It starts even before we go underground.
“There’s an energy here. Someone who’s really anxious and afraid – people were tried here and sentenced to horrible punishments. They were only really just trying to survive.”
I’m here with J, a psychic medium. She’s a clairsentient – who, unlike clairvoyants and clairaudients – doesn’t see or hear spirits, but senses their energies: experiencing their emotions and feelings.
We’re sitting in the ticket office and gift shop of The Real Mary King’s Close, waiting for our alloted tour to begin. J is feeling anxious and unsteady; she’s looking forward to leaving the room due to the energy she’s picking up.
When the time comes for us to descend beneath the cobbled streets of the Royal Mile, she breathes a sigh of relief and we join 15 other visitors to this top-rated Edinburgh attraction.
We’re guided around the dark subterranean warren of Mary King’s Close by Agnes, a costumed tour guide who does an excellent job of explaining the site’s history, bringing the long-dead inhabitants to life with an effective mix of storytelling, information and humour.
As we’re led down the steep incline of the close itself, J again begins to feel things.
“There’s a real oppression in this room,” she says, as we enter a single vaulted chamber, once home to a family of up to eight people.
“Someone here was a real bully. People were scared of him.”
She speaks quietly as we walk between the points on the tour – we’re undercover to an extent, and we’re not wanting to disturb or frighten any of the other visitors.
The feelings subside as we’re taken past a scene where costumed mannequins depict an infamous murder on the close. J feels nothing in particular here as we move further into the dark and dusty tunnels and chambers.
We’re now in one of the highlights of the tour – a long cobbled chamber with a room at one end where a recreation of Edinburgh’s plague victims is on display. Agnes explains the front part of this space was used to keep – and slaughter – cattle.
“It wasn’t just cows killed here,” says J, shivering. “Someone was murdered here, I think. Their spirit’s not here any more, but the residual energy’s still here.”
She mentions she’s feeling nauseous and has a splitting headache as we’re led into the plague room, then we’re taken on to a room where we’re seated and told the Close’s first ghost story.
J feels this is little more than a story, although she does feel the dying man in the tale was visited by a dead relative – and that the rest of the story was based on superstition-based embellishments at the time.
Before long, we’re in the Close’s most famous area of all – Annie’s room. Here, on a previous visit, another medium picked up the spirit of a little girl, who she felt had been left abandoned in the Close by her family after they discovered Annie had contracted the plague.
The room has an atmosphere which even I can feel. One end of the small chamber is piled high with dolls and soft toys, left by visitors in tribute to Annie’s apparently still restless spirit.
J has a smile on her face as we leave the area.
“She was a happy little girl,” she says. “She enjoyed playing with the other children in the close and I don’t think she really understood what was happening to her.
She’s not sad.”
As the fascinating, informative and entertaining tour winds up, Agnes leads us back upstairs. Remembering her feelings of anxiety in the waiting area, J asks Agnes what the room used to be. Both J and I had no idea, and there was nothing in the area we’d seen to indicate its past use.
“It was a court house,” says Agnes, wishing us well as we re-emerge into the welcome warmth and light of the afternoon.
We are happy to be able to offer our readers an exclusive deal with Mary King’s Close to get £1 off the price of admission. Please quote the code RMKCSPOT10 when booking (online only)