Report: Niddry Street Vaults, Edinburgh

Investigation date: 28th April 2012

Edinburgh is claimed to be one of the most haunted cities in the world. There are stories associated with, not just the Old Town, but different parts of the city that have entered folklore. It is difficult to know where the reality ends and the legend begins except perhaps when dealing with hauntings that happen in the present day.

Dead Zone Paranormal Adventures visited the Niddry Street Vaults on a busy Saturday night in April to carry out an investigation into a possible haunting and to record any paranormal phenomenon that may take place at the location. Niddry Street is situated just of the High Street at the Junction of South Bridge.


Niddry Street VaultsNiddry Street Vaults are built under the South Bridge just off of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. This was formed in the nineteen arches of the bridge and was completed in 1788. For around 30 years the vaults were used to house taverns, cobblers and other tradesmen. It was also used for storage space for illicit material and was also reportedly used to house the bodies of people killed by serial killers Burke and Hare.

When conditions deteriorated due to damp and poor air quality the businesses left and the poorest of Edinburgh’s citizens moved in and it’s thought by 1820 it is believed that they had left. It was only discovered in 1985 during an excavation of the vaults that people had lived in these conditions. This was when middens were found containing toys, plates, medicine bottles and other items such as oyster shells which were seen as a staple part of their diet back then.

When slum dwellers took over the vaults after the businesses had left it became a renowned red light district with countless brothels and pubs. The conditions were appalling. There was no sunlight, running water, no sanitation, poorly circulated air and was also prone to flooding due to no flood defences. The rooms were cramped, dark and damp; many rooms housed families of more than 10 people. Crimes including robbery and murder plagued the vaults. Burke and Hare were also rumoured to have hunted victims in the vaults.

The vaults are individual rooms joined by a main corridor the first vault is the witches worship room which is still used today by a local coven. This is inaccessible but can be viewed from outside the room. Further along is a stone circle vault, it is believed to have been built by witches to contain a poltergeist as they felt it’s presence to be very destructive. Those who dare to walk inside the circle are believed to have bad luck cast upon them.

Reported paranormal activity

Some of the paranormal activity that people have reportedly experienced while in the Vaults includes a man called the watcher who watches from afar also children crying and hushed voices have been heard along with whimpering. Shuffling footsteps have also been heard following groups with people being grabbed there is also a spirit who appears to wish ill intent towards females and the “cobbler” who has been seen watching from the corner of the vaults and lets not forget Mr “Boots” who nudges people and can be heard swearing and clomping on the stone floors. There is also a young boy called “Jack” who giggles from room to room and a spirit called Maggie Dickson.

Our investigation

Niddry Street floor plan
Niddry Street Floor Plan

The Dead zone team for the night consisted of Chris(team leader), Paul A(lead investigator/Tech), Annette(first aider), Darren(investigator), Dionne(investigator),Geoff (Photographer/investigator) and Caroline( Geoff’s partner) and also Paul B(investigator).

We arrived in Niddy street to find it full of revellers from the pubs/clubs just along from the vaults and no where for us to park the cars, Chris quickly contacted the vaults and thankfully we were allowed to drop our equipment off early in the office for safe keeping. After finding somewhere to park the cars we headed for some food before returning to the vaults at 23.45hrs.

There was still a tour group in and it was nearly 00.20hrs before the staff gave us the go a head up the stairs into what was once the student flat through into the vaults. Chris was the first one through and we all followed him into the registration vault this was our hub for the night by the time Greg (Auld reekie staff member) had explained everything to us and we had brought our equipment through it was nearly 00.40hrs.

