Lenguaje, Gramática y Filologías
Mystery, legends, and ghost stories in Great Britain
Subjects: Pages: 1-Introduction.........................................................................................................1 2-Arthur's legend....................................................................................................2 3-The mystery of the Loch Ness monster...............................................................4 4-Haunted York......................................................................................................6 4.1-The phantom patrol........................................................................................6 4.2-A workman from the past...............................................................................7 4.3-The black dog.................................................................................................7 4.4-Murder in St. Mary's......................................................................................8 4.5-The grey lady..................................................................................................9 4.6-Two gentle ghosts..........................................................................................9 4.7-Micklegate Bar's ghosts................................................................................10 4.8-A decapitated spectre....................................................................................10 4.9-Amemory of Anne Boleyn.............................................................................10 4.10-Cavaliers of the past....................................................................................11 4.11-Spectral cats...............................................................................................12 4.12-The haunted pew........................................................................................13 4.13-A tragic duel...............................................................................................14 4.14-Dick Turpin rides in....................................................................................14 4.15-A treacherous brother.................................................................................15 4.16-The broken spur..........................................................................................16 4.17-A mischievous poltergeist...........................................................................16 5-Murder, mystery and suspense in London........................................................18 5.1-Sweeney Todd “the barber”...........................................................................8 5.2-Jack the Ripper.............................................................................................18 5.3-The Kray twins.............................................................................................19 6-Working method................................................................................................20 7-Bibliography.......................................................................................................21 .
Many people have study at any time in their lives the official history of Great Britain, that is the part of the history that appears in history books and deals with monarchies, wars, conquests and so on. But there also exists a hidden history to Great Britain that deals with folk beliefs, superstitions and fears, and that is the part of the history that we would like to show with this work. To this effect we will speak about mystery, legends and ghosts stories in Great Britain.
The stories we have chosen are from all around the country and are a good sample of the darker side to Great Britain. Most of them has been transmitted from parents to children orally and, although there is no hard evidence proving the veracity of some of them, there are a few, probably the most macabre ones, that have been proved to be real. However, many British people think that they are true, but what do you think about them?
There is no eye-witness, no manuscript and no clear proofs of his existence. In the fourth and fifth centuries tribes, and racial groups moved from the Western Europe and destroyed the integrity of the Roman Empire. The first raid was led by Saxons and began before the end of the third century. They had the support of the present Irish and Scots. Ambrosious Aurelianus was the leader of the British Roman in the 460s. He besieged Vortiegern, the ruler of the Saxons.
Later, Ambrosious died and Uther Pendragon became the King of Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the book History of the kings of Britain, where he made up the story of King Arthur. Geoffrey constructed an account of love intrigues, political plottings and magical interventions, which culminate in the birth of Arthur. Geoffrey made Uther Pendragon Merlin's brother. Merlin, whose mother was a Christian but his father was a devil, inherited only the good powers of his father. Uther Pendragon took Merlin as his advisor.
Uther was in love with Ygerna, Gorlois' wife, the Duke of Cornwall. When Gorlois knew Uther's passion to his wife, he immured her in his castle at Tintagel, but Merlin intervened and Ygerna and Uther conceived Arthur. Gorlois was killed in battle and Uther married Ygerna, so Arthur was seen to be legally their son. When he was born, elves took and enchanted him with the might to be the best of all knights, a rich king, to live long and to be the most generous of all men.
After the death of Uther Pendragon, Britons wanted Arthur to be crowned as the king of Britain. He was then a young man of only 15 years old, but he was loved by almost all the people.
If the list of Arthur´s battles is largely speculative, at least it is founded on relatively early evidence. We seek to identify individuals who may have followed him on his n campaigns, however, we can only know what poems and oral tradition say. Arthur would certainly have had a body of special companions, this is the source of the Company of Knights of the Round Table. This Table should be placed in the Great Hall of the royal castle of Winchester.
King Arthur married Guinevere, but sir Launcelot, the greatest fighter of the Round Table, had an adulterous love with her which lasted for years. In the end, Arthur was compelled to bring it into the open.
As the adultery was treasonous, he had to sentence Guinevere to be burnt at the stake but Launcelot saved her and, in so doing, killed several knights and thus, precipitated the downfall of the Fellowship of the Round Table.
The most well-known of Arthur's stories concerns Arthur's innocent boyhood ability to take a sword from a stone when his brother needed one for a tournament. He did not realise that none of the other knights could do this, and that he who succeeded was the rightful king. When Arthur broke his sword in combat, Merlin took him to a lonely lake and then an arm bearing a magnificent sword and an enchantress, the Lady of the Lake, told Arthur it could be his. It was called Excalibur and with it Arthur vanquished many enemies.
