Mary King’s Close is a fascinating attraction in Edinburgh, and while I’ve never been much of a fan of the paranormal TV series Most Haunted, I did watch a ten year old episode at the weekend purely because the team were in the Close!
I visited the Close myself in March 2012, and it inspired the narrow closes and slum dwelling of the Underground City in The Necromancer’s Apprentice. I left the episode on TV so my mum could see what the Close actually looks like.
As I’m in the planning stages of the sequel, The Necromancer’s Rogue, it also seemed like a good way to ‘revisit’ the inspiration.
Where is Mary King’s Close?
Mary King’s Close lies below the Royal Mile in Edinburgh – a close is simply a narrow street, and a whole network of them makes up the city’s Old Town. This particular close was named for Mary King, a prominent businesswoman who lived in the close in the 1630s.
Originally open to the air, it ran between the Royal Mile and the Nor Loch, now the Princes Street Gardens. It would have been noisy and filthy, with inhabitants emptying their slop buckets into the close twice a day.
The hope was that the rain would wash their sewage down the close into the loch (which was also the city’s water supply).
Mary King’s Close was built over during the 17th century. Some of its floors now form part of the foundations of the Royal Exchange. Many theories exist as to what must have happened in its murky depths, from plague victims being walled up alive, to rampant murder.
Either way, it’s now a tourist attraction, and visitors can explore the weird atmosphere of the four connected closes (Mary King’s, Pearson’s, Stewart’s and Allen’s Closes). As it’s below government buildings, you aren’t allowed to take photos down there, except for a single souvenir photo that they take for you. It’s an infrared photo so it looks a bit weird, but hopefully it’ll give you an idea of how I picture the Closes of the Underground City!
Is it haunted?
I wouldn’t be surprised if it is, but there is something really odd about seeing a street, complete with windows, doors and gas lamps…and no sky above it all.
Apparently some of the buildings reach to seven stories high, so that should give you some idea of the scale of the tenements in the Underground City. Many of the alleys in the Underground City are also called closes, and they’re connected by shadowy passages in which dark beings lurk.
For anyone who wants a taste of the street that inspired the Underground City, or they’re just curious about a buried street in a major city, then you can watch the full episode of Most Haunted on YouTube.
Otherwise you can read some stories set in the Underground City here, or you can buy The Necromancer’s Apprentice on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Barnes & Noble. There is more about The Necromancer’s Apprentice on Goodreads.