Weird History Edinburgh's Bloody History Makes It One Of The Most Allegedly Haunted Cities In The World  

Genevieve Carlton
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Is Edinburgh haunted? Ask any of the dozens of ghost tours in the Scottish city, and the answer will be a definite yes. The bloody history of Edinburgh inspired rumors and legends about ghosts, from the coffin cages in Edinburgh's graveyard to the strange system of vaults under the city. And dozens of stories claim there are ghosts in Edinburgh Castle. The medieval fortress on a hill is home to a ghost bagpiper and a headless drummer boy, according to legends that date back hundreds of years. And many believe the witches tortured in the castle and then thrown into the lake at the bottom may still haunt the city. 

Just like the ghosts haunting the Tower of London, these stories have deep roots in Edinburgh's history. The underground street where plague victims were locked up to die and the notorious serial killers who sold their victims to the anatomy school for dissection have fueled the city's haunted reputation, and Edinburgh's Black Dinner even inspired the gruesome Red Wedding from Game of Thrones. Its many ghost stories make Edinburgh one of the most haunted cities in the world. 

A Ghost Bagpiper Lost Under Ed... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Edinburgh's Bloody History Makes It One Of The Most Allegedly Haunted Cities In The World
Photo: Jane Stewart Smith/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A Ghost Bagpiper Lost Under Edinburgh Castle Still Haunts Its Tunnels


Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the 9th century. It sits atop a peak overlooking Edinburgh, and underneath the castle a network of tunnels connects it with the rest of the city. But some of the secret tunnels were more mysterious than others. Where did they lead? Did they make the castle vulnerable to a surprise attack? To discover where the tunnels went, the Scots sent a young boy with a bagpipe to investigate.

The boy played loudly as he walked deeper into the earth, and above ground people used the sound to trace the tunnel's route. Then, the bagpipe suddenly fell silent. Search parties tried to find the boy, but he had vanished. Assuming he was dead, they blocked the tunnel. But, starting in 1650, people have reported hearing the ghostly sound of bagpipes from deep under the castle. 

The Most Haunted Graveyard In ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Edinburgh's Bloody History Makes It One Of The Most Allegedly Haunted Cities In The World
Photo: Remi Mathis/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Most Haunted Graveyard In The World Is In Edinburgh


Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirkyard houses half a million bodies. And not all of the dead received fancy stone mausoleums. In some areas, the layer of dirt covering the corpses is so thin that sometimes bones pop through. 

The cemetery's most famous ghost is George MacKenzie. During the 17th century, MacKenzie terrorized religious non-conformists in Scotland, and after his death, MacKenzie was buried in the Black Mausoleum. When an unsuspecting man opened the tomb in 1999, it reportedly released the MacKenzie Poltergeist, who still terrorizes the Kirkyard. 

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Photo: HBO

The Black Dinner Inspired The Red Wedding


Edinburgh Castle hosted the bloody Black Dinner in 1440. That year, the powerful Chancellor of Scotland invited two young aristocrats over for dinner. The Earl of Douglas was 16, and his younger brother David was only 10. But even though they were young, the chancellor worried about a challenge from the Douglas clan. So, he orchestrated their murder.

During the Black Dinner, the chancellor's men dropped the decapitated head of a black bull in the middle of the table. The Douglas boys were seized and beheaded. The surprise dinner party assassination inspired George R.R. Martin's Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.

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Photo: Thomas Allom/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Wizard Of West Bow Haunts His Old House


The Wizard of West Bow, AKA Major Thomas Weir, still haunts the city, according to legends. In 1670, Weir spontaneously confessed to incest, bestiality, and using magic to communicate with the dead. Even though his friends tried to convince him that he wasn't a witch, and a doctor declared him unstable, Weir insisted on his own execution. 

Weir was strangled and his body burned. After his death, locals claimed his house was haunted. The stories included mysterious lights in the windows of Weir's home and the sound of distant music. And although the house was torn down in the 1800s, a discovery uncovered evidence that some of the walls of Weir's haunted house were incorporated into a Quaker Meeting House. Now, according to at least one staff member at the Quaker House, Weir still haunts the area where his house used to be. Today, it's a toilet.