Ghost Stories of York
Here are a collection of some of York's most famous Ghost Stories...
The Orphans' Screams
Bedern, off Goodramgate, was the medieval home of the Minister's Vicars Choral. The choristers finally moved out in 1574 and, unfortunately, the area degenerated in region of slums and warehouses. By the mid-19th century, a sort of orphanage-cum-workhouse was established here known as the York Industrial Ragged School. Its master was paid handsomely to round up local waifs and strays and put them to work and he was keen to keep hold of his earnings. The avaricious man paid out little on food and clothing for his workforce and the children died in great numbers - of starvation and exposure.
Being too lazy to even dispose of the bodies, the schoolmaster would lock them up in a large cupboard until the stench would eventually force him to clear up. In the cold Yorkshire winters, he would be prevented from digging even the shallowest of graves and was forced to leave the corpses to rot.
As the months passed, however, the bodies piled up and the master began to become convinced that he could hear terrified screams emanating from the padlocked cupboard. They played on his guilty conscience so much that he eventually went completely mad and ran through the school massacring the remaining children with a huge knife. The authorities discovered him next morning, whimpering amongst heaps of mutilated bodies. He was dragged off to the local asylum where he spent the rest of his life.
The restless spirits of the dead children are still occasionally seen in the area. More usually, however, it is their playful laughter which is heard. The passer by may stop to listen to the eerie sound but, as they do, it changes dramatically into screams of error!
The Grey Lady, Buried Alive!
Theatre Royal, York
The structure of the Georgian Theatre Royal incorporates parts of the old Hospital of St. Leonard which, in the Middle Ages, was run by a strict order of nuns. One of these ladies, it is said, fell in love with a young nobleman and her feelings were not unrequited. Unfortunately, the lovers were discovered! - and for breaking her vow of chastity, the nun was thrown into a windowless room which was immediately bricked up to form the poor girl's living tomb!
A room behind the dress circle is still pointed out as the place where this macabre event took place. Even today it retains a cold and eerie atmosphere. The nun herself appears in faded grey on occasion. She is always peaceful and friendly and apparently heralds great success for the theatre's current production.
Murder & Betrayal
Minster Yard, York
Life was hard in 16th century Britain and the situation in York was no exception. Many young lads, down on their luck, found a life of crime to be an easy way out of the gutter. Pick-pockets and cut-throats were common place amongst the small alleys and snickelways of the city: even within the Minster Yard.
On a dark still night, two brothers, desperate to boost their meagre earnings, lurked with malicious intent in the shadows near their lodgings at St. William's College. Their victim was to be a wealthy priest from the nearby Minster. As the poor man came into view, the two sprang upon him, slit his throat and made off with his purse and the jewels about his person.
The younger brother had never really wanted to take part in such drastic action and, later that night, racked with guilt, he shut himself and his booty in a closet in the College. The elder, fearing his sibling would break down and confess their crimes, decided to report his brother to the authorities. The young brother was immediately arrested, tried and hanged for murder. He never knew of his brother's betrayal and kept his involvement quiet.
It was now the elder brother's turn to feel the guilt and he paced his rooms at the College both day and night. Over the next few years, he neglected his health totally and soon brought himself to an early grave. His disquiet spirit still paces the upstairs corridor and rooms of St. William's College even today.
(Above texts from "Britannia:British History and Travel".)