Ghosts of York

Wednesday, December 12th 2018
An introductory guide to the ancient city’s other residents!

lthough it is our intention with future editions that this section feature a range of paranormal subject matter that traverses the British Isles (and perhaps, periodically, beyond) we felt that being at the first step of our hopefully long and enriching journey it would be appropriate on this occasion to be content with extending the primary theme of the journal.
    I therefore present to you, in the full hope and expectation that it will act as a complement to your existence an introduction (for the subject at hand is far too prodigious to attempt a comprehensive revue) to the Ghosts of York…
However, I must inevitably begin with a question: Where, I ask (fully in the knowledge that the resultant confused stare is little more than I would extend myself should such a question be proposed) should one begin? I suggest, if I may be so bold, a place where at least in our unnerved minds we may be calmed by the heady mix of a fine ale or wine; the tavern. There was a time dear reader, long before the days of recent memory (especially if one has indulged in too much calming of the mind) when the city of York had enough taverns within its walls to service an easily bored imbiber with a fresh venue for each day of the year. Despite those heady days being little more than a sublime memory    there is, by way of consolation for the intrepid occultist, undoubtedly a ghost for each day of the year, and few would dare to disagree that this estimate is most assuredly an understatement.
    From the gatherings of legionnaires during York’s antiquity to the present-day meanderings atop the Bar Wall, there have been a profusion of supernatural occurrences that have become as much a part of York’s legacy as the Romans themselves: poltergeists; demon dogs; mischievous children; kings, queens, lords and ladies ; the pestilent, the poor and the crippled; murdered and murderers; and, most famously, the spectral manifestation of those very Roman legionnaires hitherto alluded to. The churches are haunted, even York Minster itself; as are the shops, museums, libraries, courts, theatres, restaurants, the streets, even York Dungeon has its ghosts; and so too, of course, do the taverns.
    Lamentably, many of these places are no longer practical to investigate. certainly not in person. Those that are museums have delicate artefacts and retail outlets with valuable (at least to some) stock while others are dwelling places containing residents who express an understandable reluctance to the suggestion of a group of marauding spook-seekers traipsing through their property. The King’s Manor is now part of the University of York, yet amongst its beautiful stonework there are phantoms in abundance: seventeenth century casualties of the first english civil war jostle for spectral space with the likes of Henry Hastings; the Earl of Huntingdon; the Black Abbot; Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford and even one of
Henry VIII’s tragic queens, Catherine Howard.
    However, let us not be too downhearted at this rather depressing state of affairs. As has oft been demonstrated and attested it is sufficient merely to attend a number of these locations within the daylight hours so as to at the vey least gain a perception of the nature of its preternatural ambience. Periodically, if one is blessed with exceptional fortune, a manifestation will occur during this period, begging the question: are the ghosts actually aware of the hour of the day? As an example, the splendidly monikered Sarah Brocklebank haunts the medieval Micklegate Bar, and has no compulsion with regard to making her presence known either by day or night. [1] In addition there is the haunting at The Antiques Centre on Stonegate, reputably the responsibility of a further young lady by the name of Laura Hodgson, daughter of York’s Gas Engineer during the reign of Queen Victorian; she has appeared to staff during the daylight hours on a number of occasions. On a more scandalous note, the lecherous George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, made his presence felt to the female staff and visitors of the Cock & Bottle tavern on Skeldergate for a good number of years whenever the urge took him. Recent years have born witness to a decline in reports but we are ever vigilant as to the reappearance of this groping ghost!
    The Eboracum Legion Bathhouse, now a subterranean element of the Roman Bath tavern, [2] is home to a supernatural presence that equally has no issue with prowling the site at whichever period of the day suits its desire. Visitors to what is now a museum have reported sights, sounds and an experience of being in the company of something otherwordly; much the same experience has also been recorded at the Richard III Museum in Monk Bar, [3]
    If the opportunity for first hand investigation presents itself it will no doubt become apparent to the more discerning amongst you that some of these reports are, if one were to be generous, exaggerated. However, many of the reports are not so easy to dismiss and if you’ll forgive the return to the subject of York’s taverns we find the perpetuation of a palpable contest to claim right to the accolade: ‘York’s Most Haunted Pub’ (I myself have spent many a diverting hour attempting to assist with this particular disputation). Notable participants include the Golden Fleece, also laying claim to being the longest sited tavern in York [4] and hosting a number of spectres including the Lord Mayor’s wife, Alice Peckett, reputedly a visitor from her residence next door. [5] In addition, there are reports of a number of visitations witnessed walking through walls and also, most curiously, floating heads.
    There is also Ye Olde Starre Inne on Stonegate, the third longest continuously licensed pub in York, bedevilled by wounded soldiers, black cats and a little old lady and not a stone’s throw from the equally haunted Punch Bowl, that may also lay claim to profusion of ghosts.
    A further contender is the Snickleway Inn on Goodramgate, with the additional attraction of a most remarkable tavern sign, that is home to a plethora of ghosts manifesting as sights, sounds, smells and feelings of innate evil. The apparitions at the York Arms on High Petergate have been documented for many years and, more recently, the York Brewery building on Toft Green has itself has become a centre for paranormal activity, demonstrating that York’s supernatural heritage is not merely a bygone idiosyncrasy but a continuing and evolving phenomenon.

  1. Situated to the south of the city, Micklegate Bar is the royal gateway to the city and contains a museum; the Henry VII Experience.
  2. If the sound of a live musical troop excites you then pray be aware of the Roman Bath’s most notable programme of events available for perusal via:
  3. This bar is located to the north of the city.
  4. The Golden Fleece, whose name derives from one of the city’s prominent trades of the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, is mentioned in the City Archives of 1503.
  5. Although known as Lady Peckett, Alice Peckett was not a member of the aristocracy, for in York there was a tradition regarding Lord Mayors and their spouses: “He is lord for a year and a day. She is lady for ever and aye”).

Formerly The Angler’s Arms, this is The Snickleway Inn’s commendably creepy sign, photographed by our very own resident photographer, Mr. Wilson | 2007
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