somewhere in the garden and drift slowly towards the front door before disappearing. Other manifestations included loud banging which was sometimes heard coming from one of the rooms.  It was thought to be a cannon ball bouncing around – its motivation was unclear.  The Cathedral House Hotel is alleged to be haunted by the ghosts of two children and staff and guests have reported strange happenings from time to time.

I wonder.  Do cannon balls and bowling balls make the same kind or racket?   I have to catagorize those two as mystery ghosts.  Their stories are vague, and their purposes are not clear.  They just do weird stuff that nobody can figure out. 

Charlotte Square, Edinburgh:  is said to be haunted by a few ghosts, including the strange figure of a monk; a woman in 18th century dress; an old man and a phantom coach.  Other manifestations have included the sound of music being played on the piano which can be heard clearly over the noise of the traffic in the square.  There is a courtyard in the Old Town of Edinburgh where in the 1850’s one of the upper flats was haunted by the figure of a woman who had tragically hanged herself. The sounds of breathing were heard and the apparition of a tall woman with a black veil was also seen.

Ghosts in groups?  Well, why not?  Most of these apparitions suffered some type of tragedy in real life and thus an untimely death, and now perhaps they get together to swap stories and one-up eachother on new and improved methods of haunting the living. 

Cowgate, Edinburgh:  On certain nights a strange figure can be seen lurking near the place he was executed.  The ghost has been reported to have rope burns from the hangman’s rope which is still around his neck.

Dalmahoy Hotel, Edinburgh:  is haunted by a White Lady.  Sightings of this appartition have been reported in both the corridors and bedrooms of the old part of the building.  She is a very friendly ghost and is thought to be Lady Mary Douglas, daughter of the Earl of Morton.  Her portrait hangs in the hotel.

Darly Road,  Edinburgh:  The Ghost of John Chiesly haunted the area for 300 years.  There were many reports of an apparition running around with a bloody stump where his arm should have been, screaming and cackling. Over 100 years ago when a one armed skeleton was found hidden under the floorboards of a local house and removed for burial, the entity vanished forever.

#17 House of Terror, Edinburgh: This house, close to the Botanical Gardens, was in a very attractive area of Edinburgh and made up part of a row of houses, now demolished.  It was known for many years that #17 held a particularly dark and gruesome secret.  After it was turned into a boarding house the couple who owned it noticed that one of the attic rooms had a very strange and unpleasant atmosphere in it.  Many house guests were extremely reluctant to enter the room, let alone use it.  Sometimes it seemed as if there was something, or someone, in the room.  On one occasion a young girl working as housekeeper went into the attic room only to re-emerge at once, screaming hysterically.  She collapsed with the shock of whatever she had seen and when the housekeeper was revived, she could not state what had terrified her so much.  Soon after this word spread round Edinburgh that #17, “The Boarding House” was haunted and students from Edinburgh University began to dare each other to take up residence at number 17 and spend time in the top attic room. One young student by the name of Andrew Muir took up the dare, saying that he was very interested in spiritual matters and a very religious man.  He approached the couple and offered to spend the night in the room.  The owners were desperate to end these rumours which were sweeping through Edinburgh and kindly agreed.  For safety they gave Andrew a bell, along with strict instructions to ring the bell if he saw or heard anything out of the ordinary.  The owners and other inhabitants in the house prepared for bed and retired for the night, leaving Andrew Muir to conduct his vigil in the attic room.  A couple of hours passed and all was silent, when all of a sudden they were awoken by the noise of the bell and an accompanying scream of fear and horror.  The inhabitants of the house all rushed up the stairs to the attic room to find Andrew Muir who lay dead with the bell at his side, on his face a look of sheer terror.  Andrew had seen something so awful that it appeared to have frightened him to death.  After this the attic room was never used again and the house was demolished some twenty years later.

I quite like the ghosts that generate a great story.  I’d love to hear a ghost tale told by someone with a thick Scottish accent, full of strange words that’ll make me listen hard, trying to understand.  I guess I’ve never gotten beyond the “tell me a story” phase of childhood.  So, here’s some more.

Grassmarket, Edinburgh:  An apparition of a lady with a face heavily scarred by fire has been seen in the area of the Grassmarket. It is believed she and her brother were killed by the local authorities for sex crimes. Other manifestations on the Grassmarket include reports of a phantom coach being pulled by a team of six horses, shadowy figures and the ghostly activity in the White Hart Inn which is Edinburgh’s oldest pub.

