"I'd like to be buried here, I've asked but I'm not allowed," says Ruth Johnson, tour guide at Glasgow's Necropolis, whose life-long fascination with the historic graveyard dates back to jumping over the wall as a child.

Only people with existing family lairs are permitted a final resting spot here in the city's grandest cemetery that attracts hundreds of visitors a day.

Hugh Jackman, Miley Cyrus and Patti Smith are among the famous faces who have been spotted wandering amongst the mausolea reading the poignant inscriptions.

'Every stone tells a story," says Ruth, who is from Dennistoun, and has been taking people around the Necropolis or City of the Dead - one of four in Glasgow- for 12 years.

From paupers to poets and hero fire fighters to Hugh Tennent, who launched the famous Glasgow brewery, the cemetery stones read like a potted history of the city.

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While the grand mausolea perched high on the hill next to the statue of reformation leader John Knox are reserved for the notables, mere mortals could also be buried here with memorials paid for by public subscription if they had carried out heroic deeds.

Among them, a teenage boy who died trying to save a six-year-old girl who had fallen into a river and firefighters killed in the Cheapside Street whisky bond fire in Glasgow on March 28 1960.

Corlinda Lee, the Gypsy Queen, who is said to have read Queen Victoria's palm and whose grave has coins wedged into the stonework, was also allocated a plot.

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"It's got a special atmosphere," says Ruth of the cemetery that was modelled on the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

"It's just across from Glasgow Cathedral and its own graveyard was filling up so it seemed like the perfect site.

"It's full of these amazing monuments. It is always busy, no matter the weather."

The first burial took place on September 12, 1832, for 'the Jew Joseph Levy’, a 62-year-old quill merchant who died from cholera and the Jewish quarter is the oldest part of the cemetery.

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Many of the mausolea monuments were designed by notable architects of the time including a young Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the writing on the stone hinting at his later, signature style and Alexander 'Greek' Thomson.

As well as providing a status symbol for the rich, they were designed to protect the bodies at a time when grave snatching was a luctrative trade.

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The Bridge of Sighs, leading to the main entrance, features a 60ft main arch across the old Molendinar burn, now buried beneath the road.

Built in 1835, the grand facade was designed to be catacombs due to the growing (illegal) trade in corpses. However, with the passing of The Anatomy Act of 1832, the practices of 'body snatchers' were curtailed.

Only the bodies of  murderers from the gallows were legally allowed to be used for anatomical research at Glasgow University's High Street campus and one lesson is said to have given Mary Shelley the inspiration for Frankenstein.

Matthew Clydesdale in a drunken rage beat 80-year-old Alexander Lowe to death in 1818. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to hang.

A version of the story is that the body was delivered to Dr James Jeffray of Cardowan (1759-1848), placed on a chair and experiments began. The body was treated with electric shocks, came back to life and is said to have then been finally killed with a scalpel, plunged into his neck.

Ruth says: "Mary Shelley attended anatomy lessons (in various places) and the story goes that she attended this specific one and got the idea for Frankenstein from the idea of using electricity to bring a body back to life or animating a body."

The first secretary of the Scottish Football Association, William Dick, who died at 29, is also buried here.

Ruth is one of a number of volunteers who take tours on behalf of Glasgow Friends of the Necropolis, which has raised more than £100,000 towards restoration and conservation projects, including revenue generated from the tours.

We pass a memorial dedicated to William Miller, the poet who created the Scottish nursery rhyme Wee Willie Winkie and lived to the east of the cemetery. He is burried in an unmarked grave in Tollcross Cemetery.

Victorian symbolism is a key feature on many of the stones. There are lit torches pointing down instead of up, towards the deceased as if lighting the way to the afterlife.

Broken columns are also common which Ruth says generally indicated the death of the head of the family or a young person.

The cemetery was extended in the 1850s as deaths soared due to outbreaks of cholera and typhus.

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It's fitting then that Robert Stewart is interred in these grounds. He passed the Loch Katrine Act, 1855, which paved the way to a fresh water supply for Glasgow and consequent improvements in public health.

Tours are all free, except the bespoke ones offered, but visitors are encouraged to make donations.

Ruth says: "There is no designated fee for any of our general tours so we don't exclude anyone who cannot afford it. We ask people to be generous as all donations go to restoration and conservation work - none of our volunteers get any payment and we have no paid staff."

She takes three tours a month including a twilight one at 6pm but says none indulge those looking for any ghostly goings-on, although the cemetery still attracts its fair share of goths.

"There's a place where they go for a picnic but they don't cause any problems," she smiles as one walks by us wearing a skeleton top.

For more information go to www.glasgownecropolis.org/tours-events/

Tours are also being offered on September 21 and 22 as part of Doors Open Day Scotland www.doorsopendays.org.uk/