York’s Dark and Ghostly History
York harbours a history filled with macabre tales of horror, torture, and restless spirits. Often referred to as “The City of a Thousand Ghosts,” it holds the title of the most haunted city in Europe – possibly even in the world. The ancient city’s walls have witnessed over 500 ghostly encounters, bearing witness to its dark past.
Established by the Romans in 71 AD, York’s turbulent and violent history is more than enough explanation for its eerie reputation. For 250 years, York would remain in the hands of Rome before being conquered by Vikings in 886 AD, who renamed it Jorvik.
During the Middle Ages, York assumed its role as the ecclesiastical centre of Northern England. But in the Late Middle Ages, North Yorkshire would be ravaged by the Black Death, which would take the lives of thousands.
Nearly 100 years later, York became a significant stronghold for the House of York during the English War of Roses. But come the mid-1600s, the city became involved in the strife of the English Civil War when it was besieged by parliamentarians seeking control.
Many centuries later, war would cast its shadow upon York during the Blitz of World War II. Fortunately, the city was spared major devastation.
With such a dark history spanning nearly two millennia, it should come as no surprise that this haunted city exudes an eerie atmosphere.
The Famous Ghosts of York’s Past
It appears that every extraordinary street and narrow alleyway in York houses a spectral presence. While there are countless York ghosts and spine-tingling tales, here are three of the most famous York ghosts:
The tragic tale of Marmaduke Buckle (also known as the Roaming Wraith) remains one of York’s most popular ghost stories. Living in the harsh realities of the 17th century, Buckle was inflicted with multiple physical disabilities which led to the unfounded accusations of witchcraft.
Throughout his life, he resided in the house on Goodramgate (now the La Piazza restaurant) until he reached a heart-breaking decision. Carving his initials, birth date, and the date of his choice onto a wooden beam, he hung himself at the tender age of 18. It is said that his spirit continues to linger in the building with occurrences of slamming doors and flickering lights.
The Stick Man
The Stick Man is a well-known York ghost legend. He was an elderly resident of 35 Stonegate in the 18th century. He was paranoid and cantankerous with a deep-seated fear.
Living in constant dread of night-time burglaries, the Stick Man would whack his stick against the wall whenever the bells of York Minster rang. Even in death, the sound of his stick can still be heard in the dead of night.
The Roman Soldiers
Another one of York’s ghost stories revolves around the Roman soldiers. Centuries ago, the cellar of the Treasurer’s House served as a Roman road. Today, visitors report sightings of Roman soldiers clad in armour, shields in hand, and even leading their horses.
The Most Haunted Places in York
Where there are ghosts, there are haunted places – and the ancient city of York has them in spades. From pubs to towers, and cathedrals to homes, you’ll find the finest York ghosts at just about every turn.
Do you dare to enter these ghost-ridden places?
From the outside, 35 Stonegate appears an unassuming structure – just another very traditional store along the street. But don’t let that fool you – behind its nondescript facade lies the reputedly most haunted house in York.
Although the current structure was built in 1482, historical records indicate that a presence has existed on the site for over a millennium.
Legend speaks of at least 14 distinct apparitions that inhabit this house of spirits, but many believe the actual count surpasses this number. Interestingly, the spirits grew more active during the late 1990s when the building had undergone extensive renovations.
One well-documented ghost who roams the halls is known by the simple name of Tom.
Standing proudly on Deangate, York Minster is a medieval gothic marvel and a prominent landmark in York. Behind its grandeur, however, lies a legacy as one of the area’s most haunted buildings.
A well-known story associated with York Minster takes us back to the 1820s, when a group of women deviated from a cathedral tour. During their exploration, they came face to face with a man in naval uniform who whispered in the ear of one woman. As the legend goes, this eerie apparition was actually the woman’s deceased brother, fulfilling a childhood pact to reveal the secrets of the afterlife.
Treasurer’s House, Minster Yard
Another notorious haunted building in York is the former residence of York Minster’s first treasurer. Now a Grade I listed building under the ownership of the National Trust, the home is reportedly haunted by the same infamous Roman spirits we mentioned earlier.
Among its most well-known ghost tales is that of a plumber named Harry Martindale, who had a chilling encounter while working in the cellar in 1953. Harry reports that he heard the sound of a horn and was suddenly confronted by a legion of Roman soldiers and a phantom cart horse emerging from the walls.
Interestingly, Martindale later discovered that the house was built atop a Roman road known as the Via Decumana, just 15 inches below the cellar!
The Golden Fleece
Fancy grabbing a bevvy with a ghost?
The Golden Fleece takes immense pride in being known as York’s most haunted pub house, a fact that was initially dismissed by one sceptical bar manager. It didn’t take long for her to realise the truth…
Among the eerie encounters the bar manager witnessed was an apparition gliding across the bar before vanishing into the wall, hearing phantom footsteps, the jangling of keys, and the feeling of an icy hand creep up her spine.
Numerous guests of the pub house have also reported sightings of a spectral woman wandering the hallways, which paranormal investigators believe to be the spirit of Lady Alice Peckitt, a wife of a former Lord Mayor of Duke.
Ye Olde Starr Inne
One thing is certain; York doesn’t lack haunted pubs and alehouses. Located on the infamous ghost-riddled street of Stonegate, Ye Olde Starr Inn is a haunted pub with a history dating back to 1644.
During the English Civil War, the cellar served as a hospital for wounded soldiers and is believed to still house ghostly inhabitants today.
The pub itself is also home to spectral entities, including the famous “Woman in Black.” Perhaps the eeriest presence is a pair of black cats sealed within a pillar that stands as a relic within the pub. These feline phantoms now roam the bar, and locals have shared instances of patrons’ dogs growling and barking at the pillar.
Are there any ghosts in the pubs of York?
Yes; apart from The Golden Fleece and Ye Olde Starr Inne, several other pubs have reported ghost sightings, including The Black Swan, The Punch Bowl, and The Three Legged-Mare.
Are there ghost tours in York?
For sure! There are many paranormal tours and events in York – what would you expect for the most haunted city in Europe? The Original Ghost Walk of York is the most well-known.