With summer approaching and the credit crunch being on everyone's minds, an increasing number of people are staying within the UK for a recession-friendly summer holiday. If you're looking for something a bit different from a typical resort holiday or something with a bit of a supernatural twist, then why not take a trip to Stirling and try the Ghost Walk around Stirling Old Town Jail, hosted by the SFX forum's own Happy-Hangman?
This grim gothic gaol at the heart of the Royal Burgh was opened in 1847, five years after the town's original prison, the Tolbooth, was condemned as "the worst Jail in all of Britain". Overcrowded and unsanitary, the older prison was a dismal dungeon: an open sewer passed by the cell windows, and spilled all manner of muck and mire into the chambers when it rained (which it has been known to do in Scotland). The Tolbooth was a favourite stomping ground of the town's 18th-century torturer, Jock Rankin. According to tradition, Jock choked to death on a chicken bone, and his grumpy ghoul was said to plague his old haunt. He became a regular host on the Stirling Ghost Walk, providing comedy, drama, fear, fun and frights for boys and ghouls of all ages – service with a smile, a quip, and a slow and painful death for those who don't laugh at the right places.
Two centuries after he popped his clogs Rankin was still suitably notorious to be chosen to traumatise audiences attending performances at the Old Town Jail, when it was opened as a five-star visitor attraction in the mid '90s – gleefully demonstrating his branding-irons, nose-pinchers, pilniewinks, cashielaws and other curious Caledonian torture tools on unsuspecting patrons. Like Saw, but more family-friendly!
Unsurprisingly, when the credit crunch caused the Jail to close its doors in November last year, it was the Hangman who started rattling chains and threatening to nail nay-sayers to the jailhouse door in efforts to get the place re-opened. It’s rarely a good idea to argue with a homicidal Scotsman – as trolls on the SFX forum who have encountered him can testify - and it was recently announced that the Stirling Old Town Jail will re-open to amuse and abuse its patrons on June 8th. Channelling the spirit of the Hangman, actor David Kinnaird said "Some people thought the Jail was a goner... but that was never going to sit well with Jock. He's been back from the dead every summer for the last two decades, and hasn't run short of ways to terrify audiences yet... so it seems fitting that he should play a part in resurrecting his favourite haunting ground. We'll be adding a crime and punishment theme to this year’s Stirling Ghost Walk, and plan on adding all manner of spectral surprises to the Jail's beastly bill-of-fare. Not even global recession can stand in the way of Ghoul Power!"
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