Sir Mordred was the figure of evil in the Round Table. According to some stories he was the illegitimate son of Arthur and his half-sister, Morgan le Fay. Mordred eventually destroyed Arthur's reign in civil war, and the Fellowship of the Round Table went down in ruin at the battle of Camlann: to defeat Mordred, Arthur must sacrifice himself.
The power of Romance is that it fits itself again to every period. Each one takes up the undying legend of Arthur, and more or less, wants to belief that the latest version is the truest. But every century must still read its own emotion and its own colours into the past.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth
Gorlois " Ygerma & Uther Pendragon---------Ambrosious Merlin
Morgan le Fay & King Arthur " Guinevere &Launcelot
THE MYSTERY OF THE LOCH NESS MONSTER
The Loch Ness Monster is a very famous monster and a strange mystery. Nobody knows exactly what is in Loch Ness. Is it a monster? A big animal? Or only a fish? People do not know the answers.
`Loch' is a Scottish word that means the same as `lake' and, therefore, Loch Ness is a lake placed between two hills in northern Scotland. It is a very old lake: 25000 years old. And it is also long: 38.6 kilometres (24 miles) long, but only 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) across. Moreover, eight rivers and 228 streams run into it.
We are talking about a deep lake, with 296 metres (975 feet) deep. Its water is not clear and it has only one metre of clear water. For this reason is difficult to know what is under it. Its name, Ness, comes from the river Ness, river that runs from this lake to the town of Inverness. So, Inverness is `mouth of the River Ness'. However, Nessie, the monster's name, does not come from the Ness. It is a real Scottish name and comes from the name Agnes, which is very common in England.
The first news about this strange monster appeared, precisely, in the Inverness Courier, the newspaper of this little town. The story began when one day, in the year 1933, people saw a headline in the newspaper: `Strange spectacle on Loch Ness'. Under it, there was a strange sentence: `A man and a woman see a big creature in the loch'. The monster history was not new, said the newspaper, and, quickly, people began to write to the newspaper because they agreed with the story. Soon a letter came from Mr and Mrs Spicer, who lived in London and often went to Scotland to spend their holidays. The letter said that one day that they were in their car near Loch Ness, they saw the monster. Mr Spicers wrote: `The monster is there. A strange animal lives in Loch Ness. It is a dragon'.
Then, the editor of the Daily Mail, an important London newspaper, saw the letter in the Inverness Courier and he sent a reporter, Percy Cater, to Scotland. Cater had to speak with Scottish people and discover if the Loch Ness Monster was real.
When he arrived to Scotland, he began to investigate, but people told him different things. A man said: `The monster has a long neck and a big head'. But a woman said: `No. It has a short neck and a small head'. `It has two humps', another man told the reporter. `The monster has three humps', a different man said. So, when Percy Cater came back to London, he did not have a clear story to write. For that reason Cater wrote his own story: `The creature in the loch is a seal. It is not a monster.' But people did not agree. So, Cater wrote in a new article that the monster was a whale. But people continued telling him that it could not be possible.
In 1934, a different man, Mr John McLean, saw again the strange creature in the lake. He drew a picture of the monster and it was not a seal or a whale. Soon the front page of the Daily Mail had Mr McLean's picture and the following headline: `Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster is famous.'
After seeing the picture, all the editors of all newspapers wanted a photograph of the Loch Ness Monster. All people wanted to see the monster. So, the reporters and a lot of visitors went to the famous lake to get a photo of Nessie. They had their cameras with them and they sat on the hills near the lake or walked along the road beside it. They waited and watched, watched and waited.
One day a man went to a newspaper editor and showed him a photo of Nessie. It was the year 1934 and all people believed that in the photo appeared the real Nessie. However, different photos began to be published in the newspapers and, therefore, there were a lot of Nessies. Then, people asked themselves if these photos were of a monster. One answer was that they showed a strange animal. But a different one said that it could be a tree in the water or a boat.
From 1939 to 1945 people did not speak of the strange creature because these were war years. Therefore, newspapers had more important news that tell. But it was not the end of Nessie. Nessie remained hidden into the deep water of Loch Ness until the war ended. Then, the monster surfaced and a man took a photo of it. This way, people began to speak again of the Loch Ness Monster and lots of visitors went to there with their new cameras.
This is the real story about the Loch Ness Monster. We do not know yet what is the truth. One of the most credible theories is that Nessie is a kind of plesiosaur, a creature from the past. Newspaper editors do not like this theory because they like mysteries. But scientists do not like mysteries. They prefer facts. They cannot see in the deep water, but they can listen. So, they put special tape recorders into the water and they are able to listen something, although they do not know what kind of sound is it.
Years come and go and the mystery of Loch Ness remains. Scientists still listen and people still watch the lake. They both wait and watch. Is the monster there too, deep in the water, watching and waiting?
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 narrower walkways where the sunlight rarely penetrates. Grotesque oddities such as the Red Devil that leers down into the Coffee Yard off Stonegate seem to emphasise the mystic atmosphere of York.
