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Horrible Holidays in Haunted York for Halloween

Updated on May 30, 2014
Holy Trinity, the son, the father and the holy Ghost!
Holy Trinity, the son, the father and the holy Ghost!

Is York the most Haunted City in England?

I was brought up in York, and I must admit that in my youth I never did see a ghost, even though I used to hang out in all the right 'haunts', ..... but then - I wasn't looking. This hub outlines just a few of the eerie happenings that others have witnessed with a little information about the places reputed to house ghosts.

York is an ancient city that has seen an awful lot of action. It’s steeped in so many bloody events that if disturbed souls do ever roam abroad with the living, then it’s going to be in York. The city has been called the most haunted city in England, if not in Europe, (and based on the findings of Ghost Research Foundation International (GRFI), York is reputed to be the most haunted city in the world). Why not pay a visit at the very best time of the year for ghostly goings on and paranormal happenings? Taking a vacation in York can be expensive, even at Halloween, so have a look at The City of York - Tips for a Vacation on a Budget and have (not such) an Awesomely Horrible time.

Where is york?

York, Yorkshire du Nord, Royaume Uni

get directions

A potted history of York

The roots of York go back to Roman times. In AD71, the Roman Governor of Britain, Quintus Petillius Cerialis set up a camp which became a permanent fortress and was called "Eboracum". It was situated on the junction of the Rivers Ouse and Foss - where modern York is now. Under the Anglo-Saxons it became "Eoforwic” and at that time, 627 the Minster was just a timber Church.

Then Ivar the Boneless, a Danish Viking leader, captured York on 1st November 866 and York was then renamed "Jorvik” and became a major river port, part of the extensive Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe. The city walls were extended and new streets laid out.

After various invasions 1056-66 the Battle of Stamford Bridge won by King Harold II then three weeks later by the Norman King, William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

Under the Normans York prospered, and the rebuilding of the Minster was begun.
Over the next 300 years York grew to become the second largest city in the country and was the northern capital of England. The stone walls and gates were built during this time. But York's prosperity was not to last. During the 1400s, the population was declining, and the all-important wool industry was moving elsewhere, and the citizens were soon to take up arms in the Wars of the Roses.

And so the turmoil, battles, wars and scuffles continued until the golden age of Chocolate and Railways. In Victorian times there was a rapid rise in building, including churches banks, offices, schools and colleges. A major project in more recent years was the building of the new University of York, opened in 1963.

Although traditional manufacturing has declined, new industries have sprung up on the City's growing industrial sites. Tourism, of course, is a major income earner for the City and its people.

With all this strife and bloody battle, it' easy to see where York's ghosts have come from.

For more information visit the site: City of York, source for the above.

The Holy Trinity Church, York
The Holy Trinity Church, York

Haunted churches in the City of York

Where better to start our stories of Haunted York than with the last resting places of the dead – churches and graveyards? The martyrs, the executed, the murdered and all those who simply died end up here. No surprise that so many people have seen strange events in these hallowed places.

Holy Trinity Church Goodramgate

This is a charming little church hidden away behind Goodramgate. You approach it through a cast iron gate or via a narrow snicket (or passageway) and on a nice sunny afternoon it looks pretty as a picture. My mother was taken there by my Great Aunt for a quiet few minutes on an otherwise busy shopping outing in York city centre. I seem to have missed out on this, my mother was a Supermarket working Mum, but my mother took my son there and they enjoyed an afternoon in the churchyard, eating fish and chips. I wonder if they knew about the Ghosts? Firstly Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Nothumberland, who was beheaded in 1572 treason after he led a plot against Elizabeth I. His head was placed on a pole on Micklegate Bar (quite sufficient reason to turn to haunting the area I would think). Then there’s the nun who has been seen around the church, perhaps an abbess who was killed when she tried to prevent Henry VIII’s army from entering the church..

The stories of two women and a child are a bit more muddled. They seem to appear in front of the east window of the church but there are at least two versions. One story tells of a mother buried far way from her child and of a nanny who brought them together. In another version of the story the women have no connection. In this account the child died of plague and the mother slowly pined to death.

St Crux, York city
St Crux, York city

St Crux Church in York

St Crux, Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate, is on my list of things to see and do in York, not because of the hauntings, but because it serves cheap teas and snacks! If you do go there, look out for the ghost of a young woman who would follow a group of men called the Waits of York. They played music while they acted as the town watchmen and announced the time. Now the ghost of the woman appears at St Crux and makes her way through King’s Square and disappears at Goodramgate.

Another ghost that has been seen in the church on a regular basis is a tall man who looks out the windows during the morning hours.

Then there is the story of a policeman who was walking his beat late at night. As he passed by St Crux he could hear funeral music playing, the doors then opened and, despite the fact that he saw nobody, he could hear the sound of people leaving.

All this points to one spooky cup of tea!

