York is often said to be the most haunted city in Britain, with many people making a good living from guided ghost tours that try to take in some of the 500 or more reported ghost sightings reported over the years. The ancient nature of the city means there are many buildings, churches, streets and alleyways still in existence that have seen incidents or accidents. Ghost hunters flock there from all over the world. If you’re taking a trip to York, be sure to hop on one of the many ghost tours and learn theses classic York ghost stories.
The York Industrial Ragged School Hauntings
One of the most disturbing and widely reported ghostly encounters is to be found at Bedern, off Goodramgate. This once respectable residence of the Minister’s Vicars Choral became a slum occupied by warehouses after the choristers left in 1574.
Eventually in the mid-1800s, a man was paid to become master of a refuge known as the York Industrial Ragged School, which was a kind of workhouse for orphans. The master would go about collecting stray children and put them to work. He was well paid, but as is so often the case in these sad tales, was also greedy.
Rather than spend money on the children’s food and clothing, he kept it and large numbers of children died of hunger and cold. The master stored the bodies in cupboards until the smell became so awful he was forced to do something about it. Yorkshire is very cold in winter and the iron-hard ground meant that often bodies were left outside to rot.
Eventually this hard-hearted man became disturbed, imagining he could hear terrified screams coming from the cupboards in which he had stored the bodies. Turning mad, he finally murdered all the rest of the children with a huge knife, was removed to an asylum by the authorities and stayed there until he died.
Many people have reported seeing the spirits of children or the noise of laughter and playing. Some have reported these playful sounds turning to terrifying screams if they have stayed too long.
York’s Theatre Royal Mystery Resident
All good theatres need a ghost and York’s Theatre Royal claims a resident of its past life as the medieval Hospital of St Leonard, which was run by nuns. One of these nuns had rather unholy feelings for a nobleman and they were caught in each other’s arms. The punishment was severe and the vow-breaker was bricked into a windowless room and left to die.
The room is reputed to be behind the theatre’s dress circle and theatre-goers have reported feeling very cold and an eerie atmosphere. When a sighting of the nun is reported, the theatre’s cast considers it good luck.
The Regretful Killers of St. William’s College
A life of crime was common in the 16th century and the chance of being robbed or having your pocket picked was great. Two brothers living at St William’s College targeted a wealthy priest from York Minster, slashed his throat and stole his purse and valuables.
The younger brother was consumed by guilt and hid in a cupboard with his share of the haul. His elder brother became frightened that his brother would confess all to the authorities and so decided to report him himself, leading to his brother’s arrest and hanging.
The surviving brother was then the one to feel overwhelming guilt and became a recluse who died an early death. Visitors to St William’s College often claim to hear the footsteps of the elder brother pacing the rooms and corridors.
The Ghost Horde From Hadrian’s Wall
York has a famous Roman past and the legend of the lost ninth legion and the soldiers’ ghosts lives on. Having suffered 80 per cent casualties in 60BC, they took on reinforcements and marched north to build Eboracum at the meeting of the rivers Ouse and Foss. They then marched on to Scotland to fight against the Picts and were believed to have been completely annihilated, which resulted in Hadrian’s Wall being constructed.
Many people have reported the sound of marching and some have even claimed to see a column of Roman soldiers that are believed to be the lost ninth legion marching down Chapter House Street from the Minster, before disappearing at the Ogleforth junction.
Lund’s Court aka Mad Alice Lane
Lund’s Court was known as Mad Alice Lane after a lady called Alice Smith who lived there in the 1800s and who was hanged. Some say this was for being a lunatic and others that it was because she poisoned her husband.
The narrow alley, one of York’s famous Snickleways, is reported to be chilly and cold even on the warmest day and some report hearing a laugh or seeing a woman on a bicycle there.
If you’re planning to hire a car and take a trip to York anytime soon, be sure to check out these and many other ghost stories from the Uk’s most haunted city.