Today was finally the day. The day we’d been looking forwards to for months. We were going to meet one of the most famous men in Scottish history: William Burke, of Burke and Hare fame, thanks to Iain Campbell at the Anatomy Museum. Most people get excited at seeing celebrities. We get excited at seeing the skeleton of a man executed in 1829 for murder. This may explain why we’re horror writers…
Even though Burke and Hare are known as the most notorious of the Resurrectionists, that’s technically a lie. They didn’t dig anybody up – they murdered 16 people between 1827-1828 and sold their bodies to Doctor Robert Knox to be dissected. Hare then turned King’s evidence on Burke and escaped without punishment, while Burke was hanged before a crowd of 20,000, publicly dissected and his skeleton was put on display in the Anatomy Museum in 1870, where he’s been ever since. Although having now read about the history surrounding the case, we have to say, Hare was the vilest of the two men – Burke at least felt remorse – and yet Hare was the one who got away with it.
One of the reasons we wanted to see Burke’s skeleton (apart from the fact our NaNoWriMo novel is about the Resurrectionists) was because Burke and Hare were the reasons we wanted to visit Edinburgh years ago. We’d had no desire to visit it until we read about them. Suddenly, Edinburgh sounded like a cool place, with its division of Old and New Town. It was years until we’d battled enough of our social anxiety to go, but had we not heard about Burke and Hare, we might never have fallen in love with Edinburgh.
The Anatomy Museum is open to the public on the last Saturday of every month. But we were in Falkirk doing the book signing. When we realised the dates clashed, we emailed the museum, asking if there was any chance we could see him on another day. Our last visit to Edinburgh consisted of us asking at every museum we visited “do you know where Burke’s skeleton is?” We explained that our next book was on the Resurrection Men and that we’d be in Edinburgh doing research for it. We didn’t even expect a reply, so were shocked when Iain emailed back, inviting us for a private viewing on the Monday. We have to say a massive thanks to him for taking the time to let us see Burke. The museum is well worth a visit.
We headed to the Anatomy museum, cases in tow, hoping Iain wouldn’t think we were planning on moving in. Or secretly hoping he’d let us. We ended up taking a roundabout route, but we got there. Probably should’ve studied the route better. But that’s not what we do. We entered the uni after Cat failed to open the door and a student came to her rescue. He must’ve clocked the look of confusion and slight panic on our faces, as he asked what we were looking for. We explained we were looking for the anatomy museum, so he told us where it was – up several flights of stairs. Why can’t our luggage walk like Luggage in Discworld? And eat people. We heaved our luggage up then found the museum. Cat asked in the reception about Iain, so the woman phoned him. It was kinda obvious we didn’t belong in the uni. Not sure it was the suitcases and hiking rucksack or our lack of intelligence shining through like gout.
Iain was lovely and took us up the rest of the way in the staff lift, to save us lugging our suitcases up. We stashed them in the corner of the museum so they wouldn’t become a trip hazard. We talked to him for ages about the Resurrectionsts, our plans for the book and our interest in anatomy. He revealed they’re doing public dissection lectures. Guess what we’ll be doing in Edinburgh next year? 😀 Every year, Edinburgh finds a new excuse for tempting us back. Edinburgh, stop playing games and just admit you love us as much as we love you. Iain let us have as long as we wanted in the museum. There were some students there studying. We were trying to be quiet so we didn’t disturb them, but Lynx’s knee decided to click loudly every time she passed a student. It does the same during EVP sessions when we’re ghost hunting.
We weren’t allowed to take photos, unfortunately. Burke is shorter than we thought he’d be. But it was great to finally meet him. He has 2 wonky toes on his right foot and his middle toe is missing as well as some teeth. Iain told us he once took Burke to France in the back of his car. That would’ve been the best road trip ever! Though we wouldn’t have been able to resist posing with him at all the tourist spots. There was also the skeleton of another murderer, standing back to back with Burke. He was the last person to be dissected. We spent ages looking at all the specimens. The museum sadly isn’t as grand as it once was. There used to be five floors of exhibits, but it all got scaled down and most of their artefacts are in storage, which is a shame. The public need to see it! We were there for over an hour and were sad to leave Burke. It was surreal to finally meet him after spending our last visit to Edinburgh hunting him down like Prince Charming seeking Cinderella. And there he was, one of the most famous murderers in Scottish history, standing before us in a glass case.
