Mary King's Close is an old Edinburgh close under buildings in the Old Town area of Edinburgh, Scotland. It took its name from one Mary King, daughter of advocate Alexander King, who in the 17th century had owned several properties within the close. The close was partially demolished and buried under the Royal Exchange, and later being closed to the public for many years, the complex became shrouded in myths and urban legends; tales of ghosts and murders, and myths of plague victims being walled up and left to die abounded.
However, new research and archaeological evidence has revealed that the close actually consists of a number of closes which were originally narrow streets with tenement houses on either side, stretching up to seven stories high. Mary King's Close is now a commercial tourist attraction.
The close has had a reputation for hauntings since at least the 17th century. It has been pointed out that this particular close ran the nearest of any to the old Nor Loch, a stagnant and highly polluted marsh; biogas escaping into the close and creating eerie lights may have been the cause for these rumors of spirit hauntings. It is also said that the gas escaping into the closes was known to cause hallucinations. Urban legends say that the hauntings originated with plague victims being quarantined and left to die in the close, or with their bodies being used to build the walls.
Mary King's Close Today:
Mary King's Close was re-opened to the public in April 2003. Now a commercial tourist attraction, 'The Real Mary King's Close' is being displayed as a historically accurate example of life in Edinburgh between the 16th and 19th centuries. One enters the attraction through Warriston's Close and Writer's Court, where a replica sign for "Mary King's Close" has been hung. The attraction actually gives tours of the ruins of several underground close remains: Mary King's, Pearson's, Stewart's and Allen's closes.
Mary King's Close is also the organisation that funds and manages the annual Mary King's Ghost Fest in Edinburgh. This unique and popular award-winning, ten day city wide festival has become a regular favourite on the Edinburgh festival circuit with its strange and quirky events attracting visitors from throughout Scotland, the U.K. and overseas in May each year. This unusual, off-peak festival sets out to explore and uncover more about the dark tales and strange paranormal activity for which Edinburgh is internationally renowned.