In Edinburgh, Scotland, something is lurking at the back of Greyfriars Cemetery that isn’t as friendly as Greyfriars’ Bobby, the legendary small dog associated with the graveyard. Ever since the winter of 1998/99, when a homeless man tried to seek shelter in the ornate mausoleum of Lord Advocate, George Mackenzie, an entity called the Mackenzie Poltergeist has been attacking visitors to the Covenanter’s Prison. The attacks were so bad that the authorities have locked the Prison to the public. Access can only be gained by taking part in the City of the Dead ghost tour, and after hearing a stern ‘hazard’ warning.
The Covenanter’s Prison and George Mackenzie are closely linked to a particularly dark patch in Scottish history, the latter part of the fifty years religious persecution of the Covenanters. These were a group of Presbyterians determined to defend their outlawed branch of Christianity and were something of a pet hate to George Mackenzie. As Lord Advocate, it was his job to grind them down, and this he did with great zeal. He earned the nickname “Bluidy” Mackenzie for his efforts. In 1679, after the Battle of Bothwell Brig, Mackenzie incarcerated over 1000 Covenanters captured at the battle in a small section of Greyfriars Cemetery, in what is believed to be the first concentration camp in history, and known today as Covenanters Prison. Many of the prisoners died. They were ill fed and made to face a harsh winter in the open as the prison was unsheltered. Guards had a free rein to shoot, and many prisoners were executed at the front of the graveyard, their heads hung on spikes on the cemetery gates. Some were sold into slavery, and some managed to get free by either renouncing their religion or bribing a guard. There were just over 200 left of the original number by time the Covenanters were set free from Greyfriars.
In 1691, George Mackenzie died. He was buried a few hundred feet away from the Covenanter’s Prison. One of the local legends went that his coffin moved about by itself because of his anguish at being buried near the site of the misery he orchestrated. As to the veracity of that, I’m not so sure, but angst between the ghosts of Covenanters Prison and Mackenzie is just one of reasons given for the existence of the Mackenzie Poltergeist. The entity is named this as it’s believed to have originated in Mackenzie’s mausoleum, when the aforementioned homeless man sought shelter there during a rainy night. He managed to get right down to where the coffins lie and experienced something nasty enough to have him fleeing back into the storm. There’s differing speculation as to what that was. Local author Jan-Andrew Henderson believed that something was disturbed that night, which has been grumbling ever since. For some strange reason, the entity moved from Mackenzie’s mausoleum into an empty mausoleum in Covenanter’s Prison.
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