A selection of ghostly stories and poems for you as a taster of the many tales you can hear from Adrian. This selection will shortly be available as a downloadable eBook or you can purchase the books, CDs and DVDs here now.
Georgi Porgi did indeed kiss the girls so it is quite likely that when folk tell you that this rhyme is about George Villiers there is some truth in it. He certainly did kiss the girls and two girls told me all about it. Well my mother and her pal told me their tale anyway. Connie, mi Mam, heard this story before she became a ghost-walker, before there was even such a thing as ghost walks, back when she was a barmaid and I wonder perhaps if it was one of the many experiences she had that lead her down the path of becoming the first ever person to take people on walks around the City of York to scare them with tales of the walking dead.
She already had a vast array of experiences with the occult and spectral appearances and her reputation for such was what probably prompted Brenda, the landlady at the Rose and Crown at Askham Richard near York, to confide in her about the terrible series of events she had undergone. It was late, a cold dark night and the customers had headed home eventually and Brenda was locking up, “Don’t go off just yet Connie, I thought we might have a drink.”
My mum explained that my Father and a couple of friends were waiting to take her home. “Bring them back in and I will buy you all a drink.” Of course when my father heard this he jumped at it. So it was that while Dad and his pal propped up the bar with the landlord, his wife huddled in the corner with Connie (my Mum) and her pal Joyce.
As hot water dappled her naked back and the windows of the shower misted and warmed, Brenda had started to feel uncomfortable, not for the first time, but this was the earliest recognition of there actually being a presence beyond that strange feeling. She had not been landlady of the Cock and Bottle on Skeldergate for long but her original enthusiasm had started to wane from the first time she had been alone in that bathroom. As if there was someone there, someone lurking, someone peering in at her even. These feelings grew until that day when the impression was so strong that she knew someone was in the room with her, thinking it must be her husband she turned rapidly to speak to him, she couldn’t speak she just stared in horror for there looking right back at her was a large dark figure, it was obvious, even through that steam covered glass, that is was not her husband, someone, someone quite large was in the room and they were very keen to enjoy the view. Just as she opened her mouth to attempt to scream the figure turned to go and disappeared in the steam. Scream she did. Her husband came running up the stairs, the only way in to the room of course, and ran to her bewildered. “Who was that man,” she asked, “and why have you ran right past him?” There had been no one on the stairs to pass.
It would all be a mistake, a piece of imagination to do with being unsettled in a new place and a new role, that was the way she came to think. Although the feelings continued while in the bathroom and at times elsewhere in the inn, she had managed to disregard them and get on with her work. So it was that when things became stronger and more frightening she was quite unprepared. Naked she was in fact and vulnerable. Vulnerable indeed, for big strong arms enveloped her from behind and she was squeezed into a big strong chest. She felt the breath on her neck and she really did scream this time. Although the spirit may have gone away that time, as help came running, it was to become even bolder. George Villiers, for she came to know him and hear him, gradually grew an obsession for her. He would cup her breast and breath into her ear in a gruff deep voice, “I want you” – “You are mine.” – “I love you.” She knew him by name and would converse with him. She did say at one point that she felt she had been seduced by his eyes and it was perhaps her own feelings that terrified her the most. Whether she was serving in the bar or getting up from a fitful sleep there he would be and it all became too much for her. When the bead curtains from the bar started to part for her as she walked towards them. When people would be concerned at who she was talking to. When other ladies came running from the loos. She had had enough. Bedraggled she was and worn and tattered. Sleepless and distraught, she decided they must go; must leave this place. So it was that an opportunity came like a beam of light: the opportunity to take over the pub in Askham Richard.
Here we return to the Rose and Crown and that little huddled group. “So,” you came here and everything was alright?” - “No.”
On that first night in the new place she went up to bed with an easy heart, it had been a lovely day with a warm welcome from all the regulars and she was pleased to be here and at last felt she would be able to sleep. But, and this is what had prompted her to confide in my mother, as she had reached to pull the bedroom curtains closed for the night, she had spotted a movement, there, out there in the street. As she stood peering through the curtains on that late dark evening, a horse-drawn carriage had rushed by and there was an impression of someone within the coach staring out as if searching, searching, searching......
