TRIP REPORT OF HAUNTED GHOST TOUR TO ENGLAND, MAY 10-17, 2009
by Debe Branning
Photos by Lana Lutz
Additional Pictures by Debe Branning, Nancy Ball and Dave Teitjen
We came from many parts of the United States - and even Australia. The group met and joined together in the JFK International Terminal with one thing in common: we were heading to England to visit some of the most haunted places in the country. We were handed our tickets by our tour hosts Danny and Charles, and our great adventure to the other side of the pond was ready to start! We eagerly boarded a red eye flight to London.
Day 1: Highgate Cemetery-Spaniards Inn
We landed in London's Heathrow Airport and were met by Alan Murdie, our wonderful monacle-adorned London tour host. We shuffled our way through customs and waited for our coach to arrive. Our coach driver, Carl, was a wizard at maneuvering through the streets of London. After a panoramic sightseeing drive to see some of the more famous historical sites like Big Ben, The Tower Bridge, Westminster Abby, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the London Bridge, there was no time to check into our rooms. We headed straight up to our first haunted site, Highgate Cemetery.
We were given a tour of this grand cemetery by one of the volunteer guides. Highgate Cemetery was one of the focal points of Bram Stoker's "Dracula." It is also known for the grisly vampire attacks that went on in the 1970's. Filled with ghosts, most of the tour members had problems with new batteries going dead in their cameras. Some cameras did not even function at all while in the cemetery. Highgate is an overgrown lush and green Gothic cemetery. There are several paths that take you through the beautiful overgrowth of trees and vines. Cindy Lee, one of our tour-members, searched for the tomb that was Bram Stoker's inspiration for Lucy's tomb in the "Dracula" novel. Many took pictures of the angel statues and the sleeping dog on the tombstone. Most of us were especially taken by the "Avenue of the Dead" and the "Egyptian" section inside.
We then drove to nearby Hampstead Heath - the lurking place of the diabolical highway men of centuries past. The Heath was the home of Dick Turpin, one the notorious "highway man." Turpin's ghost has been sighted at The Spaniard's Inn many times. The Spaniard's Inn is at the end of the Heath, and it has been featured in many written works of literature, including "Dracula" and the Pickwick Papers.
They seated us upstairs in the most haunted room at the Inn. A spritely and spirited distinguished gentleman, Robert Rietti from the BBC, joined us as our dinner special guest of honor, and he offered some personal ghostly stories of his own. Sir Rietti is also known for his voice-over work for some of the James Bond movies. We enjoyed his tales of the ghosts he has encountered throughout London. We were especially enchanted with his theatrical expression and descriptions of the spirit world. At some point, the cahir of one of our tour-members, Bob, collapsed under him for no apparent reason. Some attributed it to a mischievous ghost, while others presumed the beer may have had more to do with it. After dinner the exhausted travelers headed to the hotel for much needed showers and a good night's sleep.
Day 2 London Dungeon-Tower of London-Jack the Ripper Tour
Everyone was refreshed and ready to face the new day (amazing what a hot shower will do for you)! We donned our walking shoes and headed towards the Tower Bridge. We caught the underground train - the Tube - and stopped at the London Bridge Station. We walked the rest of the way to the London Dungeon Experience - an interactive museum built into an old railroad arch. Combined with museum relics and a spooky cast of actors, the Dungeon re-created London's plague years, executions, torture, civil war and the background of the Jack the Ripper terror. A group photo was made as we entered the dungeon.
We had a quick lunch at Skinkers where our host Charles had us make formal introductions to one another and we learned what brought each tour member to England. After lunch we hopped back on the train and headed for the Tower of London. Everyone went off on their own direction to explore this huge castle complex. Some of the towers that once held prisoners seemed very intense. The torture room felt especially intimidating. We stood at the site where Ann Boleyn (and many others) lost her heads. They say Ann Boleyn and several other ghosts still roam the grounds and many towers within the castles. The Crown Jewels of England are on display and stored at the Tower of London. The sparkling crowns and jewelry is well worth checking out. All the girls would gladly add this "bling" to our jewelry boxes.
We had some free time so we voted on a journey to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. Everyone made it to our first station just fine. But at the second station, one tour member had a ticket that would not work properly in the turn style. This caused several other members of our group to lag behind him. So, somehow, in the rush to catch the train, we lost 5 or 6 members of the tour at the previous station.
