Greyfriars has been a burial ground since the early 16th century and has the distinction of being the final resting place of such notable persons as; Sir Walter Scots Father, William McGonnegal, Scotlands Worst Poet, George Heriot, founder of the school that is adjacent to the Kirkyard & James Craig, designer of Edinburghs New Town.
Not forgetting one of the most popular residents, the Skye Terrier, Bobby. You can read more about Greyfriars Bobby in my previous post.
Another who is infamously interred at Greyfriars is the Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie.Sir George Mackenzie is credited with writing one of the first Scottish novels & of even the occasional defence of women during the witch trials.But those deeds were not what earned him the name of Bloody (Bluidy) Mackenzie.It was what he did to the Covenanters in 1679.
The Covenanters were Presbyterian Militants who fought the sanctions imposed upon their religious practices by King Charles II, despite the National Covenant that was signed four decades earlier, giving them allowances.
After the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, 1200 surviving Covenanters who refused to swear allegiance to King Charles II were taken prisoner.
Labelled as traitors, these men & women were held at what was then the Inner Greyfriars Yard, about 3 acres, with high walls & one gate.
Sir George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate at that time was responsible for their fates & he castigated them to the full extent of the law.
Those who did not succumb to the malnutrition, the plague & pestilence associated with concentration camps, the physical abuse, were given the choice of swearing an oath of loyalty to the King that some Covenanters called 'The Black Bond'.... or execution on the gallows at Grassmarket.
Months later, those that remained got their judicial fate, Transportation.
It is said that after 5 months of imprisonment, only 250 Covenanters survived to face Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie. In a tragic twist of irony, the ship that was to transport the remaining prisoners, sank off the Orkneys. Only 60 or so of the chained men & women survived.
For his persecution of the Covenanters, Sir George Mackenzie was excommunicated a year later. He had been described as having a violent temper, an insolent approach & a wickedly vicious tongue.
His vindictive nature & desire for self aggrandisement was revealed in his torture & theatrical display of torturous devices on prisoners.
He died in 1691 & was himself buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard. In what was to be known as The Black Mausoleum.
Only a few meters from the remaining Covenanters Prison. (lane)
Bloody Mackenzie passed into legend. The one that gets told on windy, dark nights. The kind that inspires brave children to knock on the doors of The Black Mausoleum & shout 'Bluidy Mackenzie, come oot if ye dar!'
And legend he might have stayed if it wasnt for a homeless man on a cold night in the late 1990's.
The story goes; Desperately seeking shelter for the night, the man broke into Mackenzies resting place. Bored, or looking for something of value he smashed open some of the coffins & fell through the floor.
He fell into what was once a mass grave for plague victims. Surrounded by the dead & decaying bodies, he ran screaming into the streets.
Within days, witnesses had reported feeling an intense cold followed by a gust of air that nearly knocked them over & one woman was found unconscious by the Mausoleum with bruising around her neck.
Several visitors to the Kirkyard began to faint & those who visited the crypts now standing on Covenanters Lane, started to experience worse.
Covenanters Lane is now locked & you can only wander down there on an official Tour.
City of the Dead is one such tour.
The founder of this tour company, Jan-Andrew Henderson has studied the Mackenzie Poltergeist for over 10 years & has more than 75 pages of witness accounts of hauntings & paranormal attacks at Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Because Bloody Mackenzie doesn't just huff & puff & scream 'boo!', at you.
He bites & pinches; Scratches, chokes & burns. Spreading his malevolence like a fog across the moor.
And one day, when I gather my courage, I will visit Covenanter Lane in the dark myself.
Most of the resources I used have been provided throughout the blog as links.
One that I have not but is fascinating reading is below.