It is in these ancient streets and pathways that the ghosts of York interpose in the world of the living. Sometimes the ghosts are so numerous it is as though the living are intruding into the realm of phantoms.
The Phantom Patrol
Surprisingly the oldest and best known ghosts of York are to be found in the cellar of a house comparatively modern by York standards. The Treasurer's House was built in 1648 on the site of the former home of the Minster's Treasurer, an office abolished a century earlier. In this building the phantoms are far older than either the house or the Minster.
In 1953 a teenage plumbing apprentice named Harry Martindale was working in the cellar. He suddenly heard a distant trumpet blast, repeated a few seconds later but much closer. Looking round, Harry saw a horse's head emerge from the solid wall of the cellar. This was followed by the rest of the horse carrying a rider. Harry was so shocked that he dropped the hammer he was using and sped to a far corner of the cellar, terrified by what he was seeing.
As Harry stared at the rider, he realised that men on foot were in the cellar, too. They marched rather dejectedly across the room and followed the rider towards the far wall. The sixteen or so men were grimy, unshaven and dressed in uniforms with kilt-like skirts. Each wore a helmet and carried a spear or sword, often both. They all appeared to be dispirited. Most peculiar of all, the men seemed to have no legs below their knees. Not until they marched across a hole dug in the cellar floor did Harry see their shins and feet.
As soon as the men had marched through the cellar wall opposite, Harry fled at high speed. He reached the top of the cellar stairs before collapsing. His tale staggered his workmates who understandably doubted his story. But not the curator; strange happenings in the cellar were nothing new to him.
A Workman from the Past
Rather more interested were local archaeologists, for the Treasurer's House lies on the route of the old Roman road out of York. Later excavation found the remains of the road a foot or so below the cellar floor. If the ghostly soldiers were marching along this road they would indeed appear only from the knees upwards. The costumes, as described by Harry Martindale, caused problems because apart from the helmets they were so unlike the Roman uniforms of the period as to cast doubt on the story. Not until some years later was it found that auxiliary troops wearing somewhat similar uniforms had indeed been stationed in York towards the end of the Roman period.
Were the cellar ghosts a shattered patrol which perished at the hands of savage Picts in the collapse of Roman Britain? We shall probably never know. But the ghosts continue to march along the buried road, terrifying those unwary enough to venture into the Treasurer's cellar.
During the Middle Ages York was England's second most important city and the seat of one of only two archbishops. It is, therefore, scarcely surprising that the city has several phantoms dating back to its time of glory as the great city of the north.
The most whimsical of these is the Minster spectre which appeared only once. In the late 1960s extensive repairs and renovations were taking place. A woman visitor was watching the work on one of the more intricate carvings when she noticed a rather scruffy workman wearing a hat standing beside her. "I carved that," he said. "Do you like it?" Before the woman could reply, he vanished. Perhaps the stonemason had crossed the centuries to make sure modern craftsmen were caring for his work.
The Black Dog
Much more disturbing, indeed terrifying, is the canine Barguist which roams the snickleways, the narrow alleys which snake between the streets and are often so narrow that two people have trouble in passing. The huge black dog with glowing red eyes which stalks these snickleways in search of human prey is rarely seen, which is most fortunate for the people of York.
Similar black dogs are reported from many areas of England and are known as Shucks in Suffolk, or Strikers in Lancashire. They are often sighted near ancient ruins or on prehistoric trackways. It is only in York though that the dog roams the city streets and only in York are there dark, narrow snickleways with no hiding places!
The majority of the ghosts of York, however, were caused by human tragedy and none can be more tragic than the strange manifestations at Clifford's Tower. Visitors, most often little girls, have reported seeing blood pouring down the walls of this medieval fortification. Visible to everyone are the reddish stains on the gatehouse. Both are said by local tradition to be 'Jews' blood' and with good reason.
In 1190 AD an anti-Jewish riot raged in York. Many Jews fled to the tower to find refuge. The rioters were led by a man named Richard Malebisse and an unknown friar who set fire to the tower. Rather than surrender, the Jews committed mass suicide in a scene reminiscent of the siege of Masada in 7OAD. When the tower was rebuilt with stone from Tadcaster, the red stains quickly appeared starting guilty local whispers of 'Jews' blood'. In recent years it has been found that the stains are due to iron oxide or rust being present in small quantities in the stone. The twist to the tale is that no other stone from the quarry contains such minerals. The mystery remains.
Murder in St. Mary's
Also lingering around Clifford's Tower is the mystery of reincarnation. Under hypnosis some people claim to recall past lives. One such claim relates to Jane Evans, who regressed to be a Jewess named Rebecca caught up in the tragic events of 119O. Under hypnosis 'Rebecca' gave a detailed description of medieval York and the riot. She went on to describe how she and her family escaped from Clifford's Tower and hid in the crypt of nearby St Mary's Church in Castlegate. Soon afterwards the mob broke into the crypt and butchered 'Rebecca' and her family. This was revealed on Arnold Bloxham's Tapes, a BBC documentary.
