Satan's Invisible World: Edinburgh's Underground City of the Dead

There are some extremely creepy places on the planet, and most of them seem to be below ground.

Edinburgh, Scotland, is home to one of the creepiest places of all, with hundreds of years of violent and haunted history reminding residents of their unpleasant heritage.

The place in question is the Underground City of Edinburgh, a series of tunnels, caverns, thoroughfares, and channels cut into the soft sandstone underneath the much harder rock that Old Town Edinburgh (including the Castle) sits upon.

One of the tunnels under the city

It is almost entirely unbelievable that people used to live in these dank, dark caverns, yet they did, for hundreds of years.

The very poor lived cheek-by-jowl with dangerous criminals, forming this overpopulated and dangerous Underground City.

Imagine thousands of people crammed into spaces no larger, and certainly no more liveable, than a stone-hewn garage, with no light, no windows, no sanitation, walls dripping with moisture, closed off from the world living mere feet above your head.

Imagine the claustrophobia, the health risks, and the desperation that would impel you to live in a place this horrible, and you begin to understand what the Underground City was like for its residents.

Economic and social conditions in Edinburgh were so poor for so long, until the Scottish Renaissance in the 1800s which brought intellectual supremacy to an otherwise illiterate and deprived city, that the Underground City was often the only choice many had for housing.

Because it was illegal to be unmarried and pregnant, unwed women fled to the caverns to have their children, often dying in childbirth. Criminals frequented the caverns and tunnels, avoiding the meager law force in existence at the time. When the universities began conducting medical experiments, doctors’ increasing need for cadavers compelled their assistants to plunge into the darkness of the caverns, searching for those who wouldn’t be missed.

Throats were slit, bodies carried off, and the nature of the Underground City made it so that no one would care. In “Satan’s Invisible World,” as the Underground was called as early as 1685 by George Sinclair, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, almost any terrible, amoral deed could be perpetrated, and probably was.

And if the deeds written about never actually happened, they served as morality tales to frighten the Scots against immorality and the evils of poverty.

In the past fifteen years, the tunnels and caverns have begun to be excavated, and rediscovered, largely thanks to the efforts of writer and entrepreneur Jan Andrew Henderson, who saw the profit motive in gaining access to these disturbing vaults.

Bring a working torch!
Bring a working torch!

As a result, he started his own tour company, dragging innocent thrill-seekers down into what is the most disturbing place I have ever been, that’s for sure. The atmosphere of these dark spaces reeks of those who do not rest comfortably in their early graves.

The underground was infamous for its utter disdain for human life, and if you were forced by circumstances to dwell in these tunnels or caverns, you certainly didn’t have long to wait before you shuffled off this mortal coil.

Hendersen has written about the history of the city in his book The Town Below the Ground: Edinburgh’s Legendary Underground City, and he has a website you can check out. These all seem to be the same address, but you’ll find your way. Just be sure to take a torch that actually works. Torches in the underground are famous for going out.

The following picture was taken while down in the vaults the other night. It shows what is possibly the residue of human energy (seen as an “orb,” a rather famous shape that spirits are supposed to take on in photographs).

Now, the underground is reputed to be one of the most haunted places on earth, and let me tell you something: I am pretty sensitive to whatever it is we leave behind us after death. Perhaps we leave behind some kind of energy.

I will attest to the fact that the vaults are disturbing places to be, and I am not one to be easily manipulated into feeling fear.

What I experienced down there was a growing sense of unease, and the sense that I was surrounded by energy, some of it desperately unhappy, but most rather malevolent. So if there are such things as ghostly eminences, which I happen to believe there are, the Underground City has plenty of them.

Multiple orbs indicate more than one emanation or psychic energy source