In what is now a place of religious worship there once stood a house plagued by demonic and haunted activity. And the legend from The Wizard of West Bow and his horror house in Edinburgh. 

‘It is certain that no story of witchcraft or necromancy, so many of which occurred near and in Edinburgh, made such a lasting impression on the public as that of Major Weir.
Sir Walter Scott ‘Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft’, 1830

The West Bow House of horror is one of the houses that was known as one of Edinburgh’s most haunted. For a long time everyone thought the house was demolished, but traces of it can still be found on the jolly streets in Edinburgh’s Victoria Terrace. 

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It used to be the home of Major Thomas Weir, also known as the Wizard of West Bow after his death. He lived with his unmarried sister, Jean, mostly known by Grizel, in their house in Old Town. Originally from Lanarkshire, their mother had a reputation for having The Second Sight, but they were mostly known as devoted Christians.  

He used to be seen as an upstanding citizen as a Covenanter soldier with a good career in the army behind him. He was also a very strict presbyterian who would lead big groups of christians in prayer. In 1650 he was even appointed commander of the Edinburgh Town Guard. To everyone else, he was nicknamed as one of the Bowhead Saints. But look can be deceiving, and he hid some dark secret underneath the polished exterior. He has even been seen as someone that could have inspired the character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Demonic Confessions

Around 1670 people started to notice a shift in Weir’s behavior. At one of their prayer meetings, he stood up and started to speak. He was then around 70 and people noticed that he seemed ill. He didn’t pray that day though, but started confessing to heinous acts instead. This included everything from bestiality, incest, witchcraft and communicating with the dead. 

In what is now a place of religious worship there once stood a house plagued by demonic and haunted activity. And the legend from The Wizard of West Bow and his horror house in Edinburgh. 
House of Horror: The house of the Weir siblings at number 10 at West Bow.

In some versions however it was after Weir’s retirement after he fell sick these confessions started. And according to this version it was from the sickbed, not during a prayer meeting he confessed to his crimes. 

They called a doctor, but his confessions kept coming, insisting that it was all true. Even the Lord Provost would not believe in the confessions at first as they all came as a big surprise. They wanted to dismiss it all as him being mentally disturbed instead, but he kept repeating his sins, refusing to back down. 

Even his sister, Grizel, known as a quiet spinster, confirmed it all when they went to question her. Not even did she confirm what he had already said, but continued to confess more demonic activities giving testimonies of even more vile and exaggerating things. 

According to her he had once been taken away by a demonic stranger in a coach on fire and taken to Dalkeith, a town bordering Edinburgh. Exactly why Dalkeith would be a place a satanic coach would drive were never really explained. She even showed a mark on her forehead that looked like the shape of a horseshoe. She apparently proudly said it was a gift from the Devil himself.

There he supposedly was given supernatural intelligence in the form of a walking stick by a servant of Satan. This walking stick had a carved human head on the top and was supposedly a gift from Satan himself and was the one he usually used when leading their prayers. 

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Most cases of witches and wizards happened after someone else accused someone of sorcery. This case is a very different matter as they accused themselves. Why on earth would they further worsen the case for them, even Jean to the point of implicating herself in that manner? 

They were then taken away to the Edinburgh Tolbooth by the baileys where they were interrogated and found guilty. They both received death sentences. 

Executed for their crimes

Scotland was not a good place to be if you were condemned for witchcraft. Only Germany had more witch trials in Scotland during this time. Estimates reckon around 4400 witches were executed. And unlike England who hanged the witches, Scotland followed a more barbaric and continental law of burning them all. 

In what is now a place of religious worship there once stood a house plagued by demonic and haunted activity. And the legend from The Wizard of West Bow and his horror house in Edinburgh. 
Taken by Satan: Depiction of Thomas Weir in his fiery coach.

While they both were waiting for their execution they were held in a former leper colony below Calton Hill. Major Thomas Weir was executed in 1670 at the Gallowlee that literally means gallows field. He was garrotted and burned together with his demonic walking stick. It was said that both took an exceptionally long time to burn. He was asked for his last words, but chose to not beg for forgiveness. He reportedly said:

 “Let me alone—I will not—I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast”

Grizel also died, but was hanged in the Grassmarket. According to reports her hanging was also dramatic and unrepentant. She supposedly tried to take off all her clothes in front of the crowd and refused to beg for mercy for her crimes. 

Their bodies were buried at the base of the gallows at Shrubhill according to custom of that time. But their death apparently wasn’t enough to cleanse their house for paranormal activity. 

Today we can only speculate about why he made those confessions. And even if some of them were actually true, why would he speak them out loud, and why would his sister also get implicated in it? 

Was it to clear their conscience? Or perhaps a fit of madness or some sort of illness? Did it have anything to do with their mother, Lady Jean Somerville, who was a reputed clairvoyant? Or did the two actually dabble in the occult? 

The Haunted House at West Bow

After their execution the house became abandoned and known as a haunted place where the locals reported seeing light in the windows although no one lived there as well as shadows moving around. There are also tales about music coming from the abandoned house. It stayed like that for over a century and legends surrounding the house continued to grow. 

For example they told a story about a  ghostly coach that was pulled by 6 horses spotted outside the abandoned building. 

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A couple bought and tried to move into the house in 1780 by an ex-soldier named William Patullo and his wife, but according to stories, they never stayed there for more than one night. They claimed to have seen ghostly apparition of demonic entities in the appearance of a calf staring at them in their bed. 

The house as it was was demolished in 1878 and the locals thought for a long time that they were done with the hauntings from the cursed Major. 

The Rediscovering of the Haunted House

However, it was discovered that a new house was built on top of it, today used as the Quaker Meeting House on Victoria Terrace. This wasn’t known before 2014. Apparently, the part of the house that still remains is now the toilet area of the Quaker Meeting House area. 

Today it is one of the more colorful streets of Edinburgh, with picturesque boutiques and cafes along the cobbled street. But the haunted rumors have still not died down. One of the staff working there claims to have seen the Major walking right through the walls. 

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References

The Most Haunted Places in Edinburgh’s Old Town – Dickins

Edinburgh’s most haunted locations | The Scotsman

The Wizard of West Bow: the dark secrets of Edinburgh’s haunted house of horrors

Neighbours from hell: Remains of wizard’s house of horrors are found… hidden inside a Quaker meeting place | Daily Mail Online

Major Thomas Weir – the Edinburgh man who admitted to witchcraft | The Scotsman

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