Restless Graves Part I: Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland

“Old yew, which graspeth at the stones that name the underlying dead, thy fibres net the dreamless head, thy roots are wrapt about the bones.”

In Memoriam, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Walking among the silent memorials to the dead, one cannot help but feel that some nebulous spirit does indeed haunt graveyards and cemeteries. Traditional parapsychology contends that these peaceful places of eternal rest are not haunted. After all, why would anyone want to haunt the place where their mortal remains are laid for all time? Nevertheless, there are burial grounds across the globe where the living claim to come face-to-face with the dead.

On this journey into restless graves, we will take a look at these notoriously haunted graveyards in the United States and abroad. We begin with a Scottish graveyard where visitors have been assaulted by a sinister presence. Welcome to Greyfriars Kirkyard, a dark and brooding necropolis in the heart of historic Edinburgh.

If there is one hard lesson history has taught us, there will always be despots. Men and women whose thirst for power led them to commit unspeakable atrocities against their fellow man. The only thing to bring their reign of terror to an end is the grave. Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland is the final resting place of one of these despots. A man whose dark dreams of tyranny may have survived the grave.

Centuries ago, on June 22, 1679, the days following the battle of Bothwell Brig were dark for the ancient city of Edinburgh. The forces of Charles II, led by Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie, went on a bloody rampage through the streets of the city. His mission, lay waste to the Covenanters, a militant sect of Presbyterians who refused to swear allegiance to the king. With their numbers depleted after losing battles, the Covenanters were in danger of being wiped out completely.

George “Bluidy” Mackenzie, managed to round-up the remaining Covenanter rebels. With them firmly in his grasp, Mackenzie imprisoned them in a small section of Greyfriars Kirkyard. An area known today as, Covenanter’s Prison.

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As a cold and bitter winter descended upon Scotland, the prisoners were branded as dissidents and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. Torture, starvation even beheadings were carried out in secret by MacKenzie and his sadistic soldiers. When the Covenanters were dead, they were buried in Greyfriars. To MacKenzie, he had done his duty for both god and king.

As we all know, death is no respecter of rank and place in society. The dreaded final day comes for us all. George “Bluidy” MacKenzie learned this harsh lesson when he died unexpectedly in 1691. The brutal butcher of Edinburgh was laid to rest in the ominously named Black Mausoleum in the graveyard where he viciously murdered 18,000 men, women and children. Unfortunately, even the cold embrace of eternal sleep could not keep Mackenzie down.

Three centuries later, on a cold rainy night in 1998, a homeless man seeking shelter from the storm broke into the Black Mausoleum. While looking for a place to rest his head, he reportedly encountered an apparition so terrifying it drove him back into the storm. It is believed the man unwittingly set the black soul of Bluidy Mackenzie free to continue his reign of terror.

Since that fateful night, a considerable number of people have reported being attacked by an unseen malevolent force in or near the graveyard. One woman was discovered lying unconscious outside the graveyard’s gates. When she awoke, she was inconsolable claiming an invisible entity grabbed her neck and strangled her. Upon closer inspection, her neck was covered in bruises and scratches that appeared to back up her story. As far as anyone knows, this is the first reported attack by the violent ghost of Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Once reports of the attacks hit the internet, a multitude of the curious flocked to Greyfriars to challenge the entity’s wrath. Due to the overwhelming demands of visitors, tours were organized by locals to take the courageous, or foolish depending on your point of view, into the graveyard. In his 2000 book, “The Ghost That Haunted Itself”, historian Jan-Andrew Henderson, chronicled the exploits of the entity being called the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Henderson writes, over 500 people have been punched, kicked, and scratched by the Mackenzie Poltergeist. And if the report is to be believed, the entity may be responsible for one death.

In 2000, Colin Grant, a spiritualist minister took it upon himself to attempt an exorcism of the malevolent entity. While praying in the graveyard, Grant became suddenly overwhelmed by the countless tormented souls that haunt the graveyard. Even the dark spirit of Mackenzie himself came forth. Grant fled the graveyard and never returned. Sadly, a few weeks after his failed exorcism, Colin Grant was found dead from an apparent heart attack. Some have offered a much different explanation for his death…Bluidy Mackenzie followed him home and claimed his life from beyond the grave.

If there is any truth to the belief that violent death causes a haunting, Greyfriars Kirkyard proves it. Is George Mackenzie reaching out from the nether to continue his reign of terror long after his death? Or, perhaps it’s the accumulated muck and negativity that occurred there centuries ago that has coalesced to exact it’s vengeance. If you’re willing to pay the price of the tour, you could find out for yourself.

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About Rick Hale 33 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, Spookyisles.com and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at YouTube.com.
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