MJ STEEL COLLINS looks back on the dark and spooky history of haunted Edinburgh Castle
An imposing pile sat on top of Castle Rock, an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle has featured in several of the main events of Scottish history over the last 1000 or so years. It is actually made up of a complex of buildings; there has been a castle on the site since at least the 12th century, and was a royal residence until 1603 with the union of the crowns with James VI, or I, depending on which side of the border you come from.
Eventful History of Edinburgh Castle
Much of what has happened at the castle down the centuries could fill an encyclopaedia or six, so for the purpose of brevity, here are a few of the highlights: Scottish King William the ‘Lion’ was forced to surrender the castle to English King Henry II in 1174, as part of his deal for release after the English captured him at the Battle of Alnwick. The English held the castle for 12 years, until it was returned to William by marriage. The castle again came under English rule during the Wars of Independence in 1296 following a siege. Edward I of England had most of the castles documents transferred to England. The Scots re-took it in 1314.
Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to the aforementioned James VI at the castle. During the tumult following her abdication, Edinburgh Castle was handed to Regent Moray, who held power in the name of the infant Scottish King. The castle was substantially damaged in a siege in 1573, in yet another skirmish in the post Mary era. Other to-dos the castle was involved in include the Jacobite uprisings and a mass outbreak of prisoners in 1811 that convinced the authorities the castle was unsuitable as a prison.
Edinburgh Castle’s Ghostly Roll Call
The spirits haunting Edinburgh Castle involve no less than the ubiquitous phantom piper, a dog, French prisoners from The Seven Years War, prisoners from the American Revolutions, and several other prisoners held in the dungeons over the years. There is also a ghostly drummer and even Lady Janet Douglas, famous as one of the ghosts of Glamis Castle is said to put in an appearance.
The piper is one of the most mentioned spirits. His story follows the usual tale of going piping down a tunnel, this one supposedly running under the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, and disappearing. He can occasionally be heard creating his infernal racket from time to time. As for the drummer, his origins are unclear. He was first seen before Cromwell took the castle in 1650, and his appearances signal peril for castle.
There is a pet cemetery within the castle, which is where the ghostly dog is said to prowl. Lots of activity takes place in the dungeons, with orbs regularly being reported. One of the ghostly prisoners encountered here includes one unfortunate who tried to make his escape by hiding in a dung barrel. Sadly for him, the dung was emptied over the battlements, and he was killed falling on the rocks below the castle. His ghost has been reported, accompanied by an interesting smell…