Once upon a midnight dreary, while I polished, weak and weary,
The electric Brompton bicycle entrusted to me just the day before,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my bike shop door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my bike shop door—
Only this and nothing more…”
Thus begins the famous poem “The Raven” by our Canonmills shop manager Euan – and what a wonderfully chilling piece of writing it is.
Just in time for Halloween, we’ve selected spooky stories from near our bike shops in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle and Leeds, all laid out here for your reading pleasure. So turn off the lights, grab a tub of crispy bat wings, and enjoy our selection of spooky local stories…
The Demonic Mr. Weir
Thomas Weir was a well-respected and wealthy member of the community born in the early 1600s. He went on to become an army veteran and was devoutly religious, holding prayer sessions at his house in West Bow off the Grassmarket; Such were his oratory powers that people flocked to his abode to hear “the Bowhead Saint” speak. In his later years, however, he began behaving strangely, and after falling ill in 1670 he began to confess his secret life of crime and vice.
Weir claimed that he was in the service of the Devil, and described an incestuous relationship with his sister Grizel, as well as occasionally engaging in bestiality. The Lord Provost at the time dismissed his behaviour as madness brought on with age (Weir was now over 70), but upon his own insistence Weir was eventually arrested along with his sister. Much to the surprise of everyone, his sister began corroborating his stories, describing how a stranger had come for him many years before in a “fiery coach”. She also claimed that her brother received his demonic powers from his black walking stick, which “paraded in front of him” as he walked and was topped with a carved human head. The Weir siblings left the authorities no choice but to sentence them both to death by hanging.
Weir’s house remained empty for a long time before being bought by an elderly couple in the late 1700s, but they fled the house after just one night, having seen a number of demonic apparitions. Today the house exists as part of the Quaker Meeting House, and staff have reported many ghostly sightings of Weir walking through the walls…
Jake the ghostly stagehand
One gloomy night in 1942, a stagehand known as “Jake” was killed when a fast-spinning winch handle struck him in the head at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. Poor Jake had been trying to stop an out-of-control lift sending circus horses to the bottom floor.
Jake can be spotted today as a shadowy spectre on the suspended bridge that runs above the stage, and staff report hearing other-worldly male voices, as well as objects being moved and doors being mysteriously opened. There are also “cold spots” in the passageway which runs along the side of the Theatre, with the red-painted brick wall at the end sitting directly opposite to where Jake’s death occured.
Many believe that Jake is a benevolent ghost, and none more so than historian Edi Swan. One day when Swan was a young man working at the Theatre, a spray pain canister exploded in his face. As he stumbled blindly across the stage trying to reach a nearby sink, he felt a strong hand guiding him in a different direction. Reaching the sink eventually, Swan was shocked to realise that if he had continued along the same trajectory, he would have fallen off the stage and into the orchestra pit.
Mrs Moffat’s grizzly request
One fateful day in Newcastle in the 1800s, a poor sailor named Wilkinson found himself destitute and began going between the houses of Pilgrim Street, begging for food and drink.
Among the houses was that of Mrs Moffat, who looked after horses, and since her husband wasn’t at home she offered him some bread and cheese and weak beer. She then said that since she had provided him with sustenance, he should do her the kindness of removing her fingers, which had been troubling her for some time. There was a hatchet on the table and she laid her hands flat out on either side so that he could cut off her fingers with greater ease.
Upon her great insistence, Wilkinson was “monster enough” to eventually give in to her request, cutting off three fingers of one hand and two on the other.
According to the original reports, Mrs Moffat was “occasionally subject to fits of insanity.”
The Parrot Man
Local lore reports the existence of the Parrot Man, an aged maniac who lives in the woods of the north-Eastern suburb of Meanwood. Legend has it that he seizes any youngsters trespassing in Meanwood woods, and peck their eyes out with his beaky mouth.
And if that won’t make you behave yourself and do what your parents tell you, we don’t know what will.