- Holidays and Celebrations
Ghostly Halloween Tales from City of York
Ghostly Halloween Tales From the Most Haunted City of York
Is the City of York the most haunted city in the world? I would like to think so. There are certainly many ghostly tales about the city.
I was brought to the city of York as a babe in arms over half a century ago and have lived here, off and on, ever since. Although I have tried to leave the city many times, to regain some peace of mind, I am drawn back here again and again by I know not what. A certain fascination with the ghostly throng that sing and cry and splash about the ancient walls of York? A love, plain and simple for this most beautiful city and its ancient buildings and streets? Certainly the latter, for what better place to be on a bright sunny day than in this lively, bustling town?
All that changes when night falls. Yes, there are bright lights and plenty of people around to enjoy the night life but another crowd emerge to swell the numbers of the merrymakers, to fill the ancient pubs, the churches, the river walkways and the tiny snickets and alleyways that link the different areas of York. If you care to read on, I'll tell you about some of the ghosts that others have seen, and the spirits I've seen or felt myself.
They are wonderfully ghostly tales for Halloween.
Image: York Minster is haunted
All content and images, unless otherwise attributed, are the property of Barbara Walton
Where is York? - An ancient city in the north east of England
The Only Human Shade I Managed to Capture in a Picture
This York ghost haunts the village of Bishopthorpe
Is it because our family has an affinity with Bishopthorpe?
My family have lived in Bishopthorpe, a quaint village just outside the city of York, and I know the stones and paths and waterways well. Is that, I wonder, why I managed at last to capture an image, albeit faint and pale, of the poor soul who wanders the streets and paths and church of Bishopthorpe after dark? I've glimpsed her often just at dusk on the tow path along the riverside. I suppose I see her partly because I walk this path almost every evening. I take a stroll after dinner just as the daylight fades. It could be, though, because I love this area so much. I relish the boats tied in the harbour, the shady trees, the reflections of Bishops' Palace in the still waters of the river Ouse.
And the story? It goes like this: The body of a woman was found, not too far from her home in Bishopthorpe. The body was decayed, falling apart. The head had rolled away from the body. She was a wealthy woman and folk said that she was murdered for her money and now her headless ghost is said to haunt the area where her body lay for years afterwards. Christians must pray for her and ask God to rest her soul.
Read more about Haunted York - And all the ghostly goings on there
There are many books on the hauntings of York.
Read more about the ghostly sightings and stories that cling to the stones of the ancient city of York.
The Pretty Church of The Holy Trinity by day
But at night ....
I have long loved this little church, hidden away behind the streets of York. My great aunt used to take me there as a child. She too loved the gloomy cool of its interior, and its secret life. She could feel the presence, as could I, but neither she, nor I ever mentioned the chill that ate to our very bones. It was uncomfortable. Not pleasant, but still we called in, and sat in the old, box pews and let the spirits sit at our sides.
The sobbing children are the strongest manifestation here. Sit still, so still. Stop breathing and you can hear the little ones. Some have seen them seem appear in front of the east window of the church but not I and, believe me I have looked. The distress of the mother is more felt than heard. A heaviness. A thickening of the chilled air. The stories are unclear. In one account a mother is buried far way from her child and it is a nanny who brought them together, but other tales tell of the child died of plague and the poor mother pining, slowly, to death. Save their souls.
The others, Thomas Percy and the nun, are not so strong. I couldn't say that I can discern them as separate entities. Percy, the 7th Earl of Nothumberland was beheaded in 1572 for treason after he led a plot against Queen Elizabeth I. His severed head was then placed high up, on a pole on Micklegate Bar. The other one, the nun, was killed when she tried to prevent Henry VIII's army from entering the church. They think she might be an Abbess.
Go. Sit on a winter's day or, if you can as darkness falls and listen and watch, as I have done, and my great aunt did before me, and you might hear and see the ghosts of the Holy Trinity Church.
This is my aunt. She's been dead many years now but she lives on in our hearts and in our memories.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
The Ghosts of Soldiers that Pass through the Treasurer's House
I have never seen or even felt the phantom Roman soldiers who march through this house; but then I've only visited on sunny afternoons for cake and coffee in the tea rooms there. Harry Martindale was a different case. in1953 he was working in the cellars of the house when a group of ghostly solders marched past him. Oddly, they were visible only from the knee upwards. After this sighting investigations were carried out and it became evident that the Roman road that lay beneath the cellars was roughly half a meter below the house floor.
