Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal
Come along with me on an atmospheric walk around the winding ways of this ancient city where I utilise forty years of experience of hosting ghost walks around York. I shall write as I recall and be as true to the recollections of witnesses and to my own innate abilities as for accurate representation of historic events you may feel the need to go check such details out for yourself.
Oh yes, As we wander I shall try to remain true to my major influence for I shall be explaining as we go along the details of my claim to fame; Son of York’s first ghost walker.
Heralding a Great Show
You don’t tend to notice any metaphysical atmosphere in these particular passageways you are where you wished to be; you are a thespian. Carrying large holdalls of make-up and costumes up the steep twisting stairway here is more about destination. It is a convoluted route to being on the stage; for you are climbing to the theatre dressing rooms. The excitement of your prospects tends to lift you; you are climbing to dizzy heights.
This is the Theatre Royal, York and it is a tennis court. Plays take place in this tennis court but that is what it is. Back in the year which in this modern age you can look up for yourself it started out that way.
“Can we have a theatre here?”
“OK then we will have a tennis court.”
The population of York and far and wide were invited to the tennis court to watch King Lear.
“You are putting on plays.”
“This is a tennis court.”
(NB I chose King Lear as it is often described as impossible to stage in a theatre but this was in a tennis court.)
The winding stairs were built afterwards.
Some of the rooms those stairs lead to were there already it seems. The reader is leaping ahead now and deciding we are about to hear all about the existence of the Theatre Royal’s Grey Lady, well the reader is wrong, there are two ghosts in the theatre, both are Grey Ladies; yes there are two of them.
Pray for a good death, live a good life; a fair one, even so a trick of fate, a cruel wickedness, can lead to centuries of wailing.
What quite leads to age upon age of mischievousness is not so clearly understood unless it was loving a building too much.
‘The’ Grey Lady roams the place and is seen often and word is out on her that if she is seen there will be a full house; that the show will have a successful run. This legendary advantage is evidence in itself that she is seen quite often, not because there are regular full houses, but that when a member of the acting profession is upset because of the sight of her the joke is on you to be told, “Don’t worry it is a sign of a good show.” Thus the legend continues in an unhelpful way by making fun of the poor sobbing thespian who is scared to go backstage; to stand in the wings, or to look out into the audience.
For this is where she is; if you are stage left you will be wondering, as you await your cue, who the mature lady is, so still in concentration upon you from the distant stage right.
If you are due to come down on a wire she is in the rafters, (do not go down a shoot from centre stage whatever you do), if you look out at the audience seeking to meet the eye of a safe looking face don’t be too sure that they are still alive.
For these are places she is often seen, by actor or audience member alike, (or perhaps I am being over inclusive simply to increase interest), no, it is so.
Marie of the theatre staff told me of seeing the Grey Lady in all of these places and a guy in a pub told me too.
To bring you back into the realms of believability this is a ghost tale which goes back in popularity to well before ghost walks. It is as old as the theatre, well no, as old as the Grey Lady.
I sat at that pub, in the beer garden, telling my sister of a commission to collect ghost stories for broadcast when a guy across the way overheard. He had been in the post of Domestic Services Coordinator for the theatre and he had seen the Grey Lady.
There had been a huge response to their advertising for more cleaners and it was decided they would all have to sit in the stalls. They set up an interview area on the stage and worked their way through. At last mid-afternoon his assistant said they had finished and being a thorough chap, he pointed out that they hadn’t finished as there was still the lady in grey who was sat further back. His assistant said everyone had gone and he insisted the lady had been staring at him from the back all afternoon.
“There is no one there.”
“Yes there is,” he stood up and pointed, no there wasn’t.
She is mischievous though, which leaves one wondering on her reason for haunting; if there is a reason for the sight of a ghost. Perhaps yes, she loved the place too much and could not bear to move on upon her death.
For she is seen at performances and rehearsals and makes her presence felt; lights go on and off quite frequently. Staff will be extra sure they have made every safety check upon locking up for the night. As they look back upon wandering away there is a light shining. (I note there are never reports of taps running or doors unlocking or anything which may endanger the fabric of the building or the surety of future shows.)
Yet when they plod back up those narrow stairs they find that the light in question is no longer on and as they work their way back down another light now is.
There is a more definite reason for the other famed haunting – she doesn’t know she is dead.
For those of us with an awareness of spirit there is a blatant sense of despair. Most of us are sensitive in such places and are affected though not all people know why they react the way they do.
I would like to think that I knew that the story behind the experience was true but I knew the tale before I went in there and picked up upon it though.
The walled-up nun. Several different folks who may each describe themselves as clairvoyant mediums have reported the same or similar.
Well they all match up to the long-told story; she was bad.
Actually she may well have been a victim; a modern view might well have seen a situation thus. Even in some present day societies the dark ages concept of a woman being ‘tainted’ by the actions of a man still have currency – the word ‘despoiled’ comes to mind.
You can tell your dates and places, you can look at the history of consensual respect – she had sex.
The man, for it was a man, doesn’t seem to be haunting anywhere, so probably wasn’t walled up or castigated – she was.
They may have slipped tit bits through a crevice to prolong her existence but be assured she was in the dark, her ability to move was severely restricted, there were no facilities, no warmth and there certainly was no hope. This was a dead woman breathing.
She is dead now, she is not breathing, she is still in existence. Admittedly, as a ghost she is steadily, very slowly, dwindling. There is as nothing of her left in fact except the despair and (multiply those type feelings a tenfold and then you come up with a word for it): She is bad.
It is just a story.
Go in that dressing room then.
The one next door is identical; rows of mirrors with lights:
The acting profession are famed for being protective of their space. Their ‘slap’ is laid out and this is their mirror with a chair demarking their area – Do not go near. Now go next door.
They are all down one end and they are sharing one or two mirrors. They may not be fully aware of why they are so close together and do not feel too comfortable being expected to have to explain to you.
Hey, you go up the other end beyond where the old wall of so long ago crosses the room.
Let us leave the Theatre Royal behind us and go seeking some fresher air – and possibly some hope.
Click to read the whole series:
I highly recommend: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/