That would be a fitting end for the story, for any such story, yet there is more; for as well as receiving the sad news that Brenda had passed away suddenly, my Mother returned to the Cock and Bottle a few years later. She had by then done many a ghost walk, in fact she had tired of them, they had become so regular and was not really sparing the time it demanded of her, then a call came. An old friend from a society she belonged rang and begged her to do another walk for them. Although my Mother had now filled most of her evenings with other things she discussed the possibility with her pal Joyce, who talked her into taking these old friends around. So it was that they got to that haunted old pub down Skeldergate. Mum had already told quite few tales by then so she turned to Joyce and said, “You know this one Joyce, why don’t you do this one for me?” Joyce had been unsure but Mum encouraged her so up she got, up onto a stool in the bar and regaled the lot of them. As soon as she started however, the old black phone behind the bar started to ring. As quick as he could the new landlord answered it with a nodded apology to Joyce, no sooner had he put it down there it was again, ringing through the pub. This went on for the whole story and when it was finished the flustered and apologetic landlord came over to express his regret. My mum says it was alright, there was nothing he could have done, but she couldn’t help but wonder who it was that kept ringing like that. “I don’t really know,” said the landlord, “It was a gruff voiced man and he just kept saying he was George, and, he kept asking for Brenda.” - Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring.
Thank you to my Mother for a great tale and so much more.
Also from the same publication which features tales told on the radio....
The Three Mariners
Baring in mind Mum is York’s first ever ghost walker and that Dale, Scarborough’s Ghost Walker, sorry Dr Strange of the Scareborough walk that starts from the harbour, stops outside her house every night, she knows the town’s stories, knows the ghosts. She heard all about the character we are about to hear about.
The Three Mariners.
Mum didn’t tell the little girl she took in there about the ghost of the place, well you wouldn’t. My Dad tells me now that it is John Paul Jones. One of the battles of the American War of Independence actually happen just out there. And the ship sank. JPJ was saved from DJL (Davey Jones’ Locker) and brought to Scareborough’s oldest inn The Three Mariners on Quay street opposite Molly Malones. He stayed there and apparently comes back. He is seen sat on the bed. Sadly the museum is no longer there, it is just a house (sorry to the residents for this tale). He is seen sat on the bed but only through the mirror. My girls both seemed to really enjoy the visit there with the old toys and jewellery scattered willy nilly all about. Well they did until they got to the main bedroom. Then Lucy in particular wanted to be off. She said upon return to Gran’s that she didn’t like the nasty looking man in a ladies hat. Mum asked her where he was and she said sat on the bed. Mum pointed out that she had not seen him and Lucy said oh no you could only see him if you looked in the mirror. He was horrid and he had a big hat with tall feathers in it.
Barley Hall in York is a place of renown indeed, as well as being known as a marvellous reconstruction of a medieval town house, it also has a bit of a reputation for being haunted. It may seem strange to you that although a fair portion of this building was missing when discovered, that the ghosts are still there. It is as if they were floating around waiting for a staircase or a parlour to return. The stories of their appearances crop up on a fairly regular basis, so they must indeed have been trapped in their ghost-form unable to move on for millennia. Could it be that, like the lost boy of York, they had wondered awry until their beloved hall returned?
A figure is seen in the doorway of the Main Hall and a lady is seen walking down the stairs, these may well be the reputedly enigmatic and somewhat wayward Lady of the house, Joan.
I should avoid seeming light or over-dramatic in the telling of this tale for I have spoken with the lady herself. I do offer crystal ball readings, but I have never really had an encounter through the ball as strong and, well, conversational as this tale I am about to relate.
