The Original Ghost Walk of York: Ghostly Stories

The Shop

York is like a living theatre. A beautiful stage. The scene is set by its company of workers and everyday they put on a show. Theatres are great places for ghosts. The spirit of those who have gone before hang in the air like a note from a favourite song. The public do not get to see behind the scenes but its workers do and they have their stores to tell.

On Stonegate there stands a large Victorian house. An early Victorian house it is warm, bright and always inviting. Staff carefully prepare the store each day like a small theatre.

Emma Sale is a young assistant who from day one always felt akin to the spirit of the place. In the store rooms on the upper floors she believed an old man watches over her. She feels he is "kind" but "longs to go back". Maybe to a happier time with laughter and children. Emma says a little girl has been seen "skipping up the stairs". She says that in the 1880s fire claimed the life of a young girl there.

The deep cellar descends almost to Roman level. Heavy Yorkshire flagstones suggest an important past. The hum of the City can be heard comforting and eternal.
On the far side of the cellar is the entrance to a labyrinth of disused Victorian tunnels that criss-cross beneath St Helen's Square. Damp, dark and cold, these passages once carried goods and coal on tracks.

Recently the Square had to be strengthened. Workmen were employed to lay concrete blocks beneath. Emma said they didn't like the "eerie feel" or the strange sounds of "something" down there. Sometimes they heard "scraping, scratching sounds". But one day the sounds seemed very close. The younger workman shone his torch into the dark and to his horror was met by the haggard face of an old woman. Dirty and exhausted, she was heaving what looked like a coal cart!

Astonished, terrified, screaming he scurried out pushing at his colleague for all his life.

Emma says they refused to return.

Now all that remains is a hurried ugly wall made of breeze block, partially hiding the entrance. But in the tunnels the sounds remain of workers from the past.

The Piper's Tale

Steve Roughley is an ex-serviceman dedicated and devoted to his bag pipes. He found what he thought was the ideal place to practise – A workingmen’s club opposite St. Lawrence church graveyard. However, from the first night he knew he was not alone. He became aware of a presence like ‘darkness’ or a ‘shadow hanging over me’. When he played ‘flower of Scotland’ and ‘One Hundred Pipes’ there was a mighty gust of wind – an icy cold blast that twisted into the room rocking and rattling the fixtures and exploding the lights.

Steve was certain in that intense moment that he could hear close beside him another piper playing.

A psychic investigation and historical research has convinced Steve that he has been touched by the spirit of James Reid whose story is a shocking and tragic one. Enlisted in Lord Ogilvy’s 1st Battalion he was captured at Carlisle then imprisoned in York for a year before being tried for treason.

An educated articulate man Reid defended himself against three judges. He claimed he was a piper not a soldier. The judges sneered that his ‘pipes were his weapons’ and that ‘his music inspired men to war’. His eloquence may well have been regarded as insolence and he was condemned to death. This ruling appears unique in history. Reid was the only man to be executed for simply playing music.

In November 1746 he was hanged drawn and quartered. His body butchered, dissected and mutilated. His body parts may well have been displayed on Walmgate Bar opposite St Lawrence church where Steve first practised his pipes.

Steve believes it is this cruel humiliating and degrading treatment that has tormented his spirit but through their mutual love for music they connected. Steve’s aim is to tell the story to understand the suffering and thereby bring a kind of peace to the soul of James Reid forever.

from steveroughley2000@yahoo.co.uk website: www.celticweddingpiper.co.uk

The Lost Boy

The Strange Tale of "the lost boy"

In our ancient City there is a ghost of a boy. He haunts several sites such as the inside or outside of old Victorian buildings. Dirty and barefoot. A ragged child no more than 10 or 11 years old.

His presence is first felt by a stillness followed by a gust or a light breeze like the opening of an unseen door or window. Then he appears, shocked to see you as you are to see him ,and then he is gone. In that brief moment his stare is fiery and intense his story deep and sorrowful and his purpose unfulfilled.

Why and for what is he searching for ?

If anyone has any information please get in touch.

We refer to him as "the lost boy".

A house in Castlegate, York

In the early 1900s my Grandmother Gladys Mary Smith lived at Castlegate with her family, her parents Alfred and Mary Smith and her sisters. This is a story she recounted many times to me.

One evening Gladys had a school friend staying and the girls had settled down to sleep in Gladys' bedroom on the third floor.

Hearing the bedroom door open, the girls both sat up at once. They could see a figure in a long, hooded gown walking around the end of the bed. Gladys assumed that the figure was her mother looking for the matches to light the lamps, and spoke, "The matches are on the dressing table mother." Without responding the figure continued walking towards the window, stood and looked out for a moment then turned and left the room. The girls were both confused, Gladys climbed out of bed, grabbed the matches and went into her parents bedroom which was across the landing on the same floor.

Her father Alfred sat up in bed surprised and asked her what she wanted. "What did mother want? I've brought her the matches." was Gladys' reply.

Alfred shook his head and told her that Mary had not left her bed since they had both retired nearly an hour before.

Over the years Gladys became used to the spectral visitor and often was aware of its presence and she once recalled to me hearing the rocking chair in the corner of her bedroom move in the small hours. The robes which she had mistaken as her mother's dressing gown she came to believe could have been those of a monk as the apparition often lingered at the bedroom window gazing at the church opposite.

from Cheryl B. (2011)

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