Chris appointed Caroline to carry out a risk assessment and asked Geoff to accompany her and draw up a floor plan which you can see below. As Geoff and Caroline were walking towards the stocks vault Geoff heard heavy booted footfalls behind them he turned around expecting to see a team member there but the corridor was empty!!!! Caroline also saw someone enter one of the other vaults they both headed towards the vault but found no one. While the risk assessment/floor plan was being done the equipment was all checked and Chris, Paul A and Darren agreed to carry out the baseline readings when Geoff and Caroline returned. Upon returning to the hub Geoff enquired if any of the team had been in the vaults or in the main corridor but none of us had left the hub.

The vaults were mostly in darkness with no power the only light source was the occasional candle in the main corridor and some of the vaults had a candle lit in them. The floor was wet with puddles in places it was also very humid. The baseline readings showed the temperature to range between 11degrees – 13 degrees c, Low but constant EMF readings coming up from the floor on the k2 meter other than that there was no EMF detected with the gauss meter, Using the ghost box we found a radio signal could be picked up on both frequencies in all the vaults. Also the external noise pollution coming through the walls from the pubs on South bridge was high you could hear the music, people’s voices and the vibration could be felt also.

At 01.08hrs while the team was in the hub having some refreshments Chris and Geoff set up a trigger object in the boat vault. The object was a teddy bear toy taped off and covered by a locked off digital camcorder.

At approximately 01.30Hrs Chris left the hub. He then shouted for Geoff to join him in the corridor after stating that he had observed what appeared to be a shadow of a figure standing in the corridor near to the steps outside the Haunted Vault. Chris’s attention was drawn to this area after not being able to see the red lantern light and candle outside the Stocks Vault, which ordinarily would be in full view. Chris, Annette, Geoff and Caroline ventured up the corridor towards the Haunted Vault to investigate this.

Paul ‘A’ and Paul ‘B’ entered the vault next to the hub. It was at this point that they heard a child, possibly a little girl say “Hello There”. Paul ‘B’ responded by asking if there was any spirits with them in the room. They both heard the same voice say “Yes”. Unfortunately they did not have a voice recorder with them to capture this. Darren and Dionne then joined them in the vault to continue the vigil. Whilst this vigil was taking place, Chris, Annette, Caroline and Geoff were holding a vigil in the Haunted Vault. Chris was standing in one of the corners and reported seeing a light anomaly move across the floor towards him. Annette was conducting an experiment using the dowsing rods. She was asking out for any spirits present to cross the rods. It was believed that a spirit named Maggie Dickson was possibly present. The rods did indeed begin to cross in response to the questions being asked. At this point Geoff said that he had felt a cold draft. So Chris moved out of the corner to try and identify the source of the draft. Chris asked out for any spirits to touch one of the group. Geoff asked for them to touch Caroline as she is very sceptical. At this point Caroline was startled after feeling as though she had been touched on the head and hand. Geoff though it may have been a drip of water as the ceiling was quite wet and water was dropping to the floor. Caroline felt her hair saying that it was dry. She also described a feeling of being touched lightly on her hand. After examining her hand and the immediate area no explanation could be found. Soon after this Annette then reported seeing a light anomaly near to the entrance of the vault which then moved out into the corridor. Chris went out to investigate this but was unable to detect anything.

The group then left the Haunted vault and met Paul ‘A’, Darren, Dionne and Paul ‘B’ in the corridor. The voice of the little girl heard in the vault next to the hub was then discussed by all the team we all continued up the corridor to the Stocks Vault. We tried calling out for spirits to come forward and at this point Paul ‘A’ thought he seen someone watching us looking into the vault from the stairs and went to investigate this with Annette but no one was around as the whole team was in the vault. Annette returned to the vault and Darren, Paul ‘B’ and Dionne joined Paul ‘A’ at the stairs into the vault as the red light appeared to dim and brighten on command but it was soon debunked as there was a censor attached to the light.

Niddry Street VaultWhile in the vault Caroline, Geoff and Annette tried communicating with Maggie again on the rods with no success. However! At this point both Geoff and Annette felt something pass between them and seen a large light go past them at the same time. Annette also said something had tugged on her elbow.

