The Infamous Edinburgh Vaults, a guest piece by Catherine Cavendish

“Zakk Madness, The Eyes of Madness. Simple reviews from a simple reader…”

Hello friends, how are you? Today I am honored to have Catherine Cavendish return with another bit of frightful fact and inspiration.

If I may say so, i simply adore when Catt drops in to show me a vignette of the past that I probably should be familiar with but am not. Fascinating and informative.

Thank you Catt, you have a standing reservation here at The Eyes of Madness. And without further ado…


The Infamous Edinburgh Vaults

Used for storing illegal liquor, stolen corpses and all manner of criminal activity, the vaults under Edinburgh’s South Bridge enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as the worst of all possible worlds. Yet it wasn’t always like that.

The chambers were formed in the nineteen arches of the South Bridge which was completed in 1788 and, for around thirty years, provided home for all manner of illegal trade – taverns, cobblers, workshops for different trades and storage space for merchant’s goods. But conditions began to deteriorate and gradually the tradesmen moved out, leaving premises which were soon occupied by the degenerate who opened up illegal gambling dens and unlicensed whisky distilleries, brothels and all manner of seedy enterprises. The whole area grew ever worse, descending into the worst of Edinburgh’s slums. It was rumoured that infamous bodysnatchers Burke and Hare stored their freshly disinterred corpses there overnight (although no actual proof of this has been uncovered to date). Robbery and murder were rife. It is highly likely that some victims were murdered so that their bodies could be sold for anatomical research – Burke and Hare were not the only practitioners and the medical school asked few, if any, questions.

In amongst all this depravity, homeless people lived in wretched conditions – sometimes ten to a room – with no natural light or sanitation and the only running water being that which streamed down the walls of the poorly sealed buildings. By around 1860, even the poorest had left. Eventually, at some point, possibly around 1875, tons of rubble were dumped in the vaults in order to make them inaccessible.

There they lay, largely forgotten, until the 1980s when former Scottish rugby international, Norrie Rowan excavated and found a tunnel which led to them.  More extensive excavations were undertaken by him and his son in the 1990s. In addition to interesting artefacts, they turned up thousands of oyster shells – a staple of the diet of the working class of Edinburgh during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Today, the vaults have been transformed in part and are used for ghost tours and vigils while other parts of the complex are transformed to major venues during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival each August.

Naturally, with such a chequered and sordid history, ghosts linger and are sometimes caught on camera and sound. ActorJoe Swash spent a memorable all night alone during which time voices were detected on his microphone – although he was unaware of them. BBC sound engineers analysed the audio which abruptly ceased after twenty minutes with the sound of children yelling. Their initial theory was that sound had drifted in from outside the vault but this was found not to be the case. It is now believed that possibly the microphone picked up some weak radio signals although it is not certain. 

You can’t simply wander the vaults at will. Mercat Tours hold the licence for conducting ghostly tours underground there. They run a number of differently themed experiences in the evening and also in the comfort of daylight. Visitors have reported all kinds of chills, sights and sounds along with general feelings of unease. The ghosts are a pretty active lot at Blair Street Vaults.

Here’s what to expect from The Haunting of Henderson Close:

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone… 

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released. Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face? The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real. 

The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

– Catherine Cavendish

The Haunting of Henderson Close is available from:


Barnes and Noble

Flame Tree Press

About the author:

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. In addition to The Haunting of Henderson Close, Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plusThe Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine. 

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales. 

You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish





And while you’re here, check out Zakk Madness, The Eyes of Madness, stop by and say hello.






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