Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted spots in Scotland. Overlooking the city of Edinburgh, the castle has dungeons where hundreds of prisoners were tortured and perished over the centuries.
Direct administration of the castle by the War Office only came to an end in 1923 when the army formally moved to the city’s new Redford Barracks. Nevertheless, the Castle continues to have a strong connection with the Army. Sentries still stand watch at the castle gatehouse after opening hours, with responsibility for guarding the Honours of Scotland.
In various occasions, visitors to the castle have reported a phantom piper, a headless drummer, the spirits of French prisoners from the Seven Years War and colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War – even the ghost of a dog wandering in the grounds’ dog cemetery.
Many people have heard the sound of ghostly drums within Edinburgh castle; however few have seen the drummer. The reason for this is the drummer ghost only appears when the castle is about to be attacked something that hasn’t happened for some time. History says that he was first witnessed before Cromwell’s attack on the castle in 1650 and is reported to take the form of a headless boy.
Deep below the foundations of the castle a series of tunnels were found to run from the castle to the Royal mile and reportedly to Hollyrood Place. Upon their discovery a lonely piper was sent down to investigate what lay hidden in their dark depths. He took with him his pipes, playing them as he went, so those above could track his progress. Suddenly, about halfway along the playing stopped. A rescue party was sent down to investigate and upon their return they reported that the piper had vanished. To this day, you can on occasions, hear his haunting tune as he walks tirelessly along the tunnel.
One desperate prisoner hid in a dung barrow, hoping to be carried out of the castle down the Royal Mile and escape to freedom. The unfortunate man died when the barrow was emptied down the rocky slopes of the castle, sending him to his death. Visitors say his ghost tries to shove them from the battlements and is accompanied by a strong and unpleasant smell of dung.
In the 16th century Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis, was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to murder King James V. Evidence was obtained against her by the torturing of her servants. She was burned at the stake on July 17, 1537, and her young son Gillespie was brought out and forced to watch from the battlements. Lady Janet’s restless spirit is said to still haunt parts of the castle. Hollow knocking sounds are sometimes heard at night these are attributed to the workmen building the platform on which she was burned.
As part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from Hertfordshire University in southeast England, enlisted the help of 240 volunteers to explore the allegedly haunted sites in a 10-day study. Chosen from visitors from around the world, the volunteers were led in groups of 10 through the creepy, damp cellars, chambers and vaults. Wiseman’s team came prepared with an array of high-tech “ghostbusting” equipment, such as thermal imagers, geo-magnetic sensors, temperature probes, night vision equipment and digital cameras.
Each of the volunteers was carefully screened. Only those who knew nothing about Edinburgh’s legendary hauntings were allowed to participate, yet by the end of the experiment, nearly half reported phenomena that they could not explain. They all reported feeling something in the vicinity of the areas which had been known to have paranormal activity. Reported experiences included:
- sudden drops in temperature
- seeing shadowy figures
- a feeling of being watched
- one person reported a burning sensation on the arm
- an unseen presence touching the face