Three Witches

You know the day won’t go well when you can’t find Sainsbury’s, cross the road to ask someone only to find you were standing right outside it at the crossing. We made a shame-faced retreat, remarking how much like an office block it looked. We went through the revolving doors, marvelling how posh the marble foyer was. Sainsbury’s in Cardiff just have security bleepers and teenagers hanging around outside. Turned out, this wasn’t Sainsbury’s. This was an office block. Whoops. Sainsbury’s was next door. Then Cat got stuck in the revolving door on our way out. Being humiliated by a supermarket wasn’t exactly the highlight of the tour. We returned to Travelodge to fetch Ryan and head to the castle. Ryan forgot his coat & had to return for it. We mocked him and continued on our way. Only for Lynx to discover she’d forgotten her camcorder when we weren’t far from the castle so we had to go back for it. By now the group had splintered – Ryan was on the Royal Mile in Games Workshop, Neen was browsing the shops on Princes Street and we were standing outside a shoe shop getting strange looks from the shop girl inside. So we stood staring in through the window just to make the atmosphere inside mildly uncomfortable.

Edinburgh castleWe finally made it to Edinburgh castle and we managed to get Ryan and Neen in for free on our Cadw cards, saving them £16 each 😀 The castle was cool, though we were disappointed it wasn’t like a castle in the traditional sense. It’s made up of old buildings, which are mostly war museums. We pretended to fire the cannons at the peasants below. They screamed a little but their pain didn’t last long. We went to see the Crown Jewels after spending a while sitting outside. We walked 9 and a half miles yesterday and about 4 on Tuesday so our feet, ankles and shins were in agony. Each step was torture.  Over the security guard’s radio, we heard the word ‘camcorder’ and immediately had visions of someone being tackled after using their camcorder in a prohibited zone. After a lunch break, we noticed we were minus our camcorder. Cat had been in charge of it for once. She’d left it on the bench outside the Crown Jewels. Luckily someone handed it in. Yes, the camcorder announcement on the radio wasn’t heralding the take down and imprisonment of a brazen tourist, but the idiocy of us forgetting it. The security guard commented on how long it took us to notice it was missing. (An hour we believe). Yes we’re numptys. We then nearly left our tablet by a guard post but Neen spotted it. The whole time she’s been looking after the tablet it was safe. We take it back and leave it behind. After that we relinquished full guardianship duties of the tablet to Neen. It wasn’t left behind again.Calamityville Horror at Edinburgh castle

We were supposed to do the Mary King’s Close tour at 9 but Neen and us wanted to do the other vaults tour so we could dance in the witches cursed stone circle. Neen phoned and asked if we could do an earlier tour. They said yes so at 5 we headed over. Have to say we weren’t that impressed. The guides on the City of the Dead tours were amazing but this guy was terrible. He was boring, quite rude to people and putting on a terrible Scottish accent for only a few words. Seriously, either do it properly or don’t bother. He even told an old guy off for sitting on a trough. They don’t let you take photos or film purely so they can make money off the souvenir photos which are taken by an IR camera and frankly not great. The street itself was pretty cool but they really need to sort out their guides. And they have speaking portraits which were clever but totally irrelevant to the tour. They had nothing to do with the close, except one and the guide was so wooden at interacting with the portraits it was embarrassing. The Dungeons staff were brilliant at interacting with the props. This guy was pompous, telling everyone how to walk down spiral stairs. There were four steps. We were hardly in danger of killing ourselves. And we’re seasoned in the spiral staircases in castles. You want a dangerous staircase, try Conwy Castle. He was more concerned with telling us how to walk over the flag stone floor than he was at being entertaining. But we’re glad we did the tour, because Mary King’s Close has been a place we’ve wanted to visit for ages and we can now say we’ve been there.

We then headed to Rapido chip shop which served vegan chips. We’d been looking forwards to going there since we found out about it. The chips were delicious, fat, greasy and huge portions.  They tasted like chips you get at the seaside. We returned to Travelodge for a couple of hours before the 10 o’ clock vaults tour. Ryan didn’t want to do another vaults tour and stayed in Travelodge, so if we antagonise the witches and ghosts on the tour, we’re kinda screwed.Rapido fish bar

We left early for our tour because our legs are so sore, normal walking pace is painful. Good job we did because Cat forgot her rucksack and had to run back for it. When we reached the meeting place, almost everyone was smoking. Ych a fie. We hate the smell of smoke so stood upwind from them as much as possible. If you want to kill yourselves, fine, but don’t take the rest of us with you. For once, the men outnumbered the women on the tour. Usually you get couples or if there is a small group, it’s always women. One large group were a group of soldiers. They were all big guys. Let’s see how brave they are in the vaults. If the amount they were smoking was any indicator, they were clearly nervous.

