The Mackenzie Poltergeist: Scotland's Most Violent Paranormal Activity

The Mackenzie Poltergeist: Scotland’s Most Violent Paranormal Activity

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Written By Haunting Realm

Adventurer. Cryptozoology enthusiast. Paranormal investigator. Storyteller.

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In the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland, a tale of the supernatural has been woven into the city's history, captivating locals and tourists alike. This tale is none other than the enigma of the Mackenzie Poltergeist, a malevolent entity said to haunt the historic Greyfriars Kirkyard.

The story of this poltergeist is not just a simple ghost story; it is a complex narrative that intertwines with the city’s rich history, the life of a controversial figure, and a series of unexplained incidents that continue to baffle skeptics and believers alike.

The Haunting of Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Cemetery

Greyfriars Cemetery, a seemingly peaceful resting place, is steeped in history and mystery. 

Here, the Mackenzie Poltergeist is said to reside, causing disturbances and unexplained phenomena that have been reported by over 500 witnesses. 

The cemetery is not just known for its supernatural resident; it is also a significant historical site. It was here that the National Covenant was signed in 1638, a pivotal event in Scotland’s history. 

However, the tales of the poltergeist have made Greyfriars Cemetery a hot spot for those interested in the paranormal.

The Notorious Black Mausoleum

Within the confines of Greyfriars Cemetery lies the Black Mausoleum, the alleged home of the Mackenzie Poltergeist. This mausoleum is the final resting place of Sir George Mackenzie, a former Lord Advocate known for his ruthless persecution of the Covenanters. 

Since the infamous 1998 incident (which we will discuss below), where a homeless man disturbed the mausoleum, numerous reports have been of poltergeist activity.

Visitors have experienced everything from sudden drops in temperature to unexplained bruises and scratches after visiting the mausoleum.

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The story of the Mackenzie Poltergeist is a chilling blend of history and the supernatural, a narrative that continues to evolve with each new report of paranormal activity. 

As we delve deeper into this enigma, we will explore the life of Sir George Mackenzie, the historical events that have shaped the legend, and the eyewitness accounts that have made the Mackenzie Poltergeist one of the most famous such paranormal manifestations in the world.

Sir George Mackenzie
Sir George Mackenzie was a Scottish lawyer and Lord Advocate of Scotland during the 17th century. He played a controversial role in the persecution of Covenanters and is associated with the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Image credit: James Granger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Life and Times of Sir George Mackenzie

To understand the origins of the Mackenzie Poltergeist, we must first delve into the life of the man whose name it bears – Sir George Mackenzie

Known as “Bluidy Mackenzie” for his ruthless actions, his life and deeds have become inextricably linked with the haunting of the Black Mausoleum.

The Early Life of George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh

George Mackenzie was born in 1636/1638 in Dundee, Scotland. He was educated at the King’s College, Aberdeen, and the Bourges University in France. 

After completing his education, he returned to Scotland and began his career as a lawyer. He quickly rose through the ranks, gaining a reputation for his sharp intellect and eloquence.

Mackenzie’s Role as the Lord Advocate of Scotland

In 1677, Mackenzie was appointed as the Lord Advocate of Scotland by King Charles II. In this role, he was responsible for prosecuting cases on behalf of the Crown. 

It was during this time that he earned his infamous nickname, “Bluidy Mackenzie,” due to his severe treatment of the Covenanters, a Presbyterian movement that opposed the King’s attempts to control the Scottish Church.

The Persecution of the Covenanters and the 1679 Revolt

The Covenanters were a group of Presbyterians who signed the National Covenant in 1638, opposing the interference of King Charles I in the Scottish Presbyterian Church. 

However, their opposition led to a period of severe persecution, known as “The Killing Time,” during Mackenzie’s tenure as Lord Advocate. The 1679 revolt was a significant event during this period, where the Covenanters rose against the government. 

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Mackenzie’s role in suppressing this revolt and subsequent prosecution of the Covenanters are the reasons behind his posthumous reputation as a ruthless persecutor.

The Signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirkyard
The Signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirkyard’, William Allan, c.1838. Image credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council.

The National Covenant in 1638 and its Aftermath

The signing of the National Covenant in 1638 was a significant event in Scotland’s religious history. It marked the beginning of a struggle for religious freedom that would last for decades. 

The Covenanters’ opposition to the monarchy’s religious interference led to a period of severe persecution, particularly during Mackenzie’s tenure as Lord Advocate. 

The aftermath of this period is still felt today, with the Covenanters remembered as martyrs in Scotland’s fight for religious freedom.

The Impact of Mackenzie’s Actions on Scotland’s History

Mackenzie’s actions during his tenure as Lord Advocate have left a lasting mark on Scotland’s history. His severe treatment of the Covenanters has been widely criticized, and his reputation as “Bluidy Mackenzie” has endured. 

However, his influence extended beyond his persecution of the Covenanters. As a lawyer and a legal writer, he contributed significantly to Scotland’s legal system. 

On the same topicThe Glenluce Devil: The Tale of a Powerful Poltergeist in 17th Century Scotland

Despite his controversial actions, his contributions to Scotland’s legal system are still recognized today.

