banshee, burke and hare, edinburgh, executions, gallows, ghost, gibbets, grassmarket, halloween, haunted, haunting, irish mythology, king david i, murderers, paranormal, poltergeist, pubs, scotland, the banshee's labyrinth, the last drop, the white hart inn
Edinburgh has the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in the world. It doesn’t strike me as odd or unusual, given its bloody past. Here, there are even haunted pubs, each of them with its own ghost, much to the delight of paranormal investigators and tourists. After all, what would a Scottish building be without a lost soul?
Here is the route you might want to follow if you love both poltergeist stories and good beer.
The Last Drop. 74-78 Grassmarket
Let’s start with one of the most famous pubs in Edinburgh, The Last Drop. Located in Grassmarket, which used to be yet another spot for public executions (one can but wonder if there was a corner in this city which wasn’t used for that purpose), The Last Drop was, according to the stories, the place where a condemned person could take a last drink before being hanged.
Being located in front of the gallows (where nowadays we can see a silhouette of its menacing shadow on the floor), The Last Drop adopted much of the hanging paraphernalia for decorative purposes. When we first enter the pub we can be bewildered by the nooses and pictures that depict executed criminals. The feeling will disappear once we get a pint, and soon we will forget about gibbets and broken necks.
The thing is, maybe we won’t for a long time. It is said that the spirit of a young lass, dressed in medieval clothes, haunts both the bar and the cellar, and that she has been seen by the staff who works there. She does not seem evil, though, just a little mischievous: bartenders have heard their names when they were completely alone, but nothing serious has ever happened.
The White Hart Inn. 34 Grassmarket
It seems that Grassmarket has some haunted buildings, as this is the second pub we can find there with paranormal activity. The White Hart Inn is the oldest pub in central Edinburgh -the cellar dates back to 1516, although it is thought that there was already an inn at this place by the 12th century. The rest of the the building dates to 1740.
Its name comes from the legend of King David I and the stag. It is said that King David was hunting upon the Feast Day of the Holy Rood in the 12th century, much to the dismay of his priest. He stumbled upon a magnificent white stag and tried to hunt it, but when he fell from a horse the tables were turned, for he became the prey. Terrified, he prayed to God, and a cross appeared between the stag´s antlers, before the animal disappeared.
The White Hart Inn used to be populated by prostitutes and criminals. Infamous murderers Burke and Hare liked to get their victims drunk with grog and whisky here, just before asphyxiating them.
Given the fact that this pub is 600 years old, it comes as no surprise that people can see several spooky ghosts there. There is a little girl playing around, and a pair of disembodied legs or boots in the cellar. Apparently, some lights turn on and off on their own, there are unexplained cold spots, and some bartenders have reported to feel like somebody is watching over their shoulder.
The Banshee Labyrinth. 29-35 Niddry Street
This pub, formerly known as Nicol Edwards Pub, advertises itself as “the most haunted one in Edinburgh”, although The White Hart Inn also claims the title. Located in Niddry Street, not far from Grassmarket, The Banshee Labyrinth is decorated as any other rock or metal bar would be, with skeletons, cobwebs and B-movies posters.
Part of this pub is located within South Bridge´s underground vaults, the slums where gamblers, criminals, and poor people used to live, in harsh conditions. There are some interesting ghosts in the vaults as well, but we’ll leave those stories for another post.
Regarding this club, which is cool enough to have a cinema, the story goes that the workers who were renovating it heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from the other side of a wall. Some minutes laters, one of them received a phone call in which he was informed that somebody closely related to him had died.
Banshees are female spirits or fairies in Irish mythology, related to some families of Celtic origin, that scream and wail whenever a member of the family is about to die.
So, if you happen to be there enjoying a drink, and suddenly you are startled by a cry, you can be sure of two things: your family has Celtic roots, and a beloved one of yours has passed away, sadly.
Enjoy your haunted pub crawl this Halloween, and visit these pubs if you have the opportunity to do so. Who knows, you might even see a ghost -or it might just be the effect of too many whiskies. Either way, you can always proclaim: “I ain’t afraid of no ghost“, and see what happens next!