Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

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Off to Edinburgh, Scotland for the third installment in the October Ghost Story Series. I decided to hold off for another week on my own hometown spooky tale.

Ah Edinburgh, my favorite city in the world. The capital of Scotland, this magical city offers much to enchant the visitor. With its charming cobblestone streets, medieval castle and historical stone buildings, Old Town delights while it hides a few secrets.

Check out these ghost stories from Edinburgh.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh title meme

Edinburgh’s Long History

This city, nicknamed Auld Reekie, possesses a long, colorful history full of acts of bravery and the macabre. A center for education, philosophy, arts, literature, science and engineering, Edinburgh typically attracts millions of visitors a year. In fact, it is the second most visited city in the UK, right behind London.

Ghost hunters considered it a hot spot for paranormal activity. That’s not surprising considering its history that spans thousands of years and the labyrinth of passageways and rooms hidden beneath the streets and bridges of Old Town. I find the energy of Edinburgh electrifying and interesting, rather than frightening or dark.

“Scotland incorporates magic so thoroughly into its everyday life that the official national animal is the unicorn and its capital city, Edinburgh, counts “being haunted” among its local industries.” Unknown

Check out these five tales. And as a three time visitor to Edinburgh, I’ll share a couple of my own ghostly encounters.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh unicorn
Magical Scotland claims the unicorn as its national animal so you know anything can happen here!

Greyfriars Kirkyard

This kirkyard, Scottish for churchyard or cemetery, is known to house a number of ghosts. Among the most famous, and on opposite ends of the scary spectrum, are Greyfriars Bobby and Bloody MacKenzie.

Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby is the small Skye Terrier dog that loyally remained at his owner’s grave, long after the man passed away. For 14 years the pup stayed nearby, surviving due to the kindness of the fine people of Edinburgh, until he too died and was buried in the kirkyard. Today visitors wandering in the kirkyard tell of hearing a small dog barking, near Bobby’s grave, when no dog is present. It seems that Bobby guards his owner’s resting place still.

Bloody MacKenzie

And then there is the more frightening ghost of the man called Bloody MacKenzie. A wealthy lord and lawyer, George MacKenzie punished thousands of Scots in the late 1600s, who refused to change their religion to the national one. It’s believed he’s personally responsible for more than 18,000 gruesome deaths, earning him the name Bloody MacKenzie.

MacKenzie rests in his mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Or at least, he did until his tomb was disturbed by a homeless man who broke in late one night. The frightened man fell through the floor of the mausoleum, into a mass grave filled with plague victims from centuries before.

Since that night, MacKenzie prowls the graveyard. And although his mausoleum is closed to the public, ghost tours routinely take people inside. More than 450 people claim vicious attacks occurred, from an invisible assailant, while they were inside the building. Injuries include bruises, burns, scratches, lacerations and even broken bones. One woman passed out when unseen hands strangled her.

Others report hearing strange noises near the mausoleum or feeling nauseated as they walk by it. An exorcism was attempted at the mausoleum, in 2000, by minister Colin Grant. He claimed he felt the torment of hundreds of souls and the presence of evil. He left Greyfriars Kirkyard, distressed, and died a few weeks later of a heart attack.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh MacKenzie Mausoleum
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Bloody MacKenzie’s mausoleum

Grassmarket

Every medieval town used a square for public executions. This is true for Edinburgh as well. Nestled in the heart of Old Town, with fine views of nearby Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket’s history includes a dark side.

Hundreds of criminals and people accused of witchcraft died there, up until 1886.

As you might imagine, especially for those labeled as witches, many people were innocent of their supposed crimes. Women thought to practice witchcraft suffered sleep deprivation until they finally confessed to crimes they did not do. As a result, the punishment was hanging or worse, burning alive.

Those innocents now haunt the Grassmarket area, sighing and sobbing over their unjust deaths.

Additionally, the White Hart Inn, located in Grassmarket, is one of Edinburgh’s oldest, and most haunted pubs. Parts of the pub date back to 1516. Paranormal activity there includes accounts of hair pulling, bottle throwing and apparitions captured in photos. Staff often hear footsteps upstairs, after the bar closes, and ghost hunters recorded a voice in that space saying “help me”.

Pub visitors also report seeing a pair of detached legs walking about and a ghost that hovers in the center of the cellar.