The legacy of George Mackenzie is a complex one, marked by both significant contributions and ruthless persecution. 

It is this legacy that forms the backdrop of the haunting of the Black Mausoleum, a tale of the supernatural that continues to captivate those who venture into the Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Mackenzie tomb (the Black Mausoleum) inside view
Mackenzie’s tomb (the Black Mausoleum) inside view.

The Emergence of the Mackenzie Poltergeist

The 1998 Incident: The Awakening of the Poltergeist 

The Mackenzie Poltergeist was not always a part of the lore surrounding the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Its emergence is tied to a series of incidents that began in 1998, forever changing the narrative of the cemetery and the Black Mausoleum.

In the winter of 1998, a homeless man seeking shelter from the harsh Edinburgh weather broke into the Black Mausoleum. 

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As he settled down for the night, the floor beneath him gave way, plunging him into a pit filled with the skeletal remains of plague victims. 

This incident, known as “the 1998 Greyfriars Kirkyard incident,” is widely believed to have awakened the Mackenzie Poltergeist.

The disturbance of these remains is thought to have triggered the poltergeist activity that has since been reported in and around the mausoleum. 

Following this incident, visitors to the cemetery began reporting strange occurrences, from sudden drops in temperature to feelings of being watched or touched.

According to multiple reports, the homeless man had broken into the mausoleum, removed an iron grate in the floor, and descended into a second chamber where he found four wooden coffins. 

In his attempt to find valuables, he began smashing the coffins, which resulted in him falling through a hole into a third chamber. This previously unknown compartment was filled with the semi-putrefied remains of plague victims. 

The man fled the tomb, leaving behind a disturbed crypt that would soon become the center of numerous paranormal reports.

The 2004 Incident: The Teen Duo’s Encounter 

The narrative of the Mackenzie Poltergeist took a significant turn in 2004 when a pair of teenagers decided to break into the Greyfriars Kirkyard after dark. 

As they approached the Black Mausoleum, they reported seeing an unidentified shape moving in the shadows. Despite this eerie sighting, they pressed on, only to find themselves locked inside the cemetery gates.

In a shocking twist, it was discovered that the teenagers had broken into the mausoleum, cracked open Mackenzie’s coffin, and stolen Mackenzie’s head. 

According to a report on Spooky Isles, the teenagers were caught in the act by a tour group visiting the Mackenzie Poltergeist: 

In 2004, another gory twist to the man’s tale occurred when some teenagers broke into his mausoleum, cracked open his coffin and stole Mackenzie’s head. A tour group walking through Greyfriars Kirkyard to pay a visit to the Mackenzie Poltergeist caught them in the act, ironically. Luckily, Mackenzie’s head was found and restored. And the poltergeist keeps on haunting…

The desecration of Mackenzie’s tomb and the theft of his head is seen by many as a significant trigger for the increased activity and aggression reported in the subsequent years.

Witnesses Collapse and the Auditory Anomalies 

The incidents mentioned above were not the only ones to have occurred in the cemetery. 

Over the years, over 450 reported attacks have been reported, with some 180 people losing consciousness. 

Inexplicable fires have broken out, weird paranormal cold spots abound, and an unusually high number of dead wildlife has been found in the vault’s immediate vicinity. 

People have reported feeling like something has punched or kicked them, and unexplained bruises, scratches, and burns have been frequently reported.

Over 500 Reports of Supernatural Phenomena

Hot and Cold Spots

The Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Black Mausoleum, the epicenter of the Mackenzie poltergeist activity, are notorious for their unexplained temperature fluctuations. 

For those who want to better understand the difference between a poltergeist and a ghost or other type of paranormal entity, I have this whole article here: What Is the Difference Between Poltergeists, Ghosts and Other Entities?

Visitors often report sudden and inexplicable changes in temperature, with some areas feeling unnaturally hot while others are chillingly cold. These phenomena, often called “hot spots” and “cold spots,” are commonly associated with paranormal activity.

Mackenzie poltergeist - cuts and bruises on tourists and witnesses
Tourists visiting the Mackenzie Mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard have reported unexplained cuts and bruises, possibly caused by the malevolent presence of the Mackenzie Poltergeist.

Cuts, Bruises, and the Unexplained Smells

More than just temperature anomalies, the Mackenzie Poltergeist is known for its physical manifestations. 

Since 1998, over 450 attacks have been reported, with visitors leaving the graveyard with unexplained cuts, bruises, and even burns. 

One ex-police officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, described his experience: 

After the tour I decided to go back to our hotel room. I was glancing at ‘The Ghost that Haunted Itself’ [a book about the story of the Mackenzie Poltergeist by Jan-Andrew Henderson], when I felt a sharp burning sensation on the right-hand side of my neck. There were at least five deep scrapes [that appeared just under my Adam’s apple].

On returning home the following day, I went straight to my mother’s house, told her my tale, and handed her The Ghost That Haunted Itself, which I had decided I did not want in my home. Yesterday I phoned her and asked her what she thought of the book. Remarkably, she was examining five significant scratches under her Adam’s apple [that were] identical to mine.

