Hauntings: THE VAULTS

The Edinburgh Vaults - History
Edinburgh’s South Bridge was constructed in the late eighteenth century to ease transportation problems in the city. The Bridge consisted of nineteen huge stone arches supporting a wide road lined with several three-storey buildings. A series of ‘Vaults’ (i.e., small chambers, rooms and corridors) were built into the Bridge’s arches to house workshops, storage areas and accommodation for the poor.
However, ineffective water-proofing and overcrowding meant that by the mid-nineteenth century the Vaults had degenerated into a disease-ridden slum. The area was abandoned during the late nineteenth century, but rediscovered and opened for public tours in 1997.
During some of these tours, both members of the public and guides have experienced many unusual phenomena, including, for example, a strong sense of presence, several apparitions and ‘ghostly’ footsteps. As a result, the Vaults have acquired an international reputation for being one of the most haunted parts of Scotland’s capital city.

The Edinburgh Vaults - Investigation
In 2001 Prof Wiseman conducted an investigation into a set of underground vaults in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. This experiment was also carried in collaboration with Dr Caroline Watt and Dr Paul Stevens, Dr Emma Greening, Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, and Dr James Houran.

Some of the underground vaults have a reputation for being haunted and others do not. In this study, participants who were unaware of the reputation of the vaults were asked to stand in a vault and report any unusual phenomena they experienced.

Results revealed that:

- people who believed in ghosts reported more experiences than disbelievers.

- participants consistently reported unusual sensations in the ‘haunted’ vaults.

- there were some correlations between the number of experiences reported in each cell and certain environmental attributes, such as air movement and the visual appearance of the vaults.

Houran, J., Wiseman, R., and Thalbourne, M. (2002). Perceptual-personality characteristics associated with naturalistic haunt experiences. European Journal of Parapsychology, 17, 17-44.

Wiseman, R., Watt, C., Stevens, P., Greening, E. & O'Keeffe, C. (2003). An investigation into alleged 'hauntings'. The British Journal of Psychology, 94, 195-211. download