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Ghoul vibrations

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Thann Lowery
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« on: September 29, 2007, 02:14:51 am »

Ghoul vibrations
GABY SOUTAR

 
EVER had the feeling that someone just walked over your grave? Ever sensed an eerie presence nearby that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Don't worry, if you live in the capital these experiences are easily explained - for Edinburgh is perhaps the most haunted city in the world, its past blacker than murkiest black. How could you fail to feel a shiver down your spine when around every dark corner in the Old Town there's an old hanging, witch ducking or plague site? And, thanks to the likes of body-snatching double act Burke and Hare, there's now a cottage industry of tours specially designed to give you the heebie-jeebies.

If you're a fan of this kind of thing, Edinburgh Ghost Fest, the city's ultimate celebration of the ghoulish and spooky, is for you. This annual event - this year, taking place from 11 to 20 May - has been growing since its first incarnation in 2004, steadily adding venues and events.

"It will be the biggest festival yet. We've got partners like Mercat Tours and Black Hart, who run the City of the Dead tours, and more events than ever before," says Emma Johnson, of the Real Mary King's Close tour company. "The festival has been growing each year and, this time round, people have lots to choose from as it's running for more than ten days."

Why did they pick the cheerful, sunny month of May to celebrate Edinburgh's ghostly denizens, and not a date nearer Halloween or the bleak mid-winter? "The dates were decided so that the first festival would open on Friday the 13th, and we have to wait another seven years for that to happen again," Johnson explains. "It's worked out well, though, as it's a great pre-Edinburgh International Festival event."

The programme promises a mix of blood-curdling day and evening activities, from horror film screenings to paranormal science - the serious study of "ghostly" phenomena. One of the festival's main players is clinical psychologist and star of Living TV's popular Most Haunted series, Dr Ciaran O'Keefe, who could be described as a bit of a sceptic. Dr O'Keefe and parascience expert Steve Parsons will be conducting a few experiments in Mary King's Close to try to determine if low-level infrasound is responsible for many of the sensations experienced in the underground street - such as temperature drops and tingling, when people report what they think is paranormal activity.

Another experiment will be conducted using Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). At the event last year, Johnson felt genuinely spooked by what she experienced. "If you've seen the film White Noise you'll understand what EVP is. An audio recording is made in a haunted area in an attempt to capture ghost voices and then we play it back. Last year the results were incredible, really very scary. Although some of the tape just sounded like background noise, some of the other sounds are very clear. We recorded in Mary King's Close and we could quite clearly hear someone saying, 'Get out!'"

Although we're not guaranteed that ghosts will be in the mood for chatting, this year EVP events are taking place at a number of sites, so you could be in with a good chance of hearing a voice from beyond the grave. At the lair of the infamous Mackenzie poltergeist at the Covenanters' Prison, members of the EVP team will ask a series of questions in an attempt to elicit information from any spirits present.

The recordings will be immediately transferred onto laptops for instant playback and analysis.

At the underground Blair Street Vaults members of the investigation team from ghost-hunting group Scottish Paranormal, along with Most Haunted's historian, Richard Felix, will be conducting investigations using a range of heat and sound detectors, in the presence of psychics and mediums.

If nerves or high blood pressure mean such experiences could finish you off, however, there are more gentle cultural activities on the agenda.

A series of events called "Writers with Bite!" will feature readings, walking tours, book signings and talks by authors who have been influenced by Edinburgh's dark side. Participants include detective-fiction writer Alanna Wright, fantasy writer Debbie Miller and Gavin Inglis, author of the irreverent short-story collection Crap Ghosts, all of whom will be giving relaxed talks. The literary Jekyll and Hyde city tour will be led by author Anna Burkey.

Alternatively, if you prefer to keep the macabre at arm's length, the Cameo cinema will be showing classic horror films, including Poltergeist, The Innocents and The Curse of the Cat People. (You may need to take a friend and grasp their hand tightly.) Finally, there's a chance to display your mastery of supernatural trivia with a ghostly pub quiz at Frankenstein's on George IV Bridge.

See, not so scary after all. Just a fun festival, quite suitable for those with a weak heart or nervous disposi... Wait a minute, what's that behind you?

Edinburgh Ghost Fest, 11-20 May, various venues. Tel: 08702 430160, or visit www.edinburghghostfest.co.uk


http://heritage.scotsman.com/myths.cfm?id=633302007
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