Historically, the murdering duo Burke and Hare lured victims away from the pub and killed them nearby. And a prostitute died in the pub in the 1800s.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Grassmarket
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Grassmarket

Haunted Tolbooth Tavern

On the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s Canongate area is home to one of the city’s iconic buildings, the Tolbooth. Dating back to 1591, tolls were collected here, from people traveling into the city.

The building housed an administrative center, courthouse and a prison before transforming into a pub in 1820.

Several ghosts, possibly the spirits of former prisoners, create havoc in the Tolbooth Tavern. Their antics include knocking pictures off the walls, flinging drinks from the tables and making banging and knocking noises.

Pub visitors report seeing ghosts dressed in old fashioned military uniforms. Historians speculate they are the departed spirits of jailer James Park and his assistant, who found themselves incarcerated in their own prison after helping prisoners escape.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Canongate Tolbooth
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Tolbooth Tavern

Mary King’s Close

In Edinburgh, closes are narrow covered alleyways that branch off the Royal Mile. Mary King’s Close is named after a merchant burgess who resided on the close in the 17th century. Many people shared the close with Mary, packed into tall buildings. With no proper sewer system in the city, residents dumped waste into the streets, which attracted rats.

Those rats carried diseases such as the bubonic plague to the inhabitants, bringing death to Mary King’s Close. Legend says that the close was walled up, leaving the tenants to die horribly. In reality, the people were cared for as well as they could be, for those times. Many people died in the close, regardless of which story is true. The last occupant of Mary King’s Close moved out in 1902 and the area was sealed up.

The close lay abandoned and inaccessible for many years, buried beneath the Royal Exchange. Stories of hauntings began after workers reopened the area when they drilled down into the close accidently. The site is a popular tourist attraction today.

Annie’s Room

One of the most famous ghosts in the close is Annie. In 1992 a Japanese psychic picked up on feelings of hunger, sadness and pain inside a room. The psychic spoke to the ghost of a young girl named Annie, who claimed she was abandoned during the plague and died in the room. She said she couldn’t find her doll.

Feeling sad for Annie, the psychic purchased a new doll for the girl. Since that day, visitors from around the world honor Annie and try to make her happy by bringing her dolls, toys and jewelry. First responders such as police officers and firemen leave their badges as a sign of respect.

People that enter Annie’s Room report feeling inexplicable cold spots and claim a little hand grabs theirs.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Mary Kings Close
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Mary King’s Close and Annie’s Room

Edinburgh Castle

High atop a volcanic rock, Edinburgh Castle perches majestically above the city. Surrounded by tall granite walls that shield 900 years of history, many ghosts supposedly haunt the castle grounds.

There’s the young piper who, two hundred years ago, set off to explore the castle’s hidden passageways that lead to the Royal Mile. He played his bagpipes so that people above ground knew his location. The music suddenly stopped and the boy disappeared without a trace. His body was never found but the haunting sounds of his bagpipe echo beneath the castle.

In the dungeons, a headless drummer boy wanders about. And a group of French soldiers, captured during the  Seven Years War, often make appearances in the dungeons as well.

Other activity includes shadowy figures walking around, sudden temperature drops and unseen hands tugging on shirt sleeves and trousers.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh castle
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – the castle

My Own Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

I visited Edinburgh in 2014, 2017 and 2019. On two of those three visits, I experienced my own supernatural encounters.

Haunted Vaults

In 2014, two of my cousins and I explored Edinburgh’s underground on the Haunted Vaults Tour. Experienced primarily in the dark, with only the guide’s lantern for illumination, the vaults are extremely creepy. After leaving one of the vaults, the tour guide stopped talking as we all heard a loud crash from the dark room we’d just left. We all crept back into the room where she shone her light around, looking for the source of the sound. Nothing appeared out of order and no explanation for the noise was discovered. As I stood in the deep shadows at the back of the room, I felt a small cold hand take my right one. Surprised I turned to look. No one stood next to me on my right. I continued to feel that hand holding mine until we left the next room.

Shadow Figure in the Apartment

And in 2019, my sister and I shared a cute renovated apartment for the duration of our stay in Edinburgh. The building, hundreds of years old, formerly housed offices.

We experienced several instances of electrical things turning off on their own but we shrugged them off. However, one night, after a long day of walking in the city, I struggled to fall asleep. Restlessness overtook me. I began to hear popping noises in the kitchen and then the dining area and finally the living room. For me, restlessness and popping sounds are signs that spirit is with me.

