Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning
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.
There is a strict no swearing policy and definitely no entertainment allowed, in the vibrant, friendly, (and gay friendly), little pub by the York Minster; The York Arms.
You may feel like swearing though if you were to use the stairs. you will be on the floor. As the stairs only lead to the private accommodation it will serve you right for either not paying attention or for being up to no good. The stairs are guarded. You may see the figure of a previous landlady or you may not. If you do you may have a moment to consider how elegant she is with her flowing hair and long gown. Whether you see her or not you will feel her presence. Just in the instance of a strong sensation of anger at your intrusion you will feel her push you very hard. You are on your way down. All in the back bar will see you and definitely hear you as you crash to the floor by the serving hatch. You may still be conscious but are unlikely to be able to run, or to even get up; so you will be apprehended for your crime. For the crime of interfering with the privacy of the lady on the stairs. She keeps her fellow residents safe.
Even less friendly is the ghost across the road, he is running away, running away to cause trouble. Especially if chased. Especially on the eve of his death, death, death.
Tortured, hanged, drawn, quartered and then burnt over and over again. No wonder he causes fires if disturbed.
Yes we have left York Arms and across from there you can see, you guessed it, the Guy Fawkes Tavern (formerly Youngs Hotel). You have passed the main doors of the Minster and more poignantly St Michael Le Belfry. That’s where we are coming from. That’s where the ‘guy’ (sic) was christened. Contrary to what you may have heard of late Guy was his real name. It isn’t now, but it was when he was christened. Guy Fawkes. He was a hero. A hero of Catholicism; a servant of the Pope. Remember remember his whole world was Catholic; the whole of Christendom as they referred to it.
The British (*spit*) protestants were anti-Jew and anti-Catholic, quite an austere lot altogether really. Mr Fawkes was following a Papal Bull – a holy command.
Britain was up against the world and the Pope issued instructions to do whatever you could to destroy the new faith.
Guy was a hero in Spain and his righteous valour caused him to be awarded the more fitting first name of Guido, this he preferred and this we shall call him from now on.
Guido the terrorist, globalist, servant of the Pope, soldier, did not blow up the houses of parliament, he did not try to blow up the houses of parliament, well he did yet it is not the purpose of his endeavours. He was just a distraction so the King’s boys could be abducted and brought up Catholic. The future of the throne was the main intent.
Thus it is that on a certain date, (Remember remember the ‘fourth’ of November), his angry restless spirit appears to storm home from St Michael Le Belfry to his birthplace, through the tavern to the read annex where he was born.
His storming figure has been seen in the residential area. Two women told my mum of their experiences there. This was the fourth of November, the eve of his death. This is, of course, a death which has been re-enacted countless times.
The fifth of November is Bonfire Night and upon every bonfire, (originally fires of bone), is placed an effigy of Guido Fawkes. No wonder he is angered into haunting as his horribly cruel death is venerated over and over again culminating in explosive cheers and sizzling bones. Everywhere they dance to his death, everywhere except St Peters School. He is an old boy of St Peters. So, it is told, that they never burn a guy – they burn a gal. Victims of their ritual burnings are said to have included Victoria Beckham, Maggie and Katie Price.
The year the two women saw him that rule was planned to be broken – St Peters school planned to burn a guy, ‘the’ Guy, their Guy. No wonder he stormed home.
“Excuse me,” cried one of the ladies as they ran down the stairs from the residential area, “There is a strange man upstairs,” “Yes,” added her friend, “an intruder.” The bar ‘guy’ ran upstairs and sure enough there was the intruder, a sinister figure in a long black flowing cloak. “Oy,” he half turned towards the bar man’s call then marched on. On into the end of the corridor. On, right through the wall. The office beyond burst into flames at just gone midnight – November the fifth.
There are ghosts in this ancient city and my mum knows that for sure. She met many of the witnesses. She worked for the author: John Mitchell. He wrote Ghosts of an Ancient City. It is still out there and it started it all. Not the inventor of the ghost walk though. The original ghost walks were invented by…
My mum’s pals.