Unfortunately, no crypt existed in St Mary's and the tale was dismissed. It was not until 1975 that remarkable evidence of a small burial chamber, exactly matching the description given by 'Rebecca', was found by workmen. Whether or not this is proof of reincarnation, it is certainly a chilling reminder of the cruelty of which humans are capable.
Incidentally, Clifford's tower gained its name in about 1322 after the body of Roger de Clifford was hanged in chains from the battlements.
De Clifford was a prominent supporter of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who led the baronial opposition to the ill-fated King Edward II. The barons were defeated in battle at Boroughbridge, west of York, and most suffered a fate similar to Clifford, their heads being spiked on Micklegate Bar.
St Mary's Church should not be confused with St Mary's Abbey, the towering remains of which stand in Museum Gardens. It is here that the shadowy figure of a monk has been seen flitting around the massive ruins at night. It has been suggested that the ghost is that of a one-time Abbot of St Mary's Abbey, known as the Black Abbot.
The Grey Lady
None of the noblemen executed in the wake of the Battle of Boroughbridge apparently haunts York. Instead the enigmatic phantom of a lady in grey disturbs the peace around Petergate Bar. The phantom is said to be that of a nun bricked up in a cellar centuries ago by vengeful authorities.
Different stories are told of her crime against religious orthodoxy. One tale relates that she fell in love with a townsman and became pregnant Another version has the nun receiving a vision of an angel which, for some reason, so angered her superiors that they ordered her immediate expulsion from their order and she died of a broken heart.
In whatever manner the nun came to her death, she remains one of the most active ghosts in York. She appears as a grey lady dressed in the long flowing costume of her order. The grey lady is often seen in the Theatre Royal, usually in the dress circle. Why a medieval nun should flit about the theatre built in 1744 AD, is unclear unless she enjoys the performance of course.
Equally obscure is another ghostly lady's liking for the York Arms nearby. One imbiber at the pub was understandably startled when the phantom woman appeared to him in the gents' toilet.
A former landlord became so annoyed with the ghost that he hurled a paint brush at her. The assault produced no effect on the ghost but left a paint smear on the wall. Also present in the York Arms is a poltergeist which opens locked doors and shuts open ones. It has also been known to throw cutlery, kitchen equipment and other objects about the place. Whether this activity is caused by the presence of the nun is not clear. In any case, the poltergeist's activities are very unwelcome, to say the least, as breakages are never paid for.
Two Gentle Ghosts
Holy Trinity Church in Micklegate has an unusually tranquil ghost dating from medieval times. Could this be the ghost of a woman who died of shock after her husband died in an accident and the plague took her child? Because of the strict quarantine laws at the time, plague victims were buried beyond the city walls. The woman was probably buried with her husband in Holy Trinity and it is thought that her phantom is searching for her child in the hope of being reunited in death. The theory of this moving story was offered and uncovered by the Reverend Baring Gould, better known for writing the text of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers.
Sometimes present, also in Holy Trinity, is the spectral form of a lady dressed in a black Victorian dress. Virtually nothing is known of her, the Reverend Gould having neglected to research her background with similar thoroughness.
Micklegate Bar's ghosts
More violent are the ghosts associated with Micklegate Bar, though strangely none actually appears at the gateway itself. In 14O3 AD Sir Henry Percy, known as Hotspur because of his dashing riding, rebelled against King Henry IV.
The Percys were then the most powerful family in Yorkshire and immensely popular. Harry Hotspur was defeated and killed at Shrewsbury and his head sent to York and spiked on Micklegate Bar as a warning to Yorkshiremen .
Hotspur's father, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, at once began plotting revenge. In 14O8 he gathered his army but was at once defeated at Bramham Moor a few miles west of York.
The phantom sounds of battle are occasionally heard near the cricket pitch in Bramham. The Earl was slain in the battle and his body was cut into quarters. These were sent to London for public display.
A Decapitated Spectre
Less fortunate was Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, who made the catastrophic mistake of getting on the wrong side of Queen Elizabeth I. He compounded the error by being on good terms with Mary Queen of Scots the chief rival for Elizabeth's throne. He completed his downfall when, with the Earl of Westmorland, he rebelled against Protestant Elizabeth and called for the northern Catholics to rally to his cause.
The ordinary people, however, were noticeably unwilling to become rebels and the rising collapsed. Westmorland escaped to France but Northumberland was captured. on 22nd August l572, the Earl was marched to Parliament Street and beheaded in full view of the citizens or York. His head was spiked on Micklegate Bar but did not remain there long. one of his retainers removed the head one night and buried it in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate. The grisly relic was returned for a reward of ten shillings and sixpence by a somewhat less loyal retainer. It has long been assumed that the headless phantom which wanders through Holy Trinity Churchyard is that of the luckless 7th Earl of Northumberland searching for his head.
