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Ghostly Halloween Tales from City of York

Updated on October 3, 2013

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

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bishopthorp ghost
bishopthorp ghost

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.

Ghost Trails of Yorkshire
Ghost Trails of Yorkshire

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?

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The Ghosts of Soldiers that Pass through the Treasurer's House

Minster Yard

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.

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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.

Have a look at the website here: Blackwood Hall Contact directly Tel: 07734787831 e-mail: bnb@blackwoodhallyork.co.uk

Calling all lens masters Join our fabulous, supportive group on this facebook page: Post Your Squidoo Lenses Here Post links, network and make friends.

Did You Find My Halloween Ghost Stories from York Haunting? - Or simply ghoulish? I'd love to hear from you.

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    • BLouw profile image
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      Barbara Walton 2 years ago from France

      I think the hauntings add that little extra spice to a beautiful and historic city. Many thanks for your comment Rangoon House.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      I enjoyed reading about your home region. It looks beautiful, despite its haunts.

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 5 years ago

      This is a superbly made lens, with an enchanting personal touch and very melodic writing.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      This lens has me geared up for Halloween. Thank you, it's a wonderful lens!

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      Yes my next destination City of York :)

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Lot if interesting facts, history facts and new info for me Thanks

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      Wonderfully chilling and warm at the same time - not an easy feat when telling such tales. Made me want to visit York as well as your B&B in France. Blessed and featured on Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo.

    • profile image

      flighthuk 5 years ago

      i want to know your success and how can i make my lens goos

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image

      floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

      Very cool! Great lens for those of us who cannot be in Europe just now! Cheers~cb

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I would love to visit and stay in your sister's B & B - perhaps on day. Your farmhouse sounds interesting too. Pinned and Blessed.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Scary, scary, scary! Your stories have sent chills down my spine. I've been to York a few times but had no idea about the ghosts lurking there.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very well written, and yes, those stories are, indeed, scary.. Hats off to your courage.. :)

    • profile image

      jarajelissa 5 years ago

      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,

    • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

      BillyPilgrim LM 5 years ago

      Good lens - well done x

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @MrMojo01: So pleased you enjoyed them MrMojo01

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @jarajelissa: Many thanks jarajelissa, for dropping by.

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @LoriBeninger: Thanks Ihbeninger!

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @aesta1: Oh, Aesta1 - you didn't stay with me? Hope you had a lovely time. Funny that you were in both places.

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @MarcellaCarlton: It is such a rich city from so many points of view. The problem is that there is so much to see and do that you won't want to come home again!

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @eTravelSense: York has something for everyone all the year round, but I agree - magical at Christmas!

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @BillyPilgrim LM: Thanks for these kind words, Billy!

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @Godweeno: How long have you been there for? Have you visited these sites? Have you sat still in the afternoon, breathing gently, eyes cast down, listening? Get away from the crowds, roam the streets in the silence of the nights, learn about the very cobbles and the stones and learn to love the spirit of York. Then you too might glimps the shades of the past, Godweeno.

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      Godweeno 5 years ago

      Fun lens! York is a fantastic place, not seen a ghost though...yet! ;)

    • nickybutler profile image

      nickybutler 5 years ago

      Loved your lens, thank you so much for posting such an interesting article :)

    • eTravelSense profile image

      eTravelSense 5 years ago

      York is a great place, especially in the winter months when you can enjoy the Christmas markets!

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      MarcellaCarlton 5 years ago

      Loved your lens. There are all kinds of interesting things happening in York. The only thing to do is catch a flight and go and enjoy. Thank you for sharing.

    • MrMojo01 profile image

      MrMojo01 5 years ago

      Cool lens, loved the stories!

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      jarajelissa 5 years ago

      Love your ideas :)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Well, we were there last spring and even if we have visited before, we continue to enjoy this place. We were in Limousin as well when we drove through France. We did not really stay, just slept there before driving on.

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @miaponzo: It's true! Also York has so many gruesome events! Many thanks for your blessing, miaponzo, and for taking the time to leave a comment.

    • LoriBeninger profile image

      LoriBeninger 5 years ago

      Loved your tales!

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @LiteraryMind: Hi LiteraryMind. York is a truly beautiful city and so rich in every way. Even though I was brought up there, I'm still finding new things that I haven't already discovered. There are so many ghost stories that I just ran out of energy. Must write a sequel asap. Many thanks for your comments.

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      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Yes... :) One of the reasons that old English locations have so many ghost stories is because they have such a long history with magic and spirits :) Great place to get scared! Blessed!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Beautiful photos and a great lens. If the City of York is haunted, then it's the prettiest haunted place ever.

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @AnimalHouse: Thanks for the kind words, AnimalHouse.

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      AnimalHouse 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! Really spooky, loved the stories.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @JoyfulReviewer: Thanks JoyfulReviewer. It was a lovely surprise!

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @alavert: Thank you so much alavert. I'm so pleased you liked it.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @mockingbird999: That's the idea KM9999999 Thanks for dropping by.