Upon arriving at the Piccadilly station, we took a head count and found we were missing some of our traveling companions. We were prepared to search each and every train as they arrived at the station platform. We made one long line along the platform so we could see into each and every train car as they whizzed into the station. Luckily we spied Lisa's new checkered tam (hat) as the lost members of the tour resurrected into view with the approaching train. We frantically waved and shouted to our friends. The doors opened and they quickly exited the train bringing us all back together.
I know the question you are anxious to ask me, "Are the underground tunnels haunted?"
Thanks to Metro Newspaper, here is an account of some of the ghosts and ghost stations along the Tube...
This station was closed in 1994 although it's currently used for parties and trendy opening nights. The folks who clean the tunnels and stations claim to have been scared by a figure that appears on the tracks at night. The station is supposedly haunted by an actress who believes she has not enjoyed her last curtain call. Aldwych used to be on the site of the old Royal Strand Theatre.
The spirit of the so called "Black Nun" was roused by workmen who were building Bank station in the last century. The "Nun's" brother Phillip Whitehead was a cashier and was executed in 1811 for forgery. The nun, Sarah, wearing black, waited for him outside the bank every evening for 40 years until she died. To this day, it said that she still searches for him along the platforms.
Here we find a ghost station and a ghost. British Museum station closed in September 1933. There was a local myth that the station was haunted by the ghost of an ancient Egyptian. Dressed in a loincloth and headdress, the figure would emerge late at night. The rumor grew so strong that a newspaper offered a reward to anyone who could spend the night there. Nobody accepted the challenge. The story grew stranger after the closure of the station. The comedy thriller, "Bulldog Jack" was made in 1935 and included a secret (fictitious) tunnel from the station to the Egyptian room at the Museum. The station in the film was called Bloomsbury, and in all likelihood was a stage set, but it was based on the ghost story of the British Museum. On the same night that the film was released, two women disappeared from the platform at Holborn-the next station along from where the British Museum was. Marks were later found on the walls of the closed station. More sightings of the ghost were reported along with strange moaning from the walls of the tunnels. Eventually the story was hushed up as London Underground has always denied the existence of the tunnel from the station to the Egyptian room.
A tall man in a frock coat, tall hat and gloves is said to be pacing the tunnels, and has been seen since the 1950's. When he appeared in the staff restroom, the employees demanded a transfer. The ghost is supposed to be actor William Terriss who was fatally stabbed near the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand in December 1897. Apparently William regularly visited a baker's shop which stood where today's Tube station was built.
Elephant & Castle
When this station is closed, people say that you can hear the foot steps of an invisible runner, strange tapping, and doors being thrown open.
A 13 year old trainee hat maker, Anne Naylor, was murdered in 1758 by her trainer and the trainer's daughter. People claim to hear her cries echoing down Farringdon Station. She has been nicknamed "The Screaming Spectre".
In 1941, Highgate station was rebuilt to join an extension from the Northern Line. However the project was abandoned and the cutting became overgrown. Nevertheless residents still claim to hear eerie sounds of trains going through the cutting.
Now here's a sighting of a ghost train. A passenger from the last westbound tube saw a train pull into South Ken station in December 1928. An ear-piercing whistle broke through the night and the passenger spotted a ghostly figure in a reefer jacket and peaked cap hanging from the side of the engine. Both the man and the train then vanished into the tunnel and never to be seen again.
There are upscale restaurants, theatres and shopping in the busy Piccadilly district. A few of us hiked on with Charles to take a look at the Lyceum Theatre. Bram Stoker ("Dracula") worked for some 20 years there between 1878 and 1898 as the theatre manager of its day. We got very lucky, as the theatre manager let us step inside for a few minutes to take a quick tour of the historic theatre. Only the front entrance doorway remains with the energy of his time spent there.
We were able to acquire newly revised Lyceum Theatre programmes, which recently added a section on Bram Stoker.
click image to view full size
Ed and Jen lucked out on their afternoon outing as well. They were walking down a street and noticed a crowd gathering near one of the West End area theatres. They went over to investigate and found out that they were having the London Premier of the "Night at the Museum" sequel starring Ben Stiller. They were there for the red carpet arrivals and were able to photograph Ben Stiller and other members of the cast!
