St. Mary’s Church, Scarborough
St Mary’s Church is a Grade I listed building dating from the 12th century, though much of it was rebuilt in the 17th century after it was damaged during the siege ofScarborough Castle during the English Civil War in 1644. In ‘Haunted Churches’ (1939), Elliott O’Donnell (27 February 1872 – 8 May 1965) refers to a woman keeping vigil at St Mary’s on St Mark’s Eve. Between the 17th and 19th century it was thought that holding a vigil in a church porch during the hours of 11.00pm through to 1.00am on three successive years would reveal the identities of those due to die and be buried in the churchyard over the coming year as their apparitions (or coffins or headless corpses depending on the source) entered the church in procession.
O’Donnell says that, ‘In Yorkshire it is further believed that if the watcher falls asleep during his vigil, he will die himself in the course of the year. An authentic case of a St. Mark’s Eve vigil is related by Mr. William Henderson. On St. Mark’s Eve, 1786, an old woman of Scarborough went to the porch of St. Mary’s church in order to see into the future. On the stroke of midnight ” figure after figure glided into the church, turning round to her as they went on, so that she recognised their familiar faces. At last a figure turned and gazed at her ; she knew herself, screamed, and fell senseless to the ground, but she did not long survive the shock.”
Note: Anne Bronte is buried in St Mary’s graveyard.