Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?

The Bloody Mackenzie ghost roams a famous Capital graveyard, but who was he? And why was he so feared?
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In 2004, two teenagers broke into a large, ornate, stone mausoleum and used a penknife to cut the head off a corpse within.

The teens raced around the graveyard, using the head as a hand puppet before they were spotted by a tour guide, who reported them to the police.

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They were arrested and were the first people in over 100 years charged with the ancient crime of "violation of sepulchre" – disturbing a dead person.

The stone mausoleum was that of Bloody Mackenzie, whose soul is said to wander part of the graveyard at night, never at peace.

As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of him “when a man's soul is certainly in hell, his body will scarce lie quiet in a tomb however costly ; some time or other the door must open, and the reprobate come forth in the abhorred garments of the grave.”

George Mackenzie was born in Dundee in 1636, and was made Scotland’s Lord Advocate in 1677, charged with enacting Charles II laws across the country.

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He was responsible for the imprisonment of 1,200 Covenanters – those who supported a Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?
Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?

They were imprisoned in a field next to Greyfriars Kirkyard and many of them died of starvation, maltreatment or execution.

Mackenzie wrote a lot of legal essays, and was a defender of the use of torture and was proud that it was legal in Scotland at the time.

However, when it came to witchcraft, he showed a slightly less bloody side – he did not agree with the torture and murder of those accused of witchcraft, believing that witches were not as common as thought.

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Mackenzie died in London in 1691, and was moved to Edinburgh for burial.

Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?
Bloody Mackenzie: Who was Bloody Mackenzie and where can you find his ghost in Edinburgh?

The area of the Covenanters prison, accessed through a gate at Greyfriars, is closed to the public, as the key is kept by a local tour group.

It is here where the ghost of Mackenzie has been spotted, scratching unsuspecting tourists, never to rest at the site of his disgrace.