The Ghosts of the Blair Street Vaults

It’s often said that the Edinburgh Blair Street Vaults are among the most haunted places in the world. Also called the Edinburgh or South Bridge Vaults, this place is made of nineteen chamber arches. Before, these vaults hosted local taverns, shops as well as cobblers. However, they had a dark side. Thieves, murderers, and other eerie figures were also associated with the vaults.

With time, living in the vaults became unsuitable even for the criminals. There was poorly circulated sunlight, sanitation, air as well as running water. In 1860, these conditions were so unbearable that most vaults were emptied and filled with rubble to prevent ongoing criminal activities and flooding.

Today, there are still stirring reports that come from the Blair Street Vaults. In fact, some people believe that the ghosts of these criminals are still present to this very day.

Construction and History

The vaults construction was completed in 1788. Soon, many shops were established, and it became a market place for individuals passing between Old Town and the University. And for thirty years, this place was used by criminals as well as business people to conduct their activities. Street-level of these vaults was mainly for storefronts where visitors could shop in the market and get refreshments at the tavern. Another level was allocated to workshops. There was also another level which was used as living space as it had 120 rooms.

For thirty years, things ran smoothly in the Edinburgh vaults, even for the criminals. However, as the South Bridge Vaults were not properly built, there was a huge flaw that weakened the tunnel walls. Huge cracks began to develop, and there was massive run off which fell into these vaults’ lower levels. For this reason, living in these spaces became almost impossible.

In 1845, Irish immigrants looking for shelter flocked to the Edinburgh vaults. As such, slum lords took advantage of this, and soon after, these vaults were home to many families. You could find as many as ten people living inside these cramped, dark places.

This paved the way for criminal and other immoral activities. Soon brothels, illicit pubs, and other such places were opened. People took advantage of the lack of police officers to practice all kinds of illegal behaviors. Burglary, rape as well as murder cases became normal for people who lived in these vaults. At some point, this place hosted the infamous serial killers, Burke and Hare. These two sold the corpses of their victims to medical schools.

Later, these vaults were closed, although the exact date is unknown. But, they were again reopened, and today, these vaults are being used for tourism.

Ghosts of Edinburgh Vaults

Now, since many deaths, hardships, and murders were conducted in these vaults, it’s normal for the victim’s spirits to be part of them. Individuals who tour this place report abnormal activities, including disembodied voices, blown apparitions, etc. Paranormal investigators say that the Blair Street Vaults are among the most haunted locations in the world.

Jack is a famous spirit that is said to haunt visitors going to this location. He is a young boy, about 6 or 7 years old, who, on many occasions, is reported to grab the hands of tourists in the wine vaults. Those who have seen him say he has curly hair that’s blonde in color. He wears a blue suit with a knickerbocker trousers style.

There is also a chamber called the occult chamber, that was given this name due to many occult practitioners using it. Historians say that this room was a sacred space for several rituals. Some people also say that satanic sects used this area for sacrificing people. There’s a story of a woman who was tortured for days and sacrificed on a square brick.

Mr. Boots is another famous ghost. He is referred to as an evil entity that sacrificed a woman and kept her body in his house. Apparently, Mr. Boots hates it when people visit this area. He is reported to get angry and attack individuals who dare sit where the body was hidden. Visitors say his presence is felt with heavy boots stepping slowly. Some people also claim to have heard his voice.

Other not so terrifying spirit includes The Aristocrat. This one is a well-kept gentleman with a beard and a black hat. He’s often spotted leaning against double-height room and tavern walls. With his arms folded, Aristocrat watches and grins at passersby.

The Cobbler is also another ghost, who from his name, was a shoemaker during his time. He is short and stocky and wears a white shirt and leather apron. He’s not said to be scary. In fact, tourists say he smiles at people when they pass him. Most individuals report having felt his warm, positive presence.

Other creepy stories have also been reported in these vaults. For instance, one of the staff members at an adjoining bar reports of having left an orange on the counter to throw something in the bin for some seconds. And when he looked back, his orange was still where he left it but was perfectly peeled.


As more people toured the vaults, there were many reports of ghosts. This attracted the attention of many curious minds.

Professor Richard Wiseman conducted his research in 2001, on people spending time in the Blair Street Vaults. He reported that those who believed that ghosts existed reported unusual occurrences compared to those who did not believe. He, therefore, concluded that since there were already reports and sightings of peculiar events in these rooms which were believed to be haunted, those participants who felt or saw supernatural happenings had that idea formed into their minds even before visiting these rooms.

But another study conducted in 2003 disputed these conclusions. Debbie McPhail, a BBC reporter at that time, took the Edinburgh Vaults owner into these tunnels for an interview recording. Although this interview wasn’t centered on ghosts, still these spirits made their presence known. McPhail claims that when replaying the recordings, another voice that was not Debbie Mcphail’ or Norrie Rowan’ (owner of these vaults) can be heard instructing them to get out.

Again in 2009, Joe Swash, still working for BBC, spent one night in these vaults. A catholic priests voice is heard reciting last rights for about twenty minutes on Swash’s microphone. However, Joe himself says he didn’t hear anything.

There are many other studies reporting strange happenings. Edinburgh Vaults is a fascinating paranormal tourist location.

For those who are ready for an unforgettable experience, there are many tours and ghost hunts available. These specialists will lead you into these haunted vaults so that you have a first-hand experience of the darkness as well as sadness that occurred in this place.