This, added to the fact that the weather there can be dreary, cold, and the air sometimes full of a heavy mist, makes it the perfect environment to encourage and share ghostly encounters.
Here are a few of my favorites:
If you want an insight as to how people lived in Edinburgh during the 16th and 17th centuries, few places can compare to Mary King’s Close. Old Edinburgh consisted of one main straight (known as the Royal Mile today), and closely confined alleyways and courtyards that led off it to the north and to the south. As people began to live and work there in increasing numbers, they became known as closes. They were generally named after a significant member of their community.
In 1645, the Black Death struck Edinburgh hard. Mary King’s Close was notorious for being one of the poorest parts of the city. According to legend its 500 residents were quarantined from the rest of the city. Homes became tombs as more and more people succumbed to the dreaded disease. Eventually this medieval street was built over and now lays buried beneath the Royal Exchange.
Many ghost stories have stemmed from this terrible slice of history, but the most prominent is surely the account of a young girl who has become known as Annie. As the tour guides will have you believe, Annie was a young girl who had the misfortune of being in Mary King’s Close when it was demolished. She is said to haunt the room where she met her demise. Visitors began leaving dolls and teddy bears in an effort of cheering up this melancholy ghost. In many ways their presence is more unsettling than the account itself.
In 2003, the Close reopened as a full-fledged tourist attraction, where tour guides, blessed with the gift of the gab, will both beguile and unsettle you with their fascinating accounts of life during its heyday. http://www.realmarykingsclose.com/
In a part of the Forest Of Rothiermurcus, which is glorious in the sunshine, and unnerving when it is overtaken by an icy mist, is the burial place of Seath Mor Sgor Fhiaclach, a chief of the Clan Shaw, who lived, and indeed died, during the 14th century.
Shaw was, by reputation, an intimidating warrior, standing well over 6ft tall with an evil smile that supposedly struck terror into the hearts of all he encountered, including his own followers. Over the centuries, travelers through the woods, passing through a certain glade, have reported encounters with a gigantic figure challenging them to battle.
If they accept, the apparition disappears without bringing any harm to the traveler. However if anyone shows fear when they meet him, they, according to legend, will never be seen again.
The Southern Necropolis is located in the famed Gorbals region of Glasgow. It was opened in 1840 to provide affordable burials for working class Glaswegians and over 250,000 of them have been laid to rest there. But apparently, as locals might have you believe, not all peacefully.
In the 1950s, a legend was spawned and spread in the local area that the graveyard was home to a vampire with iron teeth – product of over active imaginations and the increased popularity of movies no doubt- but a spine-chilling notion never-the-less. There are many reports of literally hundreds of children bravely patrolling the area in search of the creature, which had supposedly killed two local children. A ghostly white lady has also been seen by locals, floating through the cemetery at night.
I do know that if you are a fan of the architecture of that age and are fascinated by the paranormal, it’s a must see.
Fyvie Castle is not only one of the most famous Scottish castles but one of the grandest. It’s had a long, and at times, turbulent history and of course, more than its fair share of ghosts. The oldest parts of the castle dates back to the 13th century. I am sure I could ramble on for pages about its history- perhaps another time- but here are some macabre highlights:
Many claim that Thomas the Rhymer (13th-century Scottish laird and fabled prophet) placed a curse upon the castle. One of the bloodiest events was a battle fought by Royalists and Covenanters at Fyvie on October 28th, 1644. The Royalist army, led by the Earl of Montrose, won the battle. The carnage was dreadful, with both sides losing a multitude of men in the most brutal of ways, many dying slow agonizing deaths. Legend has it that the cries of those suffering still linger in the icy winds.
The library is decorated in blood red wall paper, with hundreds of books displayed around its magnificent walls and it holds a gruesome artifact. Among the wonderful old, rare books, is the bust of a head. But more macabre is the fact that it’s the death mask of a murderer who was hanged; the noose mark can still be seen on the neck.
Then we have the main stairs that lead to one of the upper rooms, known as the Douglas Room. Many centuries ago, a Laird’s wife was imprisoned here and starved to death. Although a valiant attempt was made by her kinsmen to rescue her, they were themselves caught, murdered and their bodies thrown from a top story window. Their blood is reputed to still stain the floorboards at Fyvie, and others claim their anguished cries can still be heard.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a love affair with Scotland. Her first visit was in 1842 and she was instantly smitten by the wild and beautiful countryside. In 1848, they acquired the lease on the property. She found the original building ultimately too small as a residence and built upon the estate in 1848, resulting in the splendor we see today.
It’s still part of the private estate of the British Royal Family. Today, the property encompasses not just the castle, but also vast farmland, forestry, grouse moors, herds of highland ponies and sheep, and of course many ghost legends.
The most famous, and probably compelling account, is that of John Brown. He was a servant on the property, whom after Albert’s untimely death, had a close relationship with Victoria. The true depth of that relationship is debated to this very day- some claim that they even secretly married. His spirit has been reported frequently, and even Queen Elizabeth II has claimed to have seen him, sporting, of course, his traditional kilt.
Edinburgh Castle would also rank high on my list, and I have elaborated on his famous ghosts in a previous article: http://goo.gl/QmUlKc
Paul Gifford is an English born full time writer who has called California home for many years. He writes under the name P.S. Gifford. He has had several dozen stories published in print and on-line magazine, been included in anthologies and has several collections of his works available at all good on-line book sellers. You can find his website here.