Peering into the dimly lit living room, through the bedroom door, I saw the dark figure of a man walk by. He headed toward the window on the far side of the room, then suddenly changed directions and walked to the bedroom door. As I watched, the shadowy figure stopped at the door and looked around before turning away and disappearing. We slept with a light on in the living room, after that, so I could see better if the shadow man returned. He didn’t appear again.

However, I woke up a couple of mornings later, with two small burns on my left forearm, that weren’t there when I went to bed. I have no explanation for how I received those burns.

Will I visit Edinburgh again? Absolutely! I love this city with all my heart and I’d happily stay in the same apartment. For me, the veil between this world and the spirit world is thin. That fact no longer stops me from exploring and experiencing the world.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh - burns
Unexplainable burns while in Edinburgh

More Ghost Stories

Check out these stories from Ireland and Italy:

Ghost Stories from Dublin

Ghost Stories from Venice

Do you have a ghost story to share? Add it to the comments below!

Ghosts Stories from Edinburgh group photo
Group photo in Greyfriars Kirkyard

 


 

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Ghost Stories from Venice

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

In the second installment of the Ghost Stories from… series, we turn to beautiful Venice, Italy. This magical city, occupying a cluster of islands in the Venice Lagoon, captivates with its canals, history and charm. My daughter, grandson and I loved exploring this amazing city.

Haunting is another word that describes Venice. Like most cities, Venice has its dark side too. Wandering the narrow streets after sunset, especially when the fog rolls in, sends a chill down the spine that isn’t entirely caused by the weather.

The city’s long history is filled with stories of rebellions, conquests and death. It’s not surprising that energy lingers there. Check out these ghost stories from Venice, for a peek at the city’s mysterious side.

Ghost Stories from Venice title meme

Ghost Stories from Venice

Water is a great conductor of electricity and also of supernatural energy. Hauntings and water seem to go together. Whether from deep dark pools, rivers or even the moisture that accumulates within the walls of a house, water often amplifies ghostly activity. With its lagoon and 150 canals, water literally surrounds Venice and flows through it. And because the city is slowly sinking into the lagoon, many buildings and cathedrals have flooded subfloors and crypts.

No wonder Venice is not only one of the most uniquely beautiful cities in the world, but also one of the most haunted.

As you explore Venice, keep these locations and ghost stories in mind.

Ca’ Dario

Also known as Palazzo Dario, or Dario Palace, this house is also dubbed “the house that kills”.

Giovanni Dario, a local official, built the gothic palace on the Grand Canal in the late 1400s. After financial ruin and death, his daughter Marietta and her husband inherited the house. The husband died soon after, murdered, and Marietta committed suicide by throwing herself into the Grand Canal. Their son died a short time later in an ambush.

Over the centuries the palace continues to change hands. The owners have all been murdered, committed suicide, suffered horrible accidents or illnesses or experienced disastrous financial ruin.

Even leasing the palace comes with risks. In 2002 bass player John Entwistle died of a heart attack a week after renting the palace for a vacation.

A US company purchased Ca’ Dario in 2006, on behalf of a wealthy American woman. It’s currently undergoing renovations. Would you stay there? I would not!

Ghost Stories from Venice Ca Dario
Ghost Stories from Venice – Ca’ Dario, the house that kills.

Ghost of the Venice Bell Ringer

There once lived a man who rang the bells in the bell tower, or campanile, on St. Mark’s Square. Because he was quite tall, a Venetian scientist offered the bell ringer a large sum of money for his skeleton, after death.

Spurred on by greed, the tall man accepted the cash in exchange for giving his skeleton to the scientist. With this unexpected wealth, he promptly drank himself into an early grave.

After death, the bell ringer apparently regretted the deal he made. His ghost haunts Bressana Court where he begs visitors for money so that he can buy back his skeleton.

The actual skeleton of the man resides in Venice’s Natural History Museum. The skeleton shows that the man was indeed very tall. It is also said that the skeleton creeps out of the museum at night to ring the twelve bells of St. Mark’s Campanile.

Ghost Stories from Venice clock tower
Ghost Stories from Venice – the ghost of the bell ringer

The Bride Ghost of Venice

Those who walk Venice at night risk running into the ghost of a young bride.

Tosca, a beautiful but poor young woman from Treviso, was betrothed to a wealthy, older nobleman. However, she fell in love with a young hunter and the pair ran away to Venice. The jilted groom tracked down the couple and killed the hunter. He cut off Tosca’s ring finger, declaring that no man would wed her if he didn’t.

Tosca took her own life on September 22, 1379. Her ghost, wearing a wedding dress, wanders Venice after dark, searching for her missing finger.

