The Black Mausoleum harbours a powerful poltergeist said to be the inspiration for Peeves

My friend the internet will tell you this is the ‘House of Peeves’, the ghost who causes mayhem at Hogwarts. Why? It’s near the school said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts, and contains a powerful poltergeist.

I’ll tell you his story and you can decide.

George MAckenzie's black manusoleum Edinburgh Greyfriars Kirkyard
Minerva keeps watch on Peeves during the tour

This is the Lord advocate's mausoleum. George ‘Bluidy’ MacKenzie was a judge and boasted that he had 'never lost a case for the king, I deserve a statue placed riding behind King Charles II in parliament square.'

He oversaw the witch trials in and around Edinburgh and in 1679 organised a holocaust killing thousands of covenanters, now known as "The Killing Time". Covenanting was a flavour of Christianity that believed God was their boss and the King their equal. The King thought God was his bro. MacKenzie’s devotion to the King got him promoted to head of all law in Scotland but ultimately proved his undoing.

portrait of Lord Advocate George Mackenzie
Apple cheeked Lord Advocate George Mackenzie

During the bloodless invasion of Prince William of Orange from the Netherlands in 1688, Mckenzie was too loudly loyal to the deposed King and so he had to retire to sleepy Oxford in England. Keep his head down or lose it.

The new protestant regime of William of Orange and Queen Mary, were very good for Britain. Within a few years they had given us a free press and a bill of rights, they relaxed on the Scottish religion and didn’t feel the need to prove their godliness through witch burnings.

Witch burnings on a beach
Scotland burned 5 times more witches than England

In Rowling’s shadow history, in 1692, the Wizarding World, tired of persecution and murder, agreed and signed the International Statute for secrecy. The real witches and wizards went into hiding. With nothing to excite them the Muggle’s witch burnings stopped.

Rowling thoughtfully weaves the wizarding world’s history into our own.

A Lord Advocate has colossal status in Scotland, so when MacKenzie died he was brought back. With it’s domed roof, he has the finest tomb in the Kirk yard. Some think it’s sick that he's buried on the doorstep of the Covenanter’s prison where he caused so much misery. So, in revenge, generations of George Heriots' school boys, have tormented him. They would visit the cemetery during their lunch hour run up to the door, thump on it, and shout, ‘McKenzie, McKenzie, come out, come out if you dare!’, then run away laughing. He remained unroused.

However the night before I did my first Harry Potter tour, I was in a funk and out rehearsing. When I wrapped on the door a stone dropped inside, so I’m very glad to do it in daylight.

The tipping point came in 1999

“the story goes, a stormy night when a homeless man looking for shelter found himself outside the Black Mausoleum, and seeing nowhere else to go, broke the simple lock on the door and went inside.

There he found coffins, belonging to some of Mackenzie’s relatives, and he supposedly broke one open out of boredom or a morbid curiosity. Then, suddenly, the floor beneath him gave way and he fell down into a pit.

The space beneath the mausoleum contained bodies as well - plague victims who had been dumped and covered over as a quick means of disposal. Despite their age, due to their having been sealed up the bodies were still in a state of decomposition. It’s hard to imagine the kind of terror he would have felt as he tried to clamber out of that hole, away from the grasping skeletal arms and rotted flesh of the dead. And when finally he emerged, he fled from the scene, barging past a man out walking his dog and leaving him terrified.”*

Covenanter dwelling searched by Red Coat British soldiers for illegal bibles
The King's men arrive to punish all those with a bible in English - covenanters

Our newspapers report that people who visit the tomb, and the nearby Covenanter’s prison, most commonly end up with bites and scratch marks turning up a few days later. Whilst 170 people have collapsed, fingers have been broken, and two people have been committed.

It’s almost like McKenzie has a debt to pay, and the covenanter’s take it out on visitors.

Peeves would sing
“When there's strife, when there's trouble,
call on Peevsie, he'll make double!”

Rik Mayal as Peeves in Harry Potter and the philsophers stone
Anarchic comedian Rik Mayal played Peeves in the movies but was cut

For decades Greyfriars Kirkyard has read as a paranormal warzone and film crews come here from all over the world to make documentaries. It is considered one of the world’s most haunted places - outside Hogwarts.

 
Why not visit Edinburgh and chance waking Peeves yourself?
Credits
Sir George Mackenzie, by G Kneller, National Library of Scotland
DW Ulsterman's witch burning
William Harris Covenanters
*Edinburgh Evening News on the Mackenzie hauntings