Haunted Scotland: The 5 Best Spooky Real-Life Stories


Did you know that Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Inverness are three of the most haunted places in Scotland? It’s no surprise to discover how haunted Scotland really is when you dig deep into the history of these areas: witch hunts, bloody battles, and murders have all occurred in the main tourist jaunts!

Here are five of the best spooky stories set in Scotland!

1. Edinburgh Castle’s Drummer Boy

Scotland’s most famous castle, nestled on castle rock in Edinburgh, is said to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland. A headless drummer has been spotted roaming the dungeons, with many people reporting the sound of drums coming from the battlements. His appearance is rare and said to foretell danger for the castle!

2. The Disappearance of Deacon Brodie 

William ‘Deacon’ Brodie was once a prominent figure in Edinburgh’s society, but had a secret extracurricular occupation as the leader of a gang of burglars.

Brodie’s final crime that led to his downfall was an armed raid on His Majesty’s Excise Office in Chessel’s Court, on the Canongate. Although Brodie had planned the burglary himself, his accomplices were caught and eventually confessed him as their leader. Brodie made an escape to the Netherlands, but was caught and returned to Edinburgh for Trial. Brodie was found guilty, and his execution was set for 1 October 1788.

His scheming wasn’t over, however. He bribed the hangman to ignore a steel collar he had fitted that he hoped would defeat the noose, allowing him to be revived after the hanging. Despite his contraption, he could not be revived. Ironically, Brodie was hanged by his own invention- a gibbet- which he had recently had a hand redesigning. He proudly boasted to the crowd gathered at his execution that the gallows upon which he was about to die was the most efficient of its kind in existence.

Rumours that Brodie cheated death circulated after he was supposedly spotted in Paris, however it is likely that he actually died on the gallows. It is said that Brodie’s bizarre double-life inspired ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde’.

3. The Burke and Hare Murders 

William Burke and William Hare were two notorious serial killers that went on a spree of killings in Edinburgh in the early 19th century. Back then, Edinburgh was a popular area for anatomical studies.
Dr Robert Knox was one of the leading lecturers during this time, and Scottish law allowed corpses to be used for medical research purposes. When the demand for dead bodies was in short supply for Knox’s dissection classes, Burke and Hare hatched a plan to murder innocents and sell the corpses to him. They murdered a total of 16 people over a period of 10 months, selling each body to the doctor for the grand sum of £7.10.
They were discovered to be the culprits after lodgers discovered the body of Margaret Docherty and contacted the police.
Hare was granted immunity from prosecution when he dobbed his accomplice in. He admitted all 16 murders, and formal charges were made against Burke and his wife. Burke was then sentenced to death by hanging. Ironically, his body was used for a public dissection class and his skeleton is still on display at the Anatomical Musuem of Edinburgh Medical School. A book said to be bound with his tanned skin can be seen at Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh.

4. The Haunted Culloden Moor

When the Catholic King James II and VII of England, Scotland and Ireland was deposed and replaced by a new Protestant king and queen, many Highlanders were unhappy with the new monarchy. The Jacobite Risings, a series of uprisings, wars and rebellions between 1688 and 1746 came as a result, to restore the Scottish monarch back on the throne. It was not to be, however and the Jacobite Risings came to a bloody end at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, near Inverness.

Thousands of highlanders died in the battle, and the battlefield still carries with it an eeriness that many tourists pick up on when visiting Culloden moor.

It has been said that cries, sword clashes and gunfire have all been heard on the battlefield. It is also said that a forlorn looking Highlander haunts the area, murmuring the word ‘defeated’ when he is encountered. Other tales include some visitors encountering the spirits of the Highlanders ‘lying quietly on the ground beneath the cover of tartan.’

The battle of Culloden was the big battle that Jamie and Claire were trying to prevent in the Outlander series during Seasons 1 and 2.

5. The White Lady at St. Andrews Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral in the town of Fife is said to be haunted by 2 ghosts: a friendly monk, who has been encountered on the stairs of St. Rule’s Tower, and the White Lady. For over 200 years people have reported sightings of a woman wearing white gloves strolling around the cathedral ruins! Apparently a team of stonemasons who were repairing St. Rule’s Tower broke through a sealed chamber where they found a number of coffins. In one of the coffins lay the well-preserved body of a young woman, who was wearing white gloves!



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