Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy (Haunted) Birthday to me!

For my 50th birthday next month, I was planning the trip of a lifetime. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, the trip has been cancelled. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what else I could do, where else I could go to celebrate this major milestone in my life. And then it struck me. Why not spend my 50th birthday in Greyfriar's Kirkyard!

Greyfriar's Kirkyard ("churchyard" or cemetery) is located in Edinburgh, Scotland. Established in the mid-1500's, the cemetery was necessary because the churchyard in St. Giles was filled to the brim with bodies which would create a stench during the summer months. Sounds wonderfully ghastly to me!

There have been many stories over the centuries that Greyfriar's is extremely haunted. But first, let me share a sweet story about Greyfriar's Bobby.

Bobby was the loyal dog of John Gray who was a nightwatchman for the Edinburgh Police department. The two were inseparable until Gray's death from tuberculosis. Gray was buried in Greyfriar's Kirkyard where Bobby spent the next 14 years (some say 17 years) faithfully watching over his master's grave. At one point some people said that Bobby, with no owner, should be destroyed but Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, paid for Bobby's license and Bobby officially became the responsibility of the Edinburgh City Council.

Upon his death Bobby could not be buried with his owner because the Kirkyard is on consecrated grounds, but he was buried inside the gate of Greyfriar's, nearby to his master. Talk about man's best friend!

(Okay. I don't know about you, but I think this little kid is way creepier than the supposed face in the gravestone at Greyfriar's... (bottom left))

Back to the hauntings. The most infamous ghost within the Kirkyard is that of Bloody George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate during the reign of King Charles II, who tortured and killed hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who proclaimed their loyalty to God, rather than to the King. It's often said that a soul sent to hell cannot rest, so it continues to roam the earth. This excerpt from Robert Louis Stevenson's Edinburgh Picturesque Notes (1897) says it best: "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."

People who have entered Mackenzie's tomb, especially during nighttime ghost tours of the cemetery, have been bitten, scratched, become horribly nauseated, and pregnant women have been known to faint (no worries for me there). Others feel hot and cold spots, smell strange odors, hear unexplained voices and have seen full-bodied apparitions. One legend states that a local schoolboy hid there and went stark-raving mad.

Sounds like the perfect place for me to celebrate my half-century birthday. Let's see if I muster up the courage to go there in the evening and knock on the door of his tomb shouting (in my best Scottish accent), "Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye dar. Lift the sneck and draw the bar!"

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