A MEMORY OF ANNE BOLEYN
A peaceful monk wanders the building now known as King's Manor in Exhibition Square. The building originated in 1208 AD as the property of St Mary's Abbey. It passed to the Crown during the dissolution of the monasteries thus acquiring its name but it could not shake off its phantom occupant who returns frequently to puzzle present occupants.
Another gentle phantom is the lady in a green Tudor costume. She drifts through the ancient building and seems to be carrying a bunch of roses. Locals maintain that this is probably the phantom of Anne Boleyn who stayed here during her brief and tragic marriage to Henry VIII. Exactly when or why this identification was made is unclear. Considering the large number of places Anne Boleyn is said to haunt, it might be thought more likely that the phantom in green is some other Tudor lady who has some reason to return with her gorgeous roses. But there is a twist to the tale.
In 1523 the teenage Anne Boleyn fell in love with Lord Henry Percy, later the 6th Earl of Northumberland, and they had a semi-secret romance. The relation was broken up by Lord Henry's father as he had his eye on a rich heiress as his future daughter-in-law. Many years later when Henry VIII was casting about for reasons to get rid of Anne, Henry Percy refused to admit that he had been engaged to Anne or that anything improper had occurred. When Henry finally put Anne on trial for treason, Percy was conspicuous by his absence.
Perhaps the lady in green with the red roses really is Anne, returning to York in search of the happier days of her youth.
CAVALIERS OF THE PAST.
There is little doubt about the dynamic phantoms which race through the quite countryside west of York in the region of Long Marston. There are said to be Prince Rupert and his cavaliers who fought the Roundhead army of Lord Leven and Oliver Cromwell on Marston Moor on 2nd July 1644. Rupert was marching north with some 18,000 men to relieve the garrison of York when he met the 28,000 strong Parliamentarian force. The battle began with great success for Prince Rupert but ended in crushing defeat after a brilliantly executed Roundhead cavalry charge swept the field. Rupert managed to rally most of his troops and beat a hasty retreat. About 6,000 men died that day and many more were injured.
The phantom cavaliers gallop and wheel across the fields north of Long Marston reliving the battle of long ago. That fateful day has left its spectral mark in York city itself, indeed in King's Manor.
This third ghostly manifestation at King's Manor, apart form the phantom monk and the lady in green, is related to the fighting of the Civil War. Here the groans and cries of wounded Roundheads can be heard in the main courtyard where they were brought for the rudimentary medical treatment then available to them. Considering the total lack of anaesthetic at the time, the wretched men had plenty of reasons to groan.
Similar phantoms haunt the Olde Starre Inn, just off Stonegate. During the siege and in the wake of the battle this building was used as a makeshift hospital. The cellar was used as an operating room in which men had limbs sawn off while they were still conscious. Their terrible screams of agony are occasionally still heard. The scene was made all the more gruesome by the fact that Roundheads troopers were drinking and eating their fill in the kitchen overhead.
The Olde Starre Inn is not only disturbing to human visitors. It can also be an uncomfortable place to take a pet dog. There is a "something" in the bar which is always invisible to humans but can be seen by dogs. Whatever this "something" may be, dogs do not like it. The animals snarl and bristle with hostility as their eyes follow an invisible visitor around the room. On occasion a dog has been brave enough to attack the intruder. One bold dog knocked itself unconscious when it suddenly and unaccountably leaped forward and slammed into a wall.
The invisible intruder at the Olde Starre Inn may be related to the two phantom black cats which scamper playfully through the pub at times. Nobody knows when these cats lived at the Olde Starre but they have been present in spectral form for as long as anyone can recall. Nor can anybody identify the old lady who climbs the stairs. She is seen infrequently and then usually by young children who can give only a vague description of her.
The disturbing spectre which frequents the Cock and Bottle pub is usually identified as George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who lived during the late 17th century.
George Villiers was a wit, poet and politician during the reign of Charles II. His scandalous life style and numerous affairs outraged society and surpassed even those of his sovereign. He had estates in Yorkshire and died in the county in 1687. It is said that he asked to be buried in York but his request was ignored and he lies in Westminster Abbey. George Villiers has achieved lasting fame as the hero of the nursery rhyme "Georgie Porgie". The reference to him running away "when the boys came out to play" refers to his downfall in Parliament in 1673.
The phantom at the Cock and Bottle, like in Buckingham, has a strong liking for women, drink and fun. A shadowy figure is sometimes seen sitting at a table near the fireplace in the bar but the phantom disappears when approached. In the upper storeys the ghost is more active. He appears as a large man with long flowing hair and embroidered clothing, a description which fits George Villiers. He appears only to women, sometimes in embarrassing circumstances.
