Over the last several years, one small tomb in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Cemetery has become famous as the lair of a malevolent paranormal entity. The tomb is known as the ‘Black Mausoleum’ and is located behind the high walls and locked gates of an area known as the Covenanter’s Prison.
The entity has been named ‘The Mackenzie Poltergeist’.
I will readily admit to having a soft spot for Mackenzie. I’ve already written a book about it called The Ghost that Haunted Itself and I used to live in a house in the graveyard, right across from the Covenanter’s Prison. Not that I’m weird or anything like that – the rent was cheap. I even started City of the Dead Tours to explore the entity.
Sounds obsessive but, honestly, it isn’t. Most authors who write about a famous supernatural case (should they be crazy enough) are unfamiliar with the location, the people involved and the more intimate details of the situation. Here I was living a few feet away from a paranormal case that was attracting massive media attention. It was too good an opportunity to turn down. Not long after the initial sightings of the Mackenzie Poltergeist, the Covenanter’s Prison was locked by City of Edinburgh Council. I obtained permission to set up tours that would unlock and enter the site, to see if anything unexplained happened. It also gave me access to every witness to any paranormal phenomena.
If something unexplained happened to a visitor in the Covenanter’s Prison, the City of the Dead guide would take their name, address and statement. We even developed a control experiment. While telling people about the entity, the guides would include a false piece of information about typical supernatural occurrences. If this detail cropped up in a witness statement, we concluded that this particular onlooker was trying a little too hard and disregarded it. In short I had the perfect set up to study an alleged paranormal location as well as the poltergeist it contained. Some of my more superstitious friends think I have paid a high price for that.
The Black Mausoleum seems to differ from Edinburgh’s other haunted locations for two reasons. One is the frequency of the poltergeist sightings. The other is the severity of the incidents. The period between the first recorded sightings in 1999 and the present, have seen hundreds of documented ‘attacks’ in the Black Mausoleum and Covenanters Prison. Of these attacks, an astonishing 140 have caused the witness to collapse. I now have 75 pages of eyewitness accounts, and there are probably many more people who encountered the poltergeist but didn’t write to me with their stories.
Over the years, there have been numerous reports of hot spots, cold spots and cuts, bruises and burns on witnesses’ bodies – often under their clothes. Photographs have been taken of these marks as well as many pictures of an unidentified shape in the tomb. There have been sightings of a white figure, unexplained smells, and auditory anomalies – including knocking noises under the ground and inside the tomb itself. Dead animals are found, unmarked, in front of the Black Mausoleum. People have complained that an unseen apparition has pulled their hair, grabbed their legs and arms and hit them. One or two have even claimed to be possessed. The area has been exorcised twice – both times unsuccessfully.
Poltergeist activity has been reported in four different houses around the graveyard and a large fire broke out in the residences behind George Mackenzie’s tomb in 2002.
Then, in October 2003, a fire swept though my house and the tour company offices – both overlooking the graveyard. It destroyed years worth of letters, photographs, records and statements concerning the Mackenzie Poltergeist, as well as every possession I had in the world. None of the surrounding properties were damaged and an official cause for the fire was never established. Fortunately I had saved most of the sightings and eyewitness accounts on a computer in another building – about the only thing that did survive. I’ll not be outsmarted by something that hangs around in a tomb.
Mind you, I live somewhere else now.
I don’t know what the Mackenzie Poltergeist really is. I don’t know if it’s a supernatural entity, a pheromone cloud, a demon or a set of psychosomatic and hysterical reactions. All have been suggested. But I know it has become the best documented supernatural case of all time and probably the most conclusive.
Let me put it this way – if the Mackenzie Poltergeist isn’t a genuine supernatural entity then I don’t think there’s any such thing. Not anywhere in the world.