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Behind Edinburgh’s Creepy Letters: Sinister or Sensationalist?

Many students are drawn to the University of Edinburgh by the beautifully undulating cobbled streets, picturesque medieval spires, and age-old traditions and history. The same sights which inspired J.K.Rowling to base the enchanting tales of Harry Potter within the confines of the city.


For many who live and study within its walls, those tales of magic and intrigue are simply stories.


However, this year of chaos is causing the supernatural elements of our city to come out of the shadows. It was on a day much like any other for Declan Kelly, a first-year staying in Salisbury Court accommodation, when he found a wax-sealed letter lying in the doorway of a flat he shares with five others. “I was just confused,” Kelly explained, “We thought it was weird that the letter was right outside our door, meaning someone had access to our accommodation block and then chose our flat to leave the letter”.


As anyone else would do in a similar situation, Declan opened the letter and read its contents, uncovering a set of 15 rules attempting to warn students against paranormal happenings in some of the most frequented areas in the city.

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From Cowgate to The Meadows, students are being warned to keep on their toes. Still, the question remains on how these rules should be received: as comical commandments sparking some sensationalism into our new locked down lives, or a sinister light shining onto Edinburgh and its dark past? It was when Declan saw a post on Edifess showing a picture of the same letter he had received, this time found in the main library, that he began to think that there was more to this than just a harmless prank.


“I was told that someone had posted about finding one so I sent a message” he explained. Upon being asked if he thought anything was linking the two letters, he stated that, “The letters we have on our top corners are F and Y, whereas the ones on the Edifess post are I and R”.


This revelation begs the question: What are the motivations behind the author of these letters? To allow prospective students to ‘safely navigate the city’ as stated, or perhaps to stir up sensationalist propaganda in the lead-up to Halloween?


Is the instruction to plug your ears at the sound of bagpipes an honest attempt to preserve the safety of our naïve students? Perhaps it is merely the convoluted confession of hatred for Scottish music.

Is the warning not to go home with a light-haired, pale-skinned woman at Three Sisters a valiant attempt to preserve life, or the ramblings of a man who has been scarred by a misguided one nightstand?


Rule 15 states that “the smiling man in the top hat…is the most dangerous of them all”. Is the student population of Edinburgh in grave danger, are we being hoaxed into fearing a man with a suspiciously similar character description to the Fat Controller in Thomas the Tank Engine?


It would seem that our questions would not go unanswered for long, however, as this mysterious individual would himself get in touch with Edifess to post a blog dedicated to these supernatural occurrences within the city. He has promised to give the full story of the vague rules sent throughout the student population. It remains to be seen, what secrets are there yet to uncover.


The first post, published on 15 October, centres on the first rule in the letter. “If you are walking through the meadows during the night of a new moon DO NOT leave the path. They will try to tempt you.”


The post talks of the appearance of a beautiful woman in the meadows while the subject was on a drunken pilgrimage home from Cowgate in the first year. It was in this state that he notices ‘a towering pyre in the middle of the meadows’ with ‘dozens of people dancing around the flame’.


Could it be that there is a new Satanic force operating in our midst? Perhaps it is only the consequences of an unattended barbecue left by a new Marchmont tenant, or even more probably, the drunk hallucinations of a fresher not yet tested against the effects of a Three Sisters double pint.


None of the above, says Oscar Hellier, a second-year Engineering student who often finds himself in Marchmont after dark. “It sounds like he stumbled upon one of our fire-spinning sessions”, he explained, a newcomer to this art form that they have practised on the Meadows over the last few years.


“I can understand the confusion, I imagine we look like quite an odd bunch from afar with our staffs and bonfires, but I can assure you, we are more of a community than a cult!”.


After a week of student speculation into the supernatural, it would seem that we are no closer to uncovering the motivations behind the letters detailing these paranormal phenomena.

Is this the work of an opportunistic young writer, capitalising on his lockdown boredom to create a viral sensation in the run-up to the spooky season? Or are we being warned against a harrowing fate at the hands of the supernatural?


Some of your questions might get answered in the next chapter of this sinister episode, where The Student will soon be interviewing H himself.

Illustration Credits: Eve Miller