Greyfriars: History of Horror

Brief history of one of the most haunted sites in all of Britain.

Founded in 1562, Greyfriars Kirkyard is seemingly no different than the countless other cemeteries that dot the countryside in Britain. The history surrounding it however is a completely different story. Located in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland just outside of the Royal Mile, it is supposedly one of the most haunted places in all of Britain.

A Blood Soaked Past

In the mid-1600’s it was the sight of a mass killing. The Covenanters, a religious group that were held prisoner there, were slaughtered over a short period of time. An estimated 12,000 were killed in all. The man responsible for the carnage, ‘Bloody’ George Mackenzie, was himself buried there in 1691.

It should not be regarded as coincidence that the supernatural force that supposedly haunts Greyfriars is dubbed ‘the Mackenzie Poltergeist”.

In the 1350’s, during the onset of plague in Scotland, mass numbers of people were buried there without tombstones or grave markings, making the exact amount of people buried there unknown. Certain scholars believe the number to be around 500,000. (Edinburgh council records)

In the 1800’s this was one of the prime locations used by resurrectionists, otherwise known as grave robbers. Due to the fact that only criminals could be dissected, and because Greyfriars was a stone’s throw away from a medical facility, a black market for bodies grew. (Edinburgh council records)

The Hauntings Begin

In late 1998 a vagrant broke into the tomb of ‘Bloody’ George Mackenzie. Going down some stairs into the heart of the tomb, the vagrant fell upon the actual coffin of Mackenzie and injured himself while at the same time breaking the coffin and unsheathing Mackenzie’s remains. Since that time, over 500 people have reported being bitten, scratched, bruised, and beaten by an entity in the cemetery. Colin Grant, an ordained priest and exorcist tried in vain to exorcise the premises only to die a few weeks later from a heart attack.(Henderson)

It is because of this history that the ghost tours were founded in Edinburgh shortly after 1998. I, myself, had the pleasure of taking these tours not once, but twice. I even managed to come to the cemetery at the witching hour where I was witness to what most would call phenomena.

The majority of attacks have been against tourists and have been around The Covenanters’ Prison and the Black mausoleum of what is Mackenzie’s tomb.

Outside of the graveyard stands the most popular dog statue in all of Scotland, Greyfriars Bobby, the dog who is famous for loyalty given to its master.

Greyfriars is still popular among tourists and, aside from The Mackenzie Mausoleum and The Covenanter’s Prison, is still open at all times to the public.


  • Edinburgh council records 1561
  • Henderson, Jan Andrew (2001), ‘The Ghost That Haunted itself: The story of the Mackenzie Poltergeist’


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