Mary King’s Close
Edinburgh piles higher.
Street layering on street.
Empty cellars decay.
That’s exactly how it happened. Swear I’m telling it true. Did it in the name of science, if you must know. I’m not one to believe such nonsense. They asked for volunteers. ‘Guinea-pigs’ they called us, those scientists, rude little so-and-sos. Thought it might be a lark, the money wasn’t bad neither. But what I saw ... You know of it, I’m sure. A street underground, uncanny place. Lights off and me standing there in the middle of the room. Takes a while for your eyes to get used to that kind of dark. Can’t sleep no more to think of it. Don’t like to close my eyes. The things I see. And hear.
Workmen break through to a forgotten lane.
Footsteps echo on cobblestones.
‘Can’t believe it’s that simple, but the results speak for themselves.’
‘This looks good. Really good. Clever bastard. You might even get into Science.’
‘Maybe, there’s a lot to do—’
‘A lot to do but with funding at least. Meanwhile they probably won’t renew my contract.’
‘I'm going to be at this for months ...’
Dark swellings bloom in armpits and groins.
A man with a bird’s head knocks on a door.
The foul clenger shovels coal on a pyre.
Had me stay in that room an hour. An hour. Miracle I’m still sane. Coulda had a heart-attack or anything. What would those university folk have done then? You’d have your papers all over it. There’d be an uproar there would. I’d heard the stories of course, who hadn’t. Plague. They walled them up in there. Urban legends some say. I would’ve agreed. Not so sure anymore. Horrible to think of it. All of them in there. Dying or dead already. Fingers scratching at the wall. There I go with the shaking again. What’s a body to do? Still got to get up, go to work, I’ve got the dogs, the husband to think of. Haven’t slept in days
Deep in the dark of a body, cells multiply.
Somebody coughs. A baby cries.
Red paint is scrawled on a door.
‘Look at these readings, infrasound here, no way they could hear that. And check this out—see, it’s significantly less humid. That’s where the subjects reported most phenomena. Hell, some actually thought they saw something. A real, physical something.’ ‘Answers some pretty big questions doesn’t it?’ ‘God yeah, people thinking they’ve had a brush with beyond, and it’s just low frequency noise. Christ, the brain is suggestible. Still can’t convince this one lady that she didn’t see a ghost. Pretty creepy though, what she thought she saw. Bit nightmarish.’ ‘The ghost-hunters won’t be happy with you.’ ‘Yeah. They'll be out of a job if this gets published.’
Tiny, legged creatures crawl.
Something bites. An itch. A scratch.
I don’t like to speak of it. Truly, it brings it back into my head, and I know it’ll go round and around in the dark tonight. But if you must know.
It started as a something in the corner, just a heap of rags I’m thinking, but no, it was moving … rustling in a way … as though it were breathing. And the sound. You cannot imagine such a thing; it weren’t natural or good. It was the wrongest thing I ever heard. What was it like? Like … a scratching … but frantic, someone ripping and fretting until they drew blood.
Well … I closed my eyes, thinking it would just go away—if I couldn’t see it then surely it couldn’t be. But then … I felt it … this thing coming up close, and it was dreadful and chill and I didn’t want to open my eyes lest I saw it and went mad. Whatever it was, it was tugging at my coat, in the way of a child wanting attention.
Then the lights were on and it were over. Thanks for your time. Here’s your money, off you go, have a nice life. Went home, made myself a cup of tea, had a bath, to bed, lights off. But in the dark around three, I heard this little sound, a sort of sigh from the darkest corner of the room. And the dogs went rigid, fur standing right on end, a growl in the back of their throats that turned to a whimper. I’m sure I saw something move. Well, I woke the husband, and he had all the lights on, the dogs sniffing round about the place, nothing there, just a pile of dirty laundry. He thinks I’m losing the plot.
But I just can’t help thinking … what if it came home with me?
Wet laundry flutters in the wind.
Night soil trickles down to Nor Loch.
Haunting or Hertz? Environmental disturbance as a causal factor for susceptibility to paranormal experience.
A. Fletcher, L. Chen, & P.W. Hordiski
Here we investigate the effect of environmental conditions on a test subject’s susceptibility to paranormal experiences. A cohort of eighty participants were ‘abandoned’ in different locations in the reportedly ‘haunted’ plague site of Mary King’s Close. Participants installed in areas where significant paranormal phenomena had previously been documented were more likely to record experiences of their own …
Mary King sells lace at her stall.
A rat squeezes through a crack in the wall.
Feature image via 'Art Collection - The Metropolitan Museum of Art'