One former landlady was in the shower soon after taking over the pub when she heard the door open. Through the frosted glass of the shower she saw a large man walk in and approach her. After a second or two spent watching her the man left and climbed upstairs towards the attic. The woman's startled cries brought her husband running and together they searched the upper floors. No sign of the man could be found.
Other women have been startled by the tall man who appears and vanishes with amazing suddenness. On occasion he has appeared to stroke, or even fondle, younger women who stray into his presence. Fortunately for the landlord, the spectre does not appear so often as to lose him customers. And fortunately for the prowling spectre, he is beyond the reach of mere mortal laws of harassment!
A less boisterous and rather pathetic spirit lingers in the upper rooms of No. 5 College Street. Earlier this century a family with young children moved into the house and this seems to have triggered the haunting. Late in the evening the sound of a child crying was heard. Naturally, the parents thought one of their own offspring was calling and climbed the stairs only to find their children fast asleep. The children themselves also heard the crying and reported seeing a little girl trotting around the top floor. Soon the adults also saw the weeping girl who appeared to be about seven years old.
Deciding that they had had enough, the family called in a medium. According to the medium the child told a pitiful story. Centuries earlier plague had swept through York and the house in College Street was just one sealed off from the outside world until the dread disease had run its course among the inhabitants. The plague carried off the adults in the family one by one but the young girl was untouched. Tragically, she was left alone and slowly starved to death before the quarantine was lifted.
THE HAUNTED PEW
Dating from about the same period is the second and the best known ghost of the Minster. It is the spirit of Dean Gale, who cared for the cathedral in the dying years of the 17th century. Dean Gale was well known for his devotion to the Minster in his charge and worked tirelessly to preserve and enhance its ancient grandeur. Nor did he neglect religious duties and carefully attended as many services as possible, always occupying the same pew.
In 1702 AD Dean Gale died, much mourned by all connected with the Minster. He was laid to rest in a fine tomb which can still be seen. Soon afterwards, a local preacher climbed into the pulpit to deliver a sermon as part of a regular service. Workshippers were surprised when the usually eloquent minister stood dumbstruck for a few moments before beginning his sermon. On climbing down from the pulpit, the minister shakily announced that Dean Gale was in his pew and listening to his service. Ever since then Dean Gale has been seen listening attentively at services from time to time.
More gruesome is the phantom nobleman who terrifies unwary walkers near St George's Field where the River Foss meets the Ouse. This area is where the Earl of Stafford was engaged in an affair of honour one misty dawn on the riverside. In those days the riversides were the favoured locations for duels between gentlemen in the city. The uncivilised hour was because duelling was officially frowned upon. An unusually strict magistrate could even try participants for attempted murder.
A TRAGIC DUEL
Murder, indeed, was done that day for the Earl was out of his league and in seconds his opponent's sword had pierced his chest slicing through a main artery. The Earl staggered back with blood pumping from his chest. He stood still for a few seconds before collapsing lifeless. This chilling event is played out in graphic fashion by the phantom Earl. His death agonies have startled more than one visitor to the park and several have taken the events for real.
The second ghost of St George's Field is altogether more congenial. Nobody knows who the lonely rider is, but descriptions tally closely with one of today's exciting boyhood heroes. He rides straight in the saddle, cloacked in dark material and sporting a tricorn hat. His dress places him firmly in the early 18th century.
DICK TURPIN RIDES IN
Inevitably, perhaps, the figure has been identified as the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin who has figured in at least three full-length films as well as a number of TV series.
According to legend, Dick Turpin once rode from London to York in a single day in order to establish an alibi for a coach robbery. It was generally assumed that nobody could be in London in the morning and in York in the same evening. Turpin, however, never made such a ride. The feat was achieved, if at all, by another highwayman named John Nevison in 1668. After his great ride Nevison was known as Swift Nick, ("Nick" meaning "devil" in the 17th century).
It is true, however, that Turpin lived in York for a while and was arrested for threatening to shoot an innkeeper. This accusation led to other charges for burglary and highway robbery which resulted in a swift conviction and execution. The cell where Turpin was held before his execution still exits, but no ghostly manifestations have been reported there.
Highway robbery also features in the sad tale behind the ghost which lingers on the A64 Malton Road north-east of York. This is the gentle phantom of a woman named Nance. She was engaged to a coach driver who regularly drove the mail coach north from York. However, one day she met a handsome and rich stranger who swept her off her feet. She abandoned her boyfriend, learning to late that the stranger was an unscrupulous highwayman. Four years later Nance was found dead of exposure with a young baby in her arms. She had dragged herself to the side of Malton Road, perhaps in the hope of meeting the love she had betrayed. To this day, the vague figure of a woman is sometimes seen beside the Malton Road. She is said to guide travellers through dense fog and to warn of hazards on the road.
