Is Edinburgh haunted? Ask any of the dozens of ghost tour guides in the Scottish city, and the answer will be a definite "yes." The bloody history of Edinburgh has inspired countless rumors and legends of ghosts, from the coffin cages in Edinburgh's graveyard to spirits haunting the strange system of vaults under the city. And dozens of stories claim there are ghosts in Edinburgh Castle. According to legends that date back hundreds of years, the medieval fortress on a hill is home to a ghost bagpiper and a headless drummer boy. And many believe the witches tortured in the castle and then thrown into the lake below may still haunt the city.
Just like the ghosts haunting the Tower of London, these specters have deep roots in Edinburgh's history. The underground street where plague victims were locked away and the notorious slayers who sold their victims to science have fueled the city's haunted reputation. 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.
Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortresses in Europe, dating back to the 9th century. It sits atop a hill overlooking Edinburgh, and underneath the castle, a network of tunnels connects it with the rest of the city. But some of the secret tunnels are more mysterious than others. Where did they lead? Did they make the castle vulnerable to a surprise invasion? To learn where the tunnels went, the Scots sent a young boy with bagpipes to investigate.
The boy played loudly as he walked deeper into the tunnel, and above ground, people used the sound to trace the tunnel's route. Then, the bagpipes suddenly fell silent. Search parties tried to find the boy, but he had vanished. Assuming he had perished, they blocked the tunnel. However, since 1650, people have reported hearing the ghostly sound of bagpipes from deep under the castle.
Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirkyard is home to half a million souls. And not all of its residents received fancy stone mausoleums. In some areas, the layer of dirt covering the caskets is so thin that bones occasionally poke through.
The cemetery's most famous ghost is George MacKenzie. During the 17th century, MacKenzie wreaked havoc on religious non-conformists in Scotland. After his passing, MacKenzie was buried in the Black Mausoleum. When an unsuspecting man opened the tomb in 1999, he reportedly released the MacKenzie Poltergeist, who still allegedly haunts Greyfriars Kirkyard.
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. Although they were young, the chancellor worried of a challenge from the Douglas clan. As a result, he orchestrated an ambush on the young boys.
During the Black Dinner, the chancellor's men dropped the head of a black bull in the middle of the table. They then seized Douglas boys and removed their heads. The bloody dinner party inspired George R.R. Martin's Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.
According to legend, the Wizard of West Bow, AKA Major Thomas Weir, still haunts the city. In 1670, Weir spontaneously confessed to incest, bestiality, and the use of magic to communicate with spirits. Even though his friends tried to convince him he wasn't a witch, and a doctor declared him unstable, Weir insisted on his own guilt.
Weir received capital punishment for his deeds. After his passing, 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, parts of Weir's haunted house were allegedly 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 once stood. Today, it's a toilet.