What the hell is it? Who let it in?
You may remember the stories I told of the Edinburgh vaults. If you don't, go back and check my other Edinburgh tales I've related this last month. If you like scary stories that is. The next one was a double whammy for me because it was having to do with both the vaults, and a personal some friends of mine had.
If you walk up High Street on Edinburgh, just off North Bridge, you'll see a sign for a group called Auld Reekie Tours. “Auld Reekie” is a nickname for the city. It means “Old Smoky” and it comes from a time when the primary heat and cooking fuel was burning peat. It refers to the time when the city was a darker place. But if you wait by the sign, before too long a cute college student will arrive. Sometimes male but more often female. Always wearing period and gothy clothing. For the promise of a few pounds they will take you around and show you some of the creepy places right in the heart of the city. It's a great tour and when you finally get to the last part and finish being scared in the vaults they exit right into a pub that's partly in the vaults itself.
There you can have a pint to warm you up, settle your nerves from your being spooked, or just because you like having pints in genuine Scottish pubs. But while you're drinking you can reflect on one of the more eerie stories.
Just by the nature of the vaults there are people that are attracted to them. Sure, they aren't a very “healthy” environment, but we all have our dark sides; and some of us truly relish letting them out to play. One such group attracted to the dark element of the vaults was a coven of witches.
Now several of the vaults have been completely explored by archaeologists and cleaned up by engineers. A few enterprising souls have purchased that dank “property” for their own purposes. After all, they are much better for things like tours and storage now that the city has sewers. The coven in question decided to rent one of the vaults from one such “landowner” because they thought it would be a good place for their sabbats.
They moved in and decorated the place appropriately. They hung decorations and placed a magic circle in the middle of the vault. They arranged an altar and the lead of the coven found a huge intimidating mirror they got from a flea market.
All was well, for a while. But then strange things began to happen. Some of the children in the coven told adults they had seen things moving in the mirror. There were reports of people feeling a heavy oppression in the room.
Then the violence started. People in the coven, primarily women, were thrown to the ground or pushed against a wall with a feeling of being struck. People would be marked from the encounter, getting bruises from where they were struck, or scratches from unseen fingernails.
Something had to be done. The leader of the coven made a decision to “stake out” the vault and spend a night there by himself. He would find out what was doing this and then cast the appropriate spells to put it to rest. What he wasn't counting on was the strength of what he was facing. He claimed that after a while he saw moving shadows and felt a cold presence. Then the winds started. Wind, deep underground where there were no immediate exits to the street. He tried a few spells but nothing worked. He had no choice. He felt so threatened that he retreated to the center of the magic circle and chanted prayers of protection. It was the only thing that helped while all outside the circle the dust swirled and dark shapes moved. He spent the night like that, trapped and praying, until morning came and the disturbance settled down.
He sought help from a friend of his who was a medium. He asked her to please come to the coven and help him figure out what he was dealing with so that he could dispel it. She went with him, during daylight, to the vault to have a look. It wasn't long before she found what was wrong.
She saw the source of the problem and pointed at the mirror. “There.” She said. “There's where all of your troubles came from.”
It had long been thought that it could be the mirror was a big part of the problem. After all, it was where the children had first claimed they had seen things. He suggested that maybe if they just removed the mirror that the vault might once again be usable.
“No, you fool!” she said. It wasn't the mirror but what the mirror was on. It had never been removed from it's original mountings: The back of a door. And like it or not, doors are magical symbols. The coven had willingly, foolishly, brought a gateway of unknown origin into their sacred hall. Because they had done so without appropriately consecrating it, they had unwittingly invited whatever wanted to enter a way into this world. And for that reason, they were powerless to tell it to go away.
The coven had no choice. They abandoned that vault and moved to another location for their ceremonies. No one uses that vault for anything permanent anymore. People who spend too much time in there still complain of being hit, pushed or scratched. They take a brief bit of the tours through there, and even though people don't stay in there long there are still occasional complaints.
The only thing that's left in the room is the old magic circle. It's rumored that if you touch or disturb the circle that there is a curse that settles on you. I can say that just about everyone in our tour group avoided the circle like the plague. Everyone except a friend of mine who has to be a smart-ass and self-proclaimed skeptic. He decided to mess around with the circle. Whether this was to be contrary or if he was just interested I'll never know.
Take it for what you will, but I'm a skeptic, too. Just months later he re-acquired a cocaine habit that he had been sober from for more than 20 years, and lost much of his money from it. He was nearly arrested for hitting his girlfriend, and he disassociated himself from many of his friends. I haven't seen him in years and I have no idea where he is.
All I know is that of all the places that were in the vaults that I saw, that one place is the last one where I'd want to be trapped alone.