Monday, February 7, 2011

Shadows in Scotland

In the 1700s, the city of Edinburgh, Scotland was an overcrowded town on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. To create more space, they decided to build down.

The Vaults were originally meant to hold the extra merchandise of businesses, but soon people were living in the dark, airless spaces. Lack of light, ventilation, and sanitation quickly took its toll. Within a few decades, the vaults became uninhabitable. The city filled in the underground caverns, and tried to erase their existence -- along with everything that had happened there.

Legend has it that the famous body snatchers of Edinburgh used the underground vaults. It's no wonder that when the vaults were rediscovered in the 1980s, a series of ghost stories followed.

A few years ago I attended Ghost Fest in Edinburgh, during which a series of tours lead groups through the vaults at night. Some of them used costumed assistants to jump out and scare people, but others relied on the chilled air and squeaking hinges that exist on their own.

Guess which one was more frightening?

As a mystery writer and a fan of mysteries of all kind, I do love hints of the macabre. It's the hints that are the most fun.

Below are two photos of Edinburgh that use light to show the mystery of the city.

 Edinburgh Castle through the trees, taken with a Holga plastic camera.

 An Edinburgh Close, a small alley leading downward. I wonder where it leads...



  1. What delicious pictures! They brought back the city in such a special way. I'm pretty sure I've stood at exactly the same place you were when you took that first picture, and while I don't think I was in that particular close in your second photo, I do remember the eerie claustrophobia of all the closes. That city before the advent of electricity must have been truly creepy at night.

  2. Lovely, mysterious photos Gigi! And a fascinating history, too. I agree that hints of the macabre (or suspense and mystery) are more frightening. It's the anticipation of something bad happening that's worse than the event itself.

  3. Most of the times I've been in Edinburgh have been during the fall or winter, so it's almost always overcast with wonderful atmospheric light.

    And Fran -- yup, that first photo was taken right off of Princes Street.

  4. Gigi, found you through guppies. I LOVE gargoyles .... I think we have similar taste in some of our photography subjects. Instead of gargoyles, I obsess with photographing angel statues.
    I just posted a photo essay, more day of the dead style --- stuff with lots of angels.
    See you on guppies and hopefully we'll both be published mystery writers one day.
    kristi b.

  5. Kristi, I love most anything carved in stone: gargoyles, angels, crumbling castles... Off to to check out your photo essay now!