Some miles to the north-west around Boroughbridge, the Great North Road is haunted by the restless spirit of one of the greatest highwaymen of northern England. Tom Hogget was one of those highwaymen who rose above the violent norm of robbers. He considered himself to be a gentleman and behaved like one on all occasions. With a magnificent wardrobe to choose from and one of the finest horses in Yorkshire, Hogget cut a dashing figure. Added to this was his unfailing courtesy whenever he held up a coach. It was inevitable that Hogget became a local hero and an example which the criminal fraternity looked to with reverence.
Such gentlemen highwaymen were not so uncommon for several ruined nobleman took to the road after the Royalists were defeated in the Civil War. Their escapades made for exciting tavern tales, and their executions were even more popular affairs for it was a point of honour with them to deliver a witty and moving speech from the gallows. The highwayman was a strange and enigmatic figure and Tom Hogget was one of the most notorious.
A TREACHEROUS BROTHER
Far more unpleasant was the criminal whose spectre stalks the corridors of St William's College in College Street behind York Minster. During the reign of Charles I, the college housed several wealthy clerics as well as more humble lodgers. Among the poorer residents were two brothers. The elder planned to rob one of the clergymen and persuaded his younger brother to help him.
One dark night the two brothers lay in wait in one of the narrow streets of the city. When a likely victim came within reach they pounced. In the scuffle which followed, the elder brother whipped out a dagger and stabbed the victim dead. The younger brother was horrified by the turn of the events and fled back to their lodgings with the cleric's purse. Locking himself in a cupboard, the gibbering man seemed on the point of breakdown. Desperate that his brother would tell all, the elder brother decided to beat him to it. He contacted the authorities and betrayed his brother in return for a pardon.
The younger and relatively blameless brother was duly tried and hanged. The elder brother walked free from the law but not free from his conscience. He walked with the nagging and persistent demon of guilt on his shoulder. Sleep constantly eluded him so he spent his nights plodding the corridors of St William's College. Night after night, week after week, the footsteps pounded the wooden floors as the man paced out his guilt. Then one night no footsteps were heard. The following morning the man was found dead in his room. A few weeks later the guilty footsteps were heard again and may still be heard to this day. Remorse has outlived death.
THE BROKEN SPUR
Equally disturbing is the presence which lurks in Judge's Court, a snickleway off Coney Street. The haunting goes back to the last century when a large man with dragging footsteps and a strange tinkling sound was first reported. He has continued to be one of the most active ghosts of York. He even appeared when a tourist guide, who was showing a group of visitors around the city, paused in the Judge's Court to describe a point of interest. Though nobody knows who this ghost is, part of the mystery was possibly solved when renovations were carried out to Judge's Court. Hidden in one building was a disused well. At the bottom of the well lay a body. The bones were those of a large man wearing riding boots, one of which had a broken spur. This was taken to explain the tinkling which accompanies the ghostly resident. Who the man was and how he came to lie in the well, nobody can explain.
Just as mysterious are the two ghosts which haunt the Black Swan on Peasholme Green. This is the oldest pub in York, dating back to the 16th century but its ghosts date from more recent times. The first and most often seen is a young lady in a long white dress who stands in the bar gazing intently at the fireplace. She has long, flaxen hair and appears to glow slightly. Less often encountered is a little Victorian workman wearing a bowler hat. He fidgets and tuts as if waiting for someone or something, then fades into nothingness.
A MISCHIEVOUS POLTERGEIST
In Coppergate is a row of shops occupying the site of the former Craven's Sweet factory. The shops seem to have inherited more than the site from the old building. The factory was persistently troubled by a poltergeist which was felt most strongly in a downstairs workroom. Today, it has returned with redoubled energy to plague the row of shops which at present include the Body Shop, Olympus Sports and Fagin's Bookshop. The poltergeist has a fascination with electrics and clothes, both of which are interfered with regularly. Assuming the poltergeist to be genuine, its most dramatic act was to break the glass fire alarm point in the depths of night and bring York fire brigade to the site at high speed. So enjoyable did the poltergeist find this that it apparently went on break the replaced alarm twice more before dawn. It must have tired of this prank, however, for the fire brigade have not been called to the premises recently.
For the final ghost of York we must return yet again to the King's Manor, already described as the haunt of a monk, a Tudor lady, and wounded Roundheads. This last ghost is in many ways typical of the ghosts of York. Nobody is entirely certain who the ghost is, though some claim to have a good idea and his appearance is both sudden and dramatic. The spirit materialises in one spot only, on the staircase in the North Wing which leads to the Huntingdon Room. The eerie, silent grey phantom is often seen. Almost invariably the portrait of a Stuart dignitary is taken off the wall and found lying on the floor after the phantom appears. This is generally said to be the ghost of Henry Hastings who built the staircase. What relationship he has to the portrait is totally unknown. The King's Manor, like York as a whole, has a crowd of phantoms lurking in the shadows -some terrifying, some charming and some enigmatic- but all ready at any moment to cross the threshold into our world.
