Buckinger’s Boot & Edinburgh ghosts
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