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Greyfriar's Cemetery

Listed under Paranormal in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Greyfriar's Cemetery
  • Photo of Greyfriar's Cemetery
  • Photo of Greyfriar's Cemetery
Photo of Greyfriar's Cemetery
Photo by flickr user WordRidden
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'Hanging judge' George MacKenzie was renowned for the perverse delight he took in sentencing the Presbytarianist Covenanters of Edinburgh to death at the gallows in the 17th Century. His ruthless persecution of all those who did not agree with the royal ideal of episcopal governance earned him the nickname of 'Bluidy MacKenzie'.

After sending hundreds of Covenanters to their untimely ends, to be buried in Greyfriars Cemetery, MacKenzie was interred there himself. Ghostly experiences in connection with his victims have often been reported but it is the 'MacKenzie Poltergeist' that merits the most attention, since it is said not only to produce knocking sounds, hot and cold patches of air and experiences of being touched, but other, more violent phenomena.

Some 140 people have collapsed as a result of alleged attacks from an invisible force, which is said to have punched, kicked and grabbed them. Some claim that cuts, scratches and burns have inexplicably appeared under their clothes during the time they have spent in the cemetery, and dead animals are sometimes found in front of the tomb, dubbed 'The Black Mausoleum'.

Poltergeist activity and fires in properties adjoining the cemetery have also been attributed to MacKenzie ghost, and cases of possession have been documented at the site.

Written by  larapiegeler.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

I was visiting Edinburgh with my husband between 31st July -4th August this year.On August the 2nd at twelve midday after having visited the cemetery we went for a drink at the Gryafriars Bobby Pub.We were sitting outside and at some point I had to go to the toilet.After I had finished my business I left the pub and as I headed towards our table I got hit on the back.It was a hard slap on the shoulder.Of course I turned around to ask whoever did it why they had hit me.There was nobody there at all.The whole thing was witnessed by my husband from a distance.As soon as I sat at the table he asked me if anyone had said something to me or had anything happended as he could read the emotions on my face.I described to him I had been hit by an invisible hand.We finished the drink and before we letf I asked in the pub if any of the customers have ever said something similar and the barmaid said no.

I thought I would share it with you guys.I had so called paranormal experiences before but prior to this incident had never been touched by someting I could not see.

Attack at greyfriars kirkyard.

Myself and my husband went there in 2006. My parents had been on the tour previously and said nothing had happened and that it was a great laugh and we should go. So we did. Going around the graveyard and hearing stories was interesting and fun, then the serious bit as we get to the gates of the prison. The guide asked if anyone has a heart condition or is pregnant as they are not allowed in. She also asked if anyone is a conductor, of which I raised my hand and said I believed that I may be...that is someone that has encountered super natural activities before. Well I did warn her! Glad she took it seriously, she grabbed me and threw me into the prison and said "McKennzie, we offer her up to you". Not to funny from my side of things, but I was ok.

Once inside the tomb thing I made sure my husband was standing behind me, we were near the back. My arms were by my sides and he was holding my hands. Then as the guide was speaking, I experienced a tightness around my arms, like a band was put around them, then my fingers in unison started to go numb, little fingers towards the thumb. Then I couldn't breath and started to go woosey and could not stand up. My husband took me outside and the other guide quickly took me to the gates to get out. At which point just before I could step out of the gates, something behind me kicked my at the back of the knees and my legs went from under me.

After being picked up from the ground by the guide and my husband, I can only describe the shear despair and hate and terror within my body. I wailed the place down like a banshee. But the strange thing was, it didnt feel like it was coming from me. It was almost like feeling the tortured souls of the prisoners and the crying was like a type of relief or expression....mad I know.

Anyway, the next day I was left with bruises on my arms and legs that looked like finger marks.

I was wearing my gold cross, God knows what would have happened had I not!

I would never ever go back personally, that place is locked to the public for a reason!

But don't let that put you off, people have different experiences. Some people are more sensitive to that stuff than others. My parents loved it and thought it was real fun.

3 Replies

Wow - that's a crazy story! What do you think happened? Have you ever felt anything like that before?

Not to that extent, no. Yes I've had strange experiences before, but nothing physical like that. That was unreal! I don't know why they happen to some people and others not. But it is well documented and quite common the attacks in Greyfriars on the public. If you want to read up on it there is an interesting book called the 'Ghost that Haunted Itself'...I'm not sure of the author. Get you all in the mood for Hallowe'en!

Thanks for the tip, I'll have a look for the book. My Mum is really sensitive to these sorts of things - some places just spook her, so it would be interesting to find out more. Thanks!

I went to greyfriars graveyard when i was little with my dad and my brother, I was maybe 7 but I will never forget what I felt.

