Chasing Ghosts in York
“The boundaries which divide Life and Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
York is said to be the most haunted city in Great Britain if not Europe. How is this possible with the great depth of history in some of Europe’s oldest cities like Rome and Athens? It’s not known why, but York certainly has its own depth of history that spans 2000 years and has seen the faces of Romans to Vikings and many more. And along with this haunted city that claims to have over 500 hauntings within its old city walls comes ghost walks of which there are many! If you’re staying in York for a week you could easily go on a different one each night – if you dare!
The biggest and most iconic of York’s landmarks is York Minster, the largest medieval gothic cathedral in northern Europe and full of such history that it’s no surprise that ghosts lurk within its walls, on its grounds and in its surroundings. Probably one of the sweetest of ghosts in York is the stonemason’s dog who still wanders its halls and churchyard in search of its lost owner. But from sweet to dreadful, just behind York Minster lies an old house with a sad story. Up in the small window can be seen the ghost of a young girl who still haunts the place. After she showed signs of the plague her parents locked her in her room and left. She sadly starved to death and her cries can still be heard.
York is home to some fantastic and historic pubs and with over 40 to choose from you’ll find many have their own ghost stories to share. On the first ghost walk I took during my time in York, the Original Ghost Walk, we met our guide outside of the Kings Arms Pub which is said to be haunted by a 10-year-old boy. One of the most famous pubs is the Golden Fleece, also an inn, which claims to be the oldest and most haunted in York and dates back to 1503. Here you’ll encounter 5 different ghosts, one of which was a Canadian airman who while drunk fell out the upstairs window. The Black Swan Pub claims to have 3 spirits and the Red Lion Inn is haunted by the notorious Georgian highwayman Dick Turpin whose tomb stone is near by.
The most disturbing and chilling of stories of ghosts in York was about numerous orphans who had died of starvation under the care of a schoolmaster Mr. Pimm. He was a horrid sot and instead of passing the deceased children onto the church for a proper burial his greediness found him hiding the bodies in the school so as to keep receiving money from the church for the children. The wailings and cries of the poor children can still be heard near Bedern Arch and I must admit it was here that I found the heaviest of unease and a strange unnerving feeling during my time in York.
Other haunted or strange and eerie places include the remains of St. Mary’s Abbey where a monk, known as the ‘Black Abbot’ lurks amongst the ruins, and under the Sainsbury parking lot (near Fossgate Bar) was found during construction the remains of the largest Jewish cemetery in the UK outside of London. A Rabbi came and consecrated the grounds but the bodies still remain. There’s also Clifford’s Tower where in the 12th century a large group of Jews went to flee the rioting anti-Semitic mobs and in turn many committed suicide at the suggestion of their Rabbi or were massacred by the mob. It is said that on the anniversary of this horrible massacre that the Tower’s grounds are stained with their blood.
One of the most haunted of places in York is the Treasurer’s House which is said to have a ghost for every room! Its tapestry room is reported very haunted with ongoing occurrences. It was also here that the most famous of York’s ghost stories took place. A worker putting in a new boiler in the basement was startled by trumpeting and saw a legion of Roman soldiers and their horses go marching past but strangely enough he could only see them from the knees up. It was only later that researchers found the remains of an old Roman road below, which is what they were most likely walking on.
I was surprised and intrigued by all of the ghosts in York and their stories. It may be true that the stains of blood may have faded over time but the memories of ghosts still linger.
Would you dare to go chasing ghosts in York?
I was a guest of Visit York, and as always all opinions are my own.