Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Poltergeists and Ice Rinks

I spent a very snowy week in Edinburgh as part of my journey around Haunted Britain. Arriving on the Monday night I checked into my usual Edinburgh bolthole - The Ibis on Hunter Square. I had hoped to check into Robert Louis Stevenson's childhood home in Heriot Row because it's reputed to be haunted by him (an obvious reason for wanting to stay there!) and also in the hope that just a fragment or morsel of Stevenson's abilities might rub off on me. Anyway the upshot was that I actually forgot to book. So, on arrival at Waverley Station, I trundled my suitcase up Cockburn Street, crossed the Royal Mile and checked into the Ibis.

I then made a pilgrimage over to Stevenson's old home, stood outside and admired the gaslamp that adorns the property and about which stevenson wrote in his poem The Lamplighter

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!

Incidently, if anyone would like to sample the hospitality at this wonderful old house for themselves, they do bed and breakfast so why not stay at Robert Louis Stephenson's childhood home?

My pilgrimage over, I headed across to Frankenstein's pub on George 1V Bridge and tucked into a hearty meal of the finest Irish rump steak with chips, cooked for me by a New Zealand Chef, and which I washed down with a fine Australian Merlot, poured for me by a fine Canadian barmaid, Edinburgh's so multi-cultural!

It was now 8pm and outside it was perfectly dark. So I had one more glass of wine to steady my nerves (that's my excuse anyway) and headed out into the night for an appointment with the Mackenzie poltergeist in nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard.

I adore Greyfriars Kirkyard because it is so wonderfully creepy. The moment you step through its gates a distinct feeling of otherworldliness descends upon you. Surrounded by its high walls the sounds of modern Edinburgh become strangely muffled.

Tonight, as I stepped into its enveloping darkness, the aura of unease was heightened by the fact that I nearly lost my footing because the pathways were covered with sheets of solid ice.

Nervously feeling by way over the snow and ice, I slithered and slid between the graves and suddenly the Mackezie vault loomed over me.

I don't know what it is about this sullen, domed tomb, but something about it well and truly creeps me out. It is the tomb of Sir George Mackenzie (1636 - 1691), the advocate who successfully prosecuted many of the Covenanters, for which reason he has ever since been known as 'Bluidy Mackenzie.'

Edinburgh children used to terrify themselves by sneaking up to his tomb and shouting through the keyhole, 'Bluidy Mackenzie, come out if ye daur. Lift the snek and draw the bar.' They would then run off on account of the fact that Mackenzie was known to oblige.

In recent years there have been hundreds of reports of poltergeist attacks on those who visit the vault on the City's ghost walks.

Thus, any ghost hunter worth his salts must visit the vault in the dead of night (well at 8.30pm). Hoping to prove my mettle, I slid over to the door of the vault, stooped down to the key hole and ended up flat on my back. I hadn't noticed that the step itself was covered in a sheet of ice.

Deciding to give taunting Mackenzie a miss tonight, I carefully made my way back to the gates and, with one nervous backward glance, left this necropolis to its memories and its shadows.

Tomorrow I will relate the strange case of the missing Sherlock Holmes.

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