After grabbing a fast food dinner, we dashed back to London's East End just in time for our private Jack the Ripper Tour with Simon, a tour guide with a ghastly dramatic flare for telling the gruesome tales of the Ripper! Our guide walked us to the many sites where the ripper's victims were found slashed in the Whitecastle district. The murders have never been officially solved but the suspects are many! We explored every location and analyzed every suspect.
Realizing the tour group had walked on for hours, it was decided we needed to rest the weary "soles" of our feet and bid the foggy London air adieu! At the end of the day, we still had one more underground train to catch to get us back to our hotel. We had finished the Jack the Ripper tour and knew we were better off together - safety in numbers. But we will forever have an unseen, mysterious voice echoing through our heads…."Mind the Gap…Mind the Gap!" Or, should that really be, "Mind the Ghosts!"
Fellow ghosthunter Cindy and I had been eyeballing a tiny cemetery on Tooley Street for days. Every time our coach passed by the area in the traffic heading to our hotel, we would catch a glimpse of a few tombstones along a bricked wall. The small Potters Field Park, near the interception of Tooley Street and the Tower Bridge, looked like perfect ghost hunting grounds.
After we finished the Jack the Ripper tour, we knew we would have to act fast if we planned to visit the graveyard tucked away in the gardens. We decided to call a taxi at the hotel and ride to Potters Field. We would ask the driver to wait while we took a few pictures, then jump back in the cab and head back to the hotel. Raquel, another girl on the tour, was anxious to make the late-night adventure with us, so she joined us.
The hotel desk clerk rang up a cab and it quickly arrived. We climbed in the back seat and gave our instructions to the Potters Fields Park. "We need to go to Potters Field on Tooley Street-just on the other side of the Tower Bridge," Cindy instructed.
"Potter's Field?" the puzzled driver asked in an accent not known to be English, "Is that a pub?"
"Cemetery" I sounded from the back seat, "You know…graveyard…..dead people."
"What is cemetery?" he asked, "I don't know cemetery. Is it s pub?"
"NO!" Raquel shouted from the seat next to him, "Cemetery!"
"You want to go to London Bridge?" he asked driving around in a circle and ending up back where we started from.
"No, the Tower Bridge!" I was getting frustrated.
Then, observing the dashboard, we discovered there was no cab meter. Apparently, the gent from the front desk of the hotel had simply called a fellow comrade to pick us up in an effort for him to make a few extra dollars.
We repeated our destination one more time - slowly. Again, we asked the driver to take us to Tooley Street on the other side of the Tower Bridge - wait 5 minutes while we snapped photos of the tombstones - and then drive us back to the hotel. He suddenly pulled over to the curb and told us we needed to get out of the taxi so he could go pick up another fare. We were baffled. We had hired him to take us to our destination and he had not yet done his job. We stormed out of the vehicle-slamming the door hard. We refused to pay him-even when he threatened to call the police.
The three of us walked down a dark street hoping we were going in the right direction. We spied a 'real' cabbie, with the "knowledge," and he quickly showed us the way to go. We were only a few blocks away from Potters Field Park.
We walked about three blocks and found what we were searching for. English Delftware was produced on the site in the 17th century and thus the name - Potters Field Park. Opening up the park revealed other details that had been hidden for years such as the remains of old grave stones. We entered the park and began photographing the tombstones lined up along a bricked wall. Cindy even tried her hand at recording some EVP. This was Raquel's first ghost hunting outing with us and she was savoring the experience. Ten minutes later, we were ready to head back to the hotel. We walked across the street to a pub to see if we could find the history of the lonely Potters Field. They didn't even know it existed-even with the sign posted directly across from their pub.
Amused, we decided to walk the rest of the way back to the hotel. The highlight of the walk was crossing the magnificent Tower Bridge adorned with gargoyles, symbols, and royal shields. We could even see the Tower of London Castle dimly lit, and holding the ghostly spirits secure in its dungeons. "This was worth the walk," I declared. "It's like an extra bonus to the tour," Raquel was delighted.
Always the guide and never the guided, I had to agree. We made it back safely to the hotel long after the rest of our tour group was fast asleep. We laughed about the evening and vowed to always take on these misguided adventures whenever they are available! After all, life is just one crazy ride!
