JANUARY :: We share more of our favourite haunted locations, further frightening experiences, and some possible fascinating evidence of the paranormal.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Danger & Death in Las Vegas :: Guest post by author Rae Gee

© Rae Gee
Las Vegas: The place you visit to lose your inhibitions and, if you're unlucky, your cash as well.
It's not a city where you'd expect to find spirits of the non-alcoholic variety. But this oasis in the desert was built on mob money. And, with that money, came the mob's rules on how the city was run. Urban legends abound of mob debtors buried in the foundations of casinos. Bodies have been discovered buried in the desert.
Las Vegas also holds one record that no city wants to have associated with it. It's the suicide capital of the USA with 19 suicides per 100,000 people (the national average is around 12 per 100,000 people). Some of these sad deaths are in relation to the local economy while others have been visitors who've discovered the anonymity Vegas offers is the place for them to spend their final moments.
Because of this, Vegas appears to be a hot bed of ghostly activity. Some of the city's most famous residents are still said to haunt their old... haunts. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, one of Vegas's most infamous mobsters, is still said to reside in the Flamingo, while flamboyant pianist Liberace is apparently still at his old restaurant, Tivoli Gardens. Houdini and Elvis (obviously!) also appear to have found their forever homes in the heart of Las Vegas. 
I had my own paranormal experiences while visiting Las Vegas.
© Rae Gee
Staying on the 25th floor of the Luxor pyramid was unique in more ways than one. The rooms open out onto the hotel's massive atrium, giving a bird's eye view of the food court, check in desks, and entrance. It wasn't uncommon to encounter non-Luxor guests in the elevators, all of them going to the upper floors to take in the view. Music echoes through the large space which, by day, is lit by bright lights. By night, the lights are dimmed a little, giving a more ethereal feeling to one of the largest pyramids outside of Egypt.
I'll admit now that the Luxor is the hotel I've always wanted to stay at. Ever since I started dreaming of Vegas back in the late 1990s, the hotel I saw myself at was the black pyramid of the Las Vegas Strip. So when I had the chance to visit with friends, it was almost like a prophecy when they told me where we'd be staying.
And while it was a lot of fun to meet up with my earthly friends, what was equally interesting were the friends I made in other realms. One in particular stands out and I noticed them on the second day I was there.
When I exited the elevator, I hung a left and walked along one of the hallways that overlooked the atrium before taking another left to my room. On this particular morning, I was returning from the pool. As I stepped out onto the first corridor, I saw something fall into step beside me. The dark shadow caused me to stall before I began walking again. It felt female and never did I feel threatened by it. Instead, the being had a sense of wistful happiness, as though it was now free to spend the rest of its days in a place it had loved.
© Rae Gee
Upon my return to the UK, I spent time researching deaths at the Luxor hotel. Surprisingly, only two people have ever jumped from the open corridors and down in to the atrium (the hotel has seen no need to fit plexi-glass atop the four foot walls that separate people from the immense space beyond them). One of them was a man. And the other was, reportedly, a lady of the night who'd contracted HIV. She took her own life because of her illness and sadly crashed into the buffet. Because of the disease in her bloodstream, the hotel tore down the buffet and replaced it with the food court.
She jumped from the 26th floor, the floor above my own.
Needless to say, I felt comforted by her presence and I'm glad I was able to make contact on some level. One day I hope to go back and have a proper meeting with her.
Las Vegas hosts a haunted tour (which I hope to take the next time I'm there). You can find it here.

Rae Gee 

[Rae Gee is the author of the Veetu Industries series of LGBT steampunk novels, published by Torquere Press. To find out more about Rae Gee and her books, visit, her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter.]


Friday, 14 November 2014

Favourite Haunts :: Edinburgh South Bridge Vaults & Greyfriars Kirkyard

A city beneath the city: Edinburgh Vaults

"There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve only in part." ~ Bram Stoker

Scotland loves a ghost story. The country has all the key ingredients necessary for one: Dark, gloomy skies; a dark and bloody past; old stone towns with old cobbled streets; and an abundant ancient folklore.
It is easy to be consumed by the possibility that ghosts abound as you walk down the Royal Mile, with the fog settling in around you...

Notice by the entry to the Niddry Street Vaults
The history of the Edinburgh vaults is somewhat sketchy. The vaults were initially used as storage for the businesses above, all of which vacated in the 1700s due to the increasingly poor conditions.
When the industrial revolution swung into motion, they became dwellings for the city's poor. Prostitution, murder and other atrocities were rife, and then, rather mysteriously, at some point during the 1800s the residents abandoned the vaults and the whole place was sealed with rubble, and promptly forgotten. It wasn't until the 1980s that they were uncovered, completely by accident.

