City of spirits: Ghost stories of York

With a history spanning thousands of years, it may come as no surprise that York is reportedly the most haunted city in Europe. This Halloween, we dive into York’s haunted past to bring you a collection of spooky tales!

Treasurer’s House

One of the most famous haunted locations in York is the Treasurer’s House. This historic townhouse was bought by Frank Green in 1897, who decorated it to his eclectic taste. Green had very strict rules about how he liked the house to be presented, and vowed to haunt the building if it was ever changed. A strong smell of cigar smoke associated with Mr. Green has sometimes appeared out of the blue, only to disappear just as quickly.

It’s not just Frank Green who is said to watch over the building. Visitors have spoken of a grey lady, who sits on various chairs in the house. Children too have been spotted playing marbles and running up stairs. An eerie cat has even been seen in the basement café, much to the concern of visitors eating!

However, perhaps the most famous ghost story from the house is Harry Martindale’s. In 1953, Harry an apprentice plumber, was installing a boiler in the cellar when he heard a noise coming from the other side of the wall. As he looked, a Roman soldier came through the wall and walked through the cellar. Following him was more soldiers, including one riding a horse! While he could see the soldiers, they were only visible from the knees up. Later excavations revealed that the cellar was just above a Roman road.

The Golden Fleece

As one of the oldest pubs in York, The Golden Fleece boasts the title of ‘York’s most haunted pub’, and is said to host up to fourteen ghosts. We spoke to Charis, an alumnus who worked at The Golden Fleece, who told us more about the pub’s unearthly inhabitants:

“I worked at the most haunted pub in York while at uni and there were a lot of stories. Most of the people I worked with believed in ghosts. There were weird things that happened like glasses falling off shelves, and shapes caught on CCTV. Supposedly if you put a face filter on Snapchat it would pick up things that aren’t there.

There are two sections to the pub, a top bar and a bottom bar. There was a landlord who hung himself in the bottom bar, he’s been seen around the place. Then next to the pub there’s an alleyway called ‘Lady Peckett’s Yard’, and it’s labelled that because she or her husband owned the pub and she used to go to the alleyway for a break. People used to see her standing in the alleyway.

In Victorian times there was a little boy (I think he was the son of a landlord) who ran out the front of the pub while a horse and carriage was going and he got knocked over. People have reported seeing the ghost of the boy running near the entrance of the pub.

There was a pickpocket, who fell down the stairs to the basement and died. It’s also where we stored the stock and alcohol for the pub. I used to have to go down there to stock up alcohol. People have said when they go down to the cellar they’ve felt stuff being taken from their back pocket.

In WW2, when the army and pilots in the country needed places to stay, they would stay in the pub. There was a group of pilots passing by who stayed in the pub. They all stayed in the same room. It’s said that one of the pilots got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, and he came back but forgot where the door was and how to get back to the bed – so he accidentally went to the window instead of the bed. He fell two stories and died. A lot of people who have stayed in that room say that when they go to sleep they’ve seen a silhouette of the man standing over the bed. 20-30 years ago there was an American woman who stayed in the pub, and there was a notepad next to the bed. She saw a man standing over the bed in the middle of the night and got freaked out. In the morning she complained that someone was in her room and the bar staff reassured her that there couldn’t have been anyone in the room. She said ‘I know that someone was in my room as they left me a note’. On the notepad there was a name, and it was the name of the pilot who had died. “

Yorkshire Museum

This charming building situated in the popular Museum Gardens is also home to a series of strange happenings. In 1953 after closing the museum, caretaker Mr. Jonas returned to his accommodation in the basement only to hear footsteps coming from the museum above. On investigating the footsteps, he came across an elderly man in the library. Reaching out to the man, he put a hand on his shoulder, only for him to vanish. The ghostly man reappeared several times, and caused so much controversy that a curator of the museum even resigned, following a dispute over ‘whether the alleged monthly apparition should be scientifically investigated.’

York Minster

Most alumni will remember York Minster, but not everyone will be familiar with its ghosts. One local legend dating back to the 1820s tells of two ladies who got separated from their group on a tour of the cathedral, only to bump into a mysterious man in naval uniform. As the story goes, the man whispered in one of the ladies’ ears. Much to the ladies’ surprise, he was actually her deceased brother!

Another ghostly apparition has been spotted sitting in the pews, listening to the sermons. The apparition is believed to be the ghost of Dean Gale, a man who worked at the Minster.

Just a stone’s throw away from the Minster, is a Grade II listed building: 5 Minster Yard. It’s said that the ghost of a child can be seen looking out from the small window on the second floor. As the story goes, her parents were ill with the plague, and to prevent it from spreading the family were bricked up inside the house. The young girl, who remained uninfected, starved to death.

Lund’s Court, formerly ‘Mad Alice Lane

There’s a dark tale behind this snickelway in York. According to York folklore, the street is haunted by ‘Mad Alice’, a woman who was hanged at York Castle in 1825 for poisoning her husband. For those (un)lucky enough, some have even spotted her face gazing down from the windows. But the story has been contested by many, as there are no historical records of Mad Alice’s hanging – leaving many to question whether Mad Alice really existed.

We hope you enjoyed reading these spooky tales this Halloween! If you have any ghost stories of your own in York, we welcome you to add them to our virtual memory map.

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