The dark side of Edinburgh


View from Calton Hill. Photo: Elin Larsson.


Alley in Edinburgh. Photo: Elin Larsson

By: Natalija Sako and Elin Larsson

Edinburgh, UK: As the sun sets and a chill moves in on the city of Edinburgh a small group of people start to gather on the street. They are met by a man  holding a red umbrella eager to start a tour that will take them through the graveyards and dungeons of Edinburgh. This is the Dark Side tour; a night time walk through the historical sites in Edinburgh where tourists are told myths and legends of the city and shown where some of the most gruesome crimes took place.

The tour starts with a walk up Calton Hill from where you have an impressive view of the city. As you walk up the green peak the night grows darker and from time to time the guide stops and tells a story connected to the hill. The stories range from myths about fairies to true (?) anecdotes about witch burnings and cannibalistic families that lived on passing travellers. You reach the top of Calton Hill just as the sun sets and this gives you a beautiful panoramic view of the city at night time.


Guide in the middle of a story. Photo: Elin Larsson

The walk continues down Jacob’s ladder, an outside stairway with extremely uneven steps, which are even harder to walk down in complete darkness. As you walk through the dark alleys of the city the guide continues to tell stories, but they now move from mystical creatures on to grave robbers and murderers. You learn that it wasn’t uncommon for people to be buried alive in the 19th century because the law stated that you didn’t need to be medically trained to proclaim someone dead. This law was changed when three grave robbers accidentally woke up a woman while trying to saw her fingers off.


Edinburgh at night. Photo: Elin Larsson

They had wanted to steal the body to sell to the medical school, but since the woman’s rings would be an act of theft (to just steal a dead body was during this time actually not considered a crime), and since her fingers were too fat too pull the rings off the robbers saw no other way but to cut the rings off. The woman woke up screaming, the men were arrested and the change of the law, saying a person had to lack a pulse before proclaimed dead, which hopefully saved the life of a Scot or two.

On the way back to the city center the guide tells you about the famous grave robbers turned murderers. The childhood friends Burke and Hare did during a period of eleven months kill off homeless people, travellers and prostitutes in order to sell their bodies. They were eventually executed and up to today Burke’s skeleton still stands in the medical school in Edinburgh. As the tour comes to an end and you start heading back away from the cold the guide stops at one final site to tell about a man who wanted to be a vampire so much he killed off his only friend and drank his blood. This story becomes the most scary one of the tour when you realize that this bestialic murder actually happened in 2002. Finally, when your body is covered with goosebumps and you can feel the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, the guide ends the tour by taking you into one of the many bars surrounding the old town area, sadly though it is not the Frankenstein bar.

The haunted house:

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