South Bridge vaults

The Wiccan’s circle

This tour was with Auld Reekie and called the Terror Tour. Our guide, Rachel was lovely and had a really cool coat. Our first stop on the tour was the site of the old Tolbooth jail, which was right next to St. Giles cathedral and is marked out by brass bricks in the road. On the pavement is a stone heart. We’ve walked over it plenty of times on our travels, not knowing what it was. Apparently it’s the site of the death cell. It’s considered good luck to spit on it, bad luck to stand on it. She asked if anyone wanted to stand on it to tempt fate for the tour. Naturally, Neen and us leapt on it and danced. Strangely nobody joined us. If they’re not willing to stand on a stone heart, there’s no way in hell they’ll come into the stone circle with us. Rachel then took us to a car park for the Parliament buildings, which used to be the graveyard for the cathedral. One resident, John Knox stated in his will he was never to be moved from his resting place, so he’s the only occupant still there. Under car park space 23 which has a plaque. And last night it had a van on it.

Then it was in to the vaults. These vaults aren’t underground, but are actually in the South Bridge. The first room was the torture room. It was boiling in there. Once we were in the vaults, the first room we spotted was the room belonging to the coven of wiccans. They used to hire a vault further up, but discovered a negative presence was there. As we gathered around the stone circle, Rachel told us not to stand inside. Thinking she was banning us, we were planning to jump in anyway. She told us that one night, the coven leader stayed overnight by himself in order to cleanse the vault. He heard a noise further down the vaults and went to investigate. On returning, he saw the iron gate over the vault was closed. There’s no wind in the vaults. He shouted “show yourself” and heard a crack. The mirror in the corner had a large fracture running through it. He again shouted “show yourself!”

But has never said what happened next.

He asked the boss of Auld Reekie tours not to allow anyone to go into the vaults. But naturally, being an operator of ghost tours, he couldn’t lock up the scariest vault in the bridge. So the wiccans built a stone circle to trap the negative entity inside. Apparently, anyone who goes into the circle is attacked or suffers bad luck. There’s a story that one man had a heart attack while in there. Before Rachel had finished saying “if you want to step inside” we were in the circle like rats on a corpse. We broke out our zumba moves while the rest of the group stared at us. It was either in awe, terror or ‘you pin them down, I’ll fetch the men white coats’. It’s hard to tell in the gloom.

South Bridge vaults stone circle

us in the stone circle

Nobody else joined us. We got Rachel to take a photo of us then a couple of the soldiers, clearly feeling emasculated, reluctantly stepped inside the circle. But they didn’t stay for long. As we left, one of them said to us “if anything happens to us now, we’re hunting you down.” We’re not scared! 😀 One of the soldiers then spent the rest of the time tapping us in the dark in an effort to frighten us. Nice try. We see ourselves first thing in the morning, we don’t scare easily.

The final vault was known as the haunted vault. She had the group separate so the men were on the left, the women on the right. Which meant we got to stand in a big puddle and our boots leak. The reason for this was that the entity in this vault is only felt by women. If women are on the right side, all they feel are soft caresses on their cheeks or their hair being brushed. If they’re on the left, the entity becomes aggressive and they get pushed, scratched, etc. We asked if we could switch sides. She was reluctant, but we ran to the left side and mingled with the men. For some reason, the soldiers moved away from us. None of the other women joined us.

On our way out, Rachel threatened to lock some of us in overnight. We were thrilled and begged her to lock us on. One of the soldiers said “I’d stay overnight, but I’m not staying with those three.” 😀 It’s not often that women who are 5’2” at their tallest, terrify a group of soldiers, who were 6’ plus. It was a definite high point of the evening and is now our joint favourite moment with Ryan’s cross dressing charge. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to film in these vaults so the two best moments of the holiday were not captured 😦

However, it’s been four days since we tempted Fate with the heart and dancing in the cursed stone circle and we weren’t attacked, haven’t dropped dead and haven’t had any bad luck. But this is probably because we are naturally the unluckiest people we know so the entity clearly thought about it and went “you’re screwed enough.”

