The Arthur’s Seat Coffins, Edinburgh

If there is one thing I love more than a spooky mystery, it is an unsolved spooky mystery. I recently discovered one such mystery on a brief visit to Edinburgh, where I wandered into the wonderful National Museum of Scotland. There I found the intriguing Arthur’s Seat coffins, a spooky mystery if ever there was one.

The Arthur's Seat Coffins, Edinburgh

The Arthur’s Seat Coffins, Edinburgh

Discovered in 1836 by some boys in a cave on the side of Arthur’s Seat, the impressive craggy hill that dominates the city, these tiny handmade coffins were arranged carefully in three tiers. Each one is intricately carved, and wears custom made clothes with little painted boots. To this day nobody knows who made them, or when, or even why, but there are a few interesting theories.

A detail of the Arthur's Seat Coffins, Edinburgh

A detail of the Arthur’s Seat Coffins, Edinburgh

Some people have suggested that the coffins were used by witches to cast spells on their victims, rather like a Scottish form of voodoo. Another theory is that they were kept by sailors as good luck talismans. There is even conjecture that these strange little dollies represent the seventeen victims of notorious Edinburgh grave robbers Burke and Hare, and that local inhabitants made them in order to allow the stolen and dissected bodies a decent burial.

Interesting ideas indeed, but of course the real purpose of these rather cute (but also rather creepy) coffins will probably always remain a perplexing, but definitely very magical, mystery.

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14 Responses to “The Arthur’s Seat Coffins, Edinburgh”

  1. I’d meant to walk up Arthur’s Seat for this very reason when I visited Edinburgh, but was just too wiped out. Sigh. Hadn’t actually seen the coffins before, so thanks for the photos!

  2. what a wonderful story!! I love a mystery too. I love Edinburgh!!

  3. These are very creepy looking indeed! I wouldn’t like to spend much time in the same room as them. I haven’t walked up Arthur’s Seat yet, but I want to do so, just to see the amazing views.

  4. Sorry, I’m still in catch-up mode, but I meant to say, have you read The Falls – Ian Rankin – one of his Rebus novels – these little coffins feature in the story.

  5. It was also made info a tv series. I saw the episode which features these coffins quite recently. Intriguing!

  6. I saw this on the Travel channel (US TV) on a show call “Mysteries at the Museum”. I think you can go to www://travel channel.com to watch it.

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