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The Truth About The MacKenzie Poltergeist

vampire-ish mythology & folklore

By Caitlin McCollPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
The Truth About The MacKenzie Poltergeist
Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

[Author's Note: When I lived in Scotland from 2002 to 2007, I lived about 40 minutes north of Edinburgh and one of the things me and my husband did one time was go on one of the (many) scary ghost tours that are available around Edinburgh ~ C ]


To many, gory violence is a staple of Scotland's historic past, where numerous people ended up on 'the other side', but rarely under happy circumstances. Edinburgh in particular is steeped in a deep, dark and murderous history. As each night falls, both tourists and locals alike can relive the city's non-salubrious past via many tours of "Old Reekie's" infamous and illustrious blood-soaked past, taking in murders, witchcraft, hangings, underground vaults and mysterious and paranormal occurrences.

One of the tours which is gaining much notoriety is one which visits Greyfriars Churchyard. Operated twice nightly by City of the Dead Tours, this was a must-attend tour for myself and my boyfriend upon a recent visit to Scotland.

Most graveyards can be creepy enough during the day, and considering 'Greyfriars Churchyard' crammed thousands of bodies upon thousands of bodies over many many years, in not the largest of cemetery grounds, it already has an added gore and uncomfortableness factor from the start. The thought of a hill we had walked up at one point during the tour, which we were informed was literally a hill of bodies stacked atop of each other (a convenient space saver in those days, you see), was gruesome enough, never mind the added fact that it was approaching midnight and it was a full moon!

Our presence in the churchyard though was not just to view the graves of famous Scots (and animals!) and to hear the chilling stories behind some of them. We, and the 20 or so other graveyard connoisseurs, were there to see (and "hoping" to encounter) the famed 'MacKenzie Poltergeist' that haunts a certain area at the back of the cemetery.

What is a poltergeist you may ask? Most people reading this article probably already know the answer. Many people immediately think 'oh, they're just ghosts'. Well, if you think that, you're dead wrong! Ghosts are harmless and, a lot of the time, you can actually see ghosts. Poltergeists, on the other hand, are not only invisible but are malevolent and mischievous and can physically attack and injure people. And this one is no exception.

The MacKenzie Poltergeist, as this one is known, is the angry spirit of a 17th Century man named George Mackenzie. He earned the nickname 'Bloody' in 1677 for persecuting, under the order of King Charles the II, the Covenanters (religious people) who were held prisoner on the cemetery grounds, with little or no food daily and out in the open, exposed to the harsh elements (apparently, Scotland has a very cold, harsh climate, when I was there it was nice and sunny for most of the time!). Needless to say, lots of people died at the hands of old Bloody MacKenzie. Even after death, he's still hanging around to terrorize people in the present (guess he really enjoyed his job!).

The Covenanters Prison is today the haunted section of the cemetery, and not the MacKenzie tomb itself, which is just a few feet away from the prison gates. Mackenzie's big stately tomb has, underneath it (by way of a grate in the floor that you can see if you go up and peer in the little barred windows), a large pile of human bones covered with nasty substances. If you were to go down into the bone-filled area, there, against the wall are four coffins, where MacKenzie and his family rest.

Before actually entering the Prison gates, our tour guide told us that one of us could be an Inductor. If you already know what an inductor is, chances are that's because you've been one. Not something I would recommend! An Inductor is one that the poltergeist latches onto specifically for one reason or another, maybe because they emit a certain type of energies that it is attracted to. A key energy that MacKenzie (and probably many other poltergeists) is attracted to and feeds on is fear. I was just very relieved when I walked back out of those Prison gates about half an hour later, that I wasn't chosen to be the poltergeists' plaything!

Since 1999, many of the City of The Dead Tour-goers have experienced traumatic events at the hands of Mr. MacKenzie's troubled spirit. Over 50 (count 'em) people have been knocked unconscious. Many have experienced the early stages or levels of poltergeist activity (from what I recall, there are 5 levels, 5 being the most intense resulting in physical injury), such as extreme variances in temperature with hot and cold spots, overpowering smells, knocks or rapping noises, seeing little lights (my boyfriend swore he saw a light), and even some more dangerous mysterious cuts, scratches or bruises, sometimes noticed at the time, but mostly the tourists realize these effects the next day. Our guide told us about one 11-year-old boy, who came away with a black eye. Another visitor had 3 bloody scratches on his forehead (when he said he just felt he was brushing cobwebs away from his face). The guide informed him that there were no cobwebs anywhere on the tour. One girl in our tour group had to leave the tomb after a little while, though she insisted she was 'OK'. The person standing huddled beside me was shaking like a leaf during the time we spent in the tomb itself (known as the 'Black Mausoleum').

The Tour Company gives a warning that "The MacKenzie Poltergeist can cause physical and mental distress. You join us at your own risk".

If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh, then I highly recommend that you go on this tour, and that you heed these words. And just pray you aren't that night's inductor!


Check out some of my vampire lore articles here:


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Caitlin McColl

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