I was sitting on my dads shoulders and i was playing with his hair because i wasn't taking the walk seriously. All I cared about was seeing the little dogs grave and hearing storys. well as we were walking I felt something pushing on my back, I turned around to hit my brother on the head for trying to scare me. but when i looked over my shoulder I realized my brother was at least 30 feet behind us looking at a grave stone. I had chills running down my spine. It was a summer night and it wasn't cold but i had some serious goose bumps on my arms. When we left the graveyard I felt perfectly fine. It was really freaky. I'm 15 and I still remember this as if it was yesterday.

1 Reply

That's a pretty crazy story. People think that kids aren't telling the truth when they say things like this but actually they've got less reason to make something up! I think kids are more open to other possibilities.

Did moonlight MacKenzie brush my arm?

I went to Greyfriars Cemetery with my boyfriend Elliot on the evening of the 5th September 2009. Beforehand, Elliot had joked with the tour guide saying that we wanted guaranteed faintings and scratches, or we wouldn't pay up, we were scoffing a baked potato with cheese and weren't taking it very seriously at first. There was a full moon that night and it was a very dry fresh September evening, which helped us all to feel the spirit of the evening, so to speak. The tour and historical accounts were fantastic. I hadn't given it too much thought that any of us would experience anything supernatural in the 'The Black Mausoleum'. Once inside the BM the tour guides torch began to fade and she'd instructed us that we weren't to spend longer than 10 minutes in there, as it was her understanding that, whatever energy was active in there, the longer we stayed in there it would try and use our collective energies to manifest some poltergeist activity, and there was a first aider outside in a ghost mask, which didn't bode well. I had a tightness in my chest before I entered the BM but that could be put down to agitation. I wasn't particularly frightened until we'd been standing in there for approximately 5 minutes. The tightness in my chest can be explained but the heavy stroke on my arm can't. Elliot and I were positioned at the back of the BM because Elliot had tussled his way to the front and charged in first, dragging me behind him. Ordinarily I'm a very controlled person, but when I felt this stroke on my left arm I let out the most piercing scream. There was nobody standing to my left-we were right at the back, and my boyfriend had both his arms wrapped tight around my neck to comfort me throughout the talk. What I felt was very real, and I never forget these sort of experiences, the memories lodge in ones mind as clear as day, and I've experienced this sort of thing before so, although I was immediately shocked, I wasn't so surprised in hindsight. You must visit this site, if only for entertainment. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and it's one more funny anecdote to add to our list of tales.

3 Replies

Wow. Have you had any similar experiences at other times? If so where did you have them?

Yes, I lived in a house once off Holloway Road in London. We had all sorts of unwanted guests there. And the only other time that I've experienced an actual sensation of being physically touched was in a building I worked in years ago that had a fast turn over of staff who were all too frightened to stay.

Was that building in London as well? Was it old?

I went on Oct 2007, and nothing happened! I will ty again this december!

Tour of Greyfriars Cemetery and the Covenanters' Prison

I went on a guided tour of Greyfriars, including the Covenanters' Prison whilst on holiday in Edinburgh a few years back. All the money in the world wouldn't be enough to coax me back to that place after dark!

The majority of the tour was pretty spooky - it was late winter and a cold, damp night to be walking round a cemetery at night!But it wasn't until we entered the prison that I really felt genuinely scared.

The prison isn't accessible other than on a tour, and the guide locked the gate, the only exit, behind us. We walked slowly down the narrow stretch of grass, hemmed in on either side by mausoleums, stopping to point out various examples on the way. Then we arrived at the infamous Black Mausoleum, supposedly where the majority of the poltergeist activity centres.

Standing in the dank, stone tomb, I was beginning to feel mighty afraid, but when the guide explained that one theory on poltergeists is that they feed off of people's fear, that was it for me. I had to leave the mausoleum and stand outside, waiting for the guide to finish. What I experienced, standing there I will never forget. People sometimes describe fear as if you are 'glued to the spot' and I now understand where that comes from. I couldn't move; I was literally fixed there, crying, unable to breathe, and worst of all, unable to escape... It reached a peak when I lost control of myself and started screaming out! Everyone came rushing out to see what was happening, but there was nothing specific, just an overwhelming sense of terror and uncontrollable dread!

Once I'd calmed down, the tour was pretty much over, so myself and my partner made our way to the gate and were let out by the guide. So it was finally over. I'd paid money to be scared, and I wasn't disappointed! I was just grateful that I'd not experienced anything more specific than the fear. Some people receive unexplained scratches, bites, burns, and some even collapse. So I guess I had a lucky escape. Needless to say, I will not be going back for more!!!!!

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