Day 3: Borley Church-Liston Church-Mill Hotel and the mummy cat-Ye Ole Trip To Jerusalem-Ghost Tour of Lincoln-Special guest medium, Yvonne
Wednesday morning we checked out of the Travelodge Algate East and re-boarded the coach. We headed out to calmer pastures as we traveled north to visit the quaint village of Borley. We were anxious to get out of the bustling city of London and see the smaller towns dotted throughout England. The site of the Borley Rectory is reputed to be one of the world's most haunted places and it is very well known throughout England.
The rectory house burned down several years ago, but we were still able to visit the Borley Church with ghostly tales of its own. The hauntings include a ghostly monk and a nun. Bones, a human jaw and skull, which are thought to be the remains of Sister Marie Lairre, the ghostly nun, were found in the Rectory in 1943.
We were greeted by Borley historian, Robert Halliday, and he gave us a recap of the ghostly history of the former Rectory and the church. It is a site of mysterious fires and strange deaths --including those who have investigated it. The church is still the source of paranormal activity including strange music heard inside the church, thought it is often thought to be coming from beneath it. Our group was very fortunate because we were the first tour group ever let inside the Borley Church. It normally is fiercely guarded by the residents. Our guide told us the villagers are not fond of paranormal investigators who flock to the sight hoping to catch a glimpse of a ghost. I couldn't help notice drivers on the road shaking their heads in frustration as Carl navigated the coach down the narrow lanes to the Borley church.
After Borley we went to nearby Liston. The churchyard in Liston is the site where the bones of Sister Marie Lairre were reburied in 1945. Her grave is located on the north side of the church, and many people stop to look for her unmarked grave. I wished I would've had my dowsing rods in my backpack.
We piled back into the bus and took the back roads to the town of Sudbury for a lunch stop at the Mill Hotel. Lunch was actually what the British call 'high tea' consisting of finger sandwiches, sweets and beverage. The Mill Hotel stands over a river that once fed the powerful mill wheel that can be viewed in the restaurant. When mill was in operation, it is said a woman and child drowned beneath the wheel. Their ghosts have been seen in the older areas of the hotel. They have appeared at night near the wheel in the restaurant.
The other mysterious feature of the Mill Hotel is the mummified remains of a cat on display in the lobby. Encased in glass, the cat was initially buried to bring good luck to the original mill. It was placed under the mill to ward off ghosts, witches, and other supernatural beings. It was discovered in 1971 when the mill was converted into a hotel. In 1999, the cat was removed from the hotel and a string of bad luck haunted the hotel. Within a few weeks after its removal, the road outside the hotel exploded, the hotel office flooded, and the person who removed the cat suffered an accident. The curse was broken as soon as the cat was returned and put on permanent display. They won't be removing it any time soon.
One of the chambermaids from the Mill Hotel privately told us of a chilling ghost story that involved her mom being visited by a ghost in the neighboring hospital, however it was so emotional to her that we couldn't get her to tell the story to the whole group.
We watched horror movies on the coach as we traveled through the English countryside on our way to Nottingham. Nottingham Castle stands regal a top of Castle Rock and is near the edge of Nottingham forest (home of legendary Robin Hood). The mighty fortress houses haunted caves near the ground below.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is the oldest pub in England, and is built into the rock under Nottingham Castle. It has been an active pub since it's founding in 1189. A ghost of a young girl haunts the caves below the pub. The former landlord said the keys to the pub would mysteriously disappear from the bar when he was locking up at night. Alone in the pub, he would search the entire building and later find them back on the bar. His wife refused to go into the cellar alone.
The most famous haunted in the Rock Lounge, is the "Cursed Galleon." Legend has it that the galleon was presented to the Inn by a departing sailor. The galleon is said to be cursed. The legend states that the last three people who cleaned it died mysterious deaths. The galleon is now kept in a glass case over the bar, and covered in at least 50 years of dust and cobwebs - but safe from any cleaning fanatic that might try to dust it!
After a great dinner at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, we continued our drive to Lincoln. We quickly checked into the Ibis Lincoln hotel, freshened up a bit, and hopped back on the bus to head to old Lincoln for our Ghost Walk hosted by the enchanting Margaret Green. Margaret has a vast knowledge of the history of Lincoln and the surround areas. She has encountered several ghosts in Lincoln, and interviewed hundreds of guests and residents who had ghostly experiences to share.
I personally enjoyed the story of the phantom knight galloping up to the castle on his "spirited" horse calling out, "Open the gates in the name of the King!" Witnesses see him ride through the closed gates of the castle. Rain began to pour down on the ghost tour group. This was not to dampen our spirits. Up went the umbrellas as we followed Margaret through the haunted streets of Lincoln.
