We were riding on the shuttle boat with the guest lecturer when someone asked her what we she recommended seeing this day. She said the ghost tour, since so many thousands and thousands of people had died by the plague and there were so many stories McKenzie’s tomb (Black Mausoleum). So the first thing we did was sign up for a ghost tour that had been recommended to us.
The tour started out with a stroll through Old Town Edinburgh, where we heard some ghastly tales at various locations. We learned that next to the old Parliament building right in old town there had been a graveyard, but it was relocated for a small parking lot, with one exception: John Knox, who had hated women and whose remains and small tombstone were left behind.
We learned that tortuer in Scotlannd was not only legal for longer than most other local companies, but encouraged and welcomed, and that 90,000 people died of the plague in Edinburgh. That it was legal to keep one “lunatic” chained in your basement following a violent episode where a kitchen boy was murdered by a lunatic; that a clan of cannibals had lived just beyond Edinburgh and feasted on hapless travelers, and that witch hunting was a common (and largely unmonitoried) activity. All this leads to misery and death.
We were led into the cellars of the city, which were created — and forgotten about — over the centuries due to building upward and the fates of time. We were taken into a cellar beneath the city streets and accessed only by a former recording studio that had been built above the forgotten tomes and discovered only by accident. In the early 19th centry, a canal was built through Edinburgh, which attracted many lowly-paid Irish immigrants, plus there was a lot of poverty in The Old Town after the wealthier classes were relocated to New Town. The result was there were many impovershed and homeless people who took to living in the city’s understreets, leading to disease and dens of vice, which created a spooky underworld setting.
There were two interesting stories we found in the vaults: one is of a female ghost that is occassionally scene by the tours. She often carries the scent of singed hair, and one time a guest who was not aware of the legend asked how much they paid the woman actress to lurk in the corner – except there was not an actress.
But the most terrifying — and disturbing — room on our tour was the final cellar, where they’d once tortured and killed a family of immigrants accused of witchcraft. In this room, they’d systematically tortured and killed a woman, her husband, their young son and their young daughter who did not speak the same language so could not even understand the questions their inquisitors asked them. The room has had several reports of ghosts, and my wife and daughter both felt an overwhelming flee instinct in that room, even before hearing the story. For me, I continue to have goosebumps about that story, not over the rumored ghosts, but for that poor youjng family who were brutally murdered by unsupervised zealots. Even though centuries have passed, I can still see their despair and suffering by the hands of brutes and honestly it breaks my heart. I will never forget that story.
Finally, we had heard about the Black Mausoleum, but no mention was made of it by anyone and heard nthing of it in the actual city, so I conducted some research on it. According to an article in the Edinburgh news, the Black Mausoleum was uneventful until nearly 20 years ago, when a homeless man seeking shelter inadvertantly desecreated McKenzie’s grave as well as the bones of some plague victimes. ALmost immediately, there were reports of poltergeists, not just in that particular tomb, but in the entire graveyard plus neighboring street. There were reports of faintings, unseen fores pounding on people, and even the work of an exorcist a few years later had no effect. After more than 500 separate complaints, the city closed and locked the grave yard, and no one is allowed in anymore.
The ghosts are scary. But honestly more scary than ghosts are actual human beings, and the few crazy human beings in authority who are allowed to torture and kill countless people. Where do these people come from? ANd how is it a few people can terrorize an entire population? Humans and human nature is far scarier than supposed ghosts…