Holyrood House:  This fine palace, set around a courtyard, and the official residence of the Monarch in Scotland is said to be haunted by a ‘Grey Lady’.  The apparition is believed to be the spirit of one of Mary, Queen of Scots companions.  Her ghost has been witnessed in the Queens Audience Chamber and Ghostly footsteps are said to haunt the long gallery.

Learmonth Gardens  sits in the respectable area of Comely Bank in the north of Edinburgh.  In the mid 1930’s  Sir Alexander Seton and his family went on a trip to Egypt  where they visited the Temple of Luxor and, although it was illegal to remove any exhibits, Lady Seton found a small bone and decided to keep it as a momento.  On returning to Learmonth Gardens she placed the bone in a glass case in the dining room.  Shortly after this the family became aware of disturbances happening in the house.  Crashing sounds were often heard and there were numerous reports of the furniture being moved around in various rooms, also various ornaments were found smashed in rooms that had lain empty. Then Lady Seton became ill with a mysterious infection as the loud inexplicable crashes continued.  One of the most frightening experiences was the manifestation of a ghostly figure in long robes which appeared to various family members and friends.  A friend of Sir Alexander was very interested in the bone and had it removed from Learmonth Gardens and transferred to his home.  Immediately the figure in robes disappeared from Learmonth Gardens, only to be seen at the home of this friend.  Word started to spread and very quickly the Edinburgh Newspapers were flashing headlines of “Curse of the Pharaoh”.  When the bone was returned to Sir Alexander’s home the strange happenings started all over again and this time  Sir Alexander became unwell.  Realizing that the bone was cursed,  Sir Alexander Seton gave the bone to a priest.  The bone was exorcised and then burnt and no more ghostly activity was reported by the Seton family.

Learmonth Hotel:  The hotel is said to be haunted by a poltergeist.  Doors open and close and can seem to unlock themselves.  Items of electrical equipment, such as kettles and hairdryers switch themselves on and off.  Other manifestations include whistling heard in empty corridors and the feeling of someone passing when clearly no one is there.

Princes Street:  is haunted by a weeping woman, one Moira Blair.  It is believed that her husband was murdered in the area of Princes Street and that poor Moira found his body, and in distress she stumbled into the road and was killed by a coach and horses.  Stange sounds of her weeping have also been reported in Princes Street Gardens and in nearby St John’s Church.

Victoria Terrace: a sailor by the name of Angus Roy was serving on a ship that sailed out of the port of Leith, but sadly his sailing career was cruelly cut short by an accident from which he was lucky to escape with his life.  He fell from the top of the ship’s mast and was badly injured.  One leg was left virtually useless after the accident, dragging behind him as he limped along.  When Angus was discharged from the Merchant navy, he came to live in Edinburgh’s Victoria Terrace hoping to live out what remained of his life in peace.  Sadly he suffered continual torment, was teased and bullied for his disability by the local children.  After he died, reports started to sweep through Victoria Terrace of sightings of a harmless spectre who was frightening enough to have the effect of making those who had mistreated him regret their behaviour.  The sound of Angus Roy’s damaged leg scraping the ground behind him as he makes his way along the street is still heard from time to time around the area of Victoria Terrace.

Edinburgh Castle  is the home of the Scottish Crown Jewels and is reputedly haunted by several apparitions.  A drummer, sometimes reported as being headless, has been witnessed on part of the castle battlements and drums are heard more often than the apparition is seen.  The spectre of a dog has been reported near the main castle entrance;  other manifestations include ghostly soldiers, and in the recently opened up vaulted dungeons figures have been seen.  Edinburgh has a hidden underworld to which the castle is strongly connected – including a series of secret tunnels leading from Edinburgh castle down the Royal Mile. One of these is rumoured to lead to Holyrood.  When these tunnels were first discovered several hundred years ago, a piper was sent to explore. He kept playing so that his progress could be tracked by those above. About half way down the Royal Mile the piping suddenly stopped. When a rescue party was sent, there was no trace of the piper. He had simply vanished.  The piper’s ghost still haunts Edinburgh today, walking endlessly along the underground tunnel beneath the Royal Mile. His music can sometimes be heard from within the castle.

The Royal Mile Death Coach. The legend of the Death Coach (cóiste bodhar) is an ancient one that occurs in many traditions, especially those of Ireland. Sometimes the Death Coach simply arrives to collect the souls of the recently departed. In other versions of the legend, the malevolent coach – often without a driver – travels at night collecting unwilling and unwary souls and carrying them away. Those so ensnared often end up in the local version of Hell.  In Edinburgh, there is a Death Coach that has been reported travelling along the Royal Mile.  Usually it is described as a ghostly coach drawn by black horses. Sometimes the horses are said to be headless, or as having fiery eyes or flashes of fire coming from their nostrils. Sightings are said to precede a disaster in the city.