All Saints Church York - Haunted York
All Saints Church York - Haunted York

All Saints Church - York's sweet history

All Saints Church, the Pavement, played no part in my youth. It was there but I didn’t go inside until I visited York in 2010 and went on the Chocolate and Sweetie Walk. We were taken to this church to see the memorial window to Mary Craven who ran Cravens sweet and toffee factory. I didn’t then know about the spirit of a young woman with long wavy hair who has been seen at the door observing funeral processions. When somebody goes near her, she disappears.

St Marys Abbey York - Haunted York
St Marys Abbey York - Haunted York | Source

St Mary’s Abbey - ruins in the heart of the city of York

Unlike the previous church, we definitely haunted St Mary’s Abbey and the Museum gardens in our youth. I attended York College of Art, which at that time was housed along with the City Art Gallery in Exhibition Square. It was just a few minutes walk past King's Manor to the gardens with its peacocks and squirrels. The perfect place for art students to ‘hang out’.

Never-the-less, there were never any signs of the Black Abbot, but then apparently he is only seen at night roaming around the ruins of the abbey.

People have also reported hearing coins being counted on a table and single coins dropping one by one into a metal box.

York Minster south transept
York Minster south transept

York Minster is Haunted

York Minster, a jewel of haunted York, was also a favourite place to visit on a Saturday. I don’t quite know what the fascination was for teenage school girls, but my friends and I would often pay a visit to the Minster, (it was free in those days), look at the crypt, the beautiful choir and east windows, but I especially liked the magnificent Five Sister Windows. I had heard of ghostly haunting here. There is the ghost of an army officer who had died in another part of the world and appeared to his sister as she was praying in the church in the early 19th century.

Then there is the spirit of Dean Gale, who loved to attend services at York Minster so much so that after he died, he’s been seen sitting in the church listening to sermons.

Then there is the mystery of the 9th Legion of Rome. Excavations of the foundations of York Minster unearthed evidence of this Legion in York, but after the Romans retreated, the legion disappeared and never made it back to Rome.

Finally people have reported hearing the sound of a barking dog.

The Punch Bowl
The Punch Bowl

Best Haunted Pubs in York

The Punch Bowl and The Old Starre were definitely haunted by myself and my peers in our youth. They were nearly always full, and, situated in Stonegate, the heart of medieval York, they remain extremely popular. I should think that any sightings of the paranormal could always be put down to a drink or two too many.

The Punch Bowl, Stonegate

The Punch Bowl was said to be a house of ill repute in the past and two ghosts are known to haunt it now. The first is a 19th century landlord who perished in a fire, but the second is a reminder of the building's more colourful past. Apparently, on a cold winter's night a man called at the house in order to visit the ladies of the night. After a few drinks he began to harass one of the girls pursued her around the building before strangling her in a drunken rage. Her spirit has been seen still running from room to room, trying to evade her assailant.

The Old Starre, Stonegate
The Old Starre, Stonegate

The Olde Starre lnn, Stonegate

The Olde Starre Inn dates back to the time of Henry VIII and has several different ghostly tales attached to it. It is said that the cellars of the building date back to the 10th century and that they were used to house wounded Royalist soldiers who had fought at the battle of nearby Marston Moor. Their dying screams are still said to ring around the empty rooms of the building in the dead of night. Visitors of the canine variety are more likely to sense the ghosts of two black cats who are said to haunt here after being bricked up alive in the pillar between the door and the main bar. There is also the spirit of an old lady who has been glimpsed climbing the stairs, although she can only be seen by children.

The Old White Swan
The Old White Swan

The Old White Swan

Not one of my refuges, but a very pretty timber framed 16th century pub in Goodramgate, the centre of York.

A group of friendly spirits frequent this establishment and it has been thought that it was a secret meeting place for papists planning their escape to France. Patrons have seen several ghosts seated around an open fire engaged in conversation and laughter, furniture is moved and chairs are often found re-arranged in a circle overnight. A previous landlord of the inn is on record saying that in a room closed to the public furniture would whirl around in the air before crashing down in a big heap. Other accounts talk of muffled voices, footsteps and a fire which re-lights itself.

The Roman Bath
The Roman Bath

The Roman Bath

I have never been inside The Roman Bath, St Sampson Square, but my brother tells me that you can still see the remains of the baths displayed in the floors. In 1930 renovations to the pub revealed the remains of a caldarium, or steam bath, from the Roman city of Eboracum. The caldarium, and a neighbouring plunge bath, have been excavated and there is a small museum below ground which you can access through the pub itself. (I must explore that next time! For more information, click here.)

Needless to say the ghosts here are bath-related! Phantom splashing can sometimes be heard coming from the basement of the pub.

