Six Edinburgh pubs you didn’t know are haunted

Tolbooth Tavern. Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh.
Tolbooth Tavern. Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh.
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SHOULD you fancy a different type of Scottish spirit from whisky and gin, then the capital really does have no shortage of pubs that claim to be haunted.

Unsurprising really given its history, and perhaps part of what makes the city such a magical place to visit.

Exterior of The White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh, June 1983.

Exterior of The White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh, June 1983.

Behind all the cosmopolitan glamour and tourist trappings lies a darker, grimier past that is hidden in cobbled stairwells, claustrophobic vaults and ancient buildings.

We take a look at the history behind six Edinburgh pubs you may not know are haunted:

The White Hart Inn, Edinburgh

(34 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2JU, tel: 0131 226 2806)

Photo of a ghostly apparition from the White Hart 
Inn on the
 Grassmarket.

Photo of a ghostly apparition from the White Hart Inn on the Grassmarket.

ONE of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs – its cellar dates back to 1516 – the White Hart Inn is also undoubtedly its most haunted. Having been around for such a long time, it’s no surprise that the pub has picked up some spooky stories and a ghost or two along the way.

With more spirits roaming its halls than behind the bar, punters have reported having their hair pulled, having chutney bottles thrown at them and cables being pulled within the premises

In 2013, an Australian couple captured what they believe is one of the many spectres that haunts the old Inn.

Bar manager and self-proclaimed sceptic Michael Johnson, 31, said: “I was in on the night the picture was taken and I do find it hard to explain. When I first started here I just laughed off the stories, but things seem to keep happening.

The Last Drop pub in the Grassmarket.

The Last Drop pub in the Grassmarket.

READ MORE - Five parts of Edinburgh you may not know are haunted

“An American tourist a couple of weeks ago came tearing out of the toilets saying that something grabbed his shoulder, one of the barmaids had her hair pulled while changing a barrel, people often hear footsteps upstairs after the bar is closed and our cleaner says he will leave if he has one more strange encounter.”

Scottish Ghost Adventurers spent a night at the bar in 2014, prompted by the picture and managed to record the words “help me” and the name “Connor” being uttered by a mysterious source.

Michael said: “The Scottish Ghost Adventurers set up a lot of equipment downstairs in the oldest part of the building, including an Electronic Voice Phenomenon machine, which seems to have picked up a voice saying “Help me, help me” and then something about a baby. I was upstairs with them the entire time, so I know they didn’t do that themselves.”

Punters men drinking in the Tolbooth Tavern pub in the Canongate Edinburgh, November 1988.

Punters men drinking in the Tolbooth Tavern pub in the Canongate Edinburgh, November 1988.

According to popular myth, Edinburgh’s notorious murdering duo William Burke and William Hare are supposed to have enticed several fellow drinkers away from the old pub to kill them at their nearby lodgings before selling the corpses.

Research carried out since the photo’s discovery had uncovered an unverified drawing of a prostitute dressed in red who is believed to have been killed on the premises during the 1800s.

A second intriguing photo of the supposed ghost was captured in June 2014.

There has also been the sighting of a detached pair of legs followed by a full figure in the centre of the cellar near the fridges.

READ MORE - Five parts of Scotland you didn’t know were cursed

The Banshee Labyrinth

(29 – 35 Niddry St, Edinburgh, Lothian EH1 1LG, tel: 0131 558 8209)

The Banshee Labyrinth describes itself as Scotland’s most haunted pub, with the main spooky antagonist being the eponymous banshee.

Its most famous story is of workmen who were once renovating the pub.

The group were working in the closed pub when they heard a sobbing noise before finding what appeared to be a young woman with her head in hands, crying. When approached, the mysterious female lifted her face to gaze upon the workmen with eyeless sockets, and screamed a blood curdling cry that caused the labourers to flee.

The story has various versions including all of the workmen receiving a call few hours later informing them of the death of a family member.

Sections of the pub were once part of the infamous underground vaults of Edinburgh and this has added to the strange aura of the place, especially given the fact that many people met a grisly end in those cavernous rooms. Other stories tell of unattended pints being launched to the floor or thrown at walls.

The Last Drop Tavern

(74-78 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2JR, tel: 0131 225 4851)

Named after a reference to the last hanging to have occurred in the Grassmarket, the Last Drop has a suitably macabre back story.

Interestingly, the Grassmarket’s gallows were allegedly situated across from the pub and could help explain the high level of supposed paranormal activity in the area.

Their website proclaims that they are allegedly haunted by a little girl in medieval clothing, with sightings of the diminutive spirit occurring in both the cellar and the bar.

Supposedly the mischievous little girl lived in the tenements that were later transformed into the pub. She has apparently been spotted by the bar’s employees over the years and has even supposedly whispered some of their names when they were alone in the building.

Whistlebinkies Live Music Bar

(4-6 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1LL, tel: 0131 557 5114)

Another pub that has been built into the side of the South Bridge Vaults and another that seems to have its fair share of ghost stories.

The most famous of which being that of the entity that has been named “The Watcher”. A mysterious figure who has been seen at several places in the pub but mostly appears in the cellar, he appears to be wearing 17th century clothing with riding boots and a tri-cornered hat. He has been spotted by staff and customers alike and tends to disappear when approached. Apparently he has been known to haunt other parts of the Vaults as well.

The Tolbooth Tavern

(167 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN, tel: 0131 556 5348)

One of the most famous buildings in Edinburgh’s Canongate area, the Tolbooth dates back to the 16th century where it was used to collect tolls from those travelling to the area.

The front of the building became a pub in 1820, which had previously been used as both a Police court and a prison.

Though no singular entity has been named, there are more than a few tales of drinks flying off tables (often full) as well as several other stories of bumps, noises and things being knocked off walls.

Given the building’s long and rich history, it’s perhaps a surprise that there aren’t more stories of the paranormal.

The Starbar

( 1 Northumberland Pl, Edinburgh EH3 6LQ)

For a story that’s a little different from your generic ‘things that go bump in the night’ tale, the Starbar’s owners say they have a clause in their lease that forbids them from removing a human skull from their premises.

According to their website, a previous manager who transferred the skull to another local bar was shot there, during a raid. A group of fitters also had the misfortune of their workshop burning down after they removed the skull, now no-one will dare touch it for fear of the dire consequences.