The Grim, Ghostly History of Scotland's 'Most Haunted' Graveyard

Ghostly legends surround the mausoleum of George Mackenzie.
Ghostly legends surround the mausoleum of George Mackenzie.
N Chadwick, Geograph // CC BY-SA 2.0

Within Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland, looms a grimly baroque mausoleum covered in centuries' worth of dirt and grime. It's a stark contrast to the otherwise well-maintained grounds, which include a tombstone that inspired a Harry Potter villain and the statue of a dog who was said to have sat by his deceased master's grave for 14 years. That decay is by design: The structure has been allowed to lapse into neglect out of respect for the victims of the man buried inside. Centuries after his death, it’s said that his restless paranormal presence terrorizes those who visit the graveyard. It's this ghost—and not the extensive grave robbing and body snatching that occurred there in the 19th century—that earned the kirkyard a reputation as the most haunted cemetery in Scotland.

A "Bluidy" History

George "Bluidy" Mackenzie.A Biographical History of England: from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Scotland in the 1600s was riven by religious conflict. In addition to the Catholic-Protestant divide that was tearing its way through Europe, Covenanters, protestants who resisted the King's control of the church, were subjected to vicious persecution. Their failed uprising of 1679 was met with an act of retribution so brutal that the man responsible for it, Lord Advocate George "Bluidy" Mackenzie, was widely held to be damned as a result.

After the Covenanters suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Bridge, Mackenzie herded the 1200 survivors Covenanters into a small section of Greyfriars Kirkyard now known as the Covenanters Prison. Trapped in the makeshift jail, with no shelter and insufficient food for months, many of the Covenanters were dead before winter's end. The majority of those who survived were hanged or sentenced to indentured servitude in America, only to drown when their ship went down in a storm (just 47 of the nearly 260 imprisoned people aboard the vessel managed to survive). All but the shipwrecked were buried in a mass grave in the kirkyard.

Mackenzie, meanwhile, continued to serve in public office. He published books on religion, philosophy, and the monarchy, and founded the Advocates Library in 1689. He died 1691 and was interred in a stately mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard—the very same cemetery where the imprisoned Covenanters had once suffered.

A Spirit Disturbed

Despite the graveyard's gruesome past, there are no known reports of paranormal activity until nearly the end of the 20th century, when claims of a violent, unseen presence proliferated after someone broke into Mackenzie’s mausoleum. Reports on the event that disturbed the spirit vary; some say it was children avoiding punishment, while others maintain it was an unhoused man seeking shelter.

Whoever disturbed the tomb unleashed a vengeful spirit. As of 2006, there were more than 450 recorded attacks attributed to the Mackenzie poltergeist. According to the lore, those who encounter the ghost in the Covenanters Prison or mausoleum suffer not just pushing and scratching, but bruises, burns, and even a broken finger. Mackenzie's malevolent presence is said to have the ability to leave the graveyard and attach itself to visitors, following them home and continuing its attacks. There have even been two reported cases of psychiatric hospitalization following alleged encounters with the ghost, who the victims and their partners blame for the episodes.

The Hauntings Continue

You'll need to join an official tour to get behind these gates.duncan c, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

City of the Dead Tours, which specializes in taking people around the poltergeist’s stomping grounds, keeps a record of many of these reported injuries by sharing them on their Twitter account. The company’s founder, Jan-Andrew Henderson, is himself allegedly a victim of the Mackenzie poltergeist. In one of the more extreme cases attributed to the being, Henderson's apartment burned down while he was living next to the graveyard and working on a book about the entity. Though he said at the time that he was keeping an open mind as to whether the ghost even existed, Henderson has since stopped leading tours and moved to Australia.

Henderson may have gotten off lightly. The worst act attributed to Mackenzie’s ghost so far is the death of spiritualist medium Colin Grant in 2000. The medium died of a heart attack during a séance just weeks after attempting to exorcise the poltergeist. Before he passed, Grant said he feared his attempts to get rid of the spirit would kill him.

Those looking to tempt their own fate and catch a glimpse of the ghost will have to plan their excursions in advance. To deter vandals, the Covenanters Prison and Mackenzie’s mausoleum remain locked up, only accessible via brief visits as part of official tours.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Jimi Hendrix’s Connection to Hogan's Alley—Vancouver's Lost Black Neighborhood

Marjut Valakivi, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons
Marjut Valakivi, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

From the early 1900s through the 1960s, Hogan’s Alley—the unofficial name of Park Lane, an alley that ran between Union and Prior Streets in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighborhood—was a multicultural area that hosted an enclave of Black Canadians, largely immigrants and their descendants, who had resettled from American states to find work, generally on the Great Northern Railway system.