My other favorite spot was the Lincoln Cathedral built in 1072. It was rebuilt in the 1100's after a fire. Lincoln Cathedral is haunted by monks and other spirits. There was once a plague pit near the Cathedral. On evenings of large Christian ceremonies, the ghosts of the unfortunate souls from the plague pit rise, and form a procession through the 'judgment door.' Singing can be heard echoing from the church. A more recent ghost is a lady in white that began to appear at the Cathedral in the1940's. The distressed woman leaped to her death from the roof top of the Cathedral and is now doomed to wander the walkways on the grounds.
Our last stop on the Lincoln ghost tour was the Greestone Steps and Postern Gate. Many people have seen a small clerical figure and other shadows in human form. Visitors say they have felt tugs on their clothing when no one else was around. Mysterious figures are seen in photos of the arch. Orbs often appear in photos and cameras malfunction.
We each took turns standing in the archway in hopes of catching a spectre in our photos. I had just finished taking a series of three pictures of Cindy standing in the spot under the arch. As she started to walk back up the steps, I saw a shadowy figure of a man following her, just behind her left shoulder. "Stop, Cindy!" I shouted, "There's someone behind you on your left!" I frantically tried to take one more picture, but the prankster ghost would not let the camera function at all.
Back at the hotel, Charles had one more surprise I store for us. Yvonne Karan, a renowned medium in Lincoln, joined us for an evening of witnessing her wonderful gift. I know many of us went to bed that night with a better understanding of ourselves and ready to face what lies ahead in a whole new light. Yvette was incredible, and the evening was unforgettable.
Day 4 York Minster-Bettys Café Tea Room-Mickelgate Bar-The Golden Fleece Ghost Walk featuring Richard Felix
The next morning we were back on the coach and ready to head to our next destination, the quaint little town of York. After a quick two hour drive, Carl dropped us off near our first sightseeing target - the York Minster.
Before we went inside, Charles gathered the tour group together on the steps of the York Minster for a group photo. York Minster is the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. It is built in the shape of a cross. The name "Minster" is derived from the Latin Monastarium, which means "Place of Learning". Once inside the massive building with huge stained glass windows, everyone broke up into small groups or explored on their own. It was absolutely beautiful inside. There were many rooms and alcoves to find and photograph. I especially enjoyed the crypts in the basement while Jessie directed me to the Chapter House room with the many carvings of the Green Man.
After some quality time in the Minster, we were scheduled to meet with a very important guest. Our personal guide to haunted York was none other than Richard Felix, formerly one of the stars of Britain's TV show, "Most Haunted." Richard was the historian on the ghost hunting show during the 2003-2005 seasons. Now Richard provides walking ghost tours in York and many other areas. Richard will be organizing and co-hosting the "GHOSTour of Scotland" in 2011 for Tours of Terror. York is officially the most haunted city in England and boasts at least 140 ghosts.
Richard's passion and enthusiasm for ghosts and history have put him at the forefront of the quest to prove beyond all doubt that ghosts really do exist and there is life after death. He lives with his family on a medieval moated site in rural Derbyshire. He is in the process of writing several new books and DVDs about his research and paranormal investigations he has conducted throughout England.
After a quick fast food lunch, Richard took us to a haunted spot that was only accessible during daytime hours - Mickelgate Bar. Micklegate Bar was the main passageway through York's walls. It was and is still used by royalty to enter the city of York. It is also the place where heads of traitors were displayed on spikes. It is still often decorated to receive important visitors. Now the gatekeeper's former home is a museum. It is also very haunted. One of the ghosts who frequent Mickelgate Bar is the ghost of the gatekeeper's daughter. She accidentally misplaced the keys to the gate that led to the shameful termination of employment for her father. The keys were never found and her restless spirit continues to search for them -- even in death.
We headed back to the City Center where some of the group decided to embark upon a new "York's Most Haunted House" attraction, while others chose to shop. The haunted attraction was a walk-through ghost story. Nancy, Shiela and I opted to kick back and enjoy a tea party at Bettys Café Tea Rooms. Everyone else, including Richard Felix, eventually ended up at Bettys Café Tea Rooms for desserts and various teas and coffees. There are two oddities worth noting about Bettys. First, as you may have noticed, there is no apostrophe in the name "Bettys." Secondly, there is no Betty, and there probably never was.
