I’ve always wondered about Ghost Tours… like how scary can they be right? Right. So Vanessa Wu, Emily Dawson, and I went on a tour of the Edinburgh Graveyard and Vaults and here’s my assessment:
Honestly, the tour wasn’t scary and I am somewhat skeptical about whether or not it was actually haunted (thought don’t let the ghosts hear me say that…) The tour was just trying to get in your head and if you let it in, and let it psych you out… THEN it was scary. I would like to say that I weathered the attempts of our tour guide to scare us but I totally didn’t. The graveyard wasn’t too bad but the vaults really got to me…
Quick background on Ghosts
- They apparently stick around if there’s unfinished business
- Places that experience a lot of death have a higher probability of having ghosts
- Edinburgh happens to be a very old city with a history of sanitation issues, disease, and death making it “one of the most haunted places on earth”
Our tour guide started us off at Greyfriar Bobby’s graveyard. Bobby is this super cute dog (see statue) who stayed by his owner’s grave until he (Bobby) passed away. People rub the nose on Bobby’s statue for good luck, but apparently a tour guide made that up and it’s stuck ever since.
Then we walked around the grave yard as our tour guide shared all this information about the number of dead bodies buried there. It’s said that the grave site used to be flat ground…now it’s a giant hill because so many bodies were buried from plague, prosecution, and poverty.
While we might have been a little bored around the gravestones, our tour guide got us at the mausoleum. She told us about the Lord Advocate for King James II; he imprisoned and essentially sent thousands of people to their death for not acknowledging the King as both the Head of Church and State. AND he’s buried right on at the site of imprisonment (talk about ironic huh?) People who sneak into his mausoleum experience ‘strange” things: feeling strangled, fainting, loss of energy… and as she’s describing some of these stories, she sends a well-timed kick at the mausoleum door sending us jumping at least 10 feet back. After recovering, we ascended then descended into the vaults.
So the vaults are actually storage rooms for merchant inside a bridge. The problem was that the bridge was built out of limestone so the vaults were not waterproof. The merchants ditched the vaults, then the poor started moving in. The vaults were dark, damp, and disgusting. Life expectancy once you moved into the vaults dropped to 6 months. I’m not claustrophobic and the vaults are not that tiny, but I definitely started to feel a little anxious… it was too dark and too quiet but it also didn’t feel as empty as I would have liked. This wasn’t good.
We heard stories of misogynist ghosts, wicka rituals, cracked mirrors, stone circles, the banshee sprinkled with bits of actual history. The one bright spot in the whole tour? These baby stalactites because limestone and being old right? Aren’t they cute?
The last vault, a double ceiling vault with no lights was the last straw for me. I did not open my eyes at all – not like it would have made a difference since it was pitch black. Poor Vanessa was crying (I knew because we were hugging so tightly) and I just wanted to curl up in a ball (but the floor was too gross and that would have impeded my movement OUT of the vault). The minute the tour guide said “the only thing worse that being in a vault… is being the last one out” – I was OUT OUT OUT. Bolted like lightning because I was that freaked out – and I practically dragged Vanessa with me. I think the scariest part for Emily was the stairs going up and down the vaults though (scared of heights).
While it was a… unique and unforgettable experience (no matter how hard I try) the best part was the after party. We checked out Southsider Pub and chatted about more things to do around Edinburgh over a glass of wine.