Greyfriars Kirkyard, Daylight

Overgrown Crypt

One of my favourite locations in Edinburgh is Greyfriars Kirkyard. Considered one of the most haunted places on the planet according to many accounts, Greyfriars has a paranormal history that stands virtually unrivalled.

According to reports from tourists, locals, historians and poltergeist hunters, the evil spirit of George ‘Bluidy’ Mackenzie, pursuer and torturer of the Covenanters, actually has the power to attack modern day victims who visit ‘his cemetery’.

In front of the "Bluidy' Tomb

Occurrences of poltergeist activity rapidly increased after his grave was disturbed in 1990, by a homeless man looking for a place to sleep.

As absurd as that sounds, many of the reports actually come with video and photographic proof (some of which can be found on location at the Kirkyard).

The Crypt

Over and over people from all nations who visit the cemetery are attacked in the same manner – pushed so hard the wind is knocked out of them (there are even reports of people being knocked unconscious), and/or scratched in the torso (often under clothes) or head, so hard that visible marks are left.

This isn’t the only fascinating and horrible aspect of Greyfriars. During the dreadful plague, bodies were stacked by the thousands, so high that the burial ‘hills’ still remain today.

Grave Stones

Greyfriars itself sits much higher than the road at its side, though once they were on the same level.

The cemetery is full of decaying ‘mortsafes’. Designed to keep the fresh body free from grave-robbing, a lucrative business at the time.

Lined in a Row

As a matter of fact, it is said that the term ‘graveyard shift’ derived from this phenomenon.

It used to be that families would take shifts watching over their dead to protect them from such indecency. With mother and children taking the day shift and father/brother/elder son taking the night.

This ritual would end after about three weeks, when the body was decomposed enough that it would lose its value.

Entering Greyfriars

The yard is separated into sections – the Covenanters prison (where thousands were tortured and killed), the well maintained burial ground of the pious (Popes and Pastors and persons of the like), the mass graves of the plague victims, the crumbling area reserved for doctors and important towns people, and of course the row of ‘the cursed’ where child killers, rapists, wrong doers  – and people hated by the Queen of the day – are buried.

Skull and Crossbones

My favourite aspect of Greyfriars is the medieval ‘signage’. Skull and crossbones in place to deter people from wandering through the once diseased, festering burial ground.

The Cursed

The horrible, creepy skull/baby monument to the cursed and the scientific skeleton dancing hatefully on the Queens crown are a few of the most memorable. From;

The memorial to James Borthwick of Stow (1676)  is one of several in Greyfriars Kirk Yard to eminent surgeons and doctors. Borthwick was Professor of Anatomy in Edinburgh and Deacon of the Surgeons. The symbols are of a dancing skeleton with a scythe, above a Crown (of Righteousness). A skull and cross bones is at the foot. The side panels have illustrations of surgical instruments, scalpels etc.

Turns out the Surgeon and professor of anatomy had a strong dislike for the Queen and her medieval ideas and policies (medicine was almost witchery at the time).

Skeletons Dance at Greyfriars Kirk

He wanted his ‘last laugh’ gravestone to be a permanent ‘effigy-ical’ testament of his feelings.

The Kirkyard is full of stories, and is worth spending a few dollars for a tour, speaking from my own experience on previous visits.

Infront of the Castle

If it weren’t for my tour (taken in the past), I wouldn’t have known that the private school, on just the other side of the cemetery gates, served as the inspiration for famed ‘Hogwarts’.

Seen clearly from the view J.K Rowling had at the ‘Elephant House Cafe’, where she penned her first hit.

Hogwarts Inspiration

The gift shop is interesting too. Ya, I know – a gift shop at a graveyard? Well, it is famous and full of tourists, and the money made goes into greater Greyfriar good.

I purchased some great ghosty books on my last visit.

Cemetery wall

We wandered the cemetery for hours until we were starving, taking photographs of the eerie, possessing necropolis. Though we didn’t know yet, later in the evening we would have our own truly terrifying experience at Greyfriars…

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section, and you can enjoy many more photos of Scotland by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


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6 responses to “Greyfriars Kirkyard, Daylight

  1. Just reading this has given me the creeps. I think a guided tour would be the way to go! We do like looking through cemeteries and some of the very old headstones are fascinating. I’ve caught up now on your posts, and am looking forward to the next instalment.


    • It really was SOMETHING… and our evening experience, that I am about to retell, counts as one of the scariest of my life. Beautiful cemetery, we really don’t have the ‘history’ here in Canada to have anything quite like it.

      I am flattered that you take the time to read them all, thank you =).


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