Ghosts aren’t just for Halloween, or at least not in York. A city with over 2000 years in the bag, and many aged properties to boot, well, it’s hardly surprising some former residents refuse to leave! Space is at a premium within the city walls, and the living are forced to share with the dead. Or so the rumors would have us believe.
Reports of ghostly mischief are rife, fueled by the many guides keen to relay York’s darker side, but how many of these rumors really stand up to scrutiny? Death is a certainty, but what comes after is anything but. The paranormal proves provocative, with skeptics on one side and believers on the other, while the rest float somewhere in between. But whose view bears most weight? And why?
I worked in Pompeii and at the British Museum before completing a Master’s in Forensic Archaeological Sciences – clearly, I have a preoccupation with death. Moving to York, a city fixated with ghosts seemed the natural next step; the idea for paranormal investigator Porter Biggleswade was born.
Dubbed ‘the Shadow Reader’ for her ability to see ghosts, Porter investigates paranormal activity for a living. ‘There’s nothing normal about the paranormal,’ as Porter would say! While, I can’t claim to share Porter’s ability, I have had experiences which I struggle to rationalize. One occurred not long after my move to York.
Allow me to set the scene. It was a chilly, dry December afternoon and, having spent the morning immersed in research for my Porter Biggleswade series, I needed air. My walk took me in the direction of York Minster to Chapter House Street, a cobbled lane at the side of the Treasurer’s House. I was nearly upon the door when the temperature plummeted. It was both fleeting and unnerving. I can’t claim to have seen anything, but it felt like someone had passed through me. I didn’t linger.
I was alone, it was cold, and my head was filled with ghostly shenanigans, I assumed I was just jumpier than usual. Perhaps it was a natural phenomenon, infrasound, or a rise in the electromagnetic field, which some argue can induce a sense of unease. I was also walking by the Treasurer’s House, a centuries old property steeped in history.
Numerous ghosts are alleged to haunt this property including former owners George Aislaby and Frank Green (who restored it to its former glory before leaving it to The National Trust). The most chilling encounter involved a league of ghostly Romans who terrified apprentice plumber Harry Martindale in the property’s cellar in 1953. This was all fresh in my mind, so maybe I had fallen foul of my imagination.
Fast forward eight years, and I found myself imparting my odd experience to fellow writer Anna Rogers. Anna is paranormally sensitive; she was understandably curious. We decided to join forces in January under the guise of ‘Anna and Amy Investigate’ to investigate the hauntings of York. We don’t have an arsenal of equipment to document paranormal phenomena, but we film our endeavors in the hope of capturing anything out of the norm (plus it hinders us from embellishing any experiences after the fact!).
Our first film was about an experience Anna had had in 2010 (now infamously known as Anna’s ‘Woman in White’). I filmed and interviewed Anna while she retraced her steps from that terrifying night and was amazed by her reaction to certain buildings years after the fact. It inspired me to make a film about my own experience on Chapter House Street – I was curious to see how Anna would react to the place. I was hoping she would pick up on something I had felt that day, and perhaps offer me a little insight.
Anna agreed, and we arranged to film there one bright, blustery morning. I suggested we start in the Treasurer’s House garden before moving onto Chapter House Street. Anna was in good spirits until she ventured through the gates into the garden when her demeanor inexplicably changed. Her smile slipped, and she suddenly appeared hunched. I hadn’t seen her like this before, and Anna was equally thrown by her reaction.
It quickly became apparent this film wasn’t going to be about my experience. Ghosts are nothing if not unpredictable!
Anna reads buildings by touching them. It sometimes induces a physical reaction with nausea being at the extreme end. Watch our films and you’ll see for yourselves! Anyway, I suggested she touch the Treasurer’s House to see if we could unravel why she was suddenly feeling so troubled, but she found herself drawn to the front steps. She followed her urge to sit down, and what happened next stunned us both.
Anna felt herself falling forwards. It took her a moment to understand what was happening, but when she did, we were horrified. She had been shoved.
Anna struggled to unravel what she was experiencing, but she sensed a young woman standing at the top of the steps. The figure was taking advantage of a quiet moment to admire the view. With York Minster dominating the vista it’s easy to see why. Someone stole upon her while she was distracted and pushed her. Hard. The woman fell and hit her head on the steps.
"It was murder."
Anna started to retch. She looked terrified. Moving away from the steps helped, but she seemed to shrink even further. She was freezing, and visibly distressed. I hadn’t seen or felt anything but watching Anna’s reaction threw me yet again. I hadn’t expected any of this. I suggested we go back to my house to discuss what had just happened.
We filmed our post-filming talk to document any detail.
Anna described a woman in her twenties wearing an outfit dating to the Edwardian period. Frank Green didn’t have children, but he was known to be a sociable creature who often threw parties. Was she a guest who had come to a sticky end? Anna felt it was a crime of passion, with someone acting impulsively. Was it a jealous lover or fiancé with an axe to grind?
There was no mention of a death on the steps on the internet, but the woman may have died later from her injuries. Or perhaps ‘the incident’ was covered up. Frank Green was said to be a controlling man who wouldn’t have welcomed bad press. His guests going about murdering each other, well it doesn’t look good, does it! The fact he is rumored to haunt the house suggests he isn’t ready to relinquish the property just yet. Did he pull some strings to keep the murder quiet, or did he really think it was just a devastating accident?
Whatever the truth, I believe something happened there. A ghostly Roman, or even Frank Green himself strolling around the garden smoking a cigar would have been a more likely experience, but the randomness of Anna’s account certainly makes it more intriguing.