Edinburgh Vaults

Ghosts of Edinburgh Vaults

A dark history with links to the occult

The Edinburgh Vaults are a series of underground chambers that were built as part of the construction of the South Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 18th century. With strong links to the occult and an abundance of ghost sightings, they are said to be one of the most haunted places in the UK.

Ghosts in Edinburgh Vaults

There have been a number of ghost sightings in the Edinburgh Vaults.

A tall, imposing man wearing a long coat and leather boots has been seen on numerous occasions. He’s been dubbed “Mr. Boots” because of his attire and is an territorial spirit who is very protective of the Vaults.

Visitors to the subterranean tunnels have heard his heavy footsteps echoing through the chambers, whilst others have been told in no uncertain terms to “Get Out!” by his disembodied voice.

Other ghosts include a well dressed man in a top hat and a cobbler, who wanders the Blair Street Vaults.

A young boy called Jack has also been known to grab the hand of visitors and also pull on their clothes.

Across in the Niddry Street Vaults, an evil spirit is also said to reside within the stone circle and has been known to physically attack those that dare to step inside.

Related: Find out what happened when we went on an Underground Ghost Tour at the Edinburgh Vaults

Blair Street Vaults
Edinburgh Vaults. Image Copyright Ghostmag
Edinburgh Vaults
Edinburgh Vaults. Image Copyright GhostMag

History of the Edinburgh Vaults

Although the Edinburgh Vaults were not created until the construction of the South Bridge in the 18th century, the land dates back centuries and has links to the occult and witchcraft.

In 1589, a grand house was built on Niddry’s Wynd by Nicol Uddert, Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

It is said that there were up to 13 cells in the basement of Nicol’s house, where alleged witches were tried and tortured during King James VI’s witch trials.

The house was eventually demolished to make way for the construction of the South Bridge, which was completed in 1788 and built to connect the Old Town and the New Town of Edinburgh.

The vaults were built as a part of the bridge’s structure and were used for storage and to house taverns and workshops for cobblers and tradesmen.

When the vaults were first constructed, they were in high demand and were fully leased out. Theoretically, the vaults were a good idea, however they were not fully waterproofed and the damp conditions, poor ventilation and lack of natural light meant a lot of the traders quickly moved out.

The vaults did not stay empty for long. The poor, homeless and destitute moved in, choosing the shelter of the damp vaults over sleeping rough on the streets above.

Shops and taverns thrived in this strange subterranean world and a whole community of Edinburgh’s lowlife, including thieves, pimps and prostitutes co-existed under the ground. Many are said to have lived and died in the vaults without ever seeing the light of day.

Due to the cramped and unsanitary conditions disease took hold and sadly there were many deaths, particularly during a cholera outbreak in 1828.

Burke and Hare, the infamous body snatchers are also believed to have used the vaults as a hunting ground, taking the bodies of the dead and murdering the prostitutes of the South Bridge to sell to local doctors for the purposes of dissection.

Due to ever-worsening conditions, the vaults were abandoned for a second time by the mid 19th century and were sealed up and forgotten about for nearly 200 years, until they were rediscovered in the 1980s.

Today, the vaults are a popular underground ghost tour attraction which offer a glimpse into a dark chapter of Edinburgh’s past.

Can I visit the Edinburgh Vaults?

There are a number of tour operators that run daily tours into two sections of the vaults.
Auld Reekie Tours have exclusive access to the Niddry Street Vaults, whilst Mercat Tours operate tours in the Blair Street Vaults.
Some of the tours are child friendly, whilst others are adult only with stories of a graphic nature. Due to the historical nature of the vaults, the tours are not wheelchair friendly.

Other Haunted Locations in Edinburgh

If you’re interested in exploring some of Edinburgh’s other most haunted locations, here are some of our suggestions:

Edinburgh Castle: This iconic fortress is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city, with a number of ghost stories associated with it. Visitors have reported seeing the ghost of a piper who went missing in the castle’s tunnels, as well as the ghost of a drummer boy who is said to drum on the castle walls.

Greyfriars Kirkyard: This historic cemetery is said to be one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh, with many visitors reporting strange noises and ghostly sightings. One of the most famous ghosts associated with the cemetery is the “Mackenzie Poltergeist,” a spirit said to haunt the tomb of Sir George Mackenzie, a 17th century lawyer known as “Bloody Mackenzie” for his brutal treatment of prisoners.

Mary King’s Close: This underground network of streets and buildings is said to be one of the most haunted places in the United Kingdom. was built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was buried beneath the city in the 18th century. The close is said to be haunted by the spirits of the people who lived and died there, including the ghost of a young girl named Annie.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle. Copyright GhostMag
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