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

Greyfriar's KirkyardEdinburgh has a whole lot of haunted history for tourists 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.

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.

Covenanters' Prison execution wall

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.

Black Mausoleum in Greyfriar's Kirkyard

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. 

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

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

The attacks started in1999, after a homeless man broke into the 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 exorcism in Greyfriars. Strangely, one of the exorcists died a week later from a heart attack.

Entering Covenanters' Prison with the City of the Dead tour

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.”

City of the Dead Tour

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…

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