Before we began our evening walking tour with Richard, we had some personal time for shopping or exploring. A small group joined Charles at a small new attraction simply called "Haunted." It was a walk-through ghost story told within the walls of a haunted old York building.
The tour group gathered at the Golden Fleece Pub at 7PM where Richard Felix begins and ends his 3-hour tour that tops off the evening with a candlelit dinner back at the pub. Richard donned his long, black leather trench coat and took us to several of the sites in York that he had researched and investigated himself. He explained many of his ghost hunting theories, and why or why not a place or building could be haunted.
Richard stopped at All Saints Church and explained how the elements in the stones used to build many of the buildings in York can hold the memory of the ghostly spirits into the rock - much like the elements used in making video tape today. Some of the spirits we encounter are just a "play back" like we see on our video cameras. A ghost of a lady with long wavy hair is often seen at the door of the church watching funeral processions. Some believe she may have not had a Christian burial, so she attends funerals at the church.
Another interesting location was Clifford's Tower. The circular tower was used by Jewish people as a refuge during persecution during the middle ages. During a raid, many of the people inside committed suicide or died in the fire that swept through the tower. At certain times of the year, folks say the ground and walls turn red resembling blood as a reminder of the terrible event that happened there. Ghostly voices are often heard by visitors of the tower.
Richard walked us to the doors that led to the old gallows. He showed us an old photograph that depicted the platform when it was in place. Many people hear disembodied voices in this spot and the snap of the rope as the gallows platform drops.
Down on the waterfront, Richard showed us the spot where a man drowned and has been seen walking along the banks of the River. One of the oldest pubs in York still lines the riverbank.
The Old Starre Inn was another one of our pub stops. The basement was used to house wounded soldiers during the British Civil War. Screams and cries are heard coming from the cellar area. Richard informed us the room we were sitting in was once a morgue where they laid out the bodies. A black cat haunts the building and an old woman has been seen on the stairs. Richard and dinner guests witnessed a man standing in the doorway watching them dine. When they rose from their table to investigate, they saw the man walk into a wall in the other room and disappear.
He took us past the Body Shop which once housed the old Craven's Sweet Factory. There is a lot of poltergeist activity associated with this site. The mischievous ghost often sets off the fire alarms.
In another alley way, Richard told us about a phenomenon that was often heard by the townsfolk. The sound of boot steps - accompanied by the sound of one jingly spur - was heard walking from one side of the alley to the other. When doing repairs on the building next door, they uncovered a hidden grave. Along with the pile of bones was the remnant of one spur. After the corpse was removed and properly buried, the haunting ceased.
The Black Swan is one of the oldest pubs in the city of York. It was built in the 15th Century as a residence. A lady in white appears near the fireplace. A man in a hat and Victorian clothing is seen in the bar area as if he is waiting for someone. We made a stop at this pub for more "spirits". Richard led us upstairs to a large room where we were seated at old wooden tables. The owner of the pub came upstairs and told us about several paranormal experiences he has had with the ghosts through the years. He has been pinched and shoved by the ghost many times. He witnessed potatoes and other items being tossed about the kitchen. He has seen the ghost for a few seconds out of the corner of his eye while closing up the pub. Others have seen the ghost of the man on the main staircase. Sometimes only the lower half of the spirit's body can be seen.
We walked near the York Treasurers House. In 1953, Harry Martindale was doing construction work in the basement of the building. Suddenly he heard the trumpets and horns of the Romans. As the sound seemed to be getting closer, he witnessed a troop of Roman Soldiers marching towards him, although their lower legs were not visible. The Treasurers House was built over an old Roman road that was 15 inches below the basement floor. The ghostly soldiers were still walking on the original roadway.
We swung through the narrow street called Shambles Street. It was where the old meat markets and butcher shops once lined both sides of the streets. The meat was displayed on wooden shelves outside the shops - many are still there.
We ended our tour back at the Golden Fleece Pub. The building was once called Merchant Adventures and was a 16th Century wool trade operation. It was also the residence for one of the mayors of York. There are reports of furniture moving on its own. A young lad who may have been a stable boy has been seen in the building. Watch your pockets. The boy seems to enjoy rifling through men's pockets as they stand near the bar. A Canadian World War II pilot fell out of an upstairs window and has been seen on occasion in the building too. The ghost of a former owner, Lady Peckett, still roams the halls.
