Wanted: People to get spooked on ghost tour in name of science

Volunteers will be sent on a ghost hunt. Picture: Getty
Volunteers will be sent on a ghost hunt. Picture: Getty
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Be afraid, be very afraid.

In fact, the more scared the better if you want to take part in a new Edinburgh University study which will send participants on a city ghost tour.

Researchers are taking the spooky step to find out how fear and paranoia affect decision making.

Under the watchful eye of Dr Paul Hutton and James M Harris of Edinburgh University’s Department of Clinical Psychology, a group will be sent to investigate the infamous McKenzie Poltergeist.

The City of the Dead ghost tour which takes in the Black Mausoleum at historic Greyfriars Kirkyard has gained notoriety as one of the most genuinely terrifying.

The Mausoleum is the grave of Sir George Mackenzie, a former Lord Advocate whose persecution of the Covenanters in the 17th century earned him the nickname Bluidy Mackenzie. In 1998, something happened which is said to have disturbed Mackenzie from his eternal slumber and unleashed him on the unwary souls who venture into the Kirkyard.

There have been more than 500 recorded incidents of the poltergeist attacking people since it was disturbed, while others have blamed it for suspicious fires in nearby buildings.

Tour director and novelist Jan-Andrew Henderson said: “[James] wanted something that would genuinely scare people without putting them in a life-threatening situation.

“Even in daylight, nothing engenders fear the way the poltergeist does. It’s the best documented supernatural case of all time.

“It’s physical. I guess that’s what makes it different from all the other hauntings you hear about. It’s an actual physical thing – you never see it, you feel it. We stopped recording the number of attacks. There’s just too many.”

The study will look at the effects of paranoia on data reasoning – whether people who feel they are under threat receive and act on information differently from those in normal circumstances. No study has ever studied this link on the general public, making the pilot original and potentially ground-breaking.

Its main aims are to help explain the behaviour of law enforcers when in the field, and to help understand more about mental health disorders such as psychosis or paranoid ideation.

Volunteers will take part in a free City of the Dead tour on July 3 and 4 and must be healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 65.

In return, they will be asked to complete a questionnaire before and after the tour. Anyone wishing to take part can contact City of the Dead on 0131 225 9044 and will be allocated a slot.