Lore Report: “Close By” (Episode 159)

Over the centuries, humans have learned to use the underground like a tool, hiding away more than just treasure. From bodies to bunkers, we’ve been putting reminders of our own failures and mistakes into the ground, hoping that out of sight can truly be out of mind. Sometimes these things are hidden far away from prying eyes and never see the light of day again. Every now and then, though, someone with a  shovel digs in just the right place, and forgotten history is uncovered, exposing a story to the world that paints a tragic and sinister picture. And of all the locations with a buried past, few can hold a candle to the dark history of one city in particular: Scotland’s very own Edinburgh.


The latest episode of the Lore podcast does not offer some sunny tour of Edinburgh; host Aaron Mahnke unsurprisingly highlights the underground and the otherworldly. Mahnke ventures first into the sordid, squalid underworld that arose within the stone vaults beneath the city’s bridges. He also explores Mary King’s Close, a hidden urban warren where plague victims were walled in during the mid-1640’s (in the public interest of containing contagion). Such locales–dismal in nature and marked with dark history–easily accrue a haunted reputation, and the Edinburgh underground sports no shortage of ghostly tales (Mahnke recounts one unnerving narrative that features the best who’s-hand-was-she-holding moment this side of The Haunting). Rich in interesting detail (e.g. the purpose of the plague doctor’s beaked mask) and strong in Gothic impulse (“No matter how deep we try to bury it,” Mahnke reminds listeners, “the past will always try to find a way to return”) “Close By” is an episode that Lore-lovers are sure to hold near and dear.


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