The MacKenzie Poltergeist, Greyfriars Graveyard, Edinburgh

By September 21, 2020Short stories

The MacKenzie Mausoleum in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Graveyard became the final resting place of Sir George MacKenzie in 1691. During his lifetime ‘Bloody MacKenzie’ was the Lord Advocate for Scotland during the reign of Charles II. He was responsible for the persecution and abominable treatment of the Presbyterian Covenanters during a period in history known as the killing times. In total 18,000 Covenanters lost their lives for their faith. After the Covenanters fought and lost a battle with government troops at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679, 1,200 Presbyterian prisoners of war were incarcerated in the infamous Covenanters Prison. The Covenanters Prison was heavily fortified but open-aired and is regarded one of the world’s first concentration camps. The conditions were appalling and prisoners were treated with utter brutality and cruelty, as a consequence most of them perished due to maltreatment or were executed. The prison used to be located directly next to the graveyard, but the site is now situated within the graveyard, following a later expansion of the burial grounds. The MacKenzie Mausoleum is positioned right next to what was the boundary wall. George MacKenzie requested this site for burial, his reason being that he was very proud of what he had accomplished in his persecution of the Covenanters.

The MacKenzie Poltergeist and the tormented souls of his victims are said to haunt Greyfriars. There are literally hundreds of accounts of sightings of ghostly apparitions, strange phenomena and poltergeist attacks, with many visitors to the graveyard having encountered some sort of paranormal activity, sustaining bruises, bites and scratches, having the sensation of being followed, and/or being knocked to the ground sometimes resulting in the individual being rendered unconscious. Even homes built next to the graveyard are plagued by crockery smashing, objects moving and unidentified laughter. The hauntings are said to have intensified in more recent years following the Mausoleum being broken into several times and George’s burial chamber and remains being disturbed. One incident in 1999 involved a homeless man breaking into the Mausoleum. He descended the staircase to the lower burial chamber containing the MacKenzie family coffins to seek shelter, he tripped in the pitch darkness, fell and crashed straight through the weak floor. He fell some distance and landed on something bumpy, not knowing what was around him he flicked on his lighter and realised to his horror he had fallen into a hidden room below, an ossuary filled with unidentified skeletons speculated to be a plague burial pit.

Want to hear more fascinating stories about the remarkable 16th century Greyfriars Graveyard? There are many tales to tell, some gory, some surprising and some endearing. Our expert guides will walk you around this legendary cemetery and share the intriguing and sometimes sinister history behind the time-worn tombstones. Following this, onward to the infamous and most haunted Niddry Street underground vaults, once an innocent subterranean street of shops and workshops, it soon fell from grace and descended into a filthy overcrowded slum and a playground of the destitute, prostitutes, criminals and witches….

Join us on one of Edinburgh’s most popular walking tours, The Vaults and Graveyard Tour… Make your booking at https://www.auldreekietours.com/our-tours/

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