Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Scotland’s Mary King’s Close

The street lies beneath modern
This 7th-century street is considered Edinburgh’s most haunted area. 

Mary King's Close is one of the city's original narrow streets. It was once a bustling densely populated center that was used for market stalls and tenements.

Like most streets of the time, “the Close” had buildings several stories high that closely hemmed it in. 

In the 1600’s it was common practice to throw human waste out the windows onto the street below--so the upper and middle classes lived on the top tiers away from this filth, while the poor lived on the street level.

Alexander King, who was an advocate to Mary Queen of Scots, named this Close after his daughter Mary. He owned several properties along the street. Mary had a stall where she sold lace.

When the bubonic plague hit in 1645, this street was ravaged. Families that had a sick person in their homes had an “X” chalked on their door. Food was dropped off on their doorstep. No contact was allowed for six weeks--except for the plague doctor-- * until the ill person either died or recovered. 

When possible, the stricken were moved to a plague hospital.

Many of these victim’s bodies were burned to prevent the spread of the disease. It is said that their ashes were mixed with horsehair and dirt, and then were used to construct ceilings in the Close.

Many years after this outbreak, when no one lived in Mary King’s Close, it was walled up and closed for the next 100 years. ** 

The street has so many dark mysteries connected to it, that a myth started to circulate that the Close had actually been walled up during the plague outbreak. And that many people who were ill were closed within its walls. To the chagrin of residents of Edinburgh, this myth still persists today.

Because this street was walled up, it is well preserved. The visitor today--250 years later-- can still see the original buildings and layout.

Plague Doctor

 * These plague doctors visited the sick person’s home wearing a bird outfit. The beak filled with herbs was used to lance the ill person’s sores.

** The Close is one of the underground streets in Edinburgh that was buried to make room for modernization. It lies beneath today's City Chambers.

The Hauntings

A mysterious face on
the left wall
Click to enlarge
Tours are given of most of the Close’s buildings. Many of these buildings also have reenactors that portray life in the past.

Mary King’s Close most famous ghost is that of a little girl, nicknamed Annie. 

In 1992, a Japanese psychic was startled when she entered a small room in the Close. She immediately felt sickness, hunger, and a bitter cold envelop the room. She then felt the presence latch onto her leg.

Others have received the message that Annie is sad because she lost her favorite toy. So countless visitors have left Annie gifts in the small room, that is now named after her.

Most believe that Annie’s family probably left her behind when she became ill with the plague.

Annie's Room

Other activity in the Close includes phantom footsteps walking up and down the empty street, and visitors and guides have seen a ghost of a lady wearing a black or grey dress. The spirit of Mary--Alexander King’s daughter is seen.

Witnesses have also reported seeing masculine figures, in the Close that just disappear when approached. In fact, some of these sightings were reported back before the street was walled up.

In one particular chimney, strange noises are heard. When people put their hands inside, they were sometimes scratched.

Compelling Evidence

In 2008, a photo taken by accident is now considered solid proof that the Close is haunted.

Late one Saturday night, the general manager, Stephen Spencer, was checking an infrared camera installed to take pictures of tour groups as souvenirs.

As Spencer stood in the street, he snapped several photos, he then returned to his office to turn the computer system off. He looked at the images he had taken and realized that one of them had captured an exciting picture.

Photo was taken by Stephen
Click to enlarge
A translucent rotund figure was standing in the background--the street was closed for the night, and Spencer was the only one there when he took the photo. 

Since several reliable ghost investigators have examined this photo, and they all conclude, it is very compelling.

What is even more impressive is many visitors over the years have described seeing this rotund ghost in the same area.

Some speculate this ghost is Major Thomas Weir, who was known as The Wizard of West Bow. He was strangled and then burnt at the stake in 1670, after publicly confessing to witchcraft, Satanism, and incest.

Yet others think this ghost is Andrew Chesney, a saw-maker who lived in Mary King’s Close, who operated his business until 1892. He is believed to be the last person who lived in the Close. His workshop is highlighted in one of the tours given.


Unknown said...

I visited Mary King's Close last week when I spent a few days in Edinburgh. I think I had an encounter with Annie. The Guide told us about her and the room and the ridiculous amount of toys other visitors left for the ghost. Then my sister and I walked in and had a look around. I then jokingly said to my sister:"Yeah... I don't feel it." After I had walked out of the room into the room next to it, I felt something pulling on a strand of my hair. Not hard at all, but i definitely felt it! I turned around but there was nobody behind me. So nobody could have accidentally pulled my hair. And I hadn't moved my head when I felt it. So my hair could also not have been caught in my scarf or something. I believe it was Annie, punishing me for my comment about not feeling her presence... kinda scary.
I don't really believe in SEEING ghosts but I believe that we can sometimes FEEL them.

Virginia Lamkin said...

Many would tell you that they have seen ghosts.