Poetry and Prose
Medieval verse to enchant
Olde Yorke towne, of high renown, dates back before ye floode
Two thousand years of historie and moste of it prettie goode
As Eboracum, York was home to Rome’s imperial mighte
Then Jorvik, under Norsemen, always spoyling for ye fighte.
Thys city faire hath had its share of mayhem through the yeares,
Whych led to lottes of sudden deathe and loud lamenting teares,
From violente deathe comes unquiet souls that seeme to take delighte
In scaring goode folke shyttless going “bumpe” all in ye nighte.
Throughout Yorke towne each Inne sets downe ye phantomes that it claimes,
And some have headless serving men and some have blacke-clad dames.
And ancient roomes that echo to ye tramp of ghostlie feet,
Their claimes do growe and yet they knowe, in truthe, they can’t compete
While most Innes there do claime their share of souls that know no peace
They’re jealous as hell of ye ghosts that dwell in ye famous Goldene Fleece
For centuries ye Fleece has been thys haunted Towne’s top pycke,
There are more ghoules within its walles than at wych ye may shake a styck
Top of ye bille, and haunting stille, is ye ghostlie Lady Peckett
She wanders abroad but, thank the Lord; she never maketh a racket (sorrie)
For a moderne spook ye need onlie looke at ye airman sunke in gloome,
A Yankee flyer that did expire when he tried to flie from hys roome.
Ye ghostlie starre of ye Bottom Bar is a man in humour sour,
A grumpie old bloke in longe blacke cloake who grumbleth by the hour,
And tells with groanes and ghostlie moanes of how the world’s gonne madde,
For all the worlde he acteth like he’s Victor Meldrew’s dadde.
Many have spied a Victorian childe in ye Top Bar, clear as a wynk,
A winsome lad who, it is said, departed thys life through drink;
How can it be that one so young should end his life thys way?
It seemeth he was trampled to deathe by the hooves of a Brewer’s Dray.
Down in ye cellar lie’s the ghoste of a feller who was hanged for rape and pillage,
And a soldier from Rome that maye never go home, who marcheth through ye stillage,
In ye kitchen a childe, by tyme beguiled, doth come and goe withal
And ye spectral shade of a tender maid doth vanishe through ye walle.
There’s an olde dead chappe in Tri-corn hatte by ye name of “One-Eyed Jack”,
Who roameth abroad with pistol and sword to ye Bottom Bar and backe,
Wyth a coat of red and a wigge on hys head he paces ye bar in tears,
Tis no surprise, he’s not been served in over 300 years.
Nowe it has to be saide that ye sighte of a heade neathe its owner’s arm can shocke
And ye cowled head floating over ye bedde can make ye knees to knocke
Beste stay awaye iffe ye hearte is fraile or ye longe for an evening of peace
Butte iffe you’re uppe for a frighte come and spend ye nighte in ye ghostlie
As can be seen from this recently discovered “mediaeval” verse the Golden Fleece has a long history of ghostly happenings. For centuries (the building dates back to 1503) this picturesque inn at the heart of old York has been recognized as being seriously haunted!
Some buildings look haunted. They have that grim, brooding, forbidding look about them. But the Golden Fleece is nothing like that. From the outside it’s a delightful, small, slightly misshapen 16th century building squashed between two larger oak-beamed neighbours at the heart of York and overlooking the celebrated “Shambles” row of mediaeval shops. Once inside and wandering through the wood-paneled rooms and down the crooked, gravity–defying corridors (the building has an ancient wooden frame and no foundations!), you get the overwhelming sense that this is a nice, cosy, friendly pub. And it is.
Yet at the same time serious students of the supernatural agree that the Golden Fleece is the most haunted pub in York.
Sightings suggest that the building is home to at least 5, possibly 7, clearly identifiable ghosts who appear in almost all of the rooms; the cellar, both bars, the function room on the first floor and all 4 letting bedrooms – the Shambles Room, Lady Peckett’s Room, St Catherine’s Room and the Minster Suite.
