In this world of working holiday, it’s rare as a group of three to get a night off together. So by working extra hours and swapping a shift with wee (little) Jo we had one. What do three single guys do on a night off in Edinburgh? Quite simply they lock themselves in the Black Mausoleum, a tomb within a prison within a graveyard. To make things worse it’s midnight and it’s heavily pissing rain. If all this doesn’t sound scary enough, this small room is home to the resident world famous McKenzie Poltergeist.
When I mention the word Poltergeist, you may visualise an 80s film where a little blonde girl sits possessed staring into a blank TV set, but this is the real deal.
The producers of the X-files have apparently been quoted as saying this place is the scariest place on earth, which is good enough for us, so we arrange to take the tour and hang around afterwards for an hour, by ourselves, in the dark.
The tour we take is one of a large handful operating throughout the city walking through the chilling history of the dark but beautiful city.
After much deliberation we choose ‘City of the dead tours’ and meet up on the historic royal mile to await our tour guide. Our first stop finds us at the site of many a witch burning festivity. Many innocent women, suspected of being witches perhaps for wearing make-up or other petty ‘witch crimes’ were tied up and burnt in front of crowds of smiling locals here.
Another story that bought a tear to the eye was that of Greyfriar’s Bobby. Bobby was a Scottish Terrier who stood by his masters side until death took him, leaving the poor puppy by itself. Bobby would seldom wander the streets of Edinburgh, instead choosing to lay next to his masters grave for no less than 14 long years through rain and snow. When the dog passed away he was buried next to his master, despite rules stipulating a strictly human collection of the dead.
Before too long midnight is nearing and we find ourselves with the key to a haunted prison. We walk bristly in the rain, but with hesitation even though our three cameras are soaking wet. We push on the gate to this black room. Now understand that around 138 people have unexplainably blacked out in this room and 424 people have experienced an attack of some sort, whether it be scratches, bruises or simply hair pulling.
So with all this running through our minds and the rain running down our necks, we swing open the gate to the most haunted place on earth and step inside. We enter at midnight with the goal of staying an hour. The first twenty minutes pass with abnormal speed and no sight of this ‘poltergeist’. With the three cameras rolling the whole time we sit in complete darkness. Now I’m not a huge believer in ghosts, although I don’t not believe either, but I experienced something. I heard scratching from the wall behind me, my back felt tingly (kind of like it was melting) and my hair was gently tugged. Lee also had his hair tugged and leg brushed at a separate time. Now being the macho Aussie lads that we are, we dismissed this as: Rain dripping on the wall, pins and needles and our hair catching onto the stone wall behind. So just like that we were calm again.
The conversation steered away from ghosts and poltergeists into dreams and worries for the trip. Deep and meaningful words flowed easily and honestly. I have been stressed out like I never thought I could be. The truth is I am worried about what will happen next. The other guys give me reassuring words and we all stare into the darkness and the faint green glow from our cameras. We leave the graveyard and talk about how soon our van will be pointed toward Spain. Anything that once worried us will one day be a fond memory. I will however be missing Maya, a Scottish lass that has stolen my heart without me realising it until now. She is constantly happy, energetic, warm and welcoming. When ever I have felt worried or stressed I have ran to her for comfort and some sort of understanding. So if producing a TV show and worrying about money issues wasn’t enough, now I have to deal with a soon to be distant romance.
So there you have it, the trials and tribulations of Backpacking. Our journey is not just about site seeing, it’s about experiences. There are plenty more to come and I find myself in a constant tangle of excitement and worry. I feel I have quite a lot to prove, but another part of me says “to who?”. Traveling is character building. It can be exciting, annoying, heartbreaking and if you stay in a haunted prison in the middle of a graveyard at midnight, it can be just a little bit scary too.