As a result of rampant racism and housing discrimination within the city, many of Vancouver's Black residents also migrated there, establishing numerous businesses including Pullman Porters’ Club, famed eatery Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, and the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel, the city’s only Black church at the time, which was partly spearheaded by Zenora Rose Hendrix—a pillar of the community and grandmother to legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix. Yet, despite the neighborhood's thriving business and cultural scene, city officials didn't hesitate to level Hogan's Alley and displace its many residents when it got in the way of an ill-conceived government construction project that was eventually abandoned altogether.

As national uprisings in support of the Black Lives Matter movement continue, racism has been declared a public health crisis throughout the U.S. following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement. Standing in solidarity with Americans calling for an end to police militarization, cultural advocates in Vancouver have been outraged by the harsh treatment of protesters in the United States. Growing frustration in the area has prompted a demand for the once-bustling, historic Black community of Hogan’s Alley to be recultivated as a cultural, commercial, and residential center for Black Vancouverites.

The Rise and Fall of Hogan's Alley

Ross and Nora Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix's paternal grandparents.Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Zenora “Nora” Rose Hendrix was born in the States, but became a much-admired member of the Hogan's Alley community. Nora (who, like her grandson, was a talented musician) was a cook at Vie's, a restaurant that was frequented by jazz icons including Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong during concert stops.

Jimi, who was raised in Seattle, forged a strong bond with the area during summer visits with his grandparents and via a short stint living with them, during which he attended first grade at Vancouver’s Dawson Annex School. He returned to the area in the early 1960s, where he regularly performed at local venues like Dante’s Inferno and Smilin’ Buddha.

At the same time Jimi was building his reputation as a world-renowned musician, the city of Vancouver began work on a development project to replace and expand the Georgia viaduct. To accommodate its redevelopment, which included the construction of a new interurban freeway, parts of the city would need to be destroyed. Hogan’s Alley was among the neighborhoods that city authorities had deemed disposable because, according to the Vancouver Heritage Fund, it had a reputation as “a center of squalor, immorality, and crime.”

Vancouver’s Chinatown was yet another neighborhood that was at the top of the list to be razed to make way for the Georgia viaduct and its new freeway, but Chinatown residents and the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) were able to effectively protest and shield that area from demolition. Though many of Hogan’s Alley’s Black residents participated in protests against the urban renewal agenda that was aimed at wiping out their neighborhood, they were unsuccessful.

In 1967, work on the first phase of construction began, effectively erasing the western half of Hogan’s Alley and forcing many Black families to leave the area in search of new housing and better opportunities. Though the building of the freeway was eventually stopped, it was too late for the residents of Hogan’s Alley.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Hogan's Alley: Then and NowMike via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In the near-half-century since the demise of Hogan’s Alley, no other cultural epicenter for Vancouver’s Black community has sprung up to take its place. Today, even within the city, the story of Hogan’s Alley and its dismantling is largely unknown—though there have been various efforts made to ensure that the neighborhood and its importance to the city’s history are not forgotten.

When the city revealed its plans to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts in 2015, the announcement received a lot of attention in the area. In June 2020 activists—including members of the Hogan's Alley Society, a nonprofit organization that works to highlight the contributions of Black Vancouverites to the city’s history—held a peaceful protest wherein they occupied the viaducts in order to bring attention to the role the structures played in the decimation of Hogan's Alley. While they're happy to see the viaducts go, the protestors want to make sure that the city fulfills its promise to erect a Black Cultural Center in the structures' place and restore a vital part of Vancouver's lost Black history.

Dr. June Francis, chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society, told Global News the viaducts were “a monument to the displacement and the oppression of the Black community ... [Hogan’s Alley] was erased by the actions of the city.”

While the city promised to build a cultural center where Hogan's Alley once stood, Francis said two years have passed with no actions taken to fulfill that commitment. "I expect the city, actually, to come out with a definitive statement to these young people to say 'We believe in your future and here is our response to you,'" she said.

A Shrine to Jimi

Vancouver's Jimi Hendrix ShrineRunran via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 2019, Nora Hendrix Place—a three-story, 52-unit, modular housing facility—was opened in the former Hogan’s Alley area to provide temporary shelter to the city’s homeless population. According to The Star, “The building will be run by the Portland Hotel Society and have a focus on supporting marginalized groups experiencing homelessness, while also including design elements shaped by Black culture.” But Nora’s famous grandson hasn't been forgotten either.

In the 1990s, a Jimi Hendrix Shrine—a small, fire engine red temple—was created where Vie’s once stood. It was an homage to Jimi’s career and the time he spent in Hogan’s Alley, complete with vinyl records, concert flyers, and letters from Jimi to his grandmother. Though the space is currently closed, its creator, Vincent Fodera, hopes to not only upgrade the shrine but to eventually have a 32-foot statue of Jimi towering over it.

While few physical reminders of Hogan’s Alley remain today, thanks to the lasting contributions of the area’s residents—including the Hendrix family—and the tireless efforts of its preservation advocates, the legacy of Hogan’s Alley’s will hopefully once again become an indelible part of the cultural fabric of Vancouver and its history.