We all enjoyed a great buffet provided by the Golden Fleece staff. While we enjoyed our late night dinner, Richard posed for photos with many of us. He took time to sign his many books and DVDs so we would have a great remembrance of the evening. Richard Felix's walking tour of York (complete with buffet) is definitely one of the highlights of the Haunted Tour of England, and should not be missed!
Carl had the coach waiting for us outside the pub - no stumbling though the streets required - and he whisked us away to a hotel in Leeds where we called it a night.
Danny, Charles' tour partner who had greeted us at the airport, rejoined the group, as did Alan Murdie.
Day 5 Whitby-Abbey Ruins-Dracula Experience-Dracula Tour/Ghost Tour
We left Leeds at 10am and continued heading to the North Sea coast village of Whitby. Our first stop of the day was the Abbey Ruins. Whitby Abbey is a ruined Benedictine abbey that sits stately on Whitby's East Cliff in North Yorkshire on the north-east coast of England. The magnificent ruins of Whitby Abbey are much more than a spectacular cliff top landmark. Generations have been drawn to this dramatic headland as a site of settlement, religious devotion and literary inspiration. It was founded in the year 657AD by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy (Oswiu) as Streoneshalh (the historical name of the town Whitby where the abbey is located.)
There are 199 steps to reach the cliffs that overlook the town and the harbor entrance to the North Sea. The abbey was destroyed in the early 1500's, although the ruins are still there. The collapse of the nave in 1762 and the collapse of the central tower west front later in the 18th century left Whitby Abbey in a state of total ruin until an excavation project began in the 1920's. To add insult to injury the German Fleet shelled the abbey in 1914.
It was raining and very windy as our tour group explored the ruins. We carefully protected our cameras with our ponchos and umbrellas. Several members of the group dashed to the tea room for hot chocolate, coffee and tea. Others wandered over to St. Mary's church and the wonderful cemetery filled with old sailors, whalers and fishermen from centuries past. What a grand view of the North Sea these mariners have in their final port.
Our coach drove us into town and let us off in a parking lot near the Royal Hotel. Alan marched us down the hill and to the ill-fated attraction "The Dracula Experience." Advertised to be an interactive encounter with the history of Dracula with dozens of actors -- we all laughed when we finished the walk through the building in less than five minutes. Apparently the actors were on holiday or simply off duty for our visit. Or perhaps they were ghosts who never materialized. Cheesy, yes, but we couldn't possibly go on such a tour and not visit an attraction called "The Dracula Experience."
We were given free time on our own to pick up those last trinkets for family and friends. It was still sprinkling out, but I had a sure fire method of stopping the rain. I bought a new umbrella…and yes, of course the rain stopped immediately! Some of our group bought costume accessories for the masquerade ball coming up on the last night of our tour. There were great goth shops scattered throughout the town. Others opted for quiet time for tea or dining. A small group walked along the seashore and found interesting rocks. Cindy and I dodged seagulls as we tried to eat our fish and chips.
A large part of the tour group had drinks in the Royal Hotel. This is the hotel where Bram Stoker wrote a large portion of his Dracula novel.
Looking across the harbor toward East Cliff, he had the perfect view of the North Sea, the Abby, and the picturesque town of Whitby.
Harry Collett is known as "The Storywalker." He is an expert on the thousand-year history of the North Yorkshire port of Whitby. With the Storywalker as our guide, he led us down the secret alleyways, hidden corners and ghauts of Whitby. In character and full costume, Harry gave us the highlights of both of his tours. "Whitby Ghost Walk" is a 75-minute tour of the stranger, inexplicable side of Whitby's history - tales of mystery and murder. His "In Search of Dracula Walk" takes you on a journey which allows visitors to retrace the Count's steps through the ancient streets. The rich background of the town and its surroundings is evident in the Storywalker's gripping and effective narrative, providing an unforgettable experience in a deeply historical location.
'Our fear of vampires is as ancient as our fear of darkness,' suggests Harry. Not frightening enough to keep away the two thousand Goths who flock to Whitby each May and November for festivals. And tourists are always fascinated by the depth of Harry's knowledge. The questions he is most often asked are "Is Dracula still alive?" "Where is he buried?" and "Are you Dracula?"
