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In June 2006, I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Edinburgh. (For the record, it is an absolutely stunning city and I hope that I get the chance to visit again). While I was there, I saw advertisements for the 'City of the Dead' tour; the advertisement's warning of the potential for a ghostly encounter (or even a potential paranormal physical assault!) was intriguing, so I purchased a ticket and made an evening of it.
Having a serious discussion about the possible existence of paranormal activity is something of a slippery slope: Where exactly is that fine line between honest individuals that have truly had an unexplainable experience, individuals that are overly succeptable to suggestion and fancy, and those whose experiences are associated with possible mental illness or psychosis? I personally have never seen an apparition. However, I have had at least one unexplainable experience (with a witness) that, for all intents and purposes, I would consider to possibly be paranormal activity. Moreover, my experience was associated specifically with an overwhelmingly heightened sense of smell that lasted for about a minute, and then instantly disappeared; while on the 'City of the Dead' tour I would again have a similar experience. While I generally believe that the vast majority of paranormal claims are most likely rubbish, I also believe that, on occasion, aberrations manifest that science (thankfully) fails to properly explain; it seems plausible that the "Mackenzie poltergeist," of Greyfriars cemetery in Edinburgh, is one such aberration. ..
Thus, with an open mind and a desire for a good ghostly scare, I set off for Edinburgh's old town for the last tour of the evening. Despite the fact that nothing spectacularly paranormal occurred on my particular tour, there definitely was a creepy atmosphere surrounding the Mckenzie mausoleum and the Covenanters' prison (the area where the alleged poltergeist resides). Though I never reported it to our tour guide, I did experience a slight tightness in my left arm while standing in the Covenanters' prison and, more importantly, I noticed a sudden, omnipresent stench that lasted for about 30 seconds, and then completely vanished. It was a fetid, loamy kind of scent, as if a rotting entity had instantly manifest itself and then quickly disappeared without a trace. Very odd...
For me, THE GHOST THAT HAUNTED ITSELF was an enjoyable return to the memories of the tour: the dark history of Greyfriars cemetery, the locked iron gates of the Covenanters' prison, being crowded into the "Black Mausoleum," theories about how the poltergeist possibly came into existence, what it actually may be, etc. A previous review laments that the sizable collection of testimonials in the book soon become a bit boring and predictable; the majority of the eye witness accounts focus on "poltergeist victims" passing out in or near the "Black Mausoleum," instances of suddenly feeling cold, feeling nauseated, and receiving unexplainable scratches, minor cuts, and contusions. Perhaps some of the writing does become a little bit repetitious. However, the sheer volume of people, both men and women, who went on record to report incidents that happen to them while on the tour is quite startling. Additionally, these strange occurrences were happening to a widespread group of tourists from all around the world - at the very least, even if the poltergeist is ultimately a fake, the 'City of the Dead' tour is, without question, a great psychological phenomenon that stirs the imagination. However, other evidence would suggest that something beyond psychological phenomenon is responsible for the strange occurrences that have happened outside of the "Black Mausoleum." Specifically, when one of the tourists in our group asked the guide if she actually believed in the McKenzeie Poltergeist, our guide paused for a moment and then said "I don't necessarily believe in a poltergeist. However, what deeply disturbs me are the dead birds that we regularly find outside of the mausoleum." This issue is also discussed at some length in the book, and is signified as a kind of "tipping point" for some of the tour guides; that perhaps whatever they've been disturbing is more malevolent that they had initially believed.
Overall THE GHOST THAT HAUNTED ITSELF is a fast paced bit of enjoyable reading. Perhaps I've gotten a little more out of it because I've visited the site. However it's still a good bit of history and haunting - try reading a bit of it before bedtime, and see if you don't get a few chills up and down your spine.
P.S. - Tonight is Walpurgis Night...a perfect evening for a haunted review, ESPECIALLY in Edinburgh!