Dungeon Masters

Before the day could even begin we had to walk to Tesco to find some cold soya milk. On our other holidays we’ve had a cool box full of ice as our portable fridge but we couldn’t exactly take it on the plane, so cue us trekking to Tesco in the rain for a milk mission. It was about a mile from our Travelodge but walking’s cheaper than a bus. We bought bags of ice to put in the sink with our milk and Red Bull. Then regretted it as we had to lug the heavy bags for the mile home. We were going to go to the castle but after that hike and the rain, we decided to go to the dungeons instead. The sun did make an appearance, but by then we had our hearts set on the dungeon.

Edinburgh Dungeons, The Edinburgh Dungeons are amazing! We knew were in for a good time when the first thing you do is pose for a photo. The girl who took our photo (we didn’t get her name) was lovely. Sadly we weren’t allowed to film or take photos, which was a shame because we want to relive it. We were first taken into a room where a judge awaited us. There was a couple on our tour but they weren’t really entering into the spirit of the dungeons. To put it another way, they looked like they’d accidentally taken the wrong turn out of Topshop and were too embarrassed to leave. The girl was the first put on trial, for witchcraft and just stood there, looking like she regretted the ticket price. Had we been called to take the stand we would’ve been proclaiming our innocence and even attempted an escape and body tackle while laying a curse upon people’s houses. Ryan was called to stand so us and Neen started booing him and calling for the death penalty, loudly declaring his guilt. He was put on trial for cross dressing – namely sneaking into Lady Chatterly’s back garden, putting on her pink frilly underwear and dancing around singing “I’m Shirley and I’m a big girly,” whilst slapping his backside. We haven’t laughed that hard in ages. We were in serious danger of rupturing vital organs. We were now really gutted we couldn’t film. This was comedy gold. Ryan was then known as Shirley for the rest of the holiday. It’s nice he gets a new nickname for each holiday, it’s like a souvenir that never gets lost.

The next stage was our punishment – the torture chamber – where a handsome torturer awaited us. Once again Ryan was his victim. There’s something about him that the guides pick up on because every tour we do, he gets picked on. Maybe it’s the Lynx Effect of his deodorant. The torturer demonstrated tongue removal , the chappy chopper (no prizes for guessing what that was used for) then made Ryan bend over the chair for the butcher’s hook. Never seen him look so nervous 😀 Now he was the one looking like he regretted the ticket price as he awkwardly put his hands on the arm of the chair. That was as far as he got to bending over, the spoilsport. Neen and us were the only people who knew exactly what each piece of torture equipment was used for. Anyone would think that had been our favourite part in history lessons. We were put on a boat and sent through the pitch black caves of Galloway. There, we were greeted by the infamous Sawney Bean – the cannibal. He took a liking to the girl on the tour, but she seemed a little freaked out. We moved on to Dr Knox’s anatomy class where his assistant performed an autopsy. We would’ve happily helped him – we’ve seen autopsy programmes, we know what to do.  We got sprayed with water from the fake bladder before being led to a graveyard. We need a graveyard themed room in Casa Raven. We sat on headstone thrones and listened to Burke and Hare talking. It would’ve been nice to have actors portraying them, but being prodded through the thrones to see if we were suitable specimens was pretty cool. We should’ve slouched lower so they could have massaged our aching shoulders.Edinburgh Dungeons

The next part was a replica of Mary King’s Close, where a cloaked man scared the crap out of the couple we were with. The lights would occasionally go out then when they switched back on, he’d stand in front of them. Never heard a guy shriek like that 😀 We thought it was the girl but no, that high pitched squeal of terror contained a Y Chromosome. We were sentenced to hang and given the option of backing out of the drop ride. Neen and us hate heights and hate that type of ride but we wanted the full experience so went on. As the ride went higher and higher we started to regret it. We barely paid attention to the judge delivering the death sentence, we were so nervous. After being told “you will hang from the neck until you are dead,” they pulled the hangman’s lever and we dropped. Weirdly we enjoyed it and there’s an amazing photo of Neen screaming. We got trapped in the hall of mirrors until the guide rescued us. There was one spooky moment when we approached each other, thinking we were nearing a mirror until we both realised we were wearing different clothes. To be fair, it was dark. After we bought our souvenir photos, we took the lift to the gift shop. We would’ve bought the whole place if we weren’t so broke. We loved it so much, we could have happily spent the day doing tour after tour. There needs to be a Cardiff Dungeons. We’d go and work there. Sadly though, Cardiff doesn’t have the same dark and bloody history as Edinburgh. To our knowledge, we’ve never even had a serial killer.

