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Slightly underwhelmed by the famous South Bridge vaults, Looking For Ghosts decided to cheer ourselves up with a drink. After all, where better to look for ghosts than at the bottom of a bottle? With this in mind, we headed to Whistlebinkies Live Music Bar on the South Bridge to drown our sorrows.
However, to our utter delight, we discovered that Whistlebinkies is a frequent haunt (pun very much intended) of some rather unearthly guests.
Built into the South Bridge vaults, the bar is an underground venue with claustrophobic rooms and cellars which occupy a fair amount of these sinister caverns.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the pub is said to experience some strange activity from not one but TWO resident ghouls. We could hardly believe our luck; we only went in for a couple of white wine spritzers, we weren’t expecting paranormal nirvana!
The first ghost, The Imp, is an unseen but often mischievous entity who apparently likes to wind up the staff. Locking them in cellars, moving stuff around, stopping clocks – this ghost seems like a right laugh. Hilarious stuff! Not at all annoying, we imagine.
Possibly the best trick The Imp has performed is peeling a barmaid’s orange when her back was turned which, if true, is actually quite helpful rather than impish. He should probably be haunting the Del Monte factory, not a pub.
The second entity is menacingly called The Watcher. Less inclined to interact with people than The Imp, the Watcher simply…watches people. With long hair and 17th Century clothing, he’s often seen at Whistelbinkies by staff and customers but he’s also been spotted in other areas of the vaults too. He was even mistaken for a tour guide on one occasion, which was presumably a pretty confusing hour and a half for one group of tourists.
Despite our initial joy, it soon became apparent that neither of these two spectral figures were going to show themselves to us, probably on account of us being English and therefore on the wrong side of the border.
In fact, the scariest thing we encountered at Whistlebinkies was the jukebox, which seemed to alternate between melancholic indie pop one minute to aggressive, American metal the next. Making our excuses, we left with the disappointing impression that much of Edinburgh’s ghoulish past is embellished to dupe suggestible visitors.
We’ve not had much luck searching for spooks in London, so we cast our nets further afield to North of the border. Edinburgh to be more precise. Said to be one of the most haunted cities going.
Whilst in Edinburgh, Looking For Ghosts visited the dreaded South Bridge Vaults. We had previously seen videos featuring such luminaries as Boyzone and Joe Swash visiting the vaults for a right old spookfest and we were intrigued enough to visit ourselves.
We were able to visit the vaults as part of the many ghost tours that are available in the city. A host of ghouls inhabit the vaults; the most prominent being Mr Boots, a bawdy ghost that has been heard swearing and is known to pull and tug at visitors.
Other residents of the vaults are numerous. Every source we checked (our tour guide, books, internet sites, YouTube videos) all seemed to have different stories. This made us wonder how many had been made up for the sake of making the vaults just that little more scary. The ghosts of children suffocating in a fire, the spectre of a jealous woman who only touches females, a spooky hound, the ghost of Chevy Chase’s career. Every paranormal aspect is down in the vaults. And it’s very hard to believe any of it.
One, very plausible, explanation for the amount of paranormal activity here, is the steady stream of traffic that flows above the vaults into the city centre. Vibrations from the roads above leak into the rooms below giving off strange sensations and sounds.
Lighting in the cavernous rooms is just right to make you feel like you’ve just caught a shadow moving in the corner of your eye. While sudden drips from the ceiling and noises in the distance are briefly alarming. However, despite the best theatrical efforts of our guide and the squeamishness of some of the other members of our tour, it was hard to find the vaults spooky. After all, it is a tourist attraction and the tour, however interesting it may be, does feel sterile. The amount of ghost stories told down there by the tour guide also become a bit overwhelming. Ghost overkill, if you like.
We’d like to say we broke back into the vaults later that night and were chased around by Mr Boots et al, but no, at Edinburgh Vaults you can only be spooked on appointment courtesy of an offical tour.