Annie is the ghost of Christmas presents with toys for Sick Kids

HER plight has inspired hundreds of well-wishers to shower her with money and toys.

The tragic story of a sick child has moved visitors at an Edinburgh attraction to donate more than 1000. But no amount of money will be able to help little Annie - because she has been dead for more than 300 years.

The cash has been gathered from visitors to Mary King's Close who were affected by the story of Annie, a girl who is thought to have died of the plague in the underground streets beneath the City Chambers in the 1700s.

And since a psychic claimed to have discovered the ghost of Annie, they have left gifts of money and toys in the room she is said to haunt. But the money will still benefit poorly children as it is being donated to Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

The ghost of Annie was "discovered" by a Japanese psychic in 1993, who claimed to feel a presence when she entered a small room off the part of the underground alleys beneath the Royal Mile known as Allan's Close.

She "communicated" with the spirit and found her to be a young girl, heartbroken because she had lost her doll.

The story goes that Annie had been locked in the room after she fell sick with the plague. The psychic put a doll into her room to comfort her and sensed that she was delighted.

Since then, visitors and tourists have left toys, gifts and money for Annie and more than 1000 has been collected since July. A spokeswoman for the Real Mary King's Close visitor attraction said: "The room has become like a shrine, there are hundreds of gifts and toys.

"In fact, we call it the shrine room, and many people visit the close just to visit that room. It's quite amazing how much the story touches people from all over the world."

It was decided that the Sick Kids Hospital should benefit from the donations as it seemed appropriate because Annie had herself been sick. Joanne Barkey, fundraiser at the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, said: "We are delighted that the children are benefiting from 'Annie's money'.

"I'm sure Annie would be very happy to see the children enjoying lots of little extra comforts while in hospital because of the generosity of visitors to the close."

Ms Barkey said that the money would be going to the TLC campaign, which aims to give the children a small gift when they arrive in hospital or if they have been through an ordeal such as an operation.

"It's just a small present," said Ms Barkey. "But it really helps as a distraction and can help to comfort the child through the distressing time of a stay in hospital."

The money has already been put to good use in the run-up to Christmas. "It seems appropriate as Annie had lost her doll and this money that has been donated will go towards giving children a little something, which is particularly appreciated at this time of year."

The Real Mary King's Close is a series of narrow closes that was partially demolished when the City Chambers, then called the Royal Exchange, was built in 1753.

The lower areas became part of the foundations of the grand building and were sealed off along with their mysterious history.

Rumour has it that people with the plague were left to die in these dark underground streets.

The whole network of streets was opened up to the public in 2003 and since then it has become one of Edinburgh's top tourist attractions.

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