We returned to Greyfriars Kirkyard so we could see it in the day. It’s beautiful. It has stunning monuments that are carved with skulls, skeletons – need we say more? Whilst we were there, an American couple asked if they could take our photo. This is happening with increasing regularity and sadly, it’s not because they know who we are. We all gathered together for the shot then got talking to them. Turned out, he works for the bass player of Matchbox 20, who had just finished a gig in Glasgow. Everyone had flown home, but they decided to head for Edinburgh instead. After the graveyard, we made our way to Black Lion game shop so Ryan could buy some dice. We spent ages in there while he deliberated, so just chatted to the owner.

Camera Obscura, mirror mazeBut we had another place planned – Camera Obscura. It’s filled with optical illusions and the camera obscura, which is a large mirror on the roof of the building, which reflects the city onto a table, allowing us to see the city from above. There was a cool mirror maze which was easier to navigate than the one in the dungeons. There was also a vortex tunnel, which had a metal bridge through a tunnel of lights which spins. It’s very disorienting and we all felt sick. No idea what possessed us to go through a second time.

We made a quick stop at our Travelodge then headed out for our vault tour. We called in to our closest pub – Jekyll and Hyde. Jeykll and Hyde pub, Another awesome pub. It is filled with dark wood, chandeliers, displays of old glass bottles, skulls and an old type writer and an area made to look like a library. Turns out, this was where the toilets were. They were concealed in the library walls. It’s the first time we’ve ever wanted to sit by the toilets. To get to the back section of the pub, you went through a tunnel with horror monsters painted on it. We need pubs like this in Cardiff. Perhaps one day someone will open a Soul Asylum pub in our honour, with cocktails with name like ECT, Insanity or The Lobotomy. The walls could be padded, the tables could be stretchers, the beer garden could be the graveyard, with headstone seats…we haven’t really thought about it.

After a quick drink, we made our way to the vaults. Our guide, Samantha was brilliant. The City of the Dead tour takes you to the Niddry Street vaults known as Damnation Alley. Each tour company has their own section of vaults. On this tour, there are only 3 vaults to go in, but one of them, Vault 19 has the legendary South Bridge entity, who attacks people. We were hoping tonight would be the night he made an appearance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. We hear all these stories of people being attacked on tours and not once has it ever happened on a tour we’ve been on. We got talking to an Australian tourist, who like us, was looking for scary things to do. He seemed nice and stuck with us for the tour. Either because we were the ones with the big light, or so he’d be able to throw us in the path of the entity. Or he figured the entity would be more scared of us and would therefore, attack the less threatening members of the group.

When we were in the vault, our guide had everyone switch off their torches so we were in complete darkness. Having been locked in the punishment cell in Ruthin Gaol, we’re used to being in a room so dark it makes your eyes hurt. But the girls in front of us were clearly scared. They kept switching their torches on. Samantha told us a story about a little girl, Claire, who was on a tour with her mum. The guide’s torch had died and Claire’s mum went to grab her hand, but Claire wasn’t there. After the guide’s torch switched on, Claire was stood in the corner, facing the wall, Blair Witch style. When her mum asked why had she gone, she replied “someone took my hand.” The guide asked if she thought it was her mum. She answered “no, I knew it wasn’t my mum. My mum doesn’t have claws.”Niddry Street Vaults

A guy burst into the vaults, screaming. The girls in front of us freaked out and rushed backwards. We were at the back of the group so were almost trampled. How could they not see that coming? It’s a classic horror technique. Although the scare did relieve some of the tension, the story would have been creepier without it.

We were gutted this tour didn’t have the cursed stone circle, as we were going to dance in it. We’re booked on the Mary King’s Close tour tomorrow, so unless we can change the time, we’ll have to leave the stone circle for another holiday. We finished the night in the Jekyll and Hyde pub before returning to our Travelodge to see if the entity had scratched us. Sadly it hadn’t. But there were more tours  to come…

City of the Dead

Calamityville Horror at Bristol airport

at the airport!

Finally, after months of waiting and planning, the glorious day had arrived. The Edinburgh ghost hunting holiday. The day started well when Ryan got up and couldn’t find his suitcase. Then he went to buy an auxiliary cable and dropped his driving licence in Morrison’s before discovering he had a cable at home. Then he lost his Jaffa Cakes. We threatened to leave him in Edinburgh. The chances of him finding his way back would be slim. We picked Neen up and we were off. Until we realised we’d forgotten something important. The Red Bull. After an emergency dash to ASDA we were set. The trip to Bristol didn’t involve any wrong turns or random swearing outbursts, because Neen is an experienced traveller to Bristol airport and navigated well. You don’t need Sat Nav when you have Neen Nav. We found the car park easily and parked in the dirt field before boarding the old minibus to the airport. Except we both tried going to Arrivals. Our thinking was, ‘we’re arriving at the airport’. Apparently we needed departures. Note to selves – never travel without adult supervision. Oh wait, we’re 30…