Murder, mystery and suspense in London
London is a city renowned for its history and culture, style and entertainment. But there exists a darker, sinister side to London which is no less famous, although rather more macabre. Sweeney Todd the barber, Jack the Ripper, the Kray twins: these are a few names likely to send a shiver through most Londoners since they are all associated with the gravest of crimes.
Sweeney Todd the barber.
While there is no hard evidence proving his existence, it is said that in his shop at 186 Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, “the barber”, had a specially constructed chair which tilted his unsuspecting customers through a trap door into the cellar below. If the fall was not fatal, then Todd finished them off with a knife. An underground passage led to another cellar belonging to Mrs. Lovatt. She was a pastry cook, whose meat pies were relished by her many customers. Little did they know that Mrs. Lovatt's delicious meat pies were made from human flesh!
Jack the Ripper
Probably the world's most notorious criminal, Jack the Ripper, killed and horribly mutilated at least seven women, all prostitutes. These murders were committed in or near the Whitechapel district of London's East End, from August 7 to November 10, in 1888.
The killings shocked the local community and put the police in an awkward position: the murders seemed motiveless, there were no witnesses, and nobody heard a scream. The murderer simply vanished into thin air, leaving precious little evidence behind. The problems faced by the police were manifold: a hysterical public, anxious politicians and questions from Queen Victoria herself.
Jack the Ripper used to cut the throat of his victims and usually the bodies were mutilated in a manner indicating that the murderer had a considerable knowledge of human anatomy. The authorities received a series of taunting notes from a person calling himself Jack the Ripper and purporting to be the murderer. Strenuous and sometimes curious efforts were made to identify and to trap the killer: the eyes of one of the murdered women were photographed in the belief (later discredited) that the assailant's image might be recorded on the retinas. A great public uproar over failure to arrest the murderer was raised against the home secretary and the London police commissioner, who resigned soon afterward.
Although there were numerous suspects, including the Queen's grandson, Jack was never found and he provided themes for numerous literary and dramatic works.
The Kray twins
Ronnie and Reggie Kray were true East End boys. Born in 1933, they were both professional boxers before turning to crime. On finishing their military service they became night-club bouncers before opening a billiard hall in Mile End Road. Vicious and ambitious, anyone who stood in their way was promptly dealt with. Despite being twins, their respective characters could not have been more dissimilar: Ronnie was homosexual, Reggie was married; Ronnie was dangerous and unstable, Reggie was calm and thoughtful.
The twins went on to open restaurants and night-clubs; they were often seen in the company of showbiz personalities and their names were common feature in the gossip columns of the London newspapers. When Ronnie committed his first murder his brother's initial words were: “Ronnie does some funny things”. The victim was a man who had previously taunted Ronnie about his homosexuality. On hearing the news, Ronnie went to the Blind Begar pub with an accomplice and unceremoniously shot him through the eye. Then, the two men left the pub.
It was now Reggie's turn. His victim had reputedly made some satirical remarks about the Kray brothers. But not everything went according to the plan: the gun misfired twice and the twins had to stab the victim to death in what was a very clumsy and messy murder. Reggie was heard to say after the killing: “You want to try it sometime; it's a nice feeling”.
We have done this work by assigning one part to each member of the group. Firstly, all the members of the group got together to choose the topic of the work. At that moment we encountered some difficulties because each of us wanted to talk about a different topic and that made us change it twice. This fact made us begin with our work quite late, approximately one or two weeks before Christmas time. Finally we decided to speak about mystery, legends and ghosts stories in Great Britain because we had some information on that.
Once we had the topic, we divided the work in four parts: Arthur's legend, the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts stories in York and mystery, murder and suspense in London. Afterwards we assigned a part of the work to one, two or three people depending on how large was each part. The distribution of the work was as follows:
Then each person searched for more information on her part of the work. Here we encountered many problems because it was very difficult to find books dealing with legends and so we had to look in some magazines and encyclopaedias for it. However, the main problem we had to face was to put all the information together in a coherent and cohesive text.
Finally, we got together again and talked about the work in order to verify that all of us had approached her part in the same way. That meeting was on January 8 and we finished our work then.
MATTHEWS, RUPERT (1996) King Arthur. Hampshire, Pilkin Pictorials.
DUNKLING, LESLIE (1987) The mystery of the Loch Ness monster. Essex, Longman, eighth impression.
Matthews, Rupert (1992) Haunted York. Hampshire, Pitkin Pictorials.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO (1990) The New Encyclopædia Britannica: Micropædia. Volume 6, page 453. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica inc., 15th edition.
HOLMES, HARRY (1987) “Murder, mystery and suspense”, Speak up. Number 22, pages 6, 7. Ed. Planeta -De Agostini, Barcelona.