Mary King's Close

Mary King's Close is a historic close located under buildings on the Royal Mile, in the historic Old Town area of Edinburgh, Scotland. It took its name from one Mary King, a merchant burgess who resided on the Close in the 17th century.[1][2] The close was partially demolished and buried due to the building of the Royal Exchange in the 18th century, and later closed to the public for many years. The area became shrouded in myths and urban legends; tales of hauntings and murders abounded.[3][4]

However, new research and archaeological evidence has revealed that Mary King's Close actually consists of a number of closes which were originally narrow streets with tenement houses on either side, stretching up to eight stories high. Mary King's Close is now operated as a visitor attraction where guests can take guided tours and learn about Edinburgh's hidden history.

The close was bricked up during the great plague of 1645 with up to 300 (presumably) infected residents left to die in their homes.[5]


Mary King's Close has had a reputation for hauntings since at least the 17th century, with several paranormal investigations taking place. 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 rumours of spirit hauntings.[6] It is also said that the gas escaping into the closes was known to cause hallucinations.[7]

For years, Mary King's Close was shrouded in myths and legends however research and archaeological evidence have revealed a truer story rooted in fact.

In 2003 Mary King's Close was opened to the public but only as a historic visitor attraction known as 'The Real Mary King's Close'. Paying visitors can participate in guided tours which are operated by Continuum Attractions.

Mary King's Close in television

References in Literature

Mary King's Close is the setting for the teen fiction novel Crow Boy written by Philip Caveney and published by Scottish-based publisher Fledgling Press in November 2012.[11] Mary King's Close is a location in Teen Fiction Novel City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab published by Scholastic on September 6, 2018. It is a location in Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin where a body is found.

See also


  1. "Mary King's Close". Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  2. "About the Close". The Real Mary King's Close. Archived from the original on 2 April 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  3. "Mary King's Close". Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  4. "Mary King's Close". BBC World Service. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  5. McLEAN, DAVID (14 March 2014). "Lost Edinburgh: The Great Plague of 1645". The Scotsman. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  6. "The Haunted Close". Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  7. "THE NOR'LOCH". Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  8. "Most Haunted: Season 4, Episode 7, Mary King's Close". IMDb. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  9. "Rebus: Season 1, Episode 4, Mortal Causes". IMDb. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  10. "World Tour of Scotland". IMDb. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  11., Undiscovered Scotland. "Crow Boy by Philip Caveney: Undiscovered Scotland Book Review". Retrieved 19 December 2017.

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