Cathedral Church of St Peter, York Minster
The largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster dates from between 1220 and 1472. It is built upon the site of York’s Roman Basilica and subsequently the location chosen for an early Christian Church (627AD – 640AD). I may seem strange then that one of the most famous reported haunting experiences at the minster does not involve a member of the clergy or a Roman, in fact it concerns a Naval Officer.
The following account of the experience was published in ‘Accredited Ghost Stories’ (1823) by T M Jarvis. ‘It is not many years ago since Mr. B. L, accompanied some friends on a visit to York Cathedral: the party was numerous and amongst them were a gentleman and his two daughters. Mr. B. L. was with the eldest of these ladies, exploring the curiosities of the building, rather at a distance from the rest of their companions. On turning from the monument to which their attention had been directed, an officer in a naval uniform was observed advancing towards them. It was rather an unusual circumstance to encounter a person thus accoutred in a place so far distant from the sea, and of so unmilitary a character. Mr. B. L. was on the point of making a trivial observation on the subject to his companion, when on turning his eyes towards her and pointing out the approaching stranger to her notice, he saw an immediate paleness spread over her face, and her countenance became agitated by the force of the powerful and contending emotions which were suddenly excited by his presence. As the stranger drew more near and his figure and his features gradually became more distinctly visible through the evening gloom and the dim religious light of the cathedral, the lady’s distress was evidently increased: she leant on the arm of Mr. B. L. with the weight of one who was painfully afflicted and felt the necessity of support. Shocked at the oppression which he witnessed, but wholly ignorant of the cause — alarmed — hurried — supposing her to be suffering from the paroxysm of some violent and sudden indisposition, Mr. B. L. called to entreat the assistance of her sister. The figure in the naval uniform was now immediately before them: the eyes of the lady were fixed upon him with a gaze of silent and motionless surprise and a painful intensity of feeling; her lips were colourless and apart, and her breath passed heavily from the full and overburthened heart. The form was close upon them: — it approached her side: — it paused but for an instant: — as quick as thought, a low and scarcely audible voice whispered in her ear – “There is a future state;” and the figure moved onward through the retiring aisle of the minster. The father of the lady arrived to the assistance of his daughter, and Mr. B. L. consigning her to his protection, hastened in pursuit of the mysterious visitor. He searched on every side: no such form was to be seen in the long perspective of the path by which the ill omened stranger had departed. He listened with the most earnest attentiveness: no sound of retreating footsteps was to be heard on the echoing pavement of the cathedral.
Baffled in his attempt to discover the object whose presence had thus disturbed the tranquility of the time, Mr. B. L. re-sought his friends. The lady was weeping on the shoulder of her father: she avoided every inquiry respecting the cause, the seat, and the nature of her illness: — “It was slight; it was transient; it would immediately be over.” She entreated the party to continue their examination of the building, and to leave her again to the protection of her former companion. The request was granted; and no sooner had she thus possessed herself of an opportunity of confidential communication than she implored him, with a quick and agitated voice, to conceal for a little while the occurrence of which he had been a witness: — “We shall never be believed: besides, it were right that my poor dear father should be gradually prepared for the misery that he is destined to undergo. I have seen the spirit, and I have heard the voice of a brother, who exists no longer: he has perished at sea. We had agreed that the one who died the first should reappear to the survivor, if it were possible, to clear up or to confirm the religious doubts which existed in both our minds.”
In due time the account of the event arrived to verify the spiritual intimation: the brother was indeed no more. His death had happened on the very day and hour in which his form was seen by Mr. B. L. and his sister, in the north aisle of York Cathedral.
Note: In the original MS. of this story, the name was given at length; but, while the sheets were passing through the press, a friend of the party stated to the publisber that making public the names would distress the feelings of more than one individual: they are therefore withheld.
It has been suggested that the ghost of Dean Gale (Born 1676 – Died 1702) may haunt York Minster and his apparition is thought to have been seen sitting the and listening to the sermons.