My evil flatmate and I watched a TV show on ghost sightings last night that had us rolling in fits. It was so absurd (and horribly early 90s) that you couldn’t take it seriously even if you tried. Their stories featured a suspicious amount of women waking up to male ghosts pulling down their bed sheets or watching them (why do I immediately suspect the hotel clerks? “Uh. Yeah. That room is totally haunted….what time do you go to sleep? Why?? Uh no reason”.)
After every story we would sort of look at one another and roll our eyes and resist the urge to boo and throw things at the monitor. Then we would giggle.
It was surprisingly fun evening.
It reminded me of my first trip out to the UK. It was right after uni and after a brief stint in Manchester I found myself in the stunning city of Edinburgh. I wandered around amazed by the old buildings, narrow cobblestone streets and cemeteries filled with creepy tombstones with ominous skulls and crossbones on them.
A few American who I had befriended at the hostel told me about a ghost tour that they would be going on that night. There were various ones to choose from all centering on different spooks and specters. The one that they had sought out was a tour of the Spooky Vaults. These vaults were created under the city of Edinburgh in the 18th century but were soon abandoned and later occupied by various unscrupulous characters. There are reputed to be all sorts of ghosties present in the vaults.
It sounded like a lot of fun, so I tagged along with my new compadres and off we went to embrace our frightful evening. We even paid an extra two quid to be able to have a pint in the spooky vaults!
We met up with our cape wearing ginger host as he took us and other tourists (interestingly all North American) on our ominous and depressing historical journey. He pointed out various areas around the city where witches were tortured and executed and where cemeteries were paved over to make for new parking lots. We made lots of “oooing” noises, snapped pictures and feigned a morbid fascination.
Eventually we made it down to the spooky vaults but not before we were warned of the dangers that lurked within. We were informed that some of the spirits in the vaults were violent. In particular there was a notorious character known as “Mr Boots”. Mr Boots was not an adorable cat as you might be thinking. He was a bastard and liked to kick people. I think. I can’t really remember, but he was no good.
Quietly and carefully we tip toed into the dark vaults, cameras gripped in tense fingers prepared to take a flash photo at the drop of a pin. Our guide relayed stories about the history of the place and the type of people who took up residence. Occasionally, mid sentence, he would freeze and look behind him listening carefully with narrowed eyes. He would then slowly start back up his narrative. I took numerous photos but got nothing. Damn crap camera. There were surely ghosts lurking!
Eventually the tour ended and the 5 or so of us who had paid extra were ushered into a back room that was made up into a sitting room and were given our pints. The tour guide, now sort of off duty but obligated to sit and talk with us shrugged off his cape and relaxed. We got to chatting and he pretty much immediately admitted that it’s all a show; that he hasn’t really ever seen anything strange in the faults, though he’s heard of the occasional strange noise. He talked about how Edinburgh is known as one of “the most haunted” places in the world due to advertising and not much else.
What do you need to pull tourists in other than a dark history and a great story?
We deflated a bit, admitted to each other that we weren’t really scared, finished our pints and sulked out.
At least we got to learn a bit of that colourful Scottish history. That’s something, right?