The Restless Ghosts of Leith
My parents were born in Leith in the same year, 1936. My dad was raised on Albert Street before moving to Coatfield Lane and my mother, Cooper Street, until her family moved in their turn to Royston. My mother informs me that all children from Leith born that year received a free bank account containing a half-crown to help give them a suitable start.
After they married in 1957, they moved to an address in Lapicide Place just off Fort Street, where they would live for the next 8 years, working in many Leith locations including Crawford’s Biscuit Factory, Stevenson Box Makers and Leith’s famous/infamous dock area. Leisure time was spent in the old Kirkgate, along with nearby dance halls and cinemas (of which there were many!).
Between them they were a treasure trove of excellent stories about the area many of which they passed on to me: Tales of characters, tragedies, achievements, and sometimes even its ghosts.
The first ghost story I ever heard came from my grandfather who, after many years working for Her Majesties Trawlers out of Granton Harbour, regaled me with this terrifying tale of a ghostly 13th crewman…
The chilling supernatural twist has left many who have read my book or seen the short stories on Youtube somewhat alarmed, whilst also looking for more on ‘things that go bump in the night’.
Situated off Newhaven Road and Pitt Street is an address with a haunted history. The property at the end of the narrow Trafalgar Lane witnessed Poltergeist activity in the early months of 1980.
The family first became aware of ghostly footsteps creaking on the stairs of the property. It did not take long for terrifying paranormal activity to escalate. At first, they were not alarmed; putting the sounds down to next door neighbours.
The building, a converted farmers cottage, was built in 1804. The two four-bedroom properties and the neighbouring house stood as the only residences at the predominately industrial location.
After living there for over a year an incident occurred; one afternoon the mother and teenage daughter engaged in a fierce argument, the quarrel escalated, resulting in the girl screaming in her mother’s face.
At that precise moment, something slapped the startled girl on the back of the head. She screamed, presuming it to be another family member who had assaulted her, but nobody was present in the room except for her mother.
Whenever the teenager described the incident to others her mother would reply, “Whatever it was that hit you, you bloody deserved it”
The house’s owner was startled from an early evening slumber some years later, when back in residence - the sight of a figure watching him from the bottom of the bed caused him to scream out loud. His wife presumed his revelation to be the after effects of a nightmare and insisted he go back to sleep.
That exact nightmarish figure would return to visit him several times over the following years.
A relative who stayed the night in the property was confronted by a particularly frightening event, running in terror from the house into the street in the early hours of the morning, witnessed by a member of staff from the adjacent Thistle Bakery.
When the baker approached him to enquire if he was okay, the quaking relative insisted that: “Something grabbed out at him from the bottom of the bed only to vanish before his eyes.”
The owner was shocked when alerted to the furore outside and approached his startled brother. He was not entirely surprised when the trembling sibling insisted that a terrifying, ghostly, figure had confronted him in the confines of the bedroom.
The owner insisted that he return to the house and calm down, before counter productively assuring him that “ghosts are nothing new around these parts.” The family continued to live in the property for 14 years.
Although alarmed by the paranormal activity they witnessed this did not play a part in their decision to leave - in or around 1994 they departed the Trafalgar Lane address.
The family member who relayed the story to me insists that he was never really scared by the events, although a teenager at the height of the activity he recalls asking the presence if it “wanted a cup of tea?”
He said of the unexplained noises that it was rather like having another guest in the house, one who would never outstay their welcome.
As for his sister and her supernatural slap to the head? He reckons that the ghost taught her a valuable lesson that day - she never raised her voice or shouted at her Mother ever again.
In the final weeks of 1995 I moved into a property in Albion Road where I stayed for a year or so and - apart from the bother of living in a ground floor flat when Hibs were at home - I had a reasonably good time.
Directly across from the house was the Eastern Cemetery, which visitors can access from Easter Road and then Bell Place.
The privately-owned graveyard sits in the shadow of the imposing Hibs stadium and, on sunny days, is a pleasant place to visit. However, when night falls over this Leith address, the area becomes a very different place altogether…
I speak to many people while researching stories for my North Edinburgh Nightmares projects; a fascinating case was that of a lady who lives in Bell Place, directly across from Eastern Cemetery.
She has relayed stories of her time working in the Iceland shop at the top of Easter Road, previously the site of The Picturdrome and Eastway cinemas.
There is a section of the store she claims may be haunted. Staff are often reluctant to work alone in the vicinity of the dark passageway. Which is always preternaturally cold, even for a frozen food store!
This Easter Road address makes for a fascinating, ghostly tale, replete with reports of shadowy figures and unexplained voices, day and night.
The same witness has a story of her time in Bell Place, stating on record that a spirit haunts the property and that she and her son have observed the ghost on many occasions.
On moving she sensed something was odd about the property when, almost immediately soon after she moved in and almost immediately saw heads passing her window at all hours of the night.
The part of the story that left her (not unreasonably) unnerved, was one little detail; she lived on the top floor and there was no balcony on the building.
There are a multitude of chilling tales from Leith and North Edinburgh’s ghoulish history to be told and many more still to be unearthed. So, keep your mind open and your senses keen, and look out for more macabre stories in future Leither issues. ■
The author seen enjoying some down time from “the day job”