Ghost hunting in Oxford

Well, with Halloween approaching fast, it seemed rude to not track down one of the UK’s oldest cities and see what delights lay within its ancient walls. For the past few years a small group of friends have hunted down some of the most haunted cities and proceeded to take in the spookiest sights on offer.

After all the fun of Edinburgh in ’10 and York in ’11, Oxford was the destination for this year’s spook-fest. So, last Saturday morning, three of us arrived in time for a hearty breakfast of Apple pie and custard before descending on the bustling streets of Oxford. The city of Oxford is beautiful at the best of times, with the stunning Oxford stone university buildings that sprawl across the city. Students roam around the campuses dressed in gowns and mortarboards and you take pleasure in the knowledge that the stunning buildings are still being used for the purpose they were created for.

We took in the sights as all good tourists should, before heading for a nearby graveyard. I found St Thomas’s church yard to be a peaceful place with an air of sadness to the northern quarter. I felt something and said to my friend that either a squirrel just pooed on me or I just got tapped on the shoulder. After inspecting my back, she concluded that it must have been a ghost. (I prefer to rule out any other scientific explanation as just too dull).

Over a pub lunch we made the decision to save the main part of the castle–or prison for the next day, we opted to just climb the motte and take a look at the well room. I was very disappointed that the room was inaccessible, but managed to take a few pictures of the well through the bars. Although my pictures seemed fine when I took them, when I tried to recall them on my camera, they were both just black.

Another trip to another pub ensued and whilst in deep conversation with my buddies, I saw a bright flicker of light on the wall, just like a fluorescent tube firing up but when I looked up, there was no light source there at all. My friend also ‘saw the light’, so to speak.

The evening was spent on Bill Spectre’s organised ghost tour. As great fun as it was, it was more about theatrics than ghost stories. Although both of my friends saw shadows in the window of a house we were standing by. Again, no scientific explanations are required, thank you!

Afterwards, I couldn’t really recall any good stories that were told. I did, however manage to snap a great ghostly picture. See what you think. I know who I think it looks like, but can you see the likeness?

Maybe a closer look (in the dark section).

On Sunday we visited the main part of the castle and thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour. There is a lot of history to that site and it is well worth a visit. My only disappointment was that the main part of the prison is now being used as a hotel, so is therefore inaccessible to the public.

All in all we had a great, if exhausting weekend. Now we need to figure out where to go next year.

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Our Spooky Weekend in York

What a weekend! So, I’m back from a lovely weekend milling around York with friends; sight seeing, shopping, eating, drinking and – yes – Ghost Hunting!

We started our weekend by visiting Clifford’s Tower. The tower is renowned for the mass suicide/massacre of hundreds of Jews during the twelfth century. Although the wooden keep as it was, is no longer there, the beautiful stone keep still holds the memories. The walls list heavily and climbing the spiral staircases really made my head spin. The stone walls that are said to run with the blood of the Jews are dank and blackened by pollution but you can really get a vibe of unease within them. One of our cameras failed to work at one point so when we tried another, a large orb came out clearly on the photo – spooky!

http://www.cliffordstower.com

We followed the city walls to our next stop, the grave of the famous highwayman – Dick Turpin. Now, to me he is most famous for riding his horse, Black Bess, from London to York in one day, but if this feat was ever to have been achieved, it wasn’t by Turpin. It was by a fellow highwayman named John Nevison, although it’s very unlikely that it ever actually happened at all.

In 1739 Dick Turpin was hanged by the short drop method meaning he suffocated as his windpipe was crushed. His body is said to lie in St Georges graveyard but there is a fair amount of doubt as to whether this grave is authentic. To be honest, it didn’t look real to me.

A drink in the Guy Fawkes Inn, High Petergate, followed. Well it was 5th November so we just had to stop into the pub built on the spot where the famous traitor was born. Several of the rooms within the Inn are said to be haunted (well I don’t think we managed to find a pub that didn’t claim to be ‘the most haunted pub in England’) but we didn’t notice anything accept a very intrigued passer by who pressed her face against the window we were sitting by.

http://www.gfyork.com

So without wanting to push ourselves too far, we then wandered a few hundred yards back up to street to The Hole In The Wall pub, for a hearty lunch. Of course The Hole In The Wall is also haunted, by footsteps no less. Originally known as the Board Inn, the pub is said to have had a secret passageway leading to a dungeon and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre in York Minster Cathedral.

http://www.holeinthewallyork.co.uk/

Saturday afternoon was spent mostly at the Haunted House on Stonegate. What a find! The house is relatively small but haunted by former owners and their servants. The house is said to be the site of the murder of a servant girl who’d been knocked up by her master (nice!).

We took the audio-guided tour around the darkened rooms, which were all laid out as they would have been hundreds of years ago. The most frightening room was the séance room, at the top of the house. Sitting at a huge round séance table with a crystal ball in the center and several ouija boards dotted around the outside is pretty unnerving but put us right in the zone. I took several photos and if you believe that the orbs are spirits then you’d have a field day with my photos.

Check out the live web-cams: http://www.hauntedhouseyork.co.uk/cameras.html

After the tour of the house, we each had a tarot reading, which although short and sweet, was shockingly accurate. Of course we were all told that we would be rich some day soon so it must to be true!

The three of us then purchased suitable witchy paraphernalia before leaving the haunted house of Stonegate behind us.

In desperate need for further refreshments while waiting for the climax of our day – the ghost tour, (well it had been a couple of hours since visiting a pub) we opted for the Golden Fleece, Pavement. Reputed to be (yes you guessed it) – the most haunted pub in the country, we made ourselves comfortable in the warm cozy pub while waiting for the ghost tour to begin. The Golden Fleece has made it onto TV’s most haunted, an episode which I did manage to catch recently. The only spirits we encountered there, had been drunk in vast quantities by the middle-aged ladies by the window, who thought it hilarious to give passers by a sight they’d never forget.

http://www.thegoldenfleeceyork.co.uk/

So onto the ghost walk. With so many to choose from and only one evening, we had to decide which of the many ghost tours to join. We opted for one starting at the bottom of the Shambles opposite the Golden Fleece, well it made sense.

Our comedy guide managed to keep his perfect Dickensian accent most of the time but would slip into his native Yorkshire accent on words like chance/past/dug up, which I’m ashamed to say killed us in a very childlike manner every time.

We were taken on a route march of the old streets of York, taking in the Shambles, Stonegate, the Cathedral area etc. All in all it was a little long winded for the few stories we were actually given but hugely entertaining.

We were told about a little girl who was abandoned in her locked bedroom by her parents who suspected her of having the plague. Crying, she would scratch at her bedroom window to alert passers by but the huge red cross painted on the front door prevented anyone from entering. She died alone. Her ghost can still be seen clawing at the window, crying.

Sunday morning was spent mainly in the stunning Botanical gardens and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey where, although we were unable to access the graveyard, numerous Roman stone coffins litter the grounds with no particular explanation. The perfect blue sky contrasted beautifully with the ancient stonework and wildlife was in abundance. I found it almost inconceivable to see relics of the abbey, beautiful hand crafted pieces of stonework being used to hold back the flowerbeds like common rocks.

After another trip to the Haunted House shop and a wander around the Shambles, Sunday lunch was had in the no frills ‘Last Drop Inn’ on Colliergate, where we ended our fantastically spooky weekend.

For more information on any of these places copy and paste the links I’ve provided.

Click on the images on the flickr account to the right of this page to take the tour. Like I said, if you like orbs, then you’ll like my pictures.