Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is a must for all paranormal fans – it is said by many to be the most haunted Graveyard not only in the UK, but possibly the world. An entity is said to attack visitors in a small section of this graveyard after a disturbance in 1998, and as of recording, the poltergeist has been blamed for 2 deaths, and over 700 injuries.
There have been burials in this Kirkyard since 1561. It was originally a ravine that dipped below ground level, but as more and more people were buried here, the ground is now a bulging hill. Official records estimate that there are more than 750,000 bodies here, but given that many more people were buried here under the cover of darkness to avoid costs, and the fact that there are also plague pits with an unknown number of bodies inside, that number could stretch to well over a million.
It is said that after bad weather (and in Scotland, that often is the case), the ground can become soft, and it is not uncommon to find human bones sticking up. Most of the bodies were not buried at 6 feet, and many are literally just below the surface.
The darkest part of this graveyard lies behind a set of locked gates at the far side of Greyfriars, known as The Covenanter’s Prison. The national Covenant was signed in this very graveyard in 1638, opposing the monarchy, but after the coventanters were defeated at The Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679, captured rebels were locked in a walled section of land to the south of Greyfriars. Many of these rebels would die in captivity, under the commands of a man called George Mackenzie. His ruthlessness gave him the nickname “bluddy Mackenzie.” The irony of this is that after George’s death many years later, he was buried just a few feet from the site of The Covenanter’s Prison. Many strange goings on are said to occur around the black mausoleum where his body is buried.
Today, The Covenanter’s Prison is part of the Kirkyard. After a need for an overflow due to a demand for more land to bury the dead, the Kirkyard was extended into the piece of land where thousands of poor prisoners were held for many months. A lot of the land was built on, but a thin strip of land containing tombs still exists.
And it is here where the hauntings are said to occur. In 1998, a homeless man broke into the black mausoleum while looking for a place to sleep during a storm. However, when inside, the man is said to have fallen through the floor and damaged the coffins of the bodies inside…including that of George Mackenzie. Just days later, all kinds of strange things started happening. People were reporting injuries inside the prison section. It became so severe that Edinburgh Council were forced to keep the gates to this section locked from the public. Only official tour guides have access.
In 2000, a priest named Colin Grant spent the night in the Kirkyard with a local reporter to perform an exorcism and to bring peace to Greyfriars. He would claim that he was tormented by the number of troubled souls in the Kirkyard. A photograph from the night even shows what appears to be a black figure behind him, watching. Colin was badly affected by his night in Greyfriars, and he would die just weeks later during a seance, after repeatedly telling people that something from Greyfriars was following him. The reporter from the local paper was also attacked while in the Kirkyard, and the next morning, she woke up covered in bruises.
In 2011, Dead Air Radio’s Chris Felton also has a strange encounter alongside Steve Taylor and the team when they had stones thrown at them, and all witnessed a white mist floating towards them, all while live on the radio.
I was kindly given access to spend the night in The Covenanter’s Prison section of the Kirkyard.
Edinburgh EH1 2QE
Greyfriar’s is located in the old town area of Edinburgh. There are a couple of entrances to the Kirkyard which are open 24 hours. The most common way is behind the pub, Greyfriar’s Bobby, which is named after a small Skye-Terrier dog who is said to have visited and sat beside his owner’s grave everyday until his own death in 1872. Bobby is one of the biggest tourist attractions to Greyfriar’s, and there is a gravestone dedicated to him in the entrance. However, not many people know that the story is actually a load of fiction. While there really was a dog called Bobby, there is no evidence to prove the existence of his owner, ‘John Gray’. There is a gravestone for John along the East side of the Kirkyard, but nobody is buried beneath it.