York’s spooky side

This year I had a really magical experience: the opportunity to spend the last days of October and the first of November in England… in one of the most haunted cities of the world!

By Alessandra Ivaldi / 15.11.2022

In popular imagination the historical York is often connected to gruesome legends about ghosts that are thought to haunt many of the most famous buildings of the city. Throughout the year, tourists have the opportunity to visit places connected to the world of magic, stay in haunted hotels and participate in themed activities like entertaining evening ghost tours… What do you think? You don’t believe in ghosts? That’s fine – York and its legends offer very interesting and exciting experiences even for the skeptics!

In October York changes face and the atmosphere in the city is really unique. The shop windows and pubs are decorated with pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons and bats. In the town center, over the heads of the passers-by, flying broomsticks and white veils of phantoms wave in the wind, hanging between the buildings. The closer it gets to the night of Halloween, the more common it is to meet people walking through the city and proudly displaying their grim costumes…

Celebrating this time of year in York is really an unforgettable experience, because the city offers countless activities. Firstly, a pleasant walk in the city centre, with its enchanting views and aura of mystery thanks to the ancient narrow streets. 

After a tour of the city centre, you can enjoy the beauty of nature while visiting some of the parks in York. Relax and immerse yourself in the warm autumn colours… But beware of the ghosts! In October the gardens are full of eerie presences. Every year with this initiative, known as Ghosts in the Gardens, York celebrates its reputation as a haunted city and offers a curious spectacle to its visitors. Ghostly figures hide between the plants and architecture of the parks, transforming a simple walk at sunset or on a gloomy day into a thrilling adventure for adults and children…

In the picture, one of the “ghosts” spotted in Dean’s Park

Another interesting activity is the tour through the most haunted pubs and inns of the city, an opportunity not only to learn about local legends, but also more about York.

Let’s start with the Golden Fleece pub, near the Shambles, the famous “magical” street of the city. Here you can find strange shops: you can try and buy sophisticated teas, sweets and souvenirs but also “magical items and potions”. Among all the stores The Shop That Must Not Be Named stands out, dedicated to the world of Harry Potter.

The Golden Fleece is considered to be the pub with the most ghosts in the city… and of course it is impossible to find a table there on the night of Halloween, unless you book well in advance!

Not very far away you can find the Black Swan Inn, which is also at the heart of many legends and can be recognised by the curious presence of a statue in the form of a cat that hangs over the main door, on the facade of the building.

Especially dramatic is the story of Bedern Hall, which nowadays looks quite pleasant and welcoming. However, legend has it that in the past many orphans died here at the hands of a cruel schoolmaster.

If you find yourself near the marvelous Minster, one of the most majestic cathedrals in the UK, you will find St William’s College, haunted by the tormented spirit of a thief who is believed to have killed a priest and his own brother, before committing suicide full of remorse.

Another curious story is that of the Treasurer’s House, also near the Minster. During renovation work of the building in the last century, one of the workers claimed that he saw an entire formation of ghost Roman legionaries marching through the cellar. His description of their garments was so detailed that some academics believed in the truthfulness of his story.

Here’s a tip for all cat lovers: stay away from the Olde Starre Inn! According to the legend, black cats were buried alive in the walls of this building. Why? It’s simple, because black cats were thought to bring good luck in England! To have a “supply” of these animals kept within the walls of a house would have brought good fortune to its inhabitants, but it seems that was not enough to keep ghosts away. Some clients say they heard terrifying cries, while the staff say they saw objects moving by themselves…

These were my favourites, but the haunted buildings of York are much more numerous and, if you want to learn more about these legends, then you should join a ghost tour. Ghost tours are guided visits through the most famous areas of York, that take place every evening all over the year. The guide will tell you many curious facts and invite you to actively participate in the exploration of the city with entertaining activities. There are many kinds of ghost tours: for families or only for adults, humorous and witty or really hair-rising – something for every taste! But don’t forget if you want to join a ghost tour on Halloween, you’d better book your ticket well in advance, since it’s one of the most popular initiatives.

If all this were not enough, then you can test your courage by visiting the York Dungeon, the ancient dungeon of the city. Here, thanks to actors and special effects, you will face a horrific experience and live the most gruesome stories of the cities…

Well, now you‘ve had a taste of York’s spooky side. What do you think about it?


Alessandra Ivaldi (Italy)

Speaks: Italian, English, German, French

Europe is... a cultural heritage.

Website: https://iva1794.wixsite.com/home


Lucy Gannon (United Kingdom)

Job: Aupair and English Tutor

Languages: English and Spanish

Europe is... a home away from home

Author: alessandra

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