I was off to work, in a hurry in fact, and I felt a sudden need to have a look within the crystal. The bus was due and I was due to be a medieval tale-teller in that wonderful old hall itself, but I had to look. There is a fair old process to my revealing of the Crystal itself, once the box is open a silk square is laid out, an array of beautiful stones and trinkets from my ancestors are displayed and then the stand and ball are brought out, polished, and stood within the centre; Hoo Doo I call this! Once the process was over I peered within. There she was, suddenly and completely clearly; tall, splendid, long-necked and charismatic. I said aloud, “You are Lady Joan,” I don’t know why but I just knew. I wondered to myself why she was here and a response appeared in my mind, I received a distinct impression that she was quite unhappy. Again, although I was a little taken aback by a conversation going on in my mind, I posed a voiceless question, she showed me an image; the long imposing top table with all its array of pots and utensils. She doesn’t like it. I could clearly see the display I know so well and felt a thought that there was a great disappointment; there is not enough colour. I can’t help but agree with her, I have always felt that this display is a bit too drab. In my thoughts came the concept that, in her day there as far more colour, she loved colourful things. I wondered what sort of things and received further images, firstly a beaded cushion in the form of a sun; a circle with a spiral of beaded strings spread out like rays, this has not as yet appeared but I will be looking out for it as I strongly recall its dark pink, rich purple and burgundy glass beads; the other image was of the same table but this time instead of one striped jug and mass of dull brown pottery there was colour, two jugs in particular stood out among the others and I heard that voice again, within my own, explaining to me that they were white with brightly coloured lines, slim neck and a handle so delicate and close to the jug that it was almost ornamental. These were beautiful to her. What happened to them I wondered. There was the reply, now I am not too sure what I received at this point but I definitely saw an image of the central fire area, she may have inferred there had been a fire or that one of the jugs was dropped upon the hearth during refurbishment. There was a definite impression that she wanted such a display again, that she felt we were misrepresenting her, that visitors would go away with an impression that she was not ostentatious and highly tasteful. Where, she wanted to know, were the signs that she was a woman of fashion with a household to match her own charismatic splendour?
How was I to know that all of this was genuine, how indeed was I to be able to convince any of my colleagues of a need to change the display. The answer to this came to me immediately, “I will appear” – “I will show you”.
When will this be I wondered, (and when will this message end so I can get off to work!), “Soon, in a matter of months”.
I left the message crystal there where it balanced upon its dais and ran for a bus. I did more or less make it on time, but had to get changed rather sharpish. While telling my stories, there was a part of me at the back of my mind that wasn’t quite on the topic. By my tales were over, and the crowds were done with their rapturous applause, I knew what I had to do, I must tell people, whatever their reaction. If I left it and said something after there had been an apparition no one would believe me. So I bit the bullet, prepared myself for ridicule and went about relating this tale you have just read to individual staff members and volunteers. The reactions were surprising, “Oh again” – “I hope it is on my shift” – “Lovely” and so on. One or two did look a little stunned and I must say that one of these was my good friend Lindsey, although we went on to have a fun conversation about the drab pots and jugs.
Time passed, and although I do not believe Lady Joan has been seen as yet, there was a development. After a few days off, Lindsey returned from a trip away, full of excitement about her visit to a museum in Attick: she had bought herself a beautiful book on medieval life and she was very keen to show us it because there within were lots of shots of the interior of Barley Hall. This book, published in the nineties, included photos of much of what we display now but in pristine condition. Everything looked brand new and far more, er, colourful: there on the top table were, you guessed it, two brightly coloured jugs. One in particular had a long neck and a slim delicate handle. I couldn’t contain myself, “Those are the jugs I saw in the crystal ball”.
“Oh those,” says Lindsey, “we have one of those upstairs in a box.”
“Why on earth didn’t you tell me before when I told you my tale!”
We think the other may have been broken during the closed times in the mid nineties but one remains. The bead cushion has yet to appear and more to the point, up to now, so has Lady Joan. I think we need to get that jug out on display before she turns up, or she is not going to be very happy.
See more on Adrian’s projects at Barley Hall here.
The St. Olaves ghost project led to the pupils telling Adrian their personal stories which he then went on to retell on the radio, here are his transcripts of a few of them.....
The Witch is Real
Scott tells us that there is a witch in the area. There no doubt are lots of witches in the area, but most of them would say they are white witches or hedge witches or something to do with them being good. Scott tells us differently about the one up beyond Poppleton. She is not good, she turned his friend into a frog.
Now this might seem a bit far fetched or impossible, but Scott went on and all became clear. His friend has never been seen again. There irrefutable. They shouldn’t have gone there. They should not have gone anywhere near her house, but they had been dared; They thought they would look good if they were able to say they had dared to go near the old witches house. One of them regrets it more than the others. He was turned into a frog. They didn’t see this happen, but he has gone. He has never been seen again, what is more no one can remember him. His name eludes the group of children and no one has missed him. They do recall that the memory of him was removed from their brains by the evil witch who they should not have gone near, but they cannot retrieve the memory at all. They made a big mistake going there.
