These Scottish ghosts are too boring

I'm still in Edinburgh for the mammoth beast that is the Fringe Festival. I've done my show every night for three and a half weeks now, which means there's only about eight more years to go.

I've had some cracking gigs, and seen some great performances. But which one should I tell you about? With literally thousands of live shows to choose from, I thought I'd go for a dead one: a ghost tour of the Edinburgh Vaults. Edinburgh is supposedly one of the most haunted cities in the world, so I had high hopes.

I quite enjoy being scared, be it by horror movie, pregnancy test or electricity bill.

Actually, I think everyone likes being frightened a little. One of the most popular shows at the Fringe Festival is Generation of Z, an interactive zombie apocalypse experience. I haven't done it, but I have walked through the centre of Edinburgh at 1.30am on a Sunday and I reckon that's probably similar. Even my five-year-old likes a tiny bit of terror - his favourite show involved a large, extremely lifelike dinosaur rampaging around the stage and tring to eat a child.

Wrapped up in about eight layers of clothes, plus raincoat (I love a Scottish summer) a friend and I turned up on the Royal Mile, late at night to begin our ghostly encounter. Our guide was a great storyteller, but had a little too much crushed velvet going on - as did most of the other ghost tour guides we passed. I've never understood the link between crushed velvet and the paranormal. Do ghosts object to ironing?

After taking us down some suitably atmospheric twisty cobbled alleyways, and telling us tales of public execution and murderous husbands, our guide led us below street level and into the vaults. These vaults have been around since the 18th century, and are the bricked up arches of the massive South Street Bridge. In days gone by they housed pubs, brothels, the poverty stricken, and body snatchers.


As an aside, one of the first plays I was in at high school was about Edinburgh's most famous body snatchers, Burke and Hare, who earned their living by stealing corpses to sell to medical students. As professions go, it's probably not a great one to have on your resume. Or your online dating profile.

There was something weirdly satisfying to realise I was in the very vaults Burke and Hare might have used. The day before, I'd even stumbled across the Burke and Hare pub, the name in bright gold lettering, in between ''Lap Dancing'' and ''Pole Dancing''. I don't remember us covering that part at school.

As an aside to the aside, after I moved to Australia, Burke and Hare became confused in my mind with doomed explorers Burke and Wills - melding together in my imagination, as though, instead of spending their spoils on drink and women, they'd bought tickets for a summer holiday which went terribly wrong.

But back at the vaults - they were dank, dark, and dusty. As we clustered around her in the flickering candlelight, our guide told us tales of mysterious footsteps, ghostly children, weeping apparitions, and sudden temperature changes.

I have to say it was disappointingly non-scary. This is coming from someone who was so terrified of the Egyptian mummy at the Christchurch museum that my mother had to carry me past it, while I wept with my eyes shut (she finally stopped taking me last year, because she reckons I've got too heavy).

Other people seemed suitably spooked, but I wasn't. Maybe I've just got more cynical over the years. These days I'm less "If you feel a cold draught, that's a ghost," and more "if you feel a cold draught, wear a singlet".

I'd been looking forward to being unnerved on our tour, but the scariest part of the night were the restaurant loos beforehand.

A few days later we went for a walk in Greyfriars Kirkyard, a macabrely beautiful cemetery that dates back to 1562.

It's also allegedly home to the Mckenzie poltergeist, a malevolent entity reported to have left scratches and bite marks on hundreds of ghost-tourists over the years. Reading their ghost tour website, I'm beginning to regret not doing that one. Although, really, why do a ghost walk to get scratched and bitten, when I can get that at home from my cat?

Ghost tours notwithstanding, by the far the most terrifying thing I've encountered in Edinburgh was a man deep frying a piece of pizza. Maybe that's why Edinburgh is so haunted - everyone keeps dying of coronaries. All the ghosts are just trying to warn you to eat some greens.