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The Ghosts of Edinburgh Castle
One of the largest ghost hunts ever conducted results in dozens of strange experiences, unexplained photos... and perhaps more questions than answers.
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Part 2: What the camera saw

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"I would like to know if anyone else out there has had a paranormal experience on the 14th floor of the Contemporary Hotel in Disney World, Florida. One year ago I was staying on the 14th floor with my 11 year old daughter and mother. After we were settled in the room, I went out with the ice bucket to get some ice. The hallway was empty and no one else was there. I suddenly heard whisperings around me - it seemed to be coming from behind me, but when I turned around to look, no one was there."
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Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted spots in Scotland. And Edinburgh itself has been called the most haunted city in all of Europe. On various occasions, visitors to the castle have reported a phantom piper, a headless drummer, the spirits of French prisoners from the Seven Years War and colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War - even the ghost of a dog wandering in the grounds' dog cemetery.

The castle (you can get a tour here) standing magnificently between sea and hills, is a historical fortress, parts of which are more than 900 years old. The cells of its ancient dungeon, the site of uncounted deaths, could very well be an eternal place of unrest for numerous spirits. Other areas of Edinburgh also have ghostly reputations: the subterranean vaults of South Bridge and a disused street called Mary Kings Close where victims of the Black Death plague were sealed up to die.

On April 6 through 17, 2001, these three spots were the subject of one of the largest scientific investigations of the paranormal ever conducted - and the results surprised many of the investigators.

As part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from Hertfordshire University in southeast England, enlisted the help of 240 volunteers to explore the allegedly haunted sites in a 10-day study. Chosen from visitors from around the world, the volunteers were led in groups of 10 through the creepy, damp cellars, chambers and vaults. Wiseman's team came prepared with an array of high-tech "ghostbusting" equipment, such as thermal imagers, geo-magnetic sensors, temperature probes, night vision equipment and digital cameras.

Each of the volunteers was carefully screened. Only those who knew nothing about Edinburgh's legendary hauntings were allowed to participate, yet by the end of the experiment, nearly half reported phenomena that they could not explain.

Wiseman tried to be as scientific as possible about the study. The volunteers were not told which particular cells or vaults had previous claims of strange activity. They were taken to locations with a reputation for being haunted as well as "red herring" vaults that had no history of activity at all. Yet the highest number of paranormal experiences by the volunteers were reported to take place in the very areas that did have the haunted reputations.

Reported experiences included:

  • sudden drops in temperature
  • seeing shadowy figures
  • a feeling of being watched
  • one person reported a burning sensation on the arm
  • an unseen presence touching the face
  • the feeling of something tugging at clothes

Next page > What the camera saw > Page 1, 2

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