Ghost Stories: The Great Lafayette

Halloween has arrived! And what better way to enjoy some spooky goings on than with a trip to Edinburgh Horror Festival? Here, you can watch spooky theatre shows, listen to ghost stories and take tours of our historic city’s famous haunted sites.  And, our central city accommodation is a short stroll into the city where you’ll be close to all the action. So, to get you in the mood, here’s the tale of a famous Edinburgh ghost, The Great Lafayette.

Who Was The Great Lafayette?

Magician's gloved hand holding a magic wand

So, who was this man they call The Great Lafayette, you might ask? Sigmund Neuberger, a famous illusionist, was born in Munich in 1871. He was the highest paid magician of his time, wowing global audiences with dramatic illusions and tricks.

The Great Animal Lover

Lafayette was a huge animal lover, and his pride and joy was his cross-bred terrier dog, Beauty, given to him by fellow illusionist Harry Houdini. Treated like royalty, beauty slept on a velvet pillow and wore a diamond encrusted gold collar. Even Lafayette’s home had a separate bedroom for the dog with doggy sofas and a miniature porcelain bath tub.

Grave stone with crow perched next to it

In May 1911, Lafayette brought his tour to Edinburgh for two weeks at the Empire Theatre of Varieties. But, four days into the tour, sadly Beauty the dog died of apoplexy, caused by overeating. A heartbroken Lafayette had the dog embalmed. Then, he was given permission to bury his pet at Piershill Cemetery, provided he would be buried at the same place. Then, in true show business style, the show had to go on.

The Great Fire in Edinburgh

Bright orange flames against a black background

A few days after the death of his dog, Lafayette was performing his spectacular ‘Lion’s Bride’ act where he would swap places with a caged African Lion. Then, as he completed his act and took a bow, a lamp fell over catching the set on fire. Most escaped in the chaos, including Lafayette. But he returned to save his horse and sadly died in the fire, along with ten others. Workers thought they had found his body. However, two days later when they were clearing the burnt down theatre, they found another body in the basement. It turned out to be Lafayette, and the body they originally thought was his, was actually his body double.

Days later, the ashes of Lafayette were carried through the crowd-filled streets of Edinburgh and laid to rest with his beloved Beauty.

The Great Ghost Story

Today, the tale of Lafayette is one of the most famous ghost stories in Edinburgh. Many say that his ghost or dark shadow has regularly been seen in the auditorium of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. And, the sounds of his beloved animals are said to still echo around the venue.

For a chance to spot a ghost, perhaps even The Great Lafayette himself, check out our haunted Edinburgh breaks