George Mackenzie's Mausoleum – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura
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Edinburgh, Scotland

George Mackenzie's Mausoleum

The tomb of one of Scotland's bloody historic villains is a magnet for bumbling desecrators. 

In 17th-century Scotland, an intense religious struggle was ignited when King Charles introduced the Common Book of Prayer as the prescribed liturgy and declared all opposition to the book an act of treason. The draconian lawyer George Mackenzie was the man responsible for putting the opposition down.

George Mackenzie was a lawyer and the Lord Advocate during the rule of Charles II and quickly earned a reputation as one of the most vicious persecutors of the Covenanters, the people who rose up and signed the National Covenant in 1638. Mackenzie’s brutal and unfeeling treatment of the protesters even earned him the moniker “Bluidy Mackenzie.” He imprisoned many Covenanters in a section of Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, where he delighted in their torture; guards were allowed to beat the Covenanters at will, and eventually, their heads would decorate the spiked gate.

After his death, Mackenzie was entombed in a mausoleum in the Greyfriars Kirkyard- the very same graveyard where he prosecuted those who resisted the new law. His mausoleum has been the site of a number of desecrations. In 1999, a homeless man sought shelter in Mackenzie’s mausoleum and fell through the floor (the resulting hole can still be seen.) More recently, in 2004, a duo of teens broke in to the tomb and removed a number of unidentified remains, even beheading one corpse and using the skull like a hand-puppet. They were found and tried under centuries a centuries-old grave-robbing law described as “violation of sepulcher.” After all the disruption in the mausoleum, it has become the focus of much local superstition. People have reported ghostly activity around the tomb, including scratches and bruises- all attributed to Mackenzie’s poltergeist, as horrific in death as he was in life.

Thanks to the many violations, the doors to the mausoleum remain locked, but visitors can still peek through and recite the old children’s rhyme: “Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye daur, lift the sneck and draw the bar!”

Know Before You Go

Located on the left wall of the Greyfriars Kirkyard when you enter from the main gates.