We waved goodbye to Burke and headed down Candlemaker Row to the Grassmarket and stopped in a cafe for Tom and Amy to have breakfast then went to the armoury and witchery shop to replace a keyring we lost. The witchery shop has the card case made out of Burke’s skin. In the armoury, they had a Davies (our real surname) coat of arms on a pinbadge! So we bought it. The Davies motto is rubbish: ‘without God, without everything, there is only God.’ We’re adopting ‘we had badass dragons.’ Also bought sword pens and a sword letter opener.
As we weren’t far from St Cuthbert’s, which has a watchtower, we went there. We didn’t think we’d have time to visit the watchtowers – there’s another one in Carlton Hill cemetery – so it was an unexpected bonus. As we’ve never been in Princes Street Gardens, we walked through there to get to St Cuthbert’s. Tom stayed on a bench outside, as his legs were hurting, so us and Amy went exploring. We thought we’d found the watchtower and went right up to the front door, photographing it, but it turned out to be the caretaker’s house. Whoops 😀 There were people camping in the kirkyard! There was a shifty looking guy with a camera, who kept staring at us like we were the shifty looking ones. Avert thy eyes, judgemental sir! There was another part to the graveyard and the watchtower was there. It was built in 1827 to deter the Resurrectionists.
As we headed out to go to Shakeaway, we stopped to have a play in the children’s play park. We all had a go on a hammock and spinning thing then we went on the swinging beam. Amy managed to pick up a playground related head injury on the monkey bars 😀 She swung underneath them and clocked her head on another one. It’s rude to pass playgrounds without going in them. We don’t need kids to access them! There were a couple of parents in there with their kids. We like to think we taught them that just because we’re adults, doesn’t mean we have to be boring.
We had our traditional vegan Redbull milkshakes in Shakeaway then went to Jekyll and Hyde, our joint favourite Edinburgh pub. Amy was asked for ID the minute she walked in 😀 We had the Gluttony and Humility cocktails, Amy had Kindness and Tom had Death. We also had chips. We weren’t hungry, but it was gone 2 o’clock so we thought we ought to eat. The barman had really pretty eyes. We’re suckers for pretty eyes. We amused ourselves in the pub by making up dialogue for the film, Invaders that was playing on mute. That was followed by an old episode of Doctor Who, which we also gave new dialogue, which included a love story involving The Doctor and the baddie’s beard. Some people will shoehorn a love story in anywhere.
We returned to Princes Street Gardens to try to find the genius statue for architecture. After exploring the entire gardens, we couldn’t find it, so we found a stone and posed for our own genius statue. Turned out, we’d walked past the statue twice. (Amy Google Imaged it in the airport) Amy even commented on the statue as we passed it. Epic. Fail. We joked that maybe only true geniuses could find it. That sadly turned out not to be a joke. Why did we not Google Image it while we were there? We’re not geniuses, that’s why.
Made our way to the bus station and got to the airport in plenty of time. Our case was 21.6kg! How was it heavier? We’d sold most of our books! Lynx set off the bleepers, had to go through the body scanner then got a very thorough pat down. The woman should’ve bought her dinner first. She spent a long time pressing Lynx’s ribs, even though the scanner didn’t show any metal there. No, there was nothing hidden there – her ribs stick out, that’s all. As Cat and Amy were grabbing their stuff from the trays, Cat heard a security woman say to two elderly women “I can get you both off at the same time.” Didn’t realise that service was provided in airports. Travelling really opens your eyes! Cat was then assaulted by a woman’s handbag and a guy tripped her with his case, both assaults happening within seconds of each other. If that was Fate’s attempt to take her out, it was a poor effort.
When we got to the gate, we had a go on these shiatsu massage chairs after Tom convinced us they were worth the £1 for 5 minutes. They’re supposed to be relaxing! They friggin’ hurt! It was like being poked really hard! We got pummelled in the ribs and arses. And they crushed our legs, trapping us in the chair. We’re clearly too bony for them. We paid for that torture and spent most of the 5 minutes squealing. Yes, it was filmed. Whereas Tom had a lovely neck rub, as we’re short, the bit that squeezes your neck, tried to crush our skulls. After we got off them, two little kids had a go. They were laughing and claiming the chairs tickled them. Clearly sadists.
Our mum had arranged to meet us outside the airport. We’ve never flown from Cardiff, so weren’t entirely sure how to get out. We headed across the car park and kept going. The roads were deserted. It was like the start to a horror film. We began our holiday by wandering the outside of the airport and it ended the same way. At least we’re consistent.