Holiday On The Other Side
By Vanessa Knipe
It is the first night of your holiday and you settle down in your comfortable bed. You wake in the middle of the night. The window is open and all the covers pulled off your bed. That is what happened to a tourist who stayed at one hotel in York.
By some counts there are as many as 500 hauntings within the City Walls, and more in the surrounding area. That makes York the most haunted city in the UK, maybe even the World.
There has been a city here since Roman Times. With all the churches and graveyards it was always going to create a liminal space, which touches on the spiritual world, even if there was not one there already.
So let us start our brief Ghostly Tour at the very beginning of York, or rather Eboracum as it was called by the Romans. The very meaning of the name is evocative, the Place of the Yew Trees. Yews are found in graveyards all over Britain.
In1953, Harry Martindale, then an apprentice plumber, was installing a new heating system in the basement of the Treasurer’s House. A horn sounded in the distance. Then solider in Roman dress rode through the brick wall on a great cart horse. His shoulders sagged and his face was lined in despair. Marching after him was a column of worn-down legionaries, using their spears as staffs to keep them going.
And the strangest thing of all? They were all marching on their knees.
Later excavations discovered a Roman road about 18 inches below the cellar floor.
More recently, in 2006, a driver, returning home from work, saw a rider on the road near the Four-Alls pub on the A64 rode to Scarborough. He pulled out to pass, as a good driver should, and saw the rider wore fancy dress: appropriately enough, as a highway man. Checking in his rear view mirror that he had not spooked the horse, the driver became spooked himself, for the figure, horse and all, had vanished.
Locals say Dick Turpin, the notorious highway man, still rides the night in Yorkshire.
While you walk within the old city, check out Mad Alice Lane – they have renamed it now to Lund’s Court. Some people have seen a grey figure drifting along that covered walk, lamenting that she was put to death for poisoning her husband.
Then there are the Royal Ghosts. The shade of Catherine Howard, who was beheaded by Henry VIII, has been seen walking through the buildings of the King’s Manor where she is said to have conducted her affair with Thomas Culpepper in 1541. Unusually she walked through a new building, the Principle’s House. Investigators realised that she was walking in her old rose garden, which old plans located on that spot.
And finally, and most worrying for all you tourists, there is the Barghest. Don’t walk alone in the snickleways of York. Locals are safe from this huge black dog’s predations. It feeds on lone travellers, taking the shape of vast black canine with a white face – some say that the head of this ghastly dog is a skull.
If you do choose to visit York, bring a recording device. When you sense a ghostly presence, turn on your recorder for an hour or so. Then play it back at highest volume. Maybe, just maybe you’ll hear voices that weren’t audible to your human hearing.
But for those of you who are here for the shopping you’ll be pleased to know that Marks and Spencer have relocated from their haunted premises in Coppergate.
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