York: The City That Ever Creeps by Helen Cox

body in the Bookshop

Nights are getting darker, the weather's getting colder, and the spooky season is officially upon us! To celebrate, Helen Cox, author of the Kitt Heartley Series takes us on a chilling tour of beautiful historic York.

Posted on November 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

Being born and bred in Yorkshire, I already knew there were one or two weird things about York when I started researching the Kitt Hartley series. I had no idea however just how bizarre the city was at heart. For example, if you catch typos in any books you read there, this may not be the fault of the publisher. It may be the work of The Stonegate Devil. Stonegate is a quaint cobbled street in the centre of York frequented by many tourists. In the 16th Century it was best-known for its bookshops and printers. According to folklore at the time, each printing shop was plagued by a mischievous demon that took giddy pleasure in taking out whole lines of copy, rearranging letters and misspelling words. Visit 33 Stonegate and you will see a devilish monument there to the demon who stalked that particular print shop, and perhaps haunts the books of the city still…

As if mischievous sprites rearranging your carefully ordered words weren’t creepy enough, in the early 19th Century the people of York took the definition of macabre to a whole new level. The Yorkshire Witch, known to what friends she had as Mary Bateman, is believed to have been born in 1768 near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. She was executed at York Castle in 1809 for murder, after which her body was reportedly put on display. Her corpse drew crowds from far and wide and apparently strips of the witch’s skin were sold as souvenirs to those who wanted a fond reminder of their visit. Never let it be said that Yorkshire folk don’t know a business opportunity when they see one.

In addition to devils and witches, York has its fair share of spooks. There is a whole ghost walk dedicated to educating visitors about the hauntings of the city. Perhaps most infamous though is the spectral legion of Roman soldiers witnessed marching through the basement of the Treasurer’s House in 1953 by one Harry Martindale. The soldiers were only visible from the knee-up and walked straight through the basement walls. Poor Harry was so shocked to see them he took two weeks off work to recover.

York Ghost Tale

As far-fetched as a ghostly Roman legion may sound, there are those who believe it’s not so big of a leap as York is home to an astral crossroads. The true meaning of the name Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate, a very short street not far from The Shambles, has long been a subject of debate. Some believe the original street name was ‘Whitnourwhatnourgate’ which translates as ‘What a Street!’ Others believe that the ‘Whip’ part of the name relates to the whipping post and stocks that likely stood there. A further interpretation of this name however is ‘not one thing nor another’ which has led to the idea that the street is a sort of liminal crossroads for psychic activity. A place between the realms.

If you’ve enjoyed roaming the spooky streets of York, try out Helen’s Kitt Hartley series!




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