Saturday, January 3, 2015

HGB Podcast 19 - Edinburgh Castle

Moment in Oddity - Peeing Day

One of America's more obscure and mostly forgotten holidays is Peeing Day.  Now while this sounds like an offensive if not odd holiday, it really has a cool history...sorta.  During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington won the Battle of Princeton, which took place on January 3, 1777.  The British had regrouped at Princeton in New Jersey and the Continental Army staged a surprise attack in the early morning hours.  One would think this would lead the Americans to a decisive victory, but the British fought hard and started to push the Continental Army back.  The General leading the charge against the British, Hugh Mercer was killed.  A second group under Brigadier General John Cadwalader arrived on the scene and was forced to retreat.  And then came the hero, General George Washington, who immediately inspired the troops and the victory turned in favor of the Americans.  The British were defeated and marched out of Princeton.  As they took their walk of shame, the victorious Continental Army whipped out their manhoods and well, peed in the direction of the defeated British troops.  One hundred years after this occasion, the first Peeing Day holiday was observed in Princeton, New Jersey.  This went on as an annual event until World Wars I and II when the celebration was halted as it appeared to be anti-British.  The holiday continues today though and has been moved from January 3rd to the second Saturday of March.  Princeton is the only place to observe it and activities include a recreation of the Battle of Princeton.  At the end of the battle, two American soldier re-enactors chase after one British Redcoat re-enactor to an area at the end of Nassau Street where 50-200 other participants are busy peeing in the street.  The Battle of Princeton was a great victory, but the idea that such a victory would be honored by peeing in the street is a bit odd.

This Day in History -Martin Luther Excommunicted

On this day, January 3rd, in 1521, Martin Luther is officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X.  Martin Luther had been a Catholic priest, German Friar and a professor of theology at the University of Wittenburg in Germany.  While he was at the university, he started to notice discrepancies between what the Bible said and what the Catholic Church was teaching.  The Church had written much of their liturgy and the Bible in Latin, so that the unlearned people were left having to trust what the Church was telling them.  Martin Luther exposed the Catholic Church in his Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed upon the door at All Saints' Church in Wittenburg.  Luther taught that indulgences sold to people as an attempt to wipe away sin were wrong and that salvation was by grace and not works.  He also translated the Bible into a language that people could read.  Luther was brought before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and asked to recant his writings and beliefs, which Luther refused to do.  He became an outlaw and had to go into hiding.  German royalty hid him until his death in 1546. 

Edinburgh Castle


Castle Rock is a formation that has existed for millions of years.  Men lived on the rock starting in the Bronze Age in 860 BC.  During the Iron Age, an ancient fort was erected on the site by the Gododdin and they called it Din Eidyn.  That name would later evolve into Edin, which has Brittonic Celtic origins, and the city would be named Edinburgh from that time.  Edinburgh became the capital of Scotland and has been since the 15th century.  Edinburgh was the center of Scotland during the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the 17th century saw the people of Edinburgh building multi-storied buildings that were replaced with Victorian architecture in the 18th century.  In 1889, Edinburgh officially became a city.

The first King of Scotland took the throne in 1035 AD and his name was Duncan I.  King Duncan's eldest son, Malcolm III, became King of Scots in 1058 AD and he built a castle atop Castle Rock.  His wife, Queen Margaret, built a chapel within the walls and their son David I built the Abbey at Holyrood.  The Abbey and Edinburgh Castle would be anchor points on a road called the Royal Mile and the city prospered in the area.  The English eventually captured Edinburgh Castle and held it until Robert the Bruce's nephew, Thomas Randolph, climbed the side of the Castle with his men in the middle of the night and recaptured the Castle on March 14, 1314.

An enormous weapon resembling a giant cannon was built by Jehan Cambler in 1449 and was named the Mons Meg.  It could fire cannon balls up to 400 pounds in weight.  The Mons Meg was shipped to Edinburgh Castle in 1457 and was used for many years as protection.  The bulky weapon, which weighed six tons, soon proved to be too much and was left to be used during ceremonies.  That ended in 1681 when the Mons Meg exploded.  A restored version of the weapon now sits in Edinburgh Castle.  The carriage the Mons Meg sits upon was reconstructed based on a carving on a wall inside the Castle that dates back to 1500.

During the Lang Siege in 1573, the eastern defenses of the Castle were toppled and the Regent Morton took over the rebuilding of the Castle.  Much of what is currently part of the Castle was built during this time.  In the 18th and early 19th century, Edinburgh Castle was used as a military prison.  A massive prison break occurred in 1814 and so the Castle was named a National Monument and from that time forward it has been a tourist destination.

