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HauntedIllinois.com - Haunted Illinois goes on a Supernatural Ghost Tour of Scotland

Day 6:

When I woke up, I realized that it was Friday the 13th. Despite the superstition associated with it, it still turned out to be a great day. After checking out of the hotel, there was a slight delay in our departure. This gave us all the opportunity to examine the castle more closely. We also had plenty of time to visit the nearby graveyard. Because it was considered unsafe, the graveyard wasn't open to the public, but that didn't stop our tour group. We were able to find our way in by walking through some bushes and around a section of wrought iron fence that surrounded the property. The cemetery was completely overgrown with vines and other greenery. Along with the numerous headstones scattered about, we also found the ruins of some tall stone archways, which were all that remained of the old church that once stood there. In one area, there was a rusted steel coffin. This turned out to be a great photo opportunity for several of the people in our group who were brave enough to climb inside and pose for pictures. After exploring the cemetery for about 20 minutes, we all got back in the bus to continue on to Edinburgh.

Airth Castle Hotel & Nearby Cemetery

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On the road...
On the road...
On the road...
On the road...
On the road...
On the road...
On the road...
Arriving at Airth Castle Hotel
Airth Castle
The graveyard near the castle
Sneaking around the fence, to look around the graveyard.






What a great photo-op




Ready to get back on the road.
 

When we arrived in Edinburgh, our first stop was Mary King's close. A “close” (or “wynd”, as it is also known) is a narrow street or alley that runs off of a main thoroughfare. High Street, the main road in Old Edinburgh, had many closes that branched off of it. 

As the city grew, geographical features surrounding the old town limited outward expansion, so the city grew upward. In the mid 1700s, the Royal Exchange and other city buildings were constructed atop the multi-storied tenement buildings that bordered the closes. This new construction essentially sealed the closes below ground level, thus creating the “Underground City” that exists today. Mary King’s Close, one of the most well known closes in Edinburgh, was just recently reopened to the public in 2003. 

Closes were often named, describing the businesses or activities that occurred there. Others were named after prominent citizens. Mary King’s Close was named after a well-known widow and merchant in Edinburgh named Mary King. After her husband died in 1629, she had to support her four children on her own. A lot of hard work led to her eventual success in the textile business, trading fabrics and working as a seamstress. 

During our tour, the guide led us through various passages and rooms in the underground close, describing the life of Mary King, as well as explaining what life was like in 17th Century Edinburgh. Conditions during that time were pretty dismal, especially during the widespread plague of 1644. The plague actually killed a substantial portion of the Scottish population over an 18 month period. It is a myth, though, that those afflicted were walled up in the closes and left to starve. During the outbreak, individuals who were sick were quarantined inside their homes. Visiting doctors would wear bird-like masks, so they wouldn’t catch the plague themselves. The large beaks of the masks were filled with herbs, which they believed would filter the disease from the air. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. It wasn’t figured out until years later that the plague was actually spread by flea bites. Because of all of the death associated with this locale, Mary King’s Close is reportedly inhabited by ghosts. 

Although photography wasn’t allowed during the tour, I did manage to take a few “covert” pictures.     

 Mary King's Close

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Mary King's Close in 1645.
Mary King's Close today.  The plexiglass represents the modern day buildings that were constructed on top of the original structures.
Cut-away view of the underground closes.






   

Mary King's Close Group Picture
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Leaving Mary King's Close behind, we walked a short distance to the Edinburgh Dungeon. This was a tourist attraction with live actors, who reenacted Edinburgh’s dark and violent history. To complement the theatrical presentation, Edinburgh Dungeon also had a couple of attractions that were similar to what you might find in an amusement park. As we made our way through the dungeon, we encountered a fun house mirror maze, a boat ride and a shock-drop ride in the dark. The dungeon was a bit cheesy overall, but I will have to admit that it was fun and also somewhat educational. The boat ride was pretty lame, though. Ha ha! 

Before continuing on to our next stop, we visited the gift shop. I'll have to say that I was pretty disappointed with what I found. I was looking for something to remind me of my trip to Scotland, but none of the souvenirs in the store were marked with anything Scotland-specific. Instead of being marked “Edinburgh Dungeon”, they all had a generic “The Dungeons” logo on them. Since the company that owns the attraction runs several different “Dungeons” throughout Europe, it is my guess that they've changed the labeling to a simple generic logo, in order to save on inventory costs. How sad. The story had a happy ending, though, as I was able to find one last refrigerator magnet labeled “Edinburgh Dungeon”, by digging all the way to the bottom of one of the bins.  

