Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Edinburgh Vaults

Author: Jennevieve Sevilla

Mr. Boots’s Stomping Grounds
When one mentions Edinburgh, visions of haggis and treacherously cold weather usually come to mind. However, this fair capital of Scotland boasts more than just culinary delicacies and chilly nights. Particularly speaking, the city is a Mecca of paranormal activity, showcasing the existence of ghosts at almost every corner. From palaces to pubs, there are stories behind all of them—tales that spoke of the dead who continue to linger in the world of the living. Some of these beings are sinister, while some merely seek attention. Such a varied spectrum can be seen in the Edinburgh Vaults, also known as the South Bridge Vaults.
            Built in the late eighteenth century, the South Bridge was meant to help with the city’s widespread transportation problems that emerged in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Supported by a wide road lined with multiple three-story buildings, the Bridge itself consists of nineteen stone arches; it was these arches that the ‘vaults’—chambers—were built into for the sake of housing Edinburgh’s downtrodden and destitute (Wiseman et al. 196). It was not long until the Vaults turned into a dangerous slum, traipsed by prostitutes, criminals and just about every other degenerate looking to make a kill—literally.
            Such is true for the infamous Burke and Hare, a pair of serial killers known for murdering their victims in the name of science. Their exploits were so horrible memory that they have been prey, the duo reportedly murdered seventeen people and offered up the bodies for sale to an all-too-eager Dr. Robert Knox. Today, all that remains of the sick business arrangement is a small bottle containing a cube of brain tissue from the one and only William Burke—a souvenir from the public dissection that came with the punishment befitting his crime (Hogg 1).
            With the grisly history in mind, it is no wonder that souls still clamor for attention from within the Vaults. Featuring at least nine of these restless entities, some are harmless apparitions such as the young boy called “Jack” who has a penchant for tugging on people’s clothing. Others are more malevolent in their intents, particularly the Black Lady of Vault Five who has been known to make prey out of expectant women. However, the most famous one of these ghosts—and perhaps the most seemingly mobile—is a specter by the name of “Mr. Boots.” Those who claim to have seen him describe the sight of a man decked out in a long blue frock coat, a tri-corner hat and large boots. Those who claim to have been recipient to his presence describe the scent of whisky on his breath as he blows upon visitor’s faces, all the while blocking doorways. However, what is interesting is that the very same blue frocked-figure is also rumored to be found in the cellar of a Whistle Binkies Bar in Niddry Street, just a few blocks away from his regular haunt in the vaults underneath Blair Street (Green 3).
            It is a curious fascination, indeed—the belief in the existence of ghosts. As humans, it is only natural that we would want to know more of those things that lie beyond our comprehension. However, just as a child pulls its hand away from a burning stove when it gets hurt, we somehow do the opposite. For some odd reason, a great number of humans tend to go towards the object of nightmares instead of away from it, hence of existence of ghost tours and everything else that capitalizes on paranormal activity. And for what? Boredom? A rush of adrenaline? Either way, something about those things that go bump in the night entices us and makes us want to know more about them. Perhaps it is simply the insatiable thirst humans have for knowledge of the unknown. Whether we actually uncover the secrets of their world—if such a world even exists—only time will tell. 

Works Cited:
"Edinburgh’s vaults." Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. London: Chambers Harrap, 2007. Credo Reference. Web. 16 October 2012.
Green, Derek. "Edinburgh, The Haunted Capital." Ghostclub.org.uk. The Ghost Club, 2007. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
"Hampton Court Palace." Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. London: Chambers Harrap, 2007. Credo Reference. Web.16 October 2012.
Hogg, Colin. "Delving into the Shadows of Edinburgh's Grisly past." New Zealand Herald. APN Holdings NZ Limited, 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
"Mr. Boots" Famous Stomping Grounds. N.d. Photograph. Paranormal Explorers.com. Paranormalexplorers.com, 2004. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.
Wiseman, Richard, Caroline Watt, Paul Stevens, Emma Greening, and Ciaran O'Keefe. "An Investigation into Alleged 'hauntings'" British Journal of Psychology 94.2 (May 2003): 195-211. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

Links for further research:
Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. “Edinburgh Vaults”


  1. Aww this is making me want to go back to Scotland. And I live near enough to visit. I love exploring creepy and abandoned places :) Isn't it fascinating to learn how people used to think - the idea of housing the poor inside a bridge?

  2. I've been to Edinburgh but did not visit these vaults. I was able to visit some castles and can assure you the stories of paranormal are prevalent. The metaphor at the end about seeking out danger is quite appropriate and very insightful.