Spooktacular Edinburgh Ghost Stories

Edinburgh ghost stories to tell this Halloween

Old ghosts, new ghosts, spectres, poltergeists, ghouls and banshees – you name it, Edinburgh has them all. Our city is known as one of the most haunted in the world. With spooky graveyards filled with tales of tortured souls and wronged victims determined to leave their mark on the living. So in celebration of Halloween, a night when paranormal activity is at its highest, we thought we’d share these Edinburgh ghost stories. Guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.

A spooky image with a misty full moon over Edinburgh Castle
Are you afraid of the dark? Here we share some of Edinburgh’s creepy tales and ghost stories.

The MacKenzie poltergeist in Greyfriars Kirkyard

Perhaps one of the most famous Edinburgh ghost stories, the MacKenzie poltergeist resides in Greyfriars Kirkyard. This malevolent spirit dwells upon the burial ground of plague victims from medieval times.

The tale itself is of a man known as George MacKenzie who worked under King Charles II. He persecuted Scottish Presbyterians, otherwise known as Covenanters. MacKenzie’s work has been attributed to the creation of the world’s first concentration camp – located in a corner of the Greyfriars Kirkyard. His nickname was “Bloody MacKenzie”, as a result of his gleeful love for execution by the gallows.

Since 1999, Greyfriars Kirkyard has seen increasingly chilling paranormal activity. Including an instance of a homeless man fleeing the graveyard shortly after breaking into MacKenzie’s mausoleum. As a result, the Edinburgh City Council chose to close off this particular part of the graveyard, with the exception of a few chosen tour companies.

The gates into Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh
Greyfriars is known as one of the most haunted graveyards in the world.

The headless woman of Bruntsfield

Not too long ago, there was an old, elegant 14-century house by Bruntsfield Links. Lieutenant-General Robertson of Lawers and his staff lived there. And it wasn’t long before one of the General’s servants started complaining about a headless woman carrying a baby. She would appear in his room every night by the fireplace. However, the servant was fond of a drink or two. So the General never gave the complaint much thought.

As time wore on, the servant left the house to find work elsewhere. The room lay empty and the household forgot about the story of the headless woman. But when workers demolished the building a few years later, they found the skeletal remains of a woman and a baby beneath the disgruntled servant’s room. What’s more, the woman’s head was severed off.

Annie’s doll at Mary King’s Close

A network of old streets exists under the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, frozen in time since the Royal Exchange building was built above them in the 1750s. The streets have since been excavated and opened as a visitor attraction, The Real Mary King’s Close. Several sightings of ghosts have been reported here throughout the years. The most famous of which is probably the story of Annie and her doll.

In the 1990s, Aiko Gibo, a Japanese psychic, visited The Real Mary King’s Close. She found it difficult to enter one of the small rooms, saying that the spirit of a young girl was present. She said that the child was called Annie, she had become separated from her family and had lost her doll. So Gibo went to a nearby gift shop and purchased a Barbie-type doll, which she left in the room to comfort her. Over the years, visitors to Mary King’s Close left other toys in the room. So many, in fact, that the attraction regularly donates them to a local children’s charity. However, Gibo’s original doll mysteriously disappeared in 2019.

Mr Boots in the South Bridge Vaults

From one underground tale to another. The arches underneath Edinburgh’s South Bridge are below ground, and were once used as storage chambers, drinking dens and caverns of illegal activity. As a place with such a dark history, it’s not surprising that this is the subject of many a ghost story. The vaults are now closed off to the public, but you can still visit them on an underground tour with Mercat Tours.

A spirit known as Mr Boots or The Watcher is said to haunt one particular area. He wears a dirty blue coat and worn leather boots, and is very protective of the vaults. Visitors and tour guides have reported hearing the words “Get Out” and even being pushed and shoved.

A spookily lit underground dungeon in Edinburgh
Beneath the streets of Edinburgh, lies an underground world, surrounded in myth and legend.

Edinburgh Playhouse’s Albert the stagehand

Are you planning a trip to the theatre? You may just catch another type of show altogether!

At Edinburgh Playhouse, there have been several instances of spotting an ethereal outline. Rumoured to wear a grey coat and create paranormal cold spots throughout the theatre, the origins of the ghost named Albert are unknown. However, there has been some speculation that he was a former stagehand who had an unfortunate accident or a night watchman who committed suicide.

Learmonth Gardens and “The curse of the Pharaoh”

In a respectable house in a respectable part of Edinburgh, a family found themselves on the wrong side of an Egyptian poltergeist. In the mid-1930s, Sir Alexander Seton and his family took a trip to Egypt where Lady Seton brought back a small (and deadly) memento from the Temple of Luxor. When they returned home, they placed the small bone in a glass case in the dining room. Almost immediately, strange and disturbing things started to happen. Crashing sounds, broken ornaments and rooms left in disarray became the norm. And amidst the chaos, a ghostly figure appeared to the family and all who visited.

The Great Lafayette, illusionist extraordinaire

The Great Lafayette, also known as Sigmund Neuberger, was a famous illusionist, who came to Edinburgh in 1911 to perform his latest show, in what is now the Festival Theatre. He died in a fire after an accident on stage, and some say his spirit still haunts the auditorium of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Read the full story in our Great Lafayette blog.

Of course, these are just a few of many Edinburgh ghost stories. Why not stay with us here at Parliament House Hotel on an underground city break and delve deeper into our city’s haunted past?