People enter the Castle through the Castle Esplanade, which was originally designed as a ceremonial parade
ground and gives a beautiful view of Edinburgh.  The Castle is a collection of buildings with the oldest one being St. Margaret's Chapel that we mentioned earlier.  It's Chancel Arch is one of the only original parts still left of the original Castle and it has more modern stain glassed windows.  Another building is the Royal Palace where the Stone of Destiny and Scotland's Crown Jewels are kept and a wonderful clock tower is located here as well.  For those who don't know, the Stone of Destiny is a Biblical relic brought to Ireland and then Scotland by Scottish royalty and legend claims that this stone is where Jacob rested his head when he had his dream about Jacob's ladder.  Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace and legend tells a tale of a friend of the Queen's using magic to project the horrible birth pains the Queen was experiencing onto a servant.  (Nothing good comes of magic!)  In 1888, the Gatehouse was built and statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace are there in honor of the heroes.  The Half Moon Battery is behind the Gatehouse and was used as defense with cannons being fired from this area. The Great Hall was built during the 16th century with a Hammerbeam roof that is one of those most extraordinary medieval wooden roofs in the world featuring carved stone heads and symbols - including the Green Man and a pair of thistles - and is located in the heart of the Castle at Crown Square.

All of this history and lore leads to the possibilities of a very supernatural location.  People died here, were imprisoned here, worshiped here and lived amazing lives here.  Edinburgh is considered the most haunted city in Europe and Edinburgh Castle is its most haunted location.  Beneath the Castle lies the dungeon.  There is a ghost of a prisoner here who in life had thought he had devised the perfect plan for escape.  He figured if he climbed into the dung barrow, which was full of, well...shit, that he could make his grand escape when the crap was taken out and dumped on the hill.  What he hadn't accounted for was that this pile was going to be dumped over the rocky crags and he was thrown down to his death.  His body may have been free, but his spirit is trapped here at Edinburgh Castle.  He is temperamental and tried to push people from the battlements and since his final place in life was in the dung heap, people report the smell of dung on occasion.

Ghostly dog barks have been heard coming from the pet cemetery on property and one ghost dog has been reported on several occasions.  A specter in a leather apron has been seen and is reported to appear as an old man.  These types of full body apparitions are very unique and rarely seen, but at the Castle they are the most reported type of phenomenon.  There are also claims of shadow people, mists, strange lights and drops in temperature.  Another full body apparition that has been seen and most definitely heard is that of the Piper.  The Piper was employed by the Castle to help with exploration of the underground tunnels.  It was thought the sound of the pipes would help lead the way for those above ground to find out where the tunnels lead and for a bit this plan worked.  But slowly the Piper's music began to fade and soon the people above ground could no longer hear his pipes.  A small group was sent in search of the Piper, but he was gone as if he had disappeared and they decided to close up the tunnels and they were sealed.  He was either buried alive in the tunnels or something quite strange happened to him.  The sound of his pipes can be heard emanating from the walls and the tunnels which run under the Royal Mile have had pipe music floating all the way to street level at times as well.

During the 17th century, the ghost of a drummer boy started to be seen.  He is usually seen headless and generally only during times of war.  The sounds of his drums have been heard, but no reports past 1960 have been made about this spirit, more than likely because we are in a time of peace.  No one knows who he is or how he came to lose his head.  Lady of Glamis spent some time in the dungeon of the castle.  She had been accused of witchcraft in the 16th century.  Accusations of her plotting to kill the king were added to the list of wrong doing and she was sentenced to death.  This sentence was carried out on July 17, 1537 and the means by which her life was ended was by burning at the stake.  Her ghost is seen among the battlements and the haunting sound of hammers at work have been attributed to the construction of the platform upon which she was executed.

America has a connection to Edinburgh Castle dating back to the Revolutionary War.  Prisoners of that war were taken to the castle and their ghosts are sometimes seen there.  The ghosts of French prisoners of war from the Seven Year War have been reported, also.  And if you think all these reported hauntings are poppycock, in 2001 a scientific study was conducted by a skeptical scientist by the name of Dr. Richard Wiseman.  He used participants that knew nothing about the Castle and equipped them with the best equipment of the time and the results astonished him.  Areas that had been reported to be haunted in the past were the same areas his test group registered activity.  The website About.com describes the experiment on their paranormal page like this:  "As part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from Hertfordshire University in southeast England, enlisted the help of 240 volunteers to explore the allegedly haunted sites in a 10-day study. Chosen from visitors from around the world, the volunteers were led in groups of 10 through the creepy, damp cellars, chambers and vaults. Wiseman's team came prepared with an array of high-tech "ghostbusting" equipment, such as thermal imagers, geo-magnetic sensors, temperature probes, night vision equipment and digital cameras.  Each of the volunteers was carefully screened. Only those who knew nothing about Edinburgh's legendary hauntings were allowed to participate, yet by the end of the experiment, nearly half reported phenomena that they could not explain.  Wiseman tried to be as scientific as possible about the study. The volunteers were not told which particular cells or vaults had previous claims of strange activity. They were taken to locations with a reputation for being haunted as well as "red herring" vaults that had no history of activity at all. Yet the highest number of paranormal experiences by the volunteers were reported to take place in the very areas that did have the haunted reputations."  While Dr. Wiseman is reluctant to declare the Castle haunted by ghosts, he does agree that something strange is happening at the Castle.

So are these unusual experiences a result of the human imagination or some other phenomenon?  Is the Castle just old and thus creepy and cold?  Has the legend and lore taken on a life of its own?  Or is Edinburgh Castle indeed one of the most haunted locations in the world?  That is for you to decide.

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