Buckinger’s Boot & Ed­in­burgh ghosts

Fortean Times - - Letters -

Clas­si­cal Cor­ner [ FT362:15] showed that some dis­abled peo­ple, for ex­am­ple Matthew Buckinger, over­came the an­cient and re­gret­tably still cur­rent prej­u­dice against them, but missed an in­ter­est­ing point of lin­guis­tic his­tory. Grose ( Dic­tionary of the Vul­gar

Tongue 1811) says Buckinger’s Boot is a term for “The Mono­syl­la­ble” i.e. “A woman’s com­mod­ity”. Buckinger’s wife was re­ferred to as his boot as he had only one place to wear a boot. This sug­gests the ori­gin of the term “old boot” for a ma­ture and tough woman, a us­age I re­call from the 1960s, though it seems to have gone out of fash­ion.

Re­gard­ing Ghostwatch [ FT362:20]: once pub­lic ex­e­cu­tions ceased and pris­ons be­came the main lo­ca­tion for ex­e­cu­tions, the ghosts of con­demned pris­on­ers be­gan haunt­ing the jails where they died, rather than the pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion site as was the case in ear­lier times. On one oc­ca­sion at least, how­ever, pris­on­ers faked a haunt­ing to dis­tract from an es­cape at­tempt. (Owen Davies and Francesca Mat­teoni, Ex­e­cut­ing Magic in the Modern Era: Crim­i­nal Bod­ies and the Gal­lows in Pop­u­lar Medicine, Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2017).

The Greyfri­ars Kirk­yard haunt­ing [also FT362:20] seems to have started in 1998, if the sto­ries are ac­cu­rate, af­ter a home­less man fell into a hid­den plague pit. This would make start­ing the ghost tour in the 1990s a rushed af­fair, es­pe­cially as the coun­cil had to be in­volved and – ac­cord­ing to www.janan­drewhen­der­son. com/about/ – the founder of the tour busi­ness only re­turned to Ed­in­burgh in 1999. The Greyfri­ars haunt­ing is con­sis­tent with a num­ber of the­o­ries in­clud­ing a malev­o­lent spirit re­leased from the plague pit, a col­lec­tive thought form gen­er­ated once the pit had been dis­cov­ered, or a long-lived form of mass hys­te­ria. Rob Kirkup ( Ghosts of Ed

in­burgh, Am­ber­ley Pub­lish­ing 2013) de­scribes an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Greyfri­ars haunt­ing with am­bigu­ous re­sults, though he may have primed his fel­low in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Sim­i­lar phe­nom­ena are re­ported in the Nid­drie Street Vaults in Ed­in­burgh and in Mary King’s Close.

More re­search is needed re­gard­ing how to dis­tin­guish be­tween phe­nom­ena gen­er­ated by ex­pec­ta­tions and gen­uine phe­nom­ena, but it seems a lit­tle sim­plis­tic to im­ply these phe­nom­ena are the re­sult of over-ex­ci­ta­tion or ram­pant en­trepreneuri­al­ism turn­ing a mi­nor in­ci­dent, pos­si­bly with a mun­dane ex­pla­na­tion, into a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity as in the Shep­ton Mal­let case.

As to the ref­er­ence to “Am­a­teur Ghost Hunters”: I am un­aware of any pro­fes­sional ghost hunters. Alex Kashko Ed­in­burgh

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