At the end of the tour, we rushed on to the coach for a nighttime drive to the town of Hull where we checked into the quaint Hotel Elizabeth Hull with visions of garlic tucked under our pillows.
Day 6 (&7)-Castle Rising-Windsor Castle area-The Magnificent Masquerade
After a good night's sleep in Hull, we boarded the coach once again and started to make our journey back to London. Our long coach ride began with crossing the Huber Bridge just 5 miles west of Hull. Its 4,626 ft main span is one of the longest in the world. It carries a four lane highway and pedestrian walkways. More than 200 incidents of people jumping or falling from the bridge have taken place since it was opened in 1981 - with only five surviving. This could also make it one of England's most haunted bridges, and one of the most dangerous.
Castle Rising is one of the most famous 12th Century castles in England. The massive stone castle, built around 1140AD, is amongst the finest surviving examples of its kind. The handsome fore building stands almost concealed within the formidable bank and ditch of the central oval enclosure. A small gatehouse sets in the bank to the east. This lavish castle was built by William D'Albini for his new wife, the widow of Henry I. In the 14th century it became the luxurious exile-place of Queen Isabella, widow (and alleged murderess) of Edward II. They say Isabella spent the rest of her life wandering about the upper floors of Castle Rising. The castle is haunted by the screams of Queen Isabella. Witnesses say the sounds of a mad woman echo from the castle in the middle of the night. In its time Rising has served as a hunting lodge, royal residence, and for a brief time in the 18th century even housed a mental patient.
As our group posed on the stairs at the entrance of Castle Rising, we witnessed what might always remain a mystery. As we sat facing the door, we saw an unattended, runaway pram slowly wheel past the open doorway. Was it the wind? Or was it a ghost?
Just as we had lined up the cameras near the steps by Danny, a pushy photographer entered the doorway and insisted we move so that his bride and groom could get their once in a lifetime (we can only hope) wedding photos. But wasn't this a once in a lifetime Kodak moment for all of us too? Indeed! But we were kind and let them do their photo shoot.
We arrived back in London about 4PM. We had some time before we needed to get ready for an evening gala, so Danny arranged for the coach to drop us off near the Windsor Castle shops, where almost everyone finished their gift buying for friends and family at home. A few members of the group opted to take a ride on a gigantic London ferris wheel with spectacular views of Windsor Castle and the surrounding area. Others made a valiant attempt to tour Windsor Castle, but we missed the last tour of the day by only minutes. It was still a very pleasant surprise, and we thank Danny for squeezing it into the itinerary.
Carl, our fearless coach driver, dropped us off at our final hotel near Heathrow airport. We bid Carl farewell and thanked him for the fine job he did keeping us safe on the highways.
Now it was time to change into our masquerade costumes and head to the hotel banquet room for an evening of fun and entertainment with our fellow tour members. A delicious buffet was waiting for us and we were all starving from yet another busy day on the road. Danny was on hand to lead the fun games and interactive dancing during the night's events. Prizes were awarded for the best costumes and we danced our way into haunted tour history through the late hours of the night.
Costume Contest Winners!
Best Overall - Cindy Sexiest-Ravin Most Original-Jen Scariest - Nancy
The following morning, the group voted to sleep in. We all anticipated the long journey back to the states, but hated to see our "haunted holiday" end at the same time. The trip sparked many new friendships and I am sure most of us will be in touch with each other for years to come. I want to thank all of the people on the haunted GHOSTour of England for sharing some of their fantastic photos with me to make these stories special. Remember to "mind the gap," your seat number on the bus (I was #10), buy a hair dryer in London, don't be too scared at "The Dracula Experience" in Whitby, and whenever you pose for a photograph, don't forget to smile and say "CHEESY ORBS!"
note: Debe Branning is the director of the MVD Ghostchasers paranormal team which conducts regular investigations of haunted, historical locations throughout Arizona. Debe owns a 1972 Cadillac Hearse and is on the board of directors of the Pioneer's Cemetery Association in Phoenix, AZ. She also writes a wonderful column on ghosts for examiner.com.
Subscribe for free here: http://www.examiner.com/x-2345-Arizona-Haunted-Sites-Examiner.
Back to Tour Reports
Click Here For Free Color Brochure
315 Derby Avenue, Orange, CT 06477 USA
Tel: (203) 795-4737 Fax: (203) 891-8433