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      JoyfulReviewer 6 years ago

      Congratulations on your lens being included on the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night"

      monsterboard!

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      alavert 6 years ago

      LOVE THIS SITE !!!!!!!

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      mockingbird999 6 years ago

      Certainly spooky.

    • BLouw profile image
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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @iWriteaLot: Thanks for visiting this lens, SheWritesaLot. Clearly the story-telling worked if it gave you the shivers. Black cats are lucky, but I must admit, even though I'm a cat owner I do find them a little spooky. As for the words 'snickets', how do people describe these little gaps in the urban landscape. York can't be the only place to have them. It's like the word 'snecked'. ie" I snecked the gate". Without this word how do you convey the fact that you closed the gate and secured it by 'dropping a latch' or, as we say 'a sneck'?

    • iWriteaLot profile image

      iWriteaLot 6 years ago

      This lens gave me a bad case of the shivers, that's for sure. And the black cat on your windowsill? Scary stuff. I've always been afraid of black cats so I'm afraid I'd have to get my house blessed or something if one kept appearing and disappearing around my windows.

      Liked the part about 'snickets'. I like little glimpses in language like that. Cheers!

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @hamshi5433: hamshi5433, well, I think most people don't see any ghosts, but the stories are great. I would chance a visit, otherwise you miss visiting a wonderful city.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @heehaw lm: Thanks for visiting heehaw.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @thecrabbynook: thecrabbynook, you really must visit.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @momsbestpicks: York is such excellent value, monsbestpicks. Looking round old towns isn't fun for kids, but going on a ghost hunt is! (anything to keep them entertained). If you do go, stay at my sister's B&B. It's only just opened and I'm going to put a link on this lens as soon as she sends me pictures.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks scarlettohairy! (Love your name!)

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Ereinion: York is a great place for a visit, ghosts or no ghosts.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @gottaloveit2: Whatever makes you feel better. I suppose ghosts, like people, are mainly nice. Many thanks for dropping by gottaloveit.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @doubleside lm: They are quite eery during the day even. Something intrinsically sad about ruins, doubleside

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Zodiacimmortal: ZodiacImmortal, many thanks for adding me to your great, mammoth Halloween lens!

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @anonymous: Thanks SoonerOrLater. I'll get around to adding more, or starting a new collection. The good thing about York being the most haunted city is that there are loads of ghosts to talk about!

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      hamshi5433 6 years ago

      Creeeeeeeeeepy!!!! Wow I don't think I`d ever want to visit these places. blessed for informing. :)

    • heehaw lm profile image

      heehaw lm 6 years ago

      thanks for the story.

    • thecrabbynook profile image

      thecrabbynook 6 years ago

      Great lens! York looks like the perfect place to film a scary movie! I want to visit!

    • momsbestpicks profile image

      momsbestpicks 6 years ago

      Pretty scary stuff and just in time for Halloween. I still would like to go and see York though.

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      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Fun lens!

    • Ereinion profile image

      Ereinion 6 years ago

      Cool stories! They make me want to visit York in the near future ;-)

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I like to explore the possibility of ghosts all around us, every day. It's comforting to me for some reason to believe in them.

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      doubleside lm 6 years ago

      Well, I can imagine how the ruins would look so scary at night.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Cool stories; I'll be continuing to read on.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Zodiacimmortal: I'm going to check out your halloween page right now! Many thanks for adding my lens and for leaving a comment. I hope your voices don't materialise any further.

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      Kim 6 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      I haven't seen a Ghost but I htik I heard a disembodied voice in my house. Not once but 2x in one night & I tried all I could to find the source but to no avail. I also wanted to let ya know I added this lens as one of the featured lenses on my halloween page "horrifically Everything Halloween"

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @anonymous: Thanks so much for leaving a comment cffutah. Hope it reads ok and not too many errors of one type or another!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      nice story reading, I read a few of these out loud to a few co-workers. Glad I read it, good time of the year to enjoy this.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @Missmerfaery444: Chester is no distance! Treat yourself to a few days in York, Louise, - can't promise you'll see ghosts, but there is so much else to see I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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      Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      Wonderful! I've never been to York but very much want to visit it, and even more so given the ghostly happenings! I live by Chester which is also one of the most haunted cities in England. Really enjoyed reading about the spooky goings on near you!

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @RaverGoat: Many thanks for dropping by RaverGoat.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @travelbroad: It is a problem, travelbroad! Trying to get the information on Google et al lots of stuff for the WRONG York! Hope it wasn't too much of a disappointment.

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      RaverGoat 6 years ago

      Very cool lens!

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      travelbroad 6 years ago

      oh, I thought the lens said NewYork so I wondered why the photos looked like the English countryside.

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      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      @AlleyCatLane: Thanks so much, Carolyn, and please to see that you managed to see the lens despite the ghosts' and shades' attempts to block the links.

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      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Loved this lens. Beautiful and well written.