EDINBURGH’S underground vaults have been described as one of the most haunted places in the world.
Unsubstantiated stories and myths abound about mysterious spectres and mad monks lurking in the cavernous bowels of the city’s Old Town.
Despite the popularity of these spooky tales, little evidence has ever been produced to prove the presence of the paranormal.
But now a radio producer believes she may have recorded proof of the existence of ghostly beings in the Capital.
Debbie McPhail unwittingly recorded a mysterious voice while making a programme in an underground vault when it was supposedly empty.
Mrs McPhail, a features producer for BBC Radio Scotland, took former rugby international Norrie Rowan into some of the reputedly haunted vaults, which he now owns.
The interview they recorded turned out to be unusable because of a sound that could be heard over it, which was later judged to be a mysterious voice speaking in Gaelic.
The radio producer said: "I am a cynical person by nature, especially about this sort of thing, but I just don’t have any explanation for this."
The team used the vault beneath South Bridge as the location for recording a historical programme called Underground Lives, which had nothing to do with ghosts. It was when Mrs McPhail played the tape back that the spooky voice became apparent.
Colleagues who also heard it reckoned the voice could have been in Gaelic, repeatedly saying "get out" or "go away".
Mrs McPhail explained: "I found the place so creepy, I let the presenter go down to do the interview himself.
"When I was listening back to it, I could hear Norrie Rowan [the vault owner] chatting and then I heard another voice.
"It was close by to the microphone because you can tell if voices are far away or not." The 38-year-old added: "I knew it wasn’t the presenter or Norrie because the voice had a slightly Irish accent. But I couldn’t understand why no-one responded to it.
"When the presenter came back up I asked him who they had met in the vault and he said nobody. My husband thought it could be Gaelic and I asked a colleague who spoke the language and she said they could be saying ‘get out’ or ‘go away’.
"I have no reason to doubt it. You could sit forever and make explanations for it, but it’s there on the disc and that’s good enough for me."
Mr Rowan, 51, insisted it would not put him off going back underground.
"The place is supposed to be haunted but I’ve never seen anything down there or heard any strange voices.
"In all the time I’ve spent there I have never seen what you might call a ghost. " And he joked: "I am probably the most scary thing down there ."
Gordon Stewart, assistant director at Mercat Tours, which conducts visits around the vaults by university-trained historians, said there was a high level of unexplained activity.
"It is an unusual story and quite chilling. I think it could be the first time anything like this has been recorded in Edinburgh.
" I’m not saying this proves the existence of ghosts but it is intriguing."
Of the hundreds of reported sightings , the most popular is of the boy who pulls the leg or sleeve of visitors, and Mr Boots, a "nasty piece of work" who has been said to push people, whisper obscenities in their ears and stomp around the vaults’ corridors.
Mr Stewart added: "Psychics have reported a nasty individual occurring there. That would tie in with the voices appearing to shout ‘get out’.
"People who come on our tours have been scratched, had their hands jostled and come into contact with unknown things.
"They often think we have hidden effects or people around who touch them, but that is not the case at all. "
Dr Paul Stevens, a research fellow at Edinburgh University’s Koestler Parapsychology unit, said: " One explanation may be that it’s been picked up by the equipment being used when the man was being interviewed."
He added: "The other explanation is someone could be playing a prank. In addition to that, the vaults are not mapped in places and you don’t know what walls are backing on to.
"At one time someone there thought they were hearing strange sounds, but the wall actually backed on to a massage parlour and that was where the funny noises were coming from.
"It is very creepy down there, so even water dripping can sound like footsteps."