Ghost Stories from Venice bell tower
Ghost Stories from Venice – watch for the Bride Ghost wandering Venice after dark

The Serpent of Punta della Dogana

Ghosts aren’t the only supernatural inhabitants of Venice. Punta della Dogana is the triangular shaped land mass jutting out between the Grand Canal and The Guidecca Canal.

Allegedly, a cousin of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster inhabits the swirling waters just off the tip of Punta della Dogana. This beast’s body resembles a large, dark colored snake while the head looks horse-like.  It hides in a hollow beneath the land.

Fishermen swear that the sea serpent appears out of the dark waters on moonless nights, earning it the nickname “the black water monster”. One witness, in 1933, claims he saw the serpent rise above the surface to catch and eat a sea gull in a single gobble.

Ghost Stories from Venice grand canal
Ghost Stories from Venice – the domed buildings in this photo are on the Punta della Dogana

Poveglia Island

Known as one of the most haunted places in the world, Poveglia Island, located between Venice and Lido, originally served as a port. During the bubonic plaque, the small island became Venice’s dumping ground for dying and dead Venetians. Over the centuries, anytime an epidemic came along, the infected went to Poveglia. Most remained there until they died. The dead were buried in huge mass graves.

In 1922 Venice established an asylum on the island as a place to hide the city’s mentally ill and seriously ill citizens. Sadly, one of the asylum doctors performed cruel experiments on patients, in the island bell tower. He met his death by falling from that very tower. Some claim the ghosts of his victims pushed him. The story goes that he actually survived the fall, but a mist surrounded him and swallowed him up, finishing him off.

More than 160,000 deaths reportedly occurred on Poveglia, earning it the name of “the island of no return.” Visitors are no longer allowed on the island. Past visitors, including paranormal researchers, call it the final restless place of thousands of diseased and insane people who died there.

Ghost Stories from Venice Poveglia Island
Ghost Stories from Venice – Poveglia Island, one of the most haunted places in the world

October Ghost Story Series

You can check out last week’s Ghost Stories from Dublin, the first post in this month long series. Next week, watch for a local ghost tale from my own city. I’ll be checking out the famous Joplin Spook Light.

Have you ever had an ghostly encounter?

Share your stories in the comments below.

Ghost Stories from Venice
Ghost Stories from Venice

When in Venice, check out this walking ghost tour.

 


 

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Ghost Stories from Dublin

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Beautiful Dublin is an enchanting and magical city.  The capital of Ireland, Dublin contains many historic buildings, including a 13th century castle and the stately St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191.

So it’s no surprise that the ancient city offers up more than a few ghost stories and haunted places. Some of those quaint stone buildings on cobblestone streets have darker stories to tell.

During the month of October, when spookiness abounds, I’m excited to present a series of Friday travel posts featuring ghost stories from five different countries. Read along each week, if you dare!

Ghost Stories from Dublin title meme

Bram Stoker

Besides being a city of haunts and ghosts, Dublin gave the world a master of horror, Bram Stoker. Best known for his 1897 gothic novel, Dracula, Stoker drew inspiration from a cemetery near his childhood home. A sickly child, Stoker spent hours on his own, wandering in Ballybough Cemetery. In this graveyard reserved for criminals and suicides, people drove wooden stakes through the victims’ hearts, to make sure they were dead and stayed that way. That grim custom became the origin for killing vampires in Stoker’s famous story.

Bram Stoker’s family owned a crypt in St. Michan’s Church and as a boy, Stoker often visited the below ground vault. Today it houses a collection of mummified bodies that fell out of their coffins as the wood disintegrated. As you might imagine, this vault beneath the church is labeled as haunted.

The next time you visit Dublin, check out these famous, spooky places.

Dublin Castle

This 13th century castle served for centuries as the headquarters for the British administration in Dublin. The castle was the center for invasions, battles, military strategies and countless persecutions. As a result, many people met untimely and often horrific deaths there.

During its early years, under King John of England, the heads of would be invaders were spiked upon the outer wall as a deterrent to enemies. The headless bodies rotted on the ground below. People claim to hear the moans and cries of the victims.

And in the dark dungeons many suffered torture and death for their crimes or their faith. Stories tell of convicted thief Roger de Fynglas and a poor widow who refused to renounce her faith, both left to starve within cells in the dungeon. De Fynglas’ spirit supposedly remains in his cell to this day. And the widow, whose own son imprisoned her, weeps in the dungeon, brokenhearted.

