“Tell me that you could hear it
Three taps under the floorboard.
Don't say I'm losing it, as I could have sworn,
That I locked all these windows fairly tight.
Shut the door, Hear a knock
She starts turning off the lights
And from the corner of my eye, I saw you dressed all in white
I saw you pass right by, But maybe I had too much wine
Saw her walk Through a wall,
Turn her head and look at me In a York hotel hall”
We start our tour here, at the York Castle Museum. One of, if not the most haunting places in York.
Standing proud since it was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, the museum has had various uses throughout the years: being utilized as both a debtors prison and a female prison, before being converted for use as the museum and working mill in the mid 1900’s. Whilst being used as a prison it’s most notorious inhabitant was Dick Turpin, the infamous 18th century highwayman, horse thief and murderer, who was held at the prison before being sentenced to death at the York courts in 1739: to be hanged until he was dead. Like its rival city Lancaster, York’s method of hanging favoured the short drop. This meant that the fall from the hanging platform was small, not allowing the noose to snap the neck, allowing an instantaneous death, but rather let the rope slowly tighten around the throat of its victim, the poor soul suffocating helplessly as the baying crowds watched on. The body writhing in agony as death leisurely took a hold.
Its rich history perhaps gives us an insight as to why many of its previous inhabitants would not want to leave, and forever torment those that walk the grounds.
One of the museums most famous ghosts in residency we know very little about however she has made many recent appearances in the background of pictures taken by holiday makers.
A little girl, of no more than 8 years old has often been seen and heard throughout the old castle. Dressed in a Victorian outfit, it provides a snapshot of the era she may be from.
With a disturbing look and a dead-pan stare you can almost see the suffering in her face. Those who have been in contact with the ghost reports a feeling of uneasiness and goosebumps breaking out all over their body.
Perhaps history can teach us a little about her? Although specific records are hard to find, we do know there was no lower age limit to be sentenced to prison, with hundreds of 7,8 and 9 year olds in prison at any one time in the 1800s. Described by John Garwoord in 1853 “The writer has visited the prisoner awaiting execution, under sentence of death for murder, and he has visited the female wards of a prison. Both these are very pitiable sights to behold, but the swarms of juvenile prisoners are a still more pitiable sight.” Perhaps she was a street urchin, born into a life of poverty, and when whippings and beatings did not help, she was thrown into jail with the very worst of society. We know conditions in Victorian prisons to be a pitiful state, with archives showing up to 5% of all prisoners could die in prison due to the conditions. Could she be one of the many? Another statistic due to the wicked treatment by the jailers. We know at least she found a friend in here, as often, workers at the museum reports chilling singing from two female voices, one older, and one younger. The singing is from vacant parts of the museum and is said to be accompanied by the patter of footsteps, getting quickly closer and closer.
One other very famous resident is here at the museum is that of a small, Edwardian, man who often paces the floors of the museum. His first appearance came in 1953. After a long day the then caretaker, Mr Jonas, was settling down to relax in his accommodation below the museum, when he heard hurried, panicked footsteps above. Rushing upstairs thinking he had locked a visitor in for the night he spotted the man marching quickly along the museum gallery. Wandering over he called out to the man who did not respond but continued with his pacing. Getting closer Mr Jonas placed a hand onto the shoulder of the man, who “poof” disappeared. Leaving Mr Jonas in a state of disbelief. The man has made several appearances since, to other people; however always appearing in a state of anxiety; he obviously isn’t looking forward for what is to come; and is very reluctant to leave his prison…..
Just before we move on…a chilling story from York’s dark past, involving the monument of Clifford’s tower that you can see rise greatly upon the hill. Take yourself back to the year 1190, and anti-Jewish sentiment was on the rise across England. Sadly, after an accidental house fire in York, a local mob deemed this as fitting justification to blame, and then attack the local Jewish population. Fearing for their lives, the Jewish community sought safety within Clifford tower, which at that time was not the stone structure you see today, but wooden tower.
With the keep besieged and surrounded by the locals, the lead Rabbi of the group suggested an extreme measure to prevent being killed by the mob: collective suicide. The tower was set on fire, to prevent the bodies being mutilated. Not wanting to die from the fires, the men of the group proceeded in killing their wives and children before taking their own lives. Those who did not want to die by their own hands surrendered; promising to convert to Christianity in the hope of saving their lives. Their pleas were met on deaf ears; with every single Jew killed and mutilated; with their bodies being displayed around the city walls.
I think a stiff drink is well deserved now, let’s head on….to a place filled with spirits.