When going through security, the guy took one look at us and Neen and laughed. All the jewellery had to come off, including chains on skirts and boots. Then Lynx and Neen were frisked. Ryan filmed it and was promptly told off and made to delete his video. He protested the lack of Photos Prohibited signs, as he stood in front of one. Unfortunately, the ban on photos forbade the glorious photo opportunity. The guy who had seen us through first, laughed at us putting all our jewellery back on. We then bought a Red Bull before buying a range of studded wristbands and a spiked studded tie. Mostly people hang out in duty free. As our flight was called, Lynx realised she’d dropped her boarding pass. A frantic scour discovered it by the ties. Disaster averted. As we headed out to the plane, Lynx filmed it and was asked to delete it. They were too distracted by her filming to notice Cat taking photos right in front of them 😀 Currently typing this on the plane and it is so exciting! We haven’t been on a plane for 17 years. Tonight we do the Greyfriars Kirkyard ghost tour. We can’t wait!

on the plane!

on the plane!

We took a bus to the city centre as we couldn’t afford a taxi. We sat backwards which wasn’t a wise move as Lynx gets travel sick and at any minute, we waited for the man opposite her to be treated to the inner workings of her digestive system. Thankfully, it didn’t happen. The bus dropped us on Princes Street, our Travelodge was on Queen Street, which was quite a walk when you’re laden down with suitcases, rucksacks, crutches and excitement. A woman must have noticed our confused, panicked expressions as she came over to see if we needed help then directed us to Queen Street. Surprisingly we found our Travelodge without tears. Probably because Neen has an incredible sense of direction. This might be the first holiday where we don’t get lost. We’ll have to find some other way to entertain ourselves. After settling into our Travelodge, we headed into town to look for somewhere to eat before the kirkyard tour. We passed a bar called Jekyll and Hyde then found a bar called Frankensteins. Or The World Famous Frankenstein to be exact. Torn between here and a vegan cafe, the lure of a horror themed evening swayed us. The place is amazing! There is Frankenstein-esque design and the cocktails have Frankenstein names such as Dr Frankenstein and The Bride. We ordered The Generator, which is a mix of vodka, cranberry juice, lime and red bull.  And the chips are vegan. We’re in for a great night.Frankensteins pub, Edinbrugh

We met up with the tour by St Giles Cathedral. We’d booked with City of the Dead Tours. Our tour guide Jerry was brilliant. Absolutely nuts but very entertaining, ducking and creeping past the other tour. Neen and us joined in. Ryan pretended he wasn’t with us. He does that a lot. Think we embarrass him or something…The kirkyard had stunning monuments but when we were further in, we looked at the sparse headstones and were thinking ‘this isn’t much of a graveyard. There’s no-one here’. Turned out, during the plague, they built those plague pits. We were in fact standing on half a million dead bodies. The top soil is made up of 2% human remains and every now and again when it rains, bits of bone seep to the surface. But we weren’t allowed to take any home as souvenirs. It’s considered grave robbing, which is still a hanging offence in Scotland and you will be placed under house arrest until hanging comes back into fashion. Like all past nightmares, it’s bound to happen soon. Look at the seventies hairstyles currently assaulting our visual senses.

We were really looking forwards to someone on the tour being attacked by the MacKenzie poltergeist, especially if it happened to one of the C.A.T.S. team. The one thing our show is missing is a violent poltergeist attack.  And Red Bull sponsorship. As the guide talked about the poltergeist, the group started getting more and more nervous. We were getting more and more excited. Then we were led into the Covenanters prison, where the Covenanters were forced to live naked outside for months, with little food and water. We were taken into a tomb and told the story of a tramp disturbing MacKenzie’s mausoleum and waking the poltergeist. Then a guy in a mask leapt in, shrieking. Most of the tour screamed in terror and shot backwards, further into the tomb. Neen and us didn’t even react. Neen had seen him move into position and we’re really hard to scare. Ryan jumped.264

The tour was brilliant, but the jumping out wasn’t necessary. We were in a graveyard at night, that’s haunted by a violent poltergeist. There doesn’t need to be any tricks. We checked ourselves for scratches, bruises and bites when we got back but sadly we were all unharmed. Maybe next time…

Greyfriar's Kirkyard