Ghost Stories from Dublin castle
Ghost Stories from Dublin – Dublin Castle

The Green Lady

Considered Dublin’s most famous ghost, the Green Lady haunts the grounds near St. Audoen’s Church, built in 1190. Many people claim to have seen the specter. She is believed to be Dorcas Kelly, executed as a witch for the murder of her unborn child.

The Sheriff of Dublin, Simon Luttrell, put her to death. He was a member of a secret occult group called the Hellfire Club, and supposedly fathered Kelly’s child. Allegedly, Kelly threatened to out Luttrell as a member of the club. The accused woman publicly burned to death at St. Stephen’s Green in 1746.

The Green Lady haunts the area near the bottom of the 40 steps leading to the church. She appears dressed all in green.

Ghost Stories from Dublin St Audoens tower
Ghost Stories from Dublin – The Green Lady haunts St Audoen’s grounds. This is St Audeon’s tower.

Ghost Girl in the Shelbourne Hotel

On St. Stephen’s Green, the famous Shelbourne Hotel welcomes guests from around the world. However, one uninvited guest refuses to leave. Built in 1824, the elegant hotel replaced townhouses built along the edge of the Green.

A seven year old girl, Mary Masters, apparently died of cholera. She lived in one of those townhouses. Staff report seeing Mary in the basement while they do laundry or stock the wine cellar. Hotel guests share chilling tales of encountering the ghost girl in their rooms.

One recent guest, an actress working in Dublin on a film, reported a presence in her room, when she awoke in the dark. She heard a giggle and then felt an unexplained breeze across her body, followed by slamming doors. Not finding anyone in her room, she shared her story with staff the next morning and learned about Mary.

Other guests tell of a presence sitting on the bed, the sounds of a small girl crying and invisible touches on the cheek or arms.

Ghost Stories from Dublin St Stephens Green
St Stephen’s Green is surrounded by haunted buildings, including the Shelbourne Hotel.

Rubrics Building, Trinity College

Trinity College houses some of Ireland’s precious historical artifacts. It’s also the site for a haunting.

Former college lecturer Edward Ford lived in the Rubrics Building on campus, in 1734. Considered an ill tempered man, he did not appreciate it when a group of rowdy students threw stones at his window. He sought to scatter the students by firing a pistol at them.

The students did disperse, however they sought revenge. The drunken young men returned to their rooms, picked up firearms of their own, and decided to teach Edward Ford a lesson. Although it’s thought they didn’t intend to kill Ford, they fired through his window, mortally wounding him.

Students and staff report seeing a sad man in a powdered wig and Georgian attire wandering around the Rubrics Building.

Ghost Stories from Dublin Trinity College
Ghost Stories from Dublin – Trinity College

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Jonathan Swift, known for his book “Gulliver’s Travels”, was appointed Dean of St. Patrick’s in 1713. He died October 19, 1743 and he’s buried beneath the floor. The cathedral displays Swift’s chair, table and bookcases and two of his death masks.

Swift supposedly haunts two areas, the cathedral itself and the deanery beside the church, where he lived until his death.

The story goes that any worshipper who dares to fall asleep during a sermon might wake up to find an angry Swift looming over him.

And tenants living in the deanery after Swift’s death, up to the present day, tell of sensing a benevolent presence in the house. Some have reported seeing the ghost of an older man slowly climb the stairs to the dean’s bedroom above. At least one later occupant of the house, feeling sure an intruder broke in when he saw the older man, searched the house thoroughly and found no one there.

Ghost Stories from Dublin St Patricks Cathedral
Ghost Stories from Dublin – St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

There are many other haunts in Dublin and a wealth of ghost stories. These five are among the most famous. Currently, with COVID travel restrictions, most of the city’s ghost tours are temporarily closed. However, someday, perhaps by next October, visitors will once again walk the narrow streets of Dublin, seeking the paranormal…and finding it.

If you want to experience Dublin’s darker side, in a fun way, try the Gravedigger Ghost Tour.

Do you believe in ghosts? I do. I’ve experienced the supernatural since birth. I’d love to read your spooky stories in the comments below. And watch this space next week, where I’ll offer ghost stories from Italy.

Ghost Stories from Dublin St Patricks clock tower
Ghost Stories from Dublin – St. Patrick’s clock tower.

More Tales from Ireland:

St. Stephen’s Green Dublin

Explore Dublin’s Temple Bar Area


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Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.