On a cold October weekend last year, two of my friends and I took the train from London to Edinburgh to visit our friend Tony, who had recently moved to the Scottish capital.
I’d been to Edinburgh before but I’d forgotten just how beautiful this city is.
Tony made an excellent tour guide although he’d only lived in the city for a couple of months himself. Wherever we went, he fed us nuggets of Edinburgh history. For example this one:
Edinburgh had a lot of closes (gates) which would be closed during the night. Not only to keep any riff-raff and criminal elements out of the city but also to keep criminals inside who had just committed a fresh crime and were trying to escape.
We arrived late on Friday night and went straight to the pub. But on Saturday morning we were still fresh and keen to explore the city.
Firstly, Tony took us to a haunted cemetery. Doesn’t look too bad in this photo, does it?
And if you knew that the cemetery even has a tomb for a cute little dog that famously came to its dead owner’s grave every single day. Aww…
But then Tony started telling us stories about the cemetery.
Back in 1800-something, people started studying anatomy in detail to learn more about the human body. And for that they needed corpses. You can see where this is going. The haunted cemetery had a number of grave robbers who would dig up fresh bodies during the night. They could then sell the corpses (if they were fresh!) for good money to the surgeon’s hall for doctors and students to experiment on. Of course this lead to all sorts of ghosts and zombies that are even today still spooking around the cemetery.
You can’t really see it in this picture but a lot of the graves were locked up with metal bars on top, so that no one could get in and remove the fresh bodies. Unfortunately that also means that accidentally buried people who were still alive, couldn’t be removed from their grave quickly enough to be saved.
Apparently back in 1800-something doctors weren’t so good at understanding if someone was really dead. So they buried the corpses with a string attached to their finger which would ring a bell above the ground if they happened to start moving again. Tony told us about one incident where someone rang the bell from their grave to politely ask to be removed from their underground coffin to continue with their live. But unfortunately the grave was locked up so well for fear of grave robbers that they couldn’t get the poor person out in time. Lovely. Another ghost was created. And I imagine this wasn’t an isolated case.
And then suddenly we saw spooky things around us happening. A hand was crawling up and down that tombstone!
And Tony told us that parts of the cemetery are locked up because they are too dangerous to enter. During a tour of the cemetery he had learned from a guide that these locked up areas can be accessed sometimes. But only if the ghost situation is calm on that day. The day that we went was clearly not a calm day.
Here is Tony, telling us scary stories. He looks all bright and happy in this photo but if you look at Sophie’s face to the right which screams ‘panic’, you understand that Tony’s looks are deceiving in this photo.
Tony told us a story about how he went on a tour down into a crypt and felt a strange presence around him. Definitely a ghost, if not several. We felt increasingly scared and only a few courageous members of our group dared to take a peak inside the window of the locked up crypt.
He saw something!
This photo is not staged by the way! It was a lucky snapshot of a truly frightened friend.
And to think that people live in flats overlooking this cemetery…
We had seen enough… It was time to leave.
Past the random armchair (what?)…
…and out of the gate.
To take our mind of all the horror, we briefly admired some school that featured in some Harry Potter film. (I have no interest in Harry Potter, so I can’t really remember what exactly the significance of this was…)
And where off to next? The Surgeon’s Hall! It had only recently opened and Tony was keen to check it out, so we happily followed.
Yes, THAT Surgeon’s Hall that bought the freshly dug up bodies for big bucks. It’s now a museum displaying all sorts of old models of tumours and photos of disease riddled bodies and old medical equipment that was used when people still thought that leeches would be a legitimate way to heal diseases.
Or when amputations were performed without anaesthetics. Uaaaahhh! Even two months later thinking about this still makes me shudder. That museum is only for people with strong nerves or a medical degree. There was even a whole floor with jars of pickled body parts.
The evening was a bit more light hearted. Tony took us to the The Sheep Heid Inn, the oldest pub in Scotland, which was absolutely fantastic. I don’t remember why I didn’t take any photos there but the decor, ambience and the food were really, really good.
The next day we took the obligatory walk up to the castle.
We didn’t have that much time because our train left in the early afternoon. So we skipped the bit for which you have to pay an entrance fee. Hence I don’t really know what is beyond this gate.The views from the castle were beautiful.
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. It was great catching up with friends and exploring this beautiful city.