It’s something that’s always fascinated me: the supernatural. As a child, when asked to draw a picture, my subject matter would almost certainly be a graveyard or a spooky house in the woods or a vampire (a beautiful lady vamp’ – with flowing red hair, of course… and generally a mass of curls*). And my patient mother, ever one to let me find my own way in life, would dutifully display these macabre pictures in prominent places in the house, never letting on that she was remotely concerned about my mental state.
Edinburgh is the perfect place to visit around autumn time. It’s a gothic city full of dark corners and pokey ginnels and underground snickets and wide cobbled streets with wild wind whipping up a storm all around. And there are ghost walks galore! Ghost walks with gimmicks or without, underground, overground wandering hither and thither, including into the depths of the city dungeons.
The Auld Reekie Ghost and Torture Tour begins at the Tron Kirk and takes you around and into the South Bridge Vaults. The last time I did the dungeon tour, I was with a boy, which for some reason turned me into a pathetic little creature who kept hiding in his coat like a startled guinea pig at all the scary parts… which in retrospect is rather embarrassing and quite out of character. I guess it proves the skill with which the ghostly guides whip up the crowd and create a really quite edgy atmosphere. This time, however, I was with a group of girlies. A group of squealing girlies. It was hilarious. Feeling particularly smug that I already knew what to expect, I waited for the moment when we were taken to the dungeon with the mad beastie spirit who’s trapped in the Wiccan ring of rocks. And then I stepped into it with side-(and ear-)splitting results from my accompanying hens.
Half an hour later, we were safely ensconced in a reputedly haunted pub with comforting pints of ale, discussing who was going to share a room with me now I’d picked up this evil spirit and what the hell was I thinking, mad woman?! I just sat there grinning as I sent the following text:
“I shall be returning to Leeds w/an evil ghost in tow! I only went & did it, didn’t I. I only fucking stepped in the ring!”
You see, even the boy hadn’t had the nerve, so dark and creepy are the vaults, and so convincing the tour guides.
After it was decided that Sam would remain the unlucky room-mate, conversation turned to chilling stories of our sinister past experiences and stories we’d heard as scuttlebutt. All of which, including my own, I proceeded to knock down with fairly logical explanations in my present superior fash’.
It was only when I found myself in the toilets of said haunted pub, which were at the top of a winding set of stairs, rather dark and devoid of other pub-dwellers, that my already overactive imagination began to churn. Ever since I saw one particular episode of Round the Twist as a youngster, I have had an inane fear of toilets**; they’re creepy places full of hidey holes. What started as a grain of doubt in my mind had swelled by the time I was pulling my kecks up. Toilet doors squeaked, chill drafts blew; for all my bravado, I was still that self same shaking little guinea pig. I fairly threw the soap on my hands and dashed out of the door, without looking in the mirror in case I saw something nasty in a cubicle behind me. At the top of the stairs, still fleeing from my imaginary phantom, I caught a stiletto on a step and somehow managed to slide ungracefully to the bottom of the stairs bellowing: “It pushed me, it pushed me!” at the bewildered El Kitten, our beloved queen hen, who just happened to be preparing for ascent. She said, wrinkling her nose:
“Yeah, I fell down them earlier…”
I’ve been a tad jumpy since then.
Classic FM eases me into my day, as a general rule, so when my alarm went off this morning, I lay coaxing myself awake to Airs Espagnols Opus 18 by Pablo de Sarasate***, while half-waking terrifying thoughts flickered across my mind. When the piece finished, nothing happened; just an unexpected silence – no presenter, no music, nothing. I sat up in bed and looked fearfully at my alarm clock. Nothing. And then there was loud white noise with voices babbling in the background. I shot out of bed, turned the radio off and stood, panting and desperately clutching my left arm, down which a pain had just shot.
Shit! I thought****. Shit shit shit! It’s trying to communicate with me!
I tentatively turned the radio back on and was more than a little relieved to hear the comforting tones of Nick Bailey. I jumped into my running gear and ran, scared and unstretched, into the dark morning chill†. For once, I felt safer running around Leeds in the dark than being cozy at home with my yoga mat.
So far, further strange happenings involve getting an electric shock from a tap (I was shuffling my feet), something small and hard rattling around in my kitchen (am pretty sure the mice are back), a wasp at the window with a face like a skull (think wasps’ faces are like that anyway), the kettle turning itself off mid-boil (wouldn’t have noticed anything weird about that under normal circs) and some canisters exploding in the building site in which I work, which set the building on fire (far less dramatic than it sounds).
I realise that as a grown woman… yes, this is as tall as I’m going to get, folks… this is all v.silly, but my head is a v.v.strange place indeed and it may be some time before I’m back to normal. Or as normal as it’s possible for me to be.
However, despite my subsequent madness, I highly recommend that you a) visit Edinburgh if you’ve never been and b) take a tour.
Auld Reekie Tours can be found on the Royal Mile and run at various intervals throughout the day most days. Tours are £9.50 for adults and £7.50 for concessions and are conducted by young acting scots in gothic clothing, ending with a complimentary shot of scotch and a piece of shortbread.
Please be aware that some tours are for over 18s only.
* Wishful thinking
** This should not be confused with the toilet phobia that renders me incapable of peeing when within 100 yards of another individual
*** I had to look this up, but it’s such a beautiful piece of music, I would have had to look it up anyway.
**** Normally I just talk to myself out loud, but I didn’t want my beastie to know I was on to it.
† Part of me just wants to turn this into a fictional ghost story now, but I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m being ridiculous with this blog post, not scare myself silly.