Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Haunted Graveyards and Underground Vaults of Edinburgh

Continued from:
Part 1 -
Part 2 -
Part 3 -
Part 4 -

It was starting to get dark as I made my way back onto the Royal Mile and to the square near St. Giles Cathedral. The street was alive with tourists and locals alike gearing up for a Friday night in Edinburgh. The solemn sounds of distant bagpipes mixed with the laughter and chatter of half-cut revelers priming for a big night out on the town could be heard. A new bride exited St. Giles Cathedral with her new groom. Office-dwellers dressed in business suits walked hurriedly towards waiting cabs presumably as excited for it to be Friday night. With a few minutes to kill before meeting my guide from Auld Reekie Tours, I stopped in at Cafe Nero and ordered a Cafe Mocha to go. I arrived at the waiting spot and, for what seemed like a long time, I was the only person there. I was beginning to think I had the wrong directions when other people started to show up. Not long after, Ethel, who would take us on a nighttime tour of Greyfriar's Kirkyard and The Underground Vaults, arrived.

I was excited to visit Greyfriar's Kirkyard again but this time under the cover of darkness. As we walked toward the graveyard, Ethel explained that it's one of the most haunted locations in the world and past guests on the tour had been physically attacked by the angry spirit of Sir George Mackenzie, the man who imprisoned, maltreated and even murdered hundreds of Presbyterian Covenanters. As Ethel was explaining this, it became evident that some of the guests on the tour had already gotten a head start on the drinking. Their laughing, cussing and plain ol' disruptive behavior caused Ethel to show her more authoritative side. I personally thought she should have had them spend some alone time in Sir George MacKenzie's tomb to set them straight.

While I admit the graveyard was quite creepy in the dark, I didn't get any spine-tingling feelings or sense anything off about the place, although I was hoping I would. Sometimes I get these strange feelings when I visit a location and have no explanation for it. The feeling of the hair on the back of my neck standing up or that someone is watching me. I get these feelings every time I visit Warren Lake in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The place just creeps the heck out of me. That night at Greyfriar's Courtyard, one of the most haunted locations in the world, I didn't get punched, slapped or kicked like others have reported and it was quite disappointing. I wondered if it was due to me being with such a large group. I pondered the idea of returning to the graveyard alone the following night.

Our next stop was the underground vaults which are also a hotspot of paranormal activity. I was surprised to learn some of the history of these vaults and what they were used for over the years. I can't imagine up to thirty people living in one of those dark, damp, tiny spaces but, at one time, immigrants hoping to prosper in a new life in Edinburgh did just that and faced disappointment and even death. Disease was rampant and so was criminal activity. The plague was particularly unforgiving in those conditions and if it didn't kill you, it was likely you would fall victim to murder. If you weren't lucky enough to make a living above ground in Edinburgh, eventually you fell into a life of crime to survive. Illicit activities such as gambling, prostitution and robbery were just some of the professions many fell into while trying to survive in the underground vaults. The police only turned a blind eye to it all. As far as anyone above ground was concerned, the vaults were out-of-site and therefore out-of-mind as long as it stayed below ground. While I can admit that the vaults were also quite creepy, I can also say that I did not get any goosebumps or heebie jeebies.

The walk back to the hotel was interesting to say the least. It was still fairly early but it was starting to get a bit rowdy. I took the long way around and started at the top of the street and made my way down and around a couple of blocks. I wanted to get a feel of what Edinburgh is like on a Friday night. I passed lots of drunken stag and hen parties and rowdy students already three sheets to the wind, some ready to be carried home even at that early on an hour. I made my way through the crowd of staggering revelers like an old pro. I had been in the city not even two full days and I was already navigating the crowded streets like a local, weaving in and out of crowds. As I walked, I noticed some comical signs had been put out outside some of the pubs to lure in the weekend crowd. Lots of signs advertising Haggis and beer. I told myself before I left home I would force myself to try Haggis while in Scotland but once I arrived, I couldn't get myself to do it. Many people tried to convince me that I had to try it and the new, politically-correct vegetarian Haggis (yes that's a thing) was even pushed on me but I just couldn't do it.

I contemplated ducking into one of the little pubs along the Royal Mile to take in some live music and have a beer or two but decided that being alone in a place that was getting rowdier by the minute might not be the greatest idea. I opted instead to grab a beer at my hotel bar. I took my place in the restaurant near a window where I could watch the big party unfold on the street outside and asked the friendly bartender for a plate of Cheesie Fries and a bottle of the best local beer he had available.

Much later that night as I was sleeping, a loud commotion outside stirred me awake; a fight on the street between some drunken blokes....welcome to Friday night in Edinburgh!

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