A gang of them. They got together and chatted and the next thing mum knows the phone is ringing. “You know how you were the researcher and met all the witnesses first hand?”
“Yes.” Hang fire here comes the invention of ghost walks…
“Why don’t you take us on a walk round York and tell us the stories where they actually happened.” Now there are eight or nine companies doing ghost walks every night of the week.
Yes my mum was in on it at the beginning but she didn’t know that my sister Ginny was too. John Mitchell ran experimental groups which would have several lasting repercussions. It is only in the last couple of years that it has come out that they both attended these groups.
The library at St Olavs is dedicated to John Mitchell, but his chief work was undertaken while he was teacher, and later ‘head’ at the ancient school of St Peters.
People from all walks of life were invited to experiential workshops with experiments, practices and discussions.
Mum listened to voices among white noise, talked to the dead, discussed the power of visitation with the then late H G Wells, held vigils late into the dark, felt upturned wine glasses fill with power,
“So did I,” proclaimed my sister, “with my teacher.” Her teacher from Mill Mount School for Girls had recruited her for one of John Mitchell’s projects. Light in the dark; wisdom for the believer.
From all of those groups came the search for witnesses, from these came a book, from this came the ghost walks. From those decades of ghost walks came an invitation for me to tell ghost stories to young people. Ghost stories in St Olavs school in the John Mitchell library. I told stories but not for long as you will see.
I did them ‘the worst thing about doing ghost walks’. The worst thing about doing ghost walks is – there is always someone on my ghost walk who knows a better story than me! It is just not fair!
Take the lady who told me of coming home from work late. It was a large terrace house which had been split into two and her and her husband had the top part as their apartment.
She was late home. Work were keeping her. She managed to let her husband know. She would not be in till 19.30 but he would have a meal ready.
She got off work not as late as expected and headed home. She let herself in and started up the stairs, as she neared their apartment she heard voices.
There was someone talking to her husband; it was a woman.
There was a woman inside her home. She could hear her voice. That woman was in her living room.
She burst open the door. There was no one there.
She could still hear voices. They were in the bedroom.
She crept to the door; she burst it open. There was no one there.
They were in the bathroom. She could definitely hear them talking. She burst open the door.
There was her husband looking in the mirror and shaving. As he slowly looked round, she asked, “Who were you talking to?”
He answered haltingly, “I, thought, I was talking to you.”
Then he was staring to the side of her – to – behind – the – door. She peered around the door and there was a young woman. She was dressed smartly, but rather old fashioned; her full-skirted black lace dress had frilled cuffs and a ruff at the neck, “I must be in the wrong house.”
The young woman walked out and around my friend and past her into the lounge. They watched as she opened the main door, they heard her clunk down the stairs. They heard the front door open and close. They came to their senses and ran after her.
They ran down the stairs. They got to the door – it was locked. Locked, twice, and both bolts were across and the chain was on.
By they had it open the woman was gone. They locked up and went back up into the lounge. He flopped in one chair and she in the other. They stared for a second then one said, “She was as real as me and you.”
Then the other said, “But,” and then they both said at the same time, “She didn’t have any feet.”
Yes she was as real as me and you but she disappeared from the ankles down.
After a few more such tales as this it was time for the kids, and boy did they know tales.
They frightened each other; the girl with no face, the lover who turned out to be long dead, the figure you just know is right behind you, the building no one ever goes in and no one ever returns from, the ribbon around the neck which must never be removed, the fingers in the trunk, the light over the gravestone, the warrior who slowly turns towards you, the romans in the cellar, the roman in the Minster, the angry figure. They frightened each other.
I reminded them of whose library we were in. John Mitchell would certainly be listening, he spent his life trying to discover the truth about life after death. He was York’s man of ghosts, now his school’s pupils were telling ghost stories in his library, of course he was listening, and going by the bristling tension we had created, of course he would be proud.
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Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning
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I highly recommend: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/
See also my Nordic Prose poems of the Gods and Goddesses series…