Site hosted by Build your free website today!

South Bridge And The Vaults

South Bridge was constructed in the late 1700s, on the former site of some mediaeval tenements. The bridge is supported by 19 huge arches, 18 of which were closed in by buildings on either side. As a result, this formed a part of the Underground City. One arch had to be left open to allow the Cowgate below to remain open. The first vehicle to cross the South Bridge was a hearse- the woman who was going to do the first crossing died, and, instead of getting someone else like a normal council would have done, Edinbvrgh Council decided they could have her corpse doing the crossing instead. This got the bridge off to a cursed morbid start, and it never quite managed to shake the reputation. As with all of Edinburgh’s supposedly haunted places, the reputation was nowhere near strong enough to put people off making their homes and shops there. Edinburgh was a very overcrowded area, and the people weren’t stupid. Well, they weren’t that stupid. The top of the bridge was mainly used for retail, but there were also some houses, much bigger than the tenements built in previous centuries. The property prices on the South Bridge were famously a complete joke. How times change. So the South Bridge was inhabited by wealthy people and posh shops, and the poor had to stay behind and rot in overcrowded tenement slums just like usual.

Under the bridge, the closed-in arches were altered so they could be used for cellars and storage spaces, often used for storing wine that had just arrived at Leith from France until it was bought by wine merchants, and, judging by the scraps of leather found on the floor, a cobbler or leather merchant also used the vaults. Some rooms were used as brothels, or for the local Hellfire Club meeting place. The Hellfire Club was an excuse for rich bored people to get drunk and pretend to raise Satan.

However, these vaults had to be abandoned in the 1800s. When they were built, no one had thought to make them waterproof, meaning that there was a severe chance of ending up with a big vaulted paddling pool. And no one wants that.

As was common with Edinburgh’s underground city, the chambers were put into use during WW2 as air raid shelters. And naturally, today, tours go down under South Bridge today. When I was down under South Bridge on the Open Day (big thing where some places in Edinburgh have to let randoms traipse round their workplaces/ places of interest not normally open to the public/ etc etc etc) everything was a lot more focused on history than scaring the crap out of tourists, which made a nice change. (But don’t despair, if you want to get the crap scared out of you in the vaults, there are plenty of tours that will do that too.)

As with the rest of Edinburgh, any visiting psychics can’t move for the vast hordes of spirits in denial about their death. They have manifested themselves in various forms, including a five year old boy named Jack. he runs around, pulls people’s hair and tries to hold their hands. There is also a man who is very pissed off at all the tourists invading his home. he carries a knife or broken bottle, and seems to mean business. There is a woman in a black veil who shoves pregnant women around. It’s like Eastenders down there, only dead. In the former “leather” room, several visitors have reported seeing a cobbler working and watching the tour parties. There are also reported feelings of something like a hawk about to swoop down from the ceiling on one vault. In “The Town Below The Ground”, Jan-Andrew Henderson suggests that the South Bridge vaults featured an early form of the Mackenzie Poltergeist, as one boy had scratches on his arm, put there by Swooping Thingy. There were also several cold spots, a classic poltergeist sign, in the vaults. One vault in particular was the focus for these activities. Some of the tour guides working on the South Bridge vaults at that time later ended up doing the City Of The Dead poltergeist extravaganza tours in Greyfriars. George Mackenzie also once lived in the area where the South Bridge is today, but that really shouldn’t have to be an issue because IT’S NOT MACKENZIE. Another possibly poltergeist-related incident cited in “The Town Below The Ground” is the time when two backpackers were walking down Niddry Street, and saw a light shaft that led down to a vault which had used to be a storeroom. It was meant to be boarded up, but the boards had been pulled up by randoms with nothing better to do. Upon seeing this gaping hole into blackness, they decided it would be interesting to jump down it and wander around. So they did. At least they had thought to bring torches, which waited until they were deep into the vaults and then died. After walking around in the pitch black for a while, without any idea where they were going, they realised it was panic time and started screaming for help and running around like headless chickens. By some miracle, they found the room where they had come in... and realised some helpful person had boarded it back up. Cue more panic, which, luckily for them, could be heard from the street. When they were rescued, they saw each other’s faces in the daylight, and saw there were lines of scratches that looked as if they’d been done by claws. Spelling “Mackenzie Woz Ere”, I’ll bet...