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What is Mary King's Close?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mary King's Close is said to be one of Scotland's most haunted areas. Situated just off Edinburgh's Royal Mile, Mary King's Close is a real step back in time. The underground close, or street, has a dark history, and since it reopened, it has become a major tourist attraction. It is a draw not only for ghost hunters, but also for anyone wishing to view a real 17th century street.

Edinburgh itself is a city full of small, winding streets and dark alleyways. It is a historic city, and many of the original buildings date back centuries. Mary King's Close is one of the oldest streets now available for the public to view. It is a dark, winding street full of original shops and houses from the 17th century.

Like many Edinburgh streets in the 17th century, conditions were less than sanitary in Mary King's Close. Human waste was simply thrown out of windows onto the street. The inhabitants of the houses were poor, and illness was rife.

During the time when the plague raged in Britain, Scotland lost over a quarter of its population to the disease. Mary King's Close was rife with plague. Legend has it that city leaders decided to take the inhumane action of sealing off Mary King's Close in order to contain the plague that ravaged the inhabitants. Recent research suggests that this is a myth; the close was quarantined, but people were not sealed up to die.

After the plague, life once again resumed in Mary King's Close, mainly due to the cheap rents offered to new tenants. In the 18th century, the close was emptied and permanently sealed up when the City Chambers building was built. It has been reported that the close was rediscovered by workmen digging above the street.

Since Mary King's Close has reopened, thousands of visitors have flocked to the street. Many have been attracted by stories of ghosts, and it has become a regular site for paranormal investigators. The dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of the streets, houses, and shops has also led many visitors to leave the close minutes after entering.

The most famous spectral inhabitant is said to be the ghost of 10-year-old Annie, who died of the plague. Many people have reported feeling her presence, including psychics who have noted temperature changes when entering her room. Visitors to the close now leave dolls and sweets in the room Annie is supposed to haunt. Ghosts aside, Mary King's Close is an excellent historical tour of a forgotten age.

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Discussion Comments
By anon40428 — On Aug 08, 2009

Wow I never knew some of this stuff. I read this remembering a visit and a guided tour of Mary King's Close a few years ago. I personally felt a temperature change in her room after entering it. it was quite scary. to be honest I thought a doctor like one from those ages was going to come through the hotel door and couldn't sleep! It is worth visiting though!

Millie age 11

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