Greyfriar’s Kirkyard: The Most Haunted Graveyard in the World

most haunted places in the worldEdinburgh has a whole lot of haunted places to explore: ghost walks, creepy castles, sites of witch burnings. But this city in Scotland also has what some consider to be the most haunted graveyard in the world — Greyfriars Kirkyard. In fact, some swear it’s one of the most haunted places in the world.

Most of the hauntings are linked to the ghost of George Mackenzie — a merciless judge who presided over the trials of the Presbyterian Covenanters in the 1670s. The Covenanters had petitioned the King to allow freedom to practice their religion without interference. To crush this rebellion against the Crown, “Bloody Mackenzie” was brutal in his out punishments and imprisoned 1,200 Covenanters in a field next to Greyfriars Kirkyard.

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Covenanters’ Prison & execution wall

The prisoners spent over four months outside in the graveyard, awaiting trial. They had no shelter, and were given a daily food allowance of just 4oz of bread. Conditions were so inhumane that the Covenanters’ Prison is often described as the world’s first concentration camp. In the end, many prisoners were executed and hundreds died of maltreatment.

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Above: Peering into the Black Mausoleum, epicentre for the alleged Mackenzie poltergeist

In a twist of fate, George Mackenzie was buried in the Black Mausoleum (above) in Greyfriars, just around the corner from Covenanters’ Prison. Today, Bloody Mackenzie may be dead and gone, but his spirit is said to live on — and physically attack people. 

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Tomb in Covenanters’ Prison where many of the attacks have taken place

The attacks started in 1999, after a homeless man broke into Mackenzie’s vault — and allegedly unleashed an evil force. When the man tried to break into the casket too, he stepped backwards and fell into an old pit containing the rotting remains of Plague victims from centuries earlier.  He ran screaming from the Black Mausoleum.

Since then, Greyfriars Churchyard has been the centre of strange events linked to the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Visitors have left the cemetery with bruises, scratches, bite marks, and burns. Some have passed out or gotten sick. Most attacks have occurred near the Black Mausoleum and the Covenanters’ Prison. There have even been two failed attempts at an exorcism in Greyfriars. Strangely, one of the exorcists died a week later from a heart attack.

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Entering Covenanters’ Prison with the City of the Dead tour

The attacks escalated to the point whereby the City of Edinburgh closed off the Covenanters’ Prison from the public. Now, the City only allows controlled visits to that section as part of the City of the Dead ghost walk. We stood in a tomb while our guide told us stories about the cemetery, the assaults, and instructions on what to do if someone on the tour passed out (yes, this happens). While I didn’t experience any assaults, my legs turned icy cold from the knee to my feet. And this was in July…very strange.

Want to take the tour? Beware: the company warns that “The Mackenzie Poltergeist can cause genuine physical and mental distress. Join the tour at your own risk.”

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Lisa scared shitless on the City of the Dead tour


  1. Bob Edinburgh says

    My mother often took us, her children, to this churchyard to play. Any ghosts, ghouls, eeeries headless bagpipers, or Blackfrianrs Bobbie would have been welcome to join us, all we ever caught was a cold ………

    • Neil Davison says

      I did this tour in Feb2007, along with the Edinburgh Crypts.
      One of the ladies on the tour, took sick and was about to pass out when she was escorted out of the graveyard by a guide and her husband.
      Not long after, we were stood in one of the open tombs, in a semi circular fashion facing the door way whilst the guide spoke to us; In the door way of the tomb opposite appeared a small boy peering around the entrance, he then proceeded to run between a few of the door ways and then disappeared inside one of them not to be seen again.
      There were a few screams and screeches from people on the tour, the guide seemed visibly shaken but then quite happy that something had happened on her tour. All in it added to the night time tour and once over the shock off experiencing these things, everyone was buzzing!

  2. Claire Whelan says

    My husband and I visited Edinburbh over ten years ago now close to Christmas so it was very cold but fantastic city. We waked miles while there and took one bus tour out towards the Firth of Forth bridge where Her Majesty the Queen ship had been moored after being retired. We didn’t go into the ship and were disappointed with the mod area it was in after coming from such an ancient city as Edinburgh. We visited Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetary on a misty cold day but to see Blackfriars Bobby grave or sculpure. We had seen that fantastic film beforehand and we had a rescue dog who was the mirror image of the dog in the film so wanted to see anything associated to him. If we get to visit Edinburgh again we will go on a tour of the graveyard on a nicer day and in more depth.

    Edinburgh golden mile and castle is amazing and the camera building by the castle and the cresent of old stunning buildings out towards Murrayfield Stadium and so so so much more including Venners (am I correct with the name?) shop which when we were there had a huge high Christmas tree reaching up over two stories inside the shop. Just a wonderful place to visit. Of course the people are fantastic too very friendly.

  3. Amanda-Jane Wileman says

    Me and my partner watch Ghost Adventures on TV, one night the Ghost team where doing a lock down in the Edinburgh Vaults at night but during the day they visited Greyfriars graveyard. I said that looks like a place we could visit one day as it only a few hours from where we live, my partner booked us an overnight stay as a surprise for me and we visited the graveyard. All went well with out anything happening but once we had looked at George McKenzie tomb i smelled a sweet sickly smell for the rest of the walk around the graveyard partner smelled nothing. We did not go through the gates to the Covenanter’s Prison part of the graveyard as they where locked, spent the rest of the eveing walking and having a few drinks in bars in Edinburgh town and what a town it is. Such a beautiful place day or night will be back again soon.

  4. Prarthana Perera says

    I went to Edimburgh during a school trip and I’m very disappointed that we didn’t visit this place…

  5. Penny says

    My family & I visited the churchyard yesterday evening. We were listening to a tour guide giving a talk about the graveyard & wandering around on our own, we didn’t really take much notice to be honest. My daughter & I peered into the mausoleum through the iron grates & a stone hit the doors from inside the doors, making us jump. We thought it was a bird trapped inside or something so peered in again, only to have what sounded like a handful of stones being thrown at us from inside again. As we stepped away the air around us suddenly felt ice cold & my daughter gave out a loud yell – there was nothing around us apart from myself & her. Her hair had been pulled really hard from behind & she was nearly in tears as it was so painful. Her side was also hurting, so I lifted her sweat top to find what looked like a large, red wheal on her side & a deep scratch that was bleeding. We were both stunned & still cant find a reasonable explanation for any of this……

  6. Janice Marks says

    I wish I had know about this when I was there in 2019. My 8th great-grandfather Thomas ‘The Martyr” Harkness was in prison there for just a few days before being put to death. He was one of the Convenanters.

  7. stuart crosbie says

    Hello there, I’m looking for a bit of advice, how do i go about getting access to the key for the covenanters prison? I am seriously drawn to this graveyard, i need tto research, but i will not find peace until i have walked and studied every part of the covenanters prison…

  8. Bill Dryden says

    That place scares the **** out of me.
    I would never go in there in the dark or own my own.
    Even though MacKenzie is a fellow Dundonian.

  9. sean Roberts says

    I did a tour last Thursday and took random shots, later when reviewing pics I spotted I have captured a ghostly figure of a skeletal lady in a shroud between gravestones.
    I can add the pic onto site if someone tells me how…

  10. Sasha Anderson says

    Good article and pictures. Watching a documentary re: this place ..looked it up. And yes, this does exist… If we are to believe in great Good, then there also exists a huge evil. And I have seen my share of otherworldly entities in my lifetime.

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