Other apparitions are said to trail themselves through this building: A black cat, a dog, the ghost of dueller George Aislaby and former owner of the house, Frank Green. If you are sensitive to atmosphere, visit the Tapestry room where a former owner was murdered by his wife made jealous by his paramours.
Ruins are sad places
The stone skeleton of the abbey harbours the memories of a troubled past
In my youth and adolescence I spent many hours in the museum gardens. With all the outer lethargy and inner energy of an art student fresh from an all-girls school, my hightened imagination played tricks or allowed the spirits of the past free passage from their world to ours. During the day the sun drives the shades away, but as night falls you may see, as I have seen, the form of the Black Abbott as he makes his way across the grass that now carpets the abbey. He moves slowly and has the form of gossamer or black veils. Smoke perhaps. Black smoke made into form and drifting. Beautiful. Others have heard the tinkling of coins but I never have. Stay a while surrounded by the pale sandstone of this injured abbey and soak up the sad history entrapped within.
Roses and green silk
The King's Manor is home to ghosts of Queens and injured soldiers
Outside the brick walls of the Kings Manor are welcoming and inside cool and shady. Stay a while and breathe in the air. Do you detect the faint perfume of old roses? I can discern this heavy scent and hear the rustle of silk as the ghosts pass by. Said to be the spirit of Anne Boleyn or Catherine Howard, this Queenly figure has been seen walking the halls and corridors dressed in a green dress and carrying a bouquet of roses. I have never seen the ghost of the monk who haunts the grounds nor heard the cries and groans of wounded men emanating from the time the building was used as a hospital during the Civil War.
The ghosts that haunt the snickets are there to be seen in broad daylight!
York folk use the network of tiny alley ways as short-cuts through the narrow maze of York City streets, even though they are dark and often lonely. I am no exception. I both love and fear these tiny pathways. The black dog is often glimpsed, but only from the corner of the eye. I've never seen the eyes that glow red. I've never felt threatened by this shuck, though others have not been so lucky.
I'm not afraid, but sad when the little hand is slipped into mine and I hear the distant weeping and sobbing grow close. Those poor orphan children, the neglect, the wretched, drunken master. All hangs around Bedern Arch though the snickets themselves have been cleared away. You cannot wipe the past so easily from the ground beneath.
I'm tired now of tales of grim and gruesome origins. I may come back and tell you more another day. I may not. I'll see how I feel. But I will tell you one thing. I'll tell you how the spirits followed me in my flight from York. Followed me to deepest, rural France ten years ago now. I'll tell you that story and then I'll be done .... for now.
Buy your own guide to the Snickets and alleyways of York
I fled to France, to Limousin
York, with it's wealth of history, of grief, of unhappy souls is a hard place to be for me, but a hard place to leave also. I chose to put space and time between them and myself but you cannot change the very stuff you are made of. After I had bought our ancient farmhouse I was told the story of the Parisian who drowned in the lake at the bottom of our field. He was rich and a drunk. Many people believe he was murdered for his money, others think he fell into the pond in a drunken stupor. I have never seen this wraith, but I have seen the shadow of a black cat that sits, briefly on our window sills and calls to be let in, then vanishes into the night. This, I am certain, is the spirit of this sorry fellow, called back to the scene of his death with only one goal; to tell the truth about his demise and, perhaps, to denounce the guilty, bloody-handed parties. They must ask for divine deliverance.
Think of me, re-tell these tales on that most magic night, Halloween.
Where in the World am I now? - I live away from the spirits of York
I live, most of the time in Limousin. We have spirits here but spirits of a different kind, and yet they have sought me out.
Still Thinking About Visiting York?
Stay in this beautiful B&B
Why not treat yourself with a touch of luxury of times gone by?
Blackwood Hall is a wonderful Georgian country home situated between Selby and York and owned by my sister (really!). There's plenty of secure parking in the 14 acre grounds, complete with small lake, and the house is opposite Skipwith Common where you can see wild ponies.
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