Located in Edinburgh, Scotland is one of the most haunted
locations in the world: Mary Kings Close. Mary Kings Close is a collection of tenements
and winding streets dating back to the 1600s which are now all underground.
When it was functioning, the close was a horrible place to live. Some of the
tenements were up to seven stories high, effectively blocking out any sunlight
from entering the streets below. There was no proper sewage system, so
residents of the close would just dump out all of their waste into the street.
By 1645 there were about 500 people living in and around the close. As a result
of the dirty conditions in which the inhabitants lived, the Black Death soon
spread rapidly. Over half of the population lay dead or dying. In order to
combat the disease it is said that city officials quarantined all of the close
residents into their homes. None, including the healthy, were allowed to leave.
This was effectively a death sentence for all within the close.
Ever since the 17th century the close was thought
to be haunted. People would see strange shadowy figures darting from building
to building. Others have heard the sounds of footsteps echoing down the empty
streets when no one else was around. One ghost that haunts the streets is known
as the Black Lady. Appearing in a black dress, her apparition has been seen by many.
However the most famous ghost to live in the close is a little girl called
Annie. Annie likes to haunt a particular room in the close. She has been seen
by many people appearing sad and lost. Psychic and mediums who have gone into her
room believe that she was actually not a resident of the close. She just
happened to be walking down the street when guards came, pushed her into a home
and quarantined her. Now people leave toys and sweets for Annie in an effort to
cheer her up.
Halloween in Ireland is an adaptation of a much, much older tradition called Samhain, a pagan festival that was held in the deep mid-winter of Celtic Ireland, at a time when the land lay barren and dormant. Quite a far cry from the events, bonfires, and costumes you’ll find at Halloween in 2019!
Our ancestors believed that the gods of the Earth controlled fertility, so they paid homage to them in hope of a fruitful and abundant harvest.
It’s easy with hindsight, to see how that ethereal crossover between the pagan gods and the spirit world got woven into a Christian tradition, which the emigrant Irish carried with them when they left these shores during famine times for America.
What’s harder to reconcile is the huge crass, commercial event Halloween has morphed into all over the world, but then look what they did to Christmas?
Why do we celebrate Halloween?
Although it’s a secular holiday today, Halloween has its roots in ancient religious and spiritual traditions that have evolved over time. The Catholic All Saints’ Day, which remembers saints and martyrs, falls on November 1, and All Souls’ Day, which honors the faithful departed, is November 2—two holidays that have to do with death and the afterlife. The night before All Saints’ Day was called All Hallow’s Eve (“hallow” meaning holy), which turned into “Halloween.”
Spirits are thought to roam the earth
All Saints’ Day was actually originally celebrated in May, but moved to November in the ninth century to incorporate the Celtic holiday of Samhain at the end of October. (Plus, it just makes sense to celebrate the dead in autumn, when the leaves die and fall from the trees.) Samhain, which marked the conclusion of the harvest season, was also the Celtic new year, the end of the summer and the beginning of the dark and deadly season of winter. At this time, the Celts believed, the veil between life and death was at its thinnest, and spirits may travel between the two words.
In the middle of one ritual
soul-sucking, the witches are interrupted by a local boy named Thackery (No,
that’s not a typo, and until I actually sat through the credits in 2009, I
thought all the actors had lisps that only surfaced for the word “Zachary”).