The yard to the rear of the inn is named after Lady Alice Peckett whose husband John was Lord Mayor of York and also owned the Golden Fleece around 1700. Legend has it that Lady Alice is the “resident spirit”- the ghost of an old lady that has been seen on many occasions in both the Shambles Room and Lady Peckett’s Room. She could also be the spectral figure seen disappearing through a Function Room wall. Whenever the lady appears witnesses have remarked on a sweet smell of perfume that seems to accompany her.
A younger woman dressed in black has been seen walking past a window in St Catherine’s Room. Guests in this room have spoken of an “unnaturally oppressive” feeling and several have described the sensation of invisible weights being pressed down on their shoulders.
On a number of occasions patrons in the bottom bar have reported the presence of a ghost dressed in the red coat, wig and breeches characteristic of the 17th century. “One Eyed Jack” as he is known carries an old flintlock pistol and paces fretfully up and down the bar. Mediums believe that Jack met his end there although there are no records of who he was or what happened to him.
Also in the bottom bar many sightings have been made of a ghost described as “a grumpy old man” crouched in a small alcove. Contrary to the suggestion in the verse, this apparition has never been known to speak. He simply looks grumpy.
Towards the front of the pub in the top bar, which is immediately behind the entrance from the main street, patrons have seen the ghost of a young boy in Victorian attire. This poor child is supposed to have been killed accidentally by one of the horses that pulled the delivery cart in those days – the brewer’s dray.
Without doubt the most recent phantom to haunt the Golden Fleece is a WW11 airman, probably Canadian, who died here during the war. There is some confusion over whether he committed suicide by hanging himself or plunged 3 stories to the ground after a drinking session. A number of visitors have reported sightings of this spectral airman standing over them in bed or touching them with an icy hand!
The following extract from the Evening Press of July 13th 1994 throws an interesting light on this tragedy:
“The daughters of a former York landlord today told the haunting tale which led an American family to be spooked by a ghost.
They revealed that the globe trotting spectre that has followed April Keenan and her family from York’s Golden Fleece to her home in California is that of a Canadian airman who fell to his death at the pub on Pavement, York.
Gloria Cartwright, whose parents Harry & Phyllis Scrivener ran the pub after the Second World War said the Canadian fell 3 floors to his death after a drinking session.
For eight years Gloria slept in the room next to the one the airman fell from but she was always too scared to sleep with the light off.
April Keenan yesterday told the Evening Press that the ghost touched her as she slept at the Golden Fleece earlier this year. It then reappeared at her home in Quincey California where she woke up to discover she had written “Geoff Monroe died – The Golden Fleece” on a piece of paper by her bedside.”
In addition to these primary phantoms there have also been sightings of a little girl who appears and disappears in the kitchen, and ghostly Roman soldiers have been seen in the cellar. Records show that, in times gone by, the bodies of convicted felons hanged at nearby Bale Hill would be stored in the pub cellar until such times as their families came to claim them. It is likely that some were never claimed and who knows what may have happened to the bodies! Only the brave would spend a night in this cellar.
It is no surprise that people who live and work in the Golden Fleece have some hair-raising tales to tell. In fact several of them have described how their hair was pulled as if by invisible hands. There are a number of accounts of staff who have felt a sudden tightening around their neck while standing at the bar – the very bar where, it is said, an earlier landlord hanged himself.
In addition to these sightings there have been numerous other disturbing occurrences reported over the years. Doors banging, mysterious footsteps on the stairs, strange lights, cold spots and temperature changes, candles that light themselves, beds that move and doors that slam. Seriously spooky and impressive enough for the “Most Haunted” team from Living TV to camp out with us in 2005 and film their investigations of our resident spectres.
We hope you will visit us at the Golden Fleece and we’re sure you will enjoy your stay even though we can’t guarantee that things will go bump in the night for you. But when you visit the most haunted pub in one of Britain’s most haunted cities, there’s a frightening chance that something strange just might happen!