I am not the sort of individual who frightens easily but, hand on heart, I am terrified now. The phenomenon you have in that graveyard prison is genuine

These physical manifestations are often accompanied by the sudden onset of nausea and dizziness, as well as the inexplicable aroma of smelling salts and the powerful stench of sulfur. 

Some scratches and burns disappear as quickly as they emerge, while others may last for months. Some, though, scar for life.

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In addition, there have been reports of unexplained fires, malfunctioning cameras and other electrical equipment, and an unusually high number of dead wildlife found in the vault’s immediate vicinity. People have reported feeling as though something has punched or kicked them.

The Black Mausoleum is not the only location affected by these phenomena. 

Residents in four houses bordering the graveyard have reported smashed plates, unexplained fires, and object aportation.

The Mackenzie Poltergeist is not just a local legend; it’s a well-documented and ongoing phenomenon that continues to baffle both locals and paranormal investigators.

An Unexplained Entity

Photographic evidence of the Mackenzie poltergeist is equally unsettling. Visitors have captured images of unidentifiable shapes lurking between the headstones, pallid figures, spectral white birds, and wraithlike children. 

These sightings and the frequent reports of strange knocking sounds emanating from beneath ground level lend credence to the belief that the Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Black Mausoleum are indeed haunted.

Greyfriars Kirkyard main gate view
City of the Dead Tours is a popular tourist attraction in Edinburgh that offers guided tours of the Greyfriars Kirkyard, including visits to the infamous Mackenzie Mausoleum.

The City of the Dead Tours and the Edinburgh Council’s Response

The Mackenzie Poltergeist has become a significant cultural phenomenon in Edinburgh, drawing in locals and tourists alike. 

The City of the Dead Tours, a popular tourist attraction, includes visiting the Black Mausoleum, where visitors are regaled with tales of the poltergeist’s antics. 

The tours have only served to increase the popularity of the poltergeist, with many visitors hoping to experience the supernatural phenomena for themselves.

The Official Response and the Locked Gates

The Edinburgh Council, faced with the growing popularity of the Mackenzie Poltergeist and the increasing number of reported incidents, has had to take measures to ensure the safety of visitors. 

Interesting read: How to Remove a Poltergeist: Everything You Need to Know

The Black Mausoleum was locked and access to it was restricted. Despite these measures, reports of poltergeist activity continue to emerge, with many claiming to have experienced the phenomena outside the mausoleum.

The Exorcism Attempts and the Ongoing Haunting

A Failed Exorcism

Several exorcism attempts have been made over the years in a desperate bid to rid the Greyfriars Kirkyard of the malevolent presence known as the Mackenzie Poltergeist. 

One notable attempt was carried out by Colin Grant, a renowned exorcist known for his expertise in dealing with supernatural entities.

Grant and his team reported intense and disturbing encounters with the poltergeist during the exorcism. 

They felt an overwhelming presence of pure malevolence lurking within the cemetery, as if the very air itself had become charged with dark energy. 

Grant later described the experience, stating: 

I have never encountered such an intense and malicious force in all my years of exorcism. It was as if evil itself had taken physical form within the confines of the Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Tragically, Colin Grant’s health rapidly deteriorated following the exorcism. 

He fell ill and passed away a few weeks later, leaving many to speculate about a potential connection between his involvement with the Mackenzie Poltergeist and his untimely death. 

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Some believe that the relentless and malevolent nature of the poltergeist took a toll on Grant’s well-being, leading to his demise.

The media extensively covered the failed exorcism and its aftermath. 

Newspapers and television programs reported on the eerie events that unfolded during the exorcism, emphasizing the chilling encounters and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Colin Grant’s subsequent death. 

Mackenzie poltergeist
The paranormal manifestations around the Black Mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard increased in intensity possibly due to the disturbance caused by incidents like the 1998 awakening and the 2004 theft of Mackenzie’s head, which may have further provoked the Mackenzie Poltergeist.

More Severe Incidents and the Current State of the Mausoleum

Over the years, the incidents associated with the Mackenzie Poltergeist have grown increasingly severe. 

Visitors have reported being scratched, bruised, and even knocked unconscious by an unseen force. 

Despite these incidents, the Black Mausoleum remains a popular tourist attraction, with many visitors drawn to the site by the tales of the Mackenzie Poltergeist

The Edinburgh Council continues to monitor the situation, taking measures to ensure visitors’ safety while preserving the historical significance of the site.

The Mackenzie Poltergeist has left an indelible mark on Edinburgh’s cultural landscape. 

Its tale continues to captivate locals and tourists alike, adding a layer of mystery and intrigue to the city’s rich history. 

Whether the Mackenzie Poltergeist is a genuine supernatural entity or a product of collective imagination, its story continues to evolve, ensuring that the Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Black Mausoleum remain integral parts of Edinburgh’s cultural identity.

The story of the Mackenzie Poltergeist is deeply rooted in the historical events that took place in Edinburgh

The life and actions of Sir George Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, have become intertwined with tales of the supernatural, creating a narrative that is as much a part of Edinburgh’s history as it’s part of its folklore.