Friday, August 03, 2007

A Ghostly Adventure in York

A week or so ago, Val mentioned that Melbourne has a series of 'Ghost Walks' on Tuesday nights. This reminded me of a never-to-be-forgotten time in York, UK, one Saturday evening in late February, 1993.

Richard, Sara and I had travelled up from Bristol to spend a weekend in York, which happened to coincide with the end of the Viking Festival week. York is a city of immense beauty and interest, so we spent as much time as possible roaming the streets and visiting many of its attractions, including the magnificent York Minster.

Saturday evening found us enjoying my favourite part of York, the very old area known as 'The Shambles', where the streets are so narrow that the buildings almost meet overhead. We came upon a group of about 30 people gathered in a small square and being addressed by a tall man in a tophat and long Victorian overcoat. This man, whose name we later learned was Trevor Rooney, was inviting the group to come with him on a Ghost Walk through the streets of York, and all for a mere £5 per person. We paid our money believing that we weren't the only ones being fooled if it turned out to be a hoax.

But 'Looney Rooney', as he was more commonly known, was true to his word and he and his assistant, dressed in a monk's long brown habit with blue sneakers incongruously poking out underneath, led us through the nighttime streets of York and regaled us with more ghost stories than we thought possible. With a rumoured 140 ghosts within its city walls, York is one of the most densely haunted cities in England and it is just the type of city people would expect to be haunted. In the dead of a windy night its ancient buildings, huddled together in dark passages, creak and groan quietly as though lamenting their violent past.

The centuries-old Minster, Bootham Bar and Micklegate Bar tower over narrow streets lined by shops and homes no less old. Between the houses twist and writhe narrow walkways where the sunlight rarely penetrates. Grotesque oddities such as the Red Devil that leers down into the Coffee Yard off Stonegate seem to emphasize the mystic atmosphere of York.

There is the Phantom Patrol; The Black Dog; The Grey Lady; A Decapitated Spectre; Spectral Cats; The Ghostly Duke; The Haunted Pew; A Treacherous Brother; and A Mischievous Poltergeist, to name just a few.

For the next 90 minutes we followed 'Looney Rooney' and his 'assistant', often in single file, down darkened alleyways, along riverbanks and even through a crowded restaurant, much to the surprise of the diners, but not the restaurant owners who were quite familiar with this regular 'invasion'. At times the assistant would disappear only leap out of the dark a short time later at an appropriate time in the current story. 'Looney Rooney' had an inexhaustable supply of ghost stories, delivered in suitably sombre tone, interspersed with hilarious repartee with his assistant and the crowd.

It was a wonderful evening which we still comment on more than 14 years later - and to think that we happened upon it quite by accident.

York UK, by night.

The Shambles, York UK

Viking enthusiasts heading into 'battle'

Richard and Sara enjoying a snowfight

Coney Street, York UK

Stonegate, York UK


Kerri said...

I'm glad Val jogged your memory and inspired you to write about your long-ago trip to York. It sounds wonderful. I'd love to have heard those ghost stories while walking through the dark, narrow streets (as long as there was a group of people with me!)
Lovely to see the picturesque streets too Alice. The snow must've been quite a novelty for you Aussies :)

Merle said...

Hi Alice ~~ Great post about the ghost walk. Sounds interesting but
a bit scary. Great pictures too and it is nice to see and hear about other places. Thanks for your comments on my blog. Glad you enjoyed
it. Take care, Love, Merle.

Val said...

Alice, I think your tour was much more atmospheric. Those narrow streets are very picturesque. The closest Melbourne got to that was Little Bourke St (Chinatown).

Glad my post inspired you to write about your ghost tour.

meggie said...

I really enjoyed this tour with you, & all the photos. My Grandmother came from Yorkshire, & she used to talk of York Minster & York of course. What a bargain your tour was!

Hillside Garden said...

Hi Alice, I want to answer your questions! and I see the shambles, were I have beem often in the last years. I love York, and often I make a short trip for shopping with the ship. In 1996 we have had a holiday cottage in york for one week.
No, I'm sorry, I have not visited athe visitor center in the jail in the dartmoor. We had good weather at this day in the moor, and in 1999 I have been in Iveybridge with Mr. Wonderful and my younger daughter. We eat chicken there at a bench in the street and my daughter baught a lot of things in the charity shop in Ivybridge.


farmingfriends said...

Was really interested to read this post as I lived in York for 10 years and now live on a farm near York. it looks like you all had alot of fun.
Sara from farmingfriends