The Headless Drummer Boy
…round and round and round, rat-tat-tatting on his drum. On closer inspection, frightened castle servants would observe that the unknown young boy had no head.
By Rebecca Brown and Illustration by Allison McKay
Edinburgh is a city of ghosts. You wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find haunting stories in the capital of Scotland, with its subterranean streets and fascinating, but oftentimes grim, history.
Edinburgh castle has passed from hand to hand throughout Scottish history, often with great bloodshed involved in these battles. It was 1650 when the mysterious drummer was first sighted, circling the central courtyard of the caslte: round and round and round, rat-tat-tatting on his drum. On closer inspection, frightened castle servants would observe that the unknown young boy had no head. Too afraid to approach him, they left him in the courtyard to continue his playing, and he drummed his steady march straight through the night and vanished come morning.
What the castle staff had not realised at the time was that his ghostly appearance was a warning, for that same year Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland and captured Edinburgh Castle after the Lang Seige.
The drummer boy has not been seen since, but staff in the castle have reported hearing the gentle pat-pat-pat of his drums from quiet corners in the dead of night. Legend has it that if ever he is seen again, ill luck is to fall upon the historic castle just as it did in 1650.