Major Thomas Weir-The Wizard of West Bow

Hey guys. In keeping with my October theme, today I would like to tell you a strange tale about a man named Major Thomas Weir.  History remembers him better as The Wizard of West Bow.

An artist's drawing of The West Bow.
James Skene|Public Domain/Drawing of The West Bow

Major Weir was born in Scotland in 1599 and lived with his sister Jean on the West Bow (now Victoria Street) in Edinburgh. By all accounts, Weir was a highly respected and upstanding member of society. He was a strict and devout Presbyterian, had been a Covenanter soldier, and once was commander of the Town Guard. Nothing about his pious life indicated that anything was amiss, which is why it must have been a shock to those who knew him when at around age 70 – he confessed to a secret life of heinous transgressions, including an incestuous relationship with his sister, demonic activity, and witchcraft!

Because Weir’s claims were so out of character, no one believed him. I’m sure people thought he had gone positively mad! His sister validated his claims, however, adding that the walking stick Weir carried (topped with the carving of a human head) was a gift from the Devil himself. She said that the two were sometimes taken to Dalkeith by a demonic figure in a fiery coach. Jean claimed their mother had also been a witch and that she and the Major had made a pact with the Devil years prior.

The pair were tried and found guilty of their crimes in April 1670. Jean hanged in the Grassmarket, where some say she stripped herself naked beforehand, willingly dying in shame. Major Thomas Weir was strangled and then burned alive. They say that instead of begging for God’s forgiveness, his last words were, “Let me alone. I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast.”

After the executions, the Weir home remained vacant for more than a century. Tales of ghostly sightings and strange occurrences such as music, revelry, lights, and shadows coming from the house were common. Some residents even claimed to have seen a fiery coach pull up to the home.

For years it was thought that the Weir home had been demolished; however, recent discoveries revealed that the house is still intact. Parts of the home have been into what is now the Quaker Meeting House.

Victoria Street, formerly called The West Bow.
Quaker Meeting House (second story above the green storefront)

And if that’s not weird enough for you, then you will chuckle when I tell you that what was once the central part of the Weir home is now the location of the Meeting House’s toilets.  A fitting end to our story, indeed!

As I said, you can’t make this stuff up.  I love it.

Thanks so much for popping by today.  See you next time.


Victoria Street, formerly called The West Bow.
Victoria Street – formerly called The West Bow

5 thoughts on “Major Thomas Weir-The Wizard of West Bow

  • I love this story on so many levels.
    I worked at Heriot Watt University, way back when it was situated in the Grassmarket, so I recognise West Bow, Victoria Street (a work of art in itself!) and the Grassmarket in your pictures.
    Great tale of Edinburgh’s dark underbelly.
    Even Rebus would walk warily there!

    • I really appreciate your comments. Edinburgh is such a fascinating place. History, architecture, literature, and of course, strange tales like this one. I can’t get enough. I took a quick peek at your site and your writing looks intriguing. I’ll take a closer look!

  • I spent a few days in Edinburgh a few years ago when my sister lived there. She took me to a restaurant somewhere in the centre that had at least one wall of solid rock. The atmosphere was odd – something about those enclosed places and their history. I had some really weird dreams that night! I guess the ghosts of these people still road the city.

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