The Ghost Keeper of York

T'Dog Knaws

It is a little known fact - even in York itself - that, outside the Vatican in Rome, the Minster is the only church in the world to have its own police force. The men that make up this select few have never been known to indulge in flights of fancy or to entertain themselves with silly tales to frighten each other.

Back in the 19th Century one of the longest-serving of these officers was a cynical old man by the name of Gladin who was described by those that knew him as not having enough imagination to make up his own bed, never mind a ghost story. It was understandable then, that when, in 1879, he claimed to have had an uncanny and abnormal experience, not everyone was inclined to dismiss his tale out of hand.

Whenever he went on night duty, it was the old man’s habit to take his dog, both for company and for reasons of security. One cold winter’s night, he and his companion were on guard as usual in the nave of the Minster when suddenly the dog leapt into an upright position, his ears twitching and his head cocking inquisitively from side to side. Gladin was just about to open his mouth to ask what the matter was, when his trusty friend shot off toward the north transept where he was almost immediately swallowed up by the darkness. The old man may not have been able to see him, but the dog gave away his position by the scampering sound of his feet and the little ‘huff’ that he would utter every few seconds, so he followed on behind.

It seemed plain to Gladin that there must be someone hiding in the shadows. Thieves would have plenty of incentive to sneak into the Minster in search of booty - there were all the altar goods, brass fittings and even the lead on the roof if anyone were daft enough to try to get up there. He therefore shouted out a challenge to whoever it was in his most threatening official voice, but before he could finish, he was distracted by the uncanny whimpering noise that his dog was making. He had heard nothing like it before.

Not two seconds later, his attention was then drawn by something equally unusual which appeared under the north west tower - it seemed like a single shaft of blue light, about the same height as a man which hovered briefly before slowly moving to the centre of the west end of the building. It then proceeded up the middle aisle and gently slid in the direction of the south transept.

Men with greater imagination would have likely retreated at this stage, but not Gladin - he followed the apparition to the east corner, never once taking his eyes off it and stood watching the thing as it lingered for what seemed like another ten minutes or so before finally melting into the wall and disappearing completely.

The Minster was generally a quiet place in the dead of night, but Gladin was now struck by how silent everything seemed and suddenly realised that the dog had disappeared. It took him a further ten minutes of whistling and calling before he finally found the poor creature trembling and whining by the great west door. The dog was leaning so hard against the wood that when Gladin opened the door, it fell outside and was off home before he could grab its collar.

From that day on, despite much cajoling and offers of tidbits, the dog would never go near the Minster and old Gladin would have to do his shifts alone.

Of course, when he shared his encounter with his workmates and family, there came the inevitable ribbing and sceptical remarks - even for a man of Gladin’s reputation - and much debate as to whether it had been gin or whisky that had brought on the spiritual experience. But the old man was never fazed by any of these comments and would always retort with a wry smile, “Well, if tha dunt believe me, thoo mun ask t' dog. T' dog knaws!”