Edinburgh was a superstitious place at the turn of the 18th century, both of real and imagined harm. The citizens' fear of what the unearthly and supernatural could inflict was exacerbated by their inherent mistrust of the invading English, which resulted in the building of the defensive Flodden Wall, part of which is still visible in the city today in Greyfriars Cemetery.
The enclosed city forced residents to live virtually on top of one another: Rather than expanding out, Edinburgh went up.

When the South Bridge was finally completed in 1788 it was deemed to be an appropriate and fitting honour that the Bridges’ eldest resident, a well known and respected wife of a local Judge, be the first to cross. Unfortunately, she passed away prior to the opening and crossed the bridge entombed in her coffin. Naturally, the superstitious locals pronounced the bridge cursed and subsequently refused to cross it.
Some of the paranormal experiences reported in the vaults include sightings of a man known as "The Watcher"; disembodied footsteps and voices; a small boy referred to as "Jack"; unexplained cold spots and the feeling of unease; and let's not forget the infamous "Mr Boots".

Inspired by these reports, on 30 October this year, the night before Halloween, I booked a City of the Dead tour for both the Niddry Street Vaults and Greyfriars Kirkyard. After weeks of rain, the night was completely clear and calm, and our tour was fully booked with around thirty adult participants.
Whilst the tour was informative from an historical perspective, I was surprised to find the time spent within the Niddry Street Vaults short, uneventful and somewhat disappointing. This may be influenced by my having recently watched the Ghost Adventures paranormal investigation of the Edinburgh Vaults, though: I had imagined them more vast. However, I now know that there are two underground vaults: Blair Street and Niddry Street. In addition, there is also Mary King's Close (an underground close), so I suspect most paranormal investigation shows encompass parts of all three.

Our tour guide was both knowledgeable and humorous, but I found our tour lacked the telling of the ghost stories that you come to expect from a well-organised ghost tour. We did hear one or two, but I found our guide spent more time on Edinburgh's historical past rather than on its ghosts, which I found perplexing since it was almost Halloween.

Niddry Street
However, well before our guide had even mentioned the little boy ghost known as Jack, I had picked up on an unseen presence standing to the back of the group, which I felt to be a child. I could not tell if that child was male or female, only that it was a child of around 5 or 6 years of age.
Was this presence Jack?


On a fine day, Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirkyard is a peaceful place with a fine view of Edinburgh Castle. It houses a well-preserved section of the Flodden Wall, and is surrounded by ornate and impressive mausoleums.
It is also a popular haunt for tourists on the trail of Greyfriars Bobby, a somewhat famous little terrier in Edinburgh's history. A statue of the little canine is located just outside the Kirkyard gates, and it is local belief that touching the terrier's nose will bring good luck.
Greyfriars Kirkyard Gates
Greyfriars Kirkyard dates back to the 1560s. The land, formerly a monastery garden, was given to the city by Mary Queen of Scots to be used as burial grounds to cope with the overcrowding in St Giles churchyard. 
In 1679, following the Battle of Bothwell Brig, 1200 supporters of the National Covenant were brought to Edinburgh. Four hundred were held in Greyfriars Kirkyard in an area now known as the Covenanters Prison. They spent more than four months there, awaiting trial. During this time they had no shelter, and were given a daily food allowance of just 4oz of bread. Conditions were so inhumane that the Covenanters Prison is often described as the world’s first concentration camp.

Greyfriars Kirkyard has also received attention in recent years due to the Harry Potter phenomenon. It is believed that the grave of Thomas Riddell, who died in 1806, and nearby William McGonagall were the inspiration behind JK Rowling's Voldemort and Professer McGonagall. The nearby George Heriot's School is also said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.
Greyfriar's Kirkyard
Paranormal experiences seem to be confined to the Covenanters Prison and the Black Mausoleum. The majority of these seem to be poltergeist activity: Visitors have passed out for seemingly no reason; they have been punched, scratched or tugged.
There have also been reports of shadow people, of cold spots and a feeling of unease upon entering the Covenanters Prison. It is alleged that the malevolent activity started when a homeless man stumbled into Mackenzie's tomb one night seeking shelter, and desecrated the sealed tomb.

