Down a long, winding staircase, far beneath the bustling streets of Edinburgh stands a city frozen in time. Often referred to as the most haunted place in the world, Mary King’s Close stands as a fascinating historical site. But when the lights go down, it also serves as the stage for one of Edinburgh’s newest and coolest macabre attractions: The Dark Truth Tour.
Plunged into near-darkness, led only by lantern and candlelight, our twenty-strong group was led through the narrow streets and buildings of the now-dilapidated Close as actors eerily emerged from the shadows, portraying the figures of the past and recounting tales of murder, mayhem and death in the plague-infested streets of Edinburgh. This is not so much a ghost walk as a chilling, heart-stopping history lesson about the everyday lives and deaths of Edinburgh’s past. A combination of fun facts, comedy, improvisation and good old-fashioned storytelling, The Dark Truth Tour delivers a gentler, fairly family-friendly take on the old-fashioned fright-fest.
Decidedly audience-interactive, this small but impressive cast of only five actors - playing multiple phantoms each - challenges audience members to step forward, condemning them to the fates of those who came before. Nervous laughter fills the small spaces as we each wonder at every turn who will be next on the chopping block. There’s no chance to hide in the shadows and the cast easily (and quite comically) responds to any protest or capitulation. I don’t know whether it was nerves, or simply the approach of the witching hour, but towards the end of our tour it seemed that the stories started to unravel, leaving me wishing for a little more content and a little less goofiness. However, as this was a preview, I suspect that will be hashed out as the actors find their footing in the darkened streets of this intriguing city underground.
If you are looking for a terrifying show of spooks and scares, this is not quite the place to go. However, if you crave your history with a side of pulse-racing storytelling and the tricks of your own mind in the dark, then the Dark Truth Tour really delivers. A word of caution; wear comfortable shoes as the walks are steep, and if you are claustrophobic, this tour may be a bit much. If you can fit it in, make a date with Mary King’s Close. And bring a date. You don’t really want to go down there alone!