It was at this point someone noticed Chris had disappeared no one seen him exit the vault. Geoff, Caroline and Annette joined both Pauls, Darren and Dionne outside the vault and Paul ‘A’ tried contacting Chris on the radio after a few attempts Chris finally responded saying he was in the Hub so we all headed there for refreshments. It was noted at this point that Chris had not been himself since entering the vaults. It was now 02.00hrs.

At 02.15hrs except for Chris and Darren we all headed back up the corridor towards the vaults to attempt more calling out it was during this time we got an unusual EMF spike on the Gauss Meter it lasted about 10 seconds then nothing we continued to investigate this to find a cause but to no avail.

During this time Chris and Darren were sitting on the bench outside the Pagan temple and they both heard heavy footsteps on the floorboards of the passage into the vaults from the toilet and a door being closed. They both new everyone else was in the far end of the vaults so Chris went to investigate thinking it was Greg our host for the night only to find no one and the door from the torture tools display room lying open. Darren and Chris investigated the whole area and found nothing.

Chris and Darren joined everyone else in the far end of the vaults and we all remained there until 02.45hrs with nothing unusual happening we returned to

the hub collecting the camcorder and trigger object from the boat vault on our way by.

Now that the boat vault was no longer locked off it was agreed a vigil should be held in there and at 03.00hrs Annette and Dionne entered this Vault while everyone else remained in the hub. A male cough was heard by them both and there were what appeared to be footsteps in the puddles but no one was moving in the vault. Dionne said she had a pain in her fingers it felt as though they had been amputated or snapped off. There was also a significant drop in temperature. When Dionne seen a shadow at the entrance of the vault both her and Annette decided to head back to the hub as they new they were alone in that area of the vaults and had been there long enough on their own.

Geoff went and placed a voice recorder in the stone circle vault and we tried a group vigil outside the Pagan temple but nothing out of the ordinary was seen or heard. We all headed into the vault where the child was heard placing some k2 meters on the floor we held a group vigil eventually the k2 meters started to light fully up in response to our questioning then just as quickly as it started it stopped. We tried to find an explanation for the meters to give out such a reading but found nothing. We tried this again in various vaults with no response.

It was now 04.40hrs and our time at the vaults was nearly up Chris, Geoff and Paul ‘B’ had one more try in the boat vault both Geoff and Paul could hear singing but Chris heard nothing. We returned to the hub to pack our equipment.


It was an interesting night with nearly all the team having some sort of personal experience. Even though this does not account towards proof or evidence of anything paranormal a personal experience is something that cannot be taken away from the person(s) that had the experience. Yes it could be explained as an over active imagination which is plausible considering the circumstances in which we found ourselves plus the excitement within the team. What must be considered is the fact on numerous occasions more than one person at the same time seen the light, felt something unseen pass them, heard the footsteps on the floor boards and in the vaults, also the cough and the voice of a child.

On exiting the vaults Chris checked with Greg to see if he had been in the entrance area at all during the night, Greg confirmed he had not entered the vaults at all. The video footage only confirmed the excessive noise pollution and continuous EMF reading of 1.5 – 2.5 Mg on the K2 meter which brings us to another question, is the k2 meter subject to sound interference which could cause a misreading being recorded?

There has been some interesting EVP(s) captured on the voice recorders but we still have more recordings to analyse after which we will upload the recordings to our media section in the interactive zone. There was nothing in any of the photos taken.

Since our investigation a few of the team raised the issue of what was wrong with Chris, He has said since he entered the vaults he didn’t feel himself he can remember being in the stocks vault then hearing Paul ‘A’ calling on him on the radio but cannot remember leaving the stocks vault and going to the hub.

Paul ‘A’ was the only team member to bravely stand within the stone circle and since then he has experienced a run of bad luck. Coincidence or is there something more frightening and sinister lurking within that stone circle.

We have left the vaults with more questions than answers our findings are inconclusive well worth another visit.

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