Our tour entered Greyfriars Kirkyard after having toured the vaults. The cemetery was still quite active - generally churchyards tend to be a place to avoid late at night, but not so Greyfriars! 
The City of the Dead tours are reportedly the only tour group given access to the Covenanters Prison; due to the alleged poltergeist activity, the council has closed this particular section off from the public.
Our tour guide led us through the prison directly to the Black Mausoleum, which is resting place of George Mackenzie, the man responsible for imprisoning the Covenanters. His mistreatment of the Covenanters led to his nickname "Bluidy (Bloody) Mackenzie". I noted the sudden change in mood of our tour guide, who seemed almost afraid to tell any of the experiences in this particular location. He seemed to be on guard, and the air was decidedly tense.
However, is the ghost reported there really a spirit or poltergeist? Could it be possible that the majority of experiences are actually due to psychokinesis (an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to influence a physical system without actual physical interaction)? I do wonder.
Regardless of who or what is haunting the Covenanters Prison and the Black Mausoleum, our tour group had no disruptions, although I did pick up on a restless energy within the Covenanters Prison upon entering through its gates. Otherwise, I felt quite at peace within the walls of the Black Mausoleum, and whilst I find the mistreatment of the Covenanters to be truly appalling, perhaps this sense of ease had something to do with the fact that I am of Mackenzie blood, after all...

Whilst I could think of nothing more exhilarating than to investigate these locations for myself, by myself, it must be noted that for anyone interested in the ghostly and historical aspects of Edinburgh's past, you need to book a tour to explore its underground vaults, as well as the Covenanters Prison. If I were to go back, I would book a tour that explores the Blair Street vaults and Mary King's Close as well. 
A visit to Edinburgh Castle is also highly recommended, as is Saint Giles Cathedral.
Edinburgh is definitely a city worth visiting, for its ghosts and its history.

Further reading:

The Ghost that Haunted Itself by Jan Andrew Henderson (filled with visitor experiences at Greyfriars)
City of the Dead Tours
Real Mary King's Close

Monday, 10 November 2014

Favourite Haunts :: A Sea of Ghosts on Kangaroo Island (Karta)