 Edinburgh Dungeon

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Edinburgh Dungeon Group Picture
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Scared out of our wits from our visit to the dungeon, we continued on to our hotel, the Premier Inn. After quickly checking in and dropping off our bags, we got back on the bus to go to dinner at the Hard Rock Café. Edinburgh’s version of the Hard Rock Café was pretty much on par with what you would see in America. Autographed guitars, pictures and other rock memorabilia adorned the walls. The menu was also pretty much the same. Shortly after finishing our meal and taking some pictures, we left the restaurant. On the way to our next destination, we passed by The Elephant House, which is a gourmet tea house & restaurant. It is famous for its connection to J.K. Rowling. Apparently, she used to sit in the backroom overlooking Edinburgh Castle while writing some of her early novels. 

 Around Town in Edinburgh

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Whisky Specialist... A store that only sold whisky... hundreds of varieties!

The Hard Rock Cafe in Edinburgh!
At the Hard Rock Cafe.
At the Hard Rock Cafe.
At the Hard Rock Cafe.
At the Hard Rock Cafe.
At the Hard Rock Cafe.
The Elephant House
  

Our next activity was a supernatural tour of the Niddry Street Vaults, conducted by City of the Dead Tours. The tour began with a general overview of the history of the Royal Mile. Our tour guide Jamie explained how the famous Niddry Street vaults were constructed.

To facilitate city expansion, the South Bridge was built in 1788. It spanned the Cowgate Gorge, connecting High Street with the University. This provided a much-needed thoroughfare between the old and new sections of the city. The Niddry Street Vaults were a series of chambers located within the arches of the bridge. For about thirty years, the vaults were used by various businesses. After they began to deteriorate, the crumbling stone and poor air quality caused the businesses to vacate. Not too long after that, they were replaced by brothels and pubs. The vault spaces were also used as slum housing for the poor. The conditions were appalling. There was no sunlight, no running water and no sanitation. Serious crimes, including rape & murder were common in these areas, so the vaults were filled with rubble, to make them inaccessible, some time in the mid 1800s. 

So they could be studied for historical purposes, the vaults were exhumed in the mid 1990s. Since then, inside the vaults and in the general vicinity, there have been consistent reports of paranormal activity. People have reported seeing apparitions, as well as experiencing sudden chills and various other supernatural phenomena. Unexplained occurrences at the Niddry Street Vaults have attracted so much attention that they have been featured on the television show “Most Haunted” on two separate occasions. 

 Niddry Street Vaults

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Heart of Midlothian
On the way to our supernatural walking tour.
Richard Felix pointing at Most Haunted
Our tour guide Jamie

Sin Club and Lounge












  

 

After a short walk, we arrived at Greyfriars Cemetery, where the tour would continue. Also known as Greyfriars Kirkyard, this cemetery was established in 1561.

Behind a set of locked iron gates lies Covenanters Prison. In 1679, this section of the graveyard was used as a jail to hold Covenanters. Covenanters were Scottish Protestants who defied King Charles I. George Mackenzie, a prominent lawyer, used any means possible to convict those who opposed the King. His questionable tactics and bloodthirsty nature earned him the nickname “Bloody Mackenzie”.

The cemetery is haunted by his ghost, which is often referred to as the “Mackenzie Poltergeist”. People who encounter it have reported sustaining various injuries including bruises, scratches and cuts. Most of the attacks have occurred after Mackenzie’s resting place was violated. According to the story, a homeless man broke into his tomb late at night, to get out of the rain. Ever since his crypt was disturbed, numerous visitors have been attacked at Greyfriars.  

 Greyfriars Cemetery

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George Mackenzie's Tomb

The locked gates of Covenanter's Prison


















   

 

Our last stop of the day was a late-night visit to the Frankenstein pub. With its large dance floor and booming sound system, it had a nightclub atmosphere, but with a Frankenstein’s laboratory theme. There were images of Frankenstein everywhere you looked and in numerous areas there were flashing electrodes and lightning discs affixed to the walls. To add to the ambience, the bottles and glassware behind the bar were backlit with colored lighting. We were supposed to be treated to a floor show with an animated Frankenstein's monster, but unfortunately we never got to see it. Apparently their special effects weren't working that night. That was somewhat of a disappointment, but it was still a fun night and I'm glad that we went. Seriously, how often do you get to go to a place like that?

Frankenstein Pub

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