We’re celebrating the spooky occasion by presenting to you our latest t-shirt line inspired by cities: Edinburgh.
Though the Scottish capital is known for being full of scenic views and endless charming corners, you may not know that it’s also home to a thriving culture of spooky stories. The tales spun over the years in Auld Reekie go from the twisted tale of Jekyll and Hyde to urban legends that bumps in the city’s ancient streets are because of the plague victims buried underneath.
But the scariest part of all? Some of these stories are true.
Are you feeling the shivers yet? If not, keep on reading…and maybe don’t read this while you’re sitting alone in the dark.
Beware the bodysnatchers
You may also know these grave robbers as “resurrectionists”. Either way, in the early 19th century there were loads of them about Edinburgh doing the dirty work of digging up bodies from graves to be used for unsavoury ends, as well as a few intellectual pursuits.
Yes, intellectual pursuits. At the time, the city was one of the top places to be in Europe to study anatomy. While demand for studying there was high, the supply of available bodies to study was not.
William Burke and William Hare saw a gap in the market, and started “creating” their own corpses….by which we mean murdering people. In under a year, they’d killed 16 people and sold off their bodies for a tidy profit to a local anatomy lecturer.
They were caught, the case went to trial and Hare was given immunity in exchange for testifying against Burke. Burke was found guilty and hanged. His body was then dissected and put on display at Edinburgh Medical School. Poetic justice.
If you are so inclined, you can go see his skeleton today in the very same place.
The cult in the Vaults
Madam Violet and the Hive may sound like an indie rock band, but it’s actually the people behind one of Edinburgh’s creepiest stories.
Madam Violet was a medium and hypnotist who held seances to a group of dedicated followers, who she named her “hive”. During the seances, she would ask guests to donate a bit of blood to help her better connect with the spirits. Each willing donor would drop a bit into a communal goblet. Violet then drank the gruesome concoction.
A few years later on, Madam Violet and the Hive had taken up residence in the Edinburgh Vaults, a series of underground chambers frequently used to store illicit material (Burke and Hare hid their bodies here). They only emerged at night, and took to the city to seduce attractive strangers and try to get them to donate blood.
Though the Vaults were closed after a new inductee died in the bloodletting ritual, they have been reopened and you can visit them today. A tourist recently snapped a picture in the vaults, only to get home and notice a ghostly figure lurking in the background.
Run from the redcaps
Have you had enough of real life scares? These little characters come from Scottish folklore, and are a type of evil goblin said to inhabit the ruins of castles near the border of Scotland and England. Traveller, beware: these creatures pinpoint lonely travellers, and they must kill regularly. Their caps are dyed red with their victims’ blood and they must re-dye them frequently, as if the blood dries out, they die.
Redcaps aren’t the only beasties from local folklore that might want to eat you up. You might run into a kelpie (a water demon in the form of a horse whose favourite pastime is drowning people), a changeling (fairies that abduct babies and replace them), or even the Loch Ness Monster.
Can you hear that noise?
Edinburgh Castle is said to be haunted by the spirit of a little drummer boy. He was sent to explore underground tunnels. As he went along, he played his drum to let the people above ground know where he was.
But the drumming stopped.
Nobody has found any trace of the boy to this date, even though they say you can still hear drumming in parts of the castle.
People have also observed unexplained knocking noises, headless figures and strange floating orbs. Scientists have tried to investigate the mysteries. Surprisingly, they found support that these strange things do really happen….though not the reason why.
Fancy a snack?
You may not believe in the supernatural, but the story of Sawney Bean may be true – unfortunately for the up to 1,000 he and his clan are said to have murdered. Born Alexander Bean just outside of Edinburgh, he went to live in a remote coastal cave with his lover, Black Agnes Douglas. They had 14 children and 32 grandchildren, all with a taste for human flesh.
The Bean clan ambushed unsuspecting victims who were travelling late at night. They stole their possessions, killed them and dragged them back to their cave to eat. Eventually, nearby villagers started to notice body parts washing up on the waterfront and beaches.
But they were caught when a young couple fought back, drawing the attention of a group of people on their way home for a fair. The family as caught and send to Edinburgh’s Tolbooth before being executed.
The good news is some people say he’s just a gruesome urban legend. The bad news? Other say he’s definitely real.
Dancing on graves
Edinburgh has more than a few famous graveyards, but the best known of them all is Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s partly because J.K. Rowling was inspired by some of the names on the gravestones here when she was naming her Harry Potter characters; you can find characters like Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Lord Voldemort).
It’s also because of the creepy happenings that some have seen going on in the graveyard, like coffins that move by themselves and the infamous Mackenzie Poltergeist.
The poltergeist is said to be the spirit of George Mackenzie, a Lord Advocate responsible for the deaths of around 18,000 people for their religious beliefs. He rounded them up and tortured them while they were held captive in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where they were eventually buried. When Mackenzie died, he too wound up six feet under in the same graveyard, just a short distance from his victims.
His vicious side is said to be unleashed in the afterlife by his spirit by those who try to interfere with his remains. People have said they’ve been burned, punched, kicked and scratched by an invisible attacker. Others report feeling nauseous, smelling strange things and hearing knocking noises. The unluckiest of all say the ghost follows them back home.
That wraps up our list of scary tales to inspired by tees. If, despite these stories, you still find yourself in Edinburgh, why not have a drink at the Banshee Labyrinth (said to be haunted by a banshee) or the White Hart Inn (the city’s oldest pub, also reportedly haunted)? If you really want to spot a ghost, the Scotsman Hotel is said to house the ghost of a former printer.
Interested in seeing tees inspired by things perhaps a bit less scary? We’ve got a line dedicated entirely to Scotland’s best fictional characters, one about Manchester’s greatest inventions and another for Coventry.
From all of us here at Printsome, we wish you a very happy Halloween!
Printsome is a creative t-shirt printing agency delivering across the UK, personalising t-shirts from London to Edinburgh and everywhere in between. For a quick chat about t-shirt printing ideas, just get in touch!