Covenanters Prison in Greyfriars GraveyardGeorge MacKenzie (now known as the MacKenzie Poltergeist) was a 17th century hanging judge who persecuted the Scots Presbyterians known as Covenanters.  In life he was famous for the glee with which he would sentence these people to swing on the gallows. It seems that the ghostly judge prefers to haunt the last resting place of his victims within the prison and the area has been the site of much paranormal activity and ghost sightings over the centuries.   However the poltergeist only really became active after an incident in 1998 when a “tired and emotional” local desecrated the MacKenzie tomb.  Since then the he appears to have been on a rampage and there have been numerous reports of tourists and visitors to the Covenantor’s Prison being set upon by an unfriendly entity.

West Bow, a street between the Castle and the Grassmarket at the bottom of Victoria Street.  Major Weir, the wizard of West Bow, lived  with his sister Grizel, and cut a striking figure carrying his black thornwood staff around at all times.  Weir would frequently attend religious meetings and lead the company in prayer. Then at one such event something inexplicable happened. Instead of prayer, he began speaking of foul crimes. His own.  He publicly confessed to witchcraft, satanism and incest. At first people thought he had taken leave of his senses, however his sister confirmed his confessions. She also claimed that Weir obtained his powers through his demonic staff.  The Major was strangled, then burnt – along with his staff – in 1670. His sister was hanged. Both were defiant to the last. As the rope was put around Weir’s neck he was asked to say “Lord be merciful to me”. Instead he apparently replied:

“Let me alone, I will not. I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast”

Some accounts say his sister attempted to outrage public sensibility to the last by removing her clothing on the scaffold.  Even with the Weirs gone, their presences remained. There were reports of strange occurences in their home. These were not the pained moanings we usually associate with ghosts but the sounds of revelry. It seemed that wherever Major Weir had gone, he was enjoying it.  The Weir house was pulled down in the nineteenth century, yet his ghost is still sometimes heard enjoying itself in the area.

There are many more stories like these – many, many, many more.  But I’m all storied out for the moment.  Maybe for the next several months.  Or years.  Scotland has a crazy history, and they’ve got the crazy ghosts and haunted places now to show for it.  I still want to see them.  The PLACES!  Just the places.  Maybe with some eerie piano music thrown in.  No headless drummers or floating white ladies, thanks anyway.

And on a completely different note, because I like to suddenly change the subject completely for no discernable reason, here’s one more thing I researched and cannot believe.

Septs & Variant Spellings of MacArthur

Bain, Bayne, Bean, Beattie, Binnie, Binning, Macbain, Macbean, Macbeath, Macbeth, Macilvain, Macilveen, Macvain, Macvane, Macvean, Speedie, Speedy, Bane, Bayin, Bayn, Bene, Baynne, Baynes, Beanes, Beine, Bhaine, Macben, Macbeane, Macbehan, Macbaine, Macbane, Macbayne, Macelveen, Macelvain, Macelwain, Macgilweane, Macgilvane, Machilmane, Macillveyan, Macilmeine, Macilmeane, Macilwaine, Macilweine, Macilmeyne, Macillvain, Macilwain, Mackilvane, Mackilweyan, Mackilven, Mackilvain, Mackilwein, Mackilwyan, Mackelvain, Maclewain, Macklewain, Macveane, Macvaine, Macylveine, Macwean, Macweane, Makgilvane, Makilmain, Makilvene, Makilwyane, Makilmeyn, Makilwene, Makilvane, Mekilwaine, Baine, Baines, Macilveane, Macilvayne, Macilvean, Macilvaine, Macilvian, Macilvane, Macalbea, Macbeith, Macbheath, Macbeathy, Macbathe, Macbey, Macbee, Macbea, Macbheatha, Macbeatha, Macbheathain, Macbaith, Macbay, Mackbayth, Maelbeth, Malbeth, Melbeth, Macbetha, Macgillebeatha, Binney, Binny

How the hell do you come up with all of THAT from the MacArthur name?  I was just innocently looking for the Mac-Mc-Arthur tartan, which is green and yellow I’m sorry to say, so I would like to change my name to McLeod since theirs is beautiful and red.  Now I see why there’s people in my dad’s family that argue over the spelling of their last name.  The possibilities are practically endless, if this is to be believed. 

I could be related to MacBeth.  Or Mr. Bean.  If I’d seen this sooner, I might have named one of my children Macgillebeatha,  Binny for short.  And that would have been sufficient grounds, in fact a greatly understandable and justifiable reason,  for one day coming back to haunt somebody. 

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