Guides illuminate killers’ deeds with portable projector

John Baxter with a projected Burke and Hare
John Baxter with a projected Burke and Hare
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IT’S a new tour guide technology that could shine a light on the grizzly Burke and Hare murder campaign and bring some of the key characters back from the dead.

The hand-held portable projector beams detailed images of victim’s faces, bygone buildings, and the network of wynds used to manoeuvre the cadavers, to illustrate a popular walking tour immortalising Edinburgh’s most infamous serial killers.

Bosses at West Port Tours believe they are the first firm in Scotland to use the projectors on their circuit of bloody historical hotspots, and decided to take up the equipment after seeing it being used during a Jack the Ripper tour in London.

Images are projected in vivid colour – and several metres high – on to walls and pavements along the tour route while still retaining the detail of the projections.

“This technology will change the face of guiding in Edinburgh,” said John Baxter, 25, co-owner of West Port Tours.

“The images will give visitors a greater understanding of the locations that are visited on the tour. By using the projector, visitors will be able to gaze upon murder locations, victims and those involved in the crimes and subsequent trial.

“So when we are talking about the murder of Daft Jamie in the Grassmarket, one of the last people to be killed by the pair, we can beam an image of him on to an external wall to draw people further into the story.

“We don’t now have to describe in great depth what a person was like because we have the projections to do that for us.”

Mr Baxter said much of the original city landscape from the time of the heinous murders, in which the 19th-century rogues were paid by anatomists at Surgeons Hall in return for fresh corpses, has now vanished and the projection device helps to resurrect those lost buildings.

“Our tours are quite forensic in content because we are dealing with real life murders,” he said. “But having already been trialled on test tours the response has been highly complementary,”

“It can beam the floor plan or the routes they took the bodies on to walls. We can do the same with the murder victims – what these people really look like.

“Sometimes people wonder where the images are coming from because the projection device is only about the size of an iPhone.”

Burke and Hare’s murder spree, which cost 16 people their lives, lasted about a year before they were arrested by police in 1828. Burke was eventually hanged when his accomplice turned state witness and he was publicly dissected. His skeleton and death mask were then exhibited at Edinburgh Medical College.