Edinburgh Tours: The Malice of Inanimate Objects12th Feb 2021
Steve’s Edinburgh Tours: The Malice of Inanimate Objects
By Mercat Tours Storyteller Steve
As a veteran of Mercat Tours, you may know me by my heavy brogue as the very “Scottish Guide” if you have joined me on any of my Edinburgh tours.
With over 20 years’ experience, that’s two decades of perhaps being privy to (and just maybe an occasional target to) the capricious habits attributed to the residents and “residuals” trapped down in the Blair Street Underground Vaults.
Stories, anecdotes... oh yes, I do have those – quite a few. But… what if not all that goes bump in the vaults is either alive, or dead?
One evening a while ago, I had completed my usual Edinburgh tours routine; a circular route through the lower set of the Blair Street Underground Vaults... as usual and common with no discernible or notable happenings or event. By all accounts, it was a regular tour; at least for my part.
We adjourned to the Megget’s Cellar, where we conclude some of our Edinburgh tours
Megget’s is a spacious room betwixt street level and the lower vaults; a candlelit room replete with tables, benches and refreshments.
Here, our visitors can enjoy a drink and soak up the surroundings in a mildly gothic but a lighter, convivial atmosphere, in stark comparison to the grim oppression and uncompromisingly eldritch atmosphere of the vaults below.
That evening, my colleague Javi served the drinks, said his farewells and left me to continue storytelling. He softly closed the door to Megget’s Cellar behind, so as not to interrupt the flow of the tale as he left.
At the conclusion of the tour, some 40 minutes later – farewells said, sweet dreams hoped – I made for the door to lead my 20 or so visitors back up to relative safety of the modern world, and the relief of the crisp, freshest of dark night air.
At least, that is how I’d intended to conclude this most successful of Edinburgh tours…
This is how it should have happened... but the door! The door would not budge. No matter how many times I turned the door handle, no manner of pushing or heaving could convince the door to open or move in the slightest.
Then came a solitary snigger, a giggle, then peels of laughter. The visitors had all believed this was part of the act, and momentary devilment on my part. Not so.
As realisation of our situation became increasingly apparent, volunteers came forth to offer assistance. On further inspection, the sliver of space between door and jamb revealed that the bar of the lock was full and firmly across.
We had been locked in. Ah! Of course, surely Javi upon exit had inadvertently locked the door... which for obvious health and safety reasons is never, ever done.
By shouts and raising commotion, Javi was summoned, descending the stairs from the office
“Javi, you have locked us in, unlock the door!”
“I haven't locked the door!”
“Someone has locked us in. Can you unlock it, thanks?”
“I can't unlock the door Steve, I don't have the key!”
“Where is the key?”
“In the kitchen.”
“What, the staffroom kitchen?”
“No Steve, the Megget’s Cellar kitchen!”
And there it was, on the stainless steel table in the kitchen of Megget’s Cellar… the key.
This discovery, however, was futile. The lock can only be secured and unlocked from one side. We were on the wrong side. I was now standing with the only immediate means of release, the only key and no means to pass on to our liberators, as now more colleagues had gathered on the other side of the door.
By now, some 20 minutes had passed, and the initial mirth and levity in the room had dissipated to be replaced by an increasingly palpable sense of horror, panic and anxiety. We were trapped.
Eventually, help finally arrived. Not (as one would come to expect) from the arrival of a chirpy emergency locksmith, but the unexpected arrival of a sturdy doorman from the adjacent nightclub.
Eventually, only by brute force applied to the lock area by a size 12 boot, the door violently flew open, shattering a portion of the door frame, and dislodging the retaining box. The lock itself, still in the locked position remained, mockingly... unharmed.
How had the door been locked?
How, indeed? Afterwards, I returned to the room, apprehensive but eager to satisfy the need for a rational explanation. Turning the key, there was the familiar momentary resistance, as next the bolt with its heavy, dulled “clunk” obligingly slid into the body of the locking mechanism.
To conclude, there was no rational explanation. No possibility of action without intervention by earthly, human effort and certainly not without the aid of a key, the one and only key.
At the culmination of the tour, as with all of my Edinburgh tours, I brought attention to the returners’ discount which we offer to our visitors. To this, I always used to echo The Eagles’ Hotel California by saying “You can check out at any time you like, but you can never leave”.