Land of the Dead: Kangaroo Island, South Australia
© Ghost & Girl
"Ngurunderi’s final act on earth was to leave instructions for his people, that after death, they should follow his steps to the western end of Kangaroo Island.  There he leapt from a pile of rocks into the sea, where he drowned, but his cleansed spirit rose to the sky, to await the arrival of his descendants."
~ Ngurunderi's Final Action, Ngarrindjeri Dreaming
South Australia's Kangaroo Island lies 112km south-west of the city of Adelaide, and is Australia's third largest island. Today it is inhabited by around 4000 people, most of whom live on the east coast of the island, closest to the mainland. Over half the island is national parks and protected wilderness areas, and the largest of these are found on the island's western end.
The island has been inhabited by Europeans since the early 19th Century. It was sealers, escaped convicts, and awol sailors who first took up casual residency on the island. These were rough, uncouth men, infamous for kidnapping Aboriginal women from Tasmania and the South Australian mainland, to keep as slaves. A number of these women died in their attempts to cross the unforgiving waters surrounding the island to return to their people. Only one woman is known to have survived the journey.
When the island was first occupied by Europeans, they found it uninhabited by Aborigines. However, the presence of Indigenous Australians on the island is undisputed: There is archaeological evidence that suggests Aboriginal people occupied the island as recently as 2000 years ago, but their history on the island stretches back at least 16,000 years. Why the indigenous population chose to leave the island remains a mystery; however, the Aboriginal groups on the mainland refer to Kangaroo Island as "Karta", which means "Land of the Dead", the stories of which is reflected in their Dreaming.
For example, the Ngarrindjeri people regard the island as the place to which the spirit travels after death, where it meets with the ancestral spirits for the final journey into heaven. The Ramindjeri also refer to the island as being the "gateway to star heaven in the Milky Way". It is also said that the ghost of a Ramindjeri woman makes her presence known by appearing to people on the island in the form of a small, native bird.
Weir's Cove, Cape du Couedic, Kangaroo Island
© Ghost & Girl
The island was settled by the British as part of the Colony of South Australia, with the first ship of free settlers arriving at Reeves Point on 27 July 1836. However, a shortage of fresh water and suitable materials for building saw the settlement moved to the mainland less than four years later.
The waters surrounding Kangaroo Island are notoriously treacherous. The island has four lighthouses, all still in operation: Cape Willoughby (1852), Cape Borda (1858), Cape du Couedic (1906), and Cape St Albans (1908). Destructive cliffs make up most of the island's coastline, and the lighthouses have been integral to the safe passage of ships in and around the island for more than 160 years.
Kangaroo Island is infamous for its shipwrecks, with the west coast of the island being particularly unforgiving. One tragedy is that of the Loch Vennachar, which sailed into cliffs off remote West Bay in 1905. All 27 crew on board perished, and only the remains of one sailor was eventually washed ashore, later buried in the silver-grey sand-dunes of the bay.
The island presented a difficult, and sometimes tragic way of life for its inhabitants, too. The island's lighthouse keepers and their families were completely isolated, not just from the mainland, but for a long time there were no roads connecting the lighthouses to the rest of the island. At Cape Borda and Cape du Couedic, supplies were brought in by ship and hauled up the cliff-edge at Harvey's Return and Weir's Cove respectively. Sailors, light-keeper's and their family members make up the island's early dead, the magnitude of which can been seen in cemeteries like that found at Harvey's Return near Cape Borda.
Cottages at Cape du Couedic, Kangaroo Island
© Ghost & Girl
If you believe the reports, it seems that some of these dead continue to wander their island home. The old light-keeper's cottages at Cape Borda are now rented out to visitors as self-contained accommodation, and many who stay report ghostly happenings, which includes the apparition of a small girl in and around the cottages themselves.
The visitor books at Cape du Couedic report similar ghostly activity in and around the old cottages. An "old man" is frequently reported, as are countless tales of strange, unexplained sounds and lights coming from within the cottages, including those that should be empty, and the unshakable, eerie sensation that one is never quite alone, no matter where on the Cape one finds themselves.
It was far too easy for me to relate to this unfathomable sensation of being watched during my own stay at Cape du Couedic. The three charming light-keeper's cottages are set in behind a rise that provides suitable protection from the winds that roar in over the cape, with the lighthouse a short stroll to the top. Renting one of the assistant keeper's cottages in the off-season meant that we were the only two people for miles, surrounded by windblown scrubland on one side, and the brutal mass of the Southern Ocean on the other.
We arrived at the Cape just on sunset. The blinds on the cottage windows were all drawn, and the place appeared to be completely uninhabited - by the living, at least. But from the moment we stepped out of our car and made our way to the cottage entrance, it became undeniable that our first impression of the cape as uninhabited wasn't entirely accurate.
I was completely restless the entire first evening of our stay. Inside the cottage, it felt as though we were constantly watched. I know it sounds terribly cliché, but this sensation was so intense that it made the hairs on the back of my neck remain permanently raised, as if something was hovering just behind me, deliberately staying out of sight. Whenever I looked up, or turned around, or walked out of one room and into another, I could not escape the feeling that at any moment I would find a stranger staring at me from within the shadows.
Then on the first night, not long after I had dozed off, I was woken suddenly by what I thought was someone whispering in my ear: "My name is John..."
I live in an old, stone house, and am therefore familiar with the sounds that old, stone houses make in the night: The pop and crack of the roof and floorboards as the house cools; the knocking of the stones and the rattle of sash windows and doors as it shifts and settles; the howl of the wind as it makes it way down the chimneys. And for the first two nights at Cape du Couedic, the wind howled and the sea crashed in a way that only the Southern Ocean is capable of, and all the noises we heard during those two nights we could confidently say were nothing more than the normal sounds that an old stone cottage makes during nights of wild weather.
On the third night, though, we were blessed with perfect calm. The eerie sensation of being watched and followed had abated, and we found ourselves quite comfortable within the walls of the old assistant keeper's cottage. It made for an undisturbed sleep.
Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island
© Ghost & Girl
However, in the early hours of that last morning, before the sun had even peaked above the horizon, I woke from my slumber, unmoving, but fully awake and alert. Outside it was perfectly still, not even the sound of a bird could be heard. And then, just as it had been reported countless times in the visitor books, there came the sound of movement from the other end of the corridor outside the bedroom: A shuffling, thumping and tapping, the distinct sounds of someone pulling on boots, followed by footsteps proceeding down the hallway to the front door, first becoming louder at their approach, before gently fading away.
The tales of the ghosts of Cape du Couedic do not reveal, nor even hazard a guess at the identity of the spirit whose footsteps are so regularly heard making their way down the hallway in the cottage. I like to think that it is one of the old assistant light-keepers making his early-morning check of the lighthouse.
Whilst it's easy to make assumptions, it's more difficult to confirm if any of the assistant light-keeper's stationed at Cape du Couedic, and resident of the same cottage, were actually named John. It'd be a neat coincidence if there was, though.
Want to know more about Kangaroo Island (Karta)? Try these links: