The Most Haunted City in The World…

The Paranormal Database – yes, such a thing exists – claims York is the most haunted city in England. The GRFI (Ghost Research Foundation International) has gone one step further, claiming in a survey that they found York to be the most haunted city anywhere in the world with a staggering 140 ghosts and 504 reported ‘hauntings’.

Various explanations have been advanced for York’s other-worldly abundance. Some point to the city’s turbulent and often bloody history, whilst others believe the Romans to have founded the city on a sacred burial site. Whatever the reason, York is certainly not short of a good ghost story or two…

Bedern, York
Bedern, York

Haunted York

Bedern, a narrow alleyway off of Goodramgate (above), is thought to be haunted by the ghosts of long dead children. In the early nineteenth century it was the site of York Industrial Ragged school, an institution for orphans and children from impoverished families.

The establishment was run for nearly a decade by a violent drunk. Local gossip rumoured that he had beaten more than one child to death and hidden the bodies in a cupboard in his room. It is said that their restless spirits can still be heard here – and you might feel the cold hand of a child clinging to yours.

Micklegate Bar, Haunted YorkThe ghost of a small girl called Sarah has been reported as wandering the corridors of Micklegate Bar – sometimes accompanied by a sound of jangling keys. After losing the keys to the Bar that were her father’s responsibility, she spent the rest of her life looking for them. When she finally did find them she dropped down dead.

Linking Swinegate with Low Petergate, Lund’s Court – or Mad Alice Lane as it used to be called – is believed to be haunted by a famous former resident. One Alice Smith used to live here but was hanged for the crime of insanity at York Castle in 1825. Her ghost – it is said – can still be seen gliding down the alleyway.

Just south of York in the village of Bishopthorpe, there have been sightings of a headless torso wandering the fields. Back in the eighteenth century, a wealthy women was murdered for her money and the body hidden nearby. By the time she was found the body was in an advanced state of decay and the head had become detached.

If you travel north-east from York toward Malton you might see the ghost of ‘Nance’ on the A64. Due to marry a mail coach driver, she apparently fell for the charms of a highwayman. Her choice proved a bad one unfortunately, for he left her and her child to die of exposure on the lonely road. She is believed to appear when visibility is bad to guide travellers through the mist.

Kings Manor, York
The King’s Manor where it is said you can hear the groans of soldiers wounded during the English Civil War

Haunted Houses in York

One of York’s most famous ghost sightings occured in 1953. Apprentice plumber Harry Martindale was working in the cellar of the Treasurer’s House just behind the Minster. Hearing the sound of an approaching horn, Martindale saw a horse with a dishevelled Roman soldier on its back emerge through the wall followed by more legionaries in plumed helmets talking amongst themselves.

They appeared to be walking on their knees as he couldn’t initially make out their feet and lower legs – it turned out that there was a Roman road fifteen inches below the floor of the cellar. His detailed descriptions of the soldiers’ clothing, facts he couldn’t have known previously, seemed to give his story legitimacy. Legend has it that when the young plumber fled upstairs, the buildings curator said to him ‘You’ve seen the Roman soldiers, haven’t you?’ – apparently this wasn’t the first sighting of the legionaries.

A female ghost that has been seen in the Principal’s House – dressed in green and carrying roses – is rumoured to be that of Catherine Howard, the fourth of Henry VIII’s six wives. The building in which she has been seen is built on the site of the old rose garden where the queen apparently liked to spend much of her time when in York. She would later be beheaded – possibly for her infidelity here with her lover Thomas Culpeper.

The King’s Manor, also on Exhibition Square, is frequented by the ghost of a monk and the groans of wounded men can also be heard as it was used as a temporary hospital during the Civil War.

haunted-york-st-williams-collegeThe area around the Minster seems to be a popular hang-out for local ghosts and is home to some of York’s most haunted houses. The house at 5 College Street is reportedly home to a ghost of a young girl who wanders around upstairs. When the Black Death spread across England in the 14th century, a six year old girl was locked in the boarded up house with the bodies of her parents who had died from the disease. She wasn’t infected however, and slowly starved to death.

St. William’s College next door (above) is home to a ghost with a guilty conscience. In the 16th century, two brothers staying here hatched a plan to rob a wealthy priest. They stole his jewellry and purse – but also slit his throat. Fearing his younger brother, who was now overcome with remorse, would get them both caught, the elder reported his brother for the crime. His brother was tried and hanged, but the elder died himself soon after, racked with guilt. It is his spirit that is said to pace the floors of St. William’s college.

Haunted Pubs in York

There are a number of haunted pubs in York – and many lay claim to the city’s ‘most haunted’ title. One of which is The Snickleway Inn on Goodramgate which is apparently frequented by a number of ghostly apparitions. The ghost of a woman killed just outside the pub by a horse and cart delivering beer can be seen waiting on the staircase, there is a sinister presence in the cellar and an elderly man in old-fashioned apparel has been seen walking through the back wall.

The Snickleway Inn
One of York’s many “most Haunted” pubs, The Snickleway Inn

A pub I didn’t know until recently was haunted, The Cock and Bottle on Skeldergate is said to be visited by the ghostly figure of one George Villiers who owned a building that was once on the site. A Royalist and alchemist, Villiers can be distinguished by his large nose and wavy black hair.

Now a Wetherspoon’s pub, The Punchbowl on Micklegate is said to be haunted by a former landlord who burnt to death in a fire. He has allegedly been seen in both the cellar and one of the bedrooms upstairs. Other inhabitants include a young woman strangled by a drunk and a woman who died of a broken heart.

Inside The Black Swan, Peasholme GreenOn the other side of the city, a bowler hatted Victorian workman is apparently a ‘regular’ in The Black Swan on Peasholme Green (pictured). He gives the impression that he is waiting for someone, and sometimes paces about before gradually fading away. More peculiar perhaps is the pair of legs that have been seen wandering about the staff quarters and going down the stairs.

Used as a hospital during the English Civil War, down in the cellar of Ye Olde Starre Inne on Stonegate you can apparently hear the screams and cries of amputees. The pub also has some feline ghosts as well. Legend has it that two black cats were bricked up between the door and the bar – an attempt to protect the building against bad fortune. Dog owners visiting the pub have reported their animals growling, snarling and throwing themselves toward the place where the cats were said to have been entombed.

Round on High Petergate in the York Arms there is said to be a phantom nun who, like the cats, was bricked up behind a wall many centuries ago (although in her case she wasn’t considered a lucky charm, she had apparently just given birth and was being punished). Although the original building is long gone, the pub stands on the same spot.

Haunted Hotels in York

The Golden Fleece, a pub that also offers lodgings, is reportedly haunted by a ghost from the mid-twentieth century. At the end of the Second World War, a Canadian airman staying here fell from one of the upper windows and broke his neck on the street below. Ever since, his ghost has been said to haunt the bedroom from which he fell.

Guests have also reported seeing the ghostly figure of a woman wandering the corridors. It is said this is Lady Alice Peckitt, a one time resident of the neighbouring building, although it is unclear why she would be haunting next door.

The Golden Fleece, Pavement York
The Golden Fleece, Pavement York

Located on Duncombe Place in view of the Minster, Dean Court is another of York’s haunted hotels and has a number of spooky stories associated with it. One ghost has been recorded as that of a Roman soldier, but it is unclear whether his metal helmet is enough to distinguish him as Roman.

Although this whole area around York Minster was the site of the original Roman garrison, the present building was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century as lodgings for visitors to the Minster and it wouldn’t make sense – according to ghost authorities – to see such an apparition upstairs here.

Although there haven’t been an ghost sightings here, Room 36 is said to have provoked odd sensations in guests, including pressure on the bed and a frequently recorded cold spot that occurs even on warm days. A Victorian cleaning lady is also said to haunt the cellar downstairs. She is thought to have possibly had a room here or possibly just stored her tools and this is why she returns.

The Crypt, York Minster

Haunted Churches in York

York Minster is the setting to a number of ghostly tales. One such story was recorded by T.M. Jarvis in his ‘Accredited Ghost Stories’ published in 1823. A group of friends were visiting the Minster when some of their party became separated. They were approached by an officer in full naval uniform. He paused for a moment, whispered in the ear of one of the ladies ‘There is a future state’, and then carried on past before disappearing.

The man was the brother of the woman who had been spoken to. The two had made a pact that whoever died first would confirm to the other the existence of an afterlife. The brother had just been killed at sea.

The ghost of one Dean Gale who died at the beginning of the eighteenth century has apparently been sometimes seen sitting at the end of a pew listening to sermons.

The Minster is also said to be haunted by a dog whose barks can be heard echoing at night. The dog, called Seamus, was owned by a stonemason who worked on the Minster during its construction. Due to their being an unpopular pair, the other labourers decided to brick Seamus in behind a wall. The dog died alone in the darkness, his barks unanswered.

Holy Trinity Church, York
Holy Trinity, one of York’s haunted churches

The headless ghost of Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland has apparently been seen at Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate. A staunch Catholic he was executed for treason in 1572 for plotting against the Protestant queen Elizabeth I. His head was spiked and placed atop of Micklegate Bar, where it remained for many years before being buried in the church grounds. His body has been seen stumbling between the graves in search of its missing head.

Another haunted church in York is the Church of the Holy Trinity on Micklegate (similar name, different place) where sightings of three ghostly figures have been reported – two adults and one child. There are two different and contradictory stories that explain their appearance. The first is that mother and child were buried apart and the second adult figure is a nanny reuniting them. The second says that the women are unconnected, the mother and child were united in death after the youngster died of plague, whilst the other women is an abbess killed during the Reformation.

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