Archbishop's palace, Bishopthorpe
Archbishop's palace, Bishopthorpe

Bishopthorpe - a village just south of York

Bishopthorpe is an attractive, up-market village about ten minutes by car south of York and it’s greatest claim to fame is that the Archbishop of York’s Palace is situated just on the edge of the village on the banks of the river. It’s other claim to fame as far as I’m concerned, is that my family relocated to Bishopthorpe and so I know it pretty well. Despite that, neither I nor any members of my family have ever seen the headless lady said the haunt the village. This is how the story goes. A wealthy woman was murdered for her money and her body was hidden not far from her house in Bishopthorpe. Several days later, the corpse was discovered in a state of decay was so bad that her head had become separate from her torso. Her headless ghost is said to haunt the area where her body lay for years afterwards.

Why not treat yourself to an amazing week-end break in Blackwood Hall B&B Stay in a country mansion guest house with fishing pond and ample parking not far from Bishopthorpe.

One of York's snickets
One of York's snickets

York City's snickets

‘Snicket’ is a local word for narrow passage ways between walls, buildings and hedges. Other words are ginnels or footways and there is a network of these throughout York that are used as short cuts by the locals. These are dark, spooky and often lonely places at the best of times (you wouldn’t catch me using them after dark), so no wonder that they are said to be haunted.

At Bedern Arch near Goodramgate There is a story about several orphans who died in the nearby Industrial Ragged School during the 1800's at the hands of the negligent, alcoholic schoolmaster. These days, on cold nights, people have said that when they have been walking by the arch they felt a small child take them by the hand. Childish giggling and terrible screaming has also been reported.

There is also supposed to be a large black hound with red glowing eyes which preys on people walking alone along the snickleways in the city, and it has also been spotted in the old castle area. No wonder I wouldn’t risk it (not to mention possible muggers ….)!

Clifford's Tower
Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

Cifford’s Tower is one of the most distinctive monuments in York. As children we used to roll down the steep, grassed slopes; no chance of being allowed to do that in these days of Health and Safety Rule.

The ground of the tower is said to be stained red, even after being dug up and replaced, (I have never noticed this, and it should be easy for a visitor to confirm if this is true). The red is attributed to the blood of the many Jews who committed suicide in the tower rather than surrender to the rioting anti-Semitic mobs tearing up the town.

Kings Manor
Kings Manor

Kings Manor

Kings Manor, Exhibition Square, is the last site I’m going to look at in this article – there are just too many good ghost stories to cover in one go but I wanted to tell you about this one because you can go here for an excellent, cheap lunch, and that’s not to be sniffed at in York.

Now, apparently there is a Lady in Green that haunts the Principal's House and is thought to be either Anne Boleyn or Catherine Howard, dressed in a green dress and carrying roses. The ghost of a monk also frequents the King's Manor and the sounds of wounded men can sometimes be heard here - the building was used as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War. I hope this doesn’t put you off your food!

Haunted York
Haunted York
Plan your own tour by doing a bit of ghost reading in advance.

Why not go on a York ghost walk?

One of the best ways to find out about the hauntings in York is to take a ghost walk. There are several to choose from and you'll learn a great deal about the history of walk as well as enjoy a theatrical event as you are guided through the centre of York along the old passageways and medieval buildings. So spooky! Dedicate your holiday to discovering the spooks and ghouls that lurk in those ancient streets?

My only tenuous link to the ghost walks is my memory of Trevor Rooney who lived near us when we were children. I came across him again when he was training to be a stone mason and showed us how he could carve an oak leaf in just a few minutes. (I forgot how many but not a lot - it was amazing). I hope he doesn't mind me telling this tale. He was one of the first to give guided ghost tours of York and you can find his tour here Ghost Walks York. I wonder if he remembers me?

Don’t let my skepticism dampen your spirits – so to speak

Although I’ve never seen these ghosts, I was never one to walk the streets alone on dark nights. Of course I was in the haunted pubs, but they were always packed to the gunnels with people. I went to most of the other places during the day time, so try your luck on a ghost walk at night.

Halloween is THE time when spirits walk the earth and what could be better sport than a ghost hunt to celebrate? You must, of course, include a copious number of the haunted pubs and imbibe quite a lot of the spirits of the place while you are about it. Have one for me. Cheers!

Blackwood Hall B&B
Blackwood Hall B&B | Source

Where to stay in York?

bWhy not pamper yourself with a touch of luxury of times gone by?

Blackwood hall Bed and Breakfast is a beautiful Georgian country home situated between Selby and York and owned by my sister (really!). There's plenty of secure parking in the fourteen acre grounds, complete with small lake, and the house is opposite Skipwith Common where you can see wild ponies.

Have a look at the website here: Blackwood Hall Contact directly Tel: 07734787831 e-mail:

I don't live in haunted York anymore ....

I live in haunted Limousin! Yes, I exchanged my York ghosts for Limousin witches and werewolves.

I run a B&B and holiday cottage, so when you're tired of York (is such a thing possible?), why not book a break deep in the heart of the French countryside?

Come for an art holiday - we run painting and drawing courses.

Interested? Contct me on, +33 (0)5 55 48 29 84 or see our web site

How well do you know York?

Have you been to York?

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