Exploring the Haunting Echoes of Craiglockhart

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Craiglockhart, a creepy old building in Edinburgh, is central to guest writer JOSS CAMERON’s contribution to John S. Tantalon’s chilling new paranormal collection, Tales from the Crypts of Auld Reekie.

Craiglockhart Hydrotherapy Hospital
Craiglockhart Hydrotherapy Hospital

John S Tantalon’s new book, Tales from the Crypts of Auld Reekie, will be released this month. It the Edinburgh-based paranormal author’s fourth release and his first to feature stories from other guest collaborators. Joss Cameron is an award-winning, Edinburgh-based singer and songwriter.

Her chapter, “Walking in the Footsteps of Ghosts”, features a selection of Scottish folk tales and a personal account of a frightening experience. Here is one frightening one centred around Craiglockhart Hydrotherapy Hospital.

Joss Cameron
Joss Cameron

Walking in the Footsteps of Ghosts at Craiglockhart

In or around 1976, my mother started attending college classes. The location is the Craiglockhart Catholic Training College. The grand building which housed the college has a fascinating history. The building was initially owned by Alexander Monro, Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh University. In 1877, the estate became the Craiglockhart Hydropathic Company’s property, which set about building a hydropathic institute. Between 1916 and 1919, the building was used as a military psychiatric hospital to treat shell-shocked officers.

Among the many patients of Craiglockhart were the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, whose poems appeared in the hospital’s magazine called The Hydra. Wilfred Owen was the editor of the magazine during his stay. Siegfried Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart in response to his “Soldier’s Declaration”, an anti-war letter. He later wrote about his experiences at the hospital in his semi-autobiographical novel.

The horrors from the trenches of World War One left many in a state of unprecedented trauma. The hydrotherapy facilities on offer within the hospital may have aided some, but for many, the trauma of war was all too much for the fractured minds of those involved.

My memories of Craiglockhart are ones of carefree times. I recall the staff being extremely kind and accommodating while my mother attended classes in the building. I was given free rein to explore the substantial property and its roaming grounds. I recall a nun showing incredible kindness and giving me free crisps and juice.

War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon spent time in Craiglockhart Hydropathic Hospital
War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon spent time in Craiglockhart Hydropathic Hospital

During my adventures on the grounds of Craiglockhart, I would play for hours by myself. On one of these occasions, I was drawn to an upstairs section of the main building.

Situated at the top was a large and tall tower, a belfry if you like. From what I recall, it was afternoon, and daylight was still present. The sky darkens in the fading light. The tower, although unspectacular, held my attention that day. After a short while, I realised my gaze was drawn to somebody within the tower; they were watching me from above.

The man stood dressed in a long jacket, perhaps an old-fashioned trench coat. He stood stationary and looked at me with a blank expression. Although a distance away, I could see his sad and expressionless face. As soon as I had broken my gaze and glanced away, the man had gone. I considered that he was now descending the stairs to where I stood below and, with this, fled hastily to locate my mother.

As the months passed, I saw the exact figure in the long coat three times. Each time, the man would stare towards me with a look of sadness. Almost as if he was looking past me and towards something or someone behind me. With every instance that I would check for someone in the vicinity, the man would vanish out of sight.

After a while, I was so bewildered by the man’s presence that I decided to relay the story to my mother. She joined me that day in the confines of Craiglockhart and looked with me towards the tall tower. On this occasion, there was no sign of the man or anybody near the belfry.

My mother took it upon herself to relay the story to the college staff and explained my predicament as to why the man would be standing there. The bewildered staff member insisted that I could only be mistaken. She informed us that the tower section was unoccupied and had been sealed for several years. She would later relay the reason behind the tower closure to my mother.

During the building’s time as a convalescence home, there was an alarming number of recorded fatalities. It is unknown of the exact figure, but several suicides were recorded from the time. The tower was a catalyst in the number of residents dying from jumping from the tower. Staff soon decided to block access to the public to prevent further tragedies from occurring. Could the moribund figure who watched me from the tall belfry have been one of the poor souls to take his own life? Shellshocked beyond repair after experiencing the horrors of war?

I have since attempted to discover if any others with a history from Craiglockhart have witnessed anybody in the tower, but no luck so far. I have read personal accounts of ghost stories from the building, but nobody has recalled the story of the man in the long coat. Who knows! Somebody reading this chapter may have a story to tell. You may have even seen something akin to what I did so many years ago. Maybe you too have walked in the footsteps of ghosts.

Tell us your thoughts about this story in the comments section below!

Tales from the Crypts of Auld Reekie

Tales from the Crypts of Auld Reekie by John S. Tantalon, from Saber Press, is available from North Edinburgh Nightmares website and Amazon.

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