The above tale is also featured in The Blood Eagle and other Stories. Buy now.
One pupil told us that Anne Boleyn rides by where he lives, in a chariot. She is quite frightening to look upon, mainly because she is headless.
Headless, hurrying by and quite dead, yet in a hurry somewhere; Anne Boleyn. Oh yes and the blood flies out where her head used to be.
One of the storytellers on my group at St Olaves school in York tells us of his cat. You might not believe him because if you do not go inside his house you will never see his cat. It doesn’t come out, it just disappears. I know you have been there and seen cats coming out of the cat flap and wandering the garden. He has four cats. Three of them appear at the other side of the cat flap just the same as they went into it. They can be seen pottering about outside or chasing birds. They can be stroked. Not Joseph. He disappears. It is a fact that he has never been seen outside. Never. He goes out. Then, he is, gone. Gone. It must be something to do with the cat flap being a portal. But you go there and you watch Joseph if you will. “Where is he!” “Where did he go?” We saw him go out the cat flap, we never see him actually out there.
Jack tells us a tale he was told in Ireland. For holiday entertainment he chose to listen to the tale of the girl with no face. This is the story of a band of sailors. They were on shore leave and had little money, well, once they had been out on the town there was little left anyway. They were also so drunk that they could hardly walk. So when the cold set in, the old ruins were a good spot. They just didn’t know the history of this very sorry spot. They would have managed to walk a bit further if they had heard of the girl with no face who haunts this ruin, this burnt out ruin. There she was sure enough, it started with the footsteps. Stepping through the dark of the ruins steadily towards them. They slowly turned to see who had come towards them over the impossibly burnt out floor of that upper room. Hovering before this frightened gang as if on floorboards that no longer existed she stood there. An elegant young woman in a flowing dress with long hair, despite their feeling that something was greatly amiss they almost smiled and then they saw it. The faceless face. Featureless she stood there and beckoned them towards her. As one they turned and leapt. Out that window and crashed to the floor. The least injured lifted those who had broken limbs and they dragged themselves away. As they scraped along the road in search of a doctor they called for the law to help them once they realised one of their band was missing. A lonely young chap they recall he had turned towards the woman while they had turned away. The law were at last among them but refused to go in search for their friend. When they told them where they had last seen him they refused to go in that old building where fire had burnt the face off the young woman who had died there. They would not go in there in search of the friend and predicted that he would never be seen again. He was never seen again.
The Brazilian man
Jack of St Olaves school tells us of a young Brazilian man who lost a love he had never found. There she was, so beautiful, looking in through his window. She was stood on the wall opposite and she looked very forlorn, until he caught her eye and then she started to smile and seemed to drop what she was doing and waved him over. He left his rented cottage and walked toward the lovely girl. She was throwing a rope away from her and seemed to be stuck on the top of the high wall. He climbed up and she fell to his arms. He didn’t feel there was anything wrong with the way they simply stayed there, looking into each others eyes. He had only just met her and yet they stayed that way for about twenty minutes before he came to his senses and helped her down from the wall. They walked in the gardens and chatted about the views across the valley. She said how she loved the forests and had meant no harm when she had wandered away. She hadn’t meant to run away. She had been treated very badly and had not been able to bear it any longer. That was all behind her now that she had met this handsome man. They met up every day and of course, they fell in love. She had told him of her family home where only her brother remained. So he travelled up the hill and through the next valley to the house and knocked to ask for her hand. The brother looked stunned, he brought him in, he listened to him then eventually he stammered out his truth. His sister had died over ten years before. She had been very badly treated and could not get home to her family so in despair she had..... This could not be believed, there was a mistake, our handsome hero ran from the house shouting as he left, that it was not possible, she had promised to be his love.
He did not see her again. He did not see her again until perhaps the last day of his time staying in the town when he awoke to gather his bags and go. As he woke he saw her briefly, he thought he must have seen her, but, she was swaying from the end of a rope that was attached to the top of the wall. He jumped up and went to the window and she was not there. Back in his own home he sometimes wakes with a start early on a morning and thinks he hears her screaming cry.
See more on Adrian’s projects at St Olaves school Hall here.