Following recent revelations that Yorkshire is second only to Cornwall for ghostly legends and spooky sightings, On: Yorkshire Magazine takes a trip around some of our more chilling locations to discover just what exactly is going bump in the night…..
THE SUICIDAL MONK Those Cistercian monks must have had a pretty tough time of it before the 16th Century dissolution of Kirkstall Abbey. Various ghostly sightings include the former Abbot on a seemingly endless search for an unnamed something, a monk committing suicide by jumping from the bell tower, an anguished white female entity known as Mary who witnessed this suicide, even a full funeral procession of white-clad men through the central nave! Sightings of ‘scholarly hooded figures’ are commonplace. Although these shouldn’t be confused with students taking revision notes to the banks of the River Aire.
THE BLUE LADY A sad tale lies behind one of Temple Newsam’s most famous and, admittedly, odd portraits. The subject is Mary Ingram (1638-1652), reputedly the ‘Blue Lady’, the stately home’s most famous ghost. Mary is attacked by highwaymen whilst returning to the grounds after visiting relatives. So traumatised is she by this event, she develops a psychosis which causes her to constantly hide her valuables around various parts of the huge house. The obsession remains with her until the end of her short life. After which her frantic presence is sometimes seen on an endless search for her hidden belongings.
THE BLACK HOUND Sir Alvary Gascoigne was a diplomat who gave one of our heritage gems, Lotherton Hall, to the City of Leeds as a museum in 1968. The spirit of his shaggy black poodle, with the decidedly un-ghostly name of Michael, is said to still scratch and claw his way around the residence. Sightings of a man chasing a dog up the driveway and then disappearing into thin air have been reported and the door to the offices from the half landing on the main stairs has some unaccounted-for paw marks. Michael’s favourite cushion, with his name embroidered on it, is visible on the sofa in the boudoir.
THE GHOST HERO It’s little-known that humble Brighouse is the likely final resting place of the legendary folk-hero, Robin Hood. A clearly-marked grave rests on private property on the Armytage Family Estate in Kirklees. Ghostly phenomena have been associated with the location for decades. A couple of trespassers reported a white-robed figure moving silently towards them. It is later discovered the robes are similar to the type worn by nuns at a nearby abbey. An intrepid journalist from The Dewsbury Reporter later heard heavy footsteps before being violently pulled to the ground. Not exactly gallant, Robert of Locksley!
'Malicious 14th century spirit'
THE PIANO PLAYER The current ongoing refurbishment of Leeds cultural gem City Varieties must be stirring up a few irate souls from their eternal slumber. Night staff have witnessed a shimmering lady in Victorian clothing playing plaintive chords on an invisible piano. A man in a bowler hat has been seen stood dead still on the stage. Indeed, our very own Editor used to work front-of-house at the theatre and recalls a very elderly man entering the toilet in the Circle Bar when he thought everyone had left the building. He waited patiently for the man to finish but when he didn’t return he went into the toilet to find him. There was no other exit, but the man was nowhere to be seen.
THE KING’S LOVER Piers Galveston was widely believed to be the lover of King Edward II (1307-28). He was banished from the country by Edward’s father and sworn never to see Edward again. Piers duly returned to Edward as soon as his father had died. Whereupon the new King bestowed to him the simple gift of the county of Cornwall. Later, when facing civil war, Edward was forced to exile the unpopular Piers for a second time.
Within a year the irrepressible Piers had returned again. This time he became involved in a bitter tournament with the King’s mortal enemy, Thomas Earl of Lancaster. He was then shown the door for a third time. When he had the temerity to return yet again, the King’s rivals simply captured and executed him. His malicious 14th century spirit is said to haunt the ramparts of Scarborough Castle. It lunges at unsuspecting visitors who walk the castle’s walls. Even better, he’s a proper old-fashioned headless ghost too!
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY When a legion of late 18th century soldiers, searching for a mythical secret passageway from Richmond Castle to nearby Easby Abbey, found a small opening in the dungeons they bribed a small regimental boy to squeeze through the hole. In order to track his progress they supplied him with a drum which he was to beat as he made his way. The soldiers followed the beats to within about half a mile of the abbey, when the beats suddenly stopped. The boy never returned. Yet the beating of a slow drum has been heard by witnesses on numerous occasions over the years. Could the ten-year-old still be making his way to Easby Abbey, doomed to bang his drum for all eternity?
THE BLOODY TOWER York is the country’s most haunted city. Nearby Helmsley Castle is one of our region’s most haunted sites. An ethereal Green Lady has been eye-witnessed on many occasions. She trawls the grounds and corridors of this 12th century ruin. Strange pixie-like creatures are said to play in the gardens. Visitors often recount feeling uneasy, watched, even touched, in the adjacent manor house. Famous Clifford’s Tower in York was the scene of a mass suicide of Jews during the 12th century persecution. Having taking refuge in the then wooden tower, a mob gathered to lay siege. The terrified occupants set fire to the structure rather than give themselves over to the mob. The tower is famous for its red stonework which stains the ground like blood. Actually the unusual colouring is from a 17th century fire which caused the stone’s original iron ore to run out.