The Ghost Keeper of York

THE PLAGUE HOUSE

There is a rather fine building near to the Eastern end of York Minster with stone front and an oriel window projecting outward. That building is nowadays nicknamed ‘The Plague House’. That is a relatively recent nickname for it.

During the 1950s the place was occupied by a man and his wife and their two children: a little boy and a little girl. Also living with them was the nurse. Now the nurse was one of those people who claim to be psychic - she could see things that other people cannot see, hear things that other people cannot hear. Shortly after the family moved in there, the nurse started to hear things: sounds coming from the bedroom there with the oriel window - the childrens' bedroom.

It was the sound of a child crying, sobbing. Nothing unusual there you might think - she would carefully go up the stairs, gently open the bedroom door and look around, but the two children would always be fast asleep, there was no one else in the room and the crying sound would stop. This happened many times, but then about six months after the family moved in there, the sound of crying came again one night, this time though, much, much louder. So much so that the nurse felt compelled to dash up the stairs, fling open the bedroom door and look around. The two children were once again fast asleep, but there, over in a corner in an instant, she saw the figure of a little girl in rags which disappeared almost as soon as she had seen it.

Well, the nurse told no one about these events, she was frightened of being ridiculed, or perhaps even of losing her job. And so, the years went by, these incidents kept happening and she told not a soul. But then, one day, the children complained to their parents. They said: ‘Mummy and Daddy, please make the little girl go away - she just sits on the edge of the bed at night and she just cries all the time’

It was at this point that the nurse blurted out everything that had happened in the intervening years, and so the two children were removed from that room and put into another one. Then, they took the rather unusual step of bringing in a medium - someone who can talk to dead spirits. And so one cold windy night in November, they held a s’ance, and from that s’ance, they discovered some extremely interesting facts about that very building during the 1600s.

Apparently at one point the place was occupied by a local merchant and his wife. Also living with them was their little girl. A very pretty little girl' with blonde hair and blue eyes' Of course in those days the Plague was very much feared throughout Europe - the Bubonic Plague, affectionately known in this country as ‘the Black Death’. You may not be aware of the symptoms of the disease, but if you aren’t, you will be very shortly' they shall be told to you here:

The bacteria attacks the lymphatic system of the body, causing the lymph nodes to swell up and erupt in angry sores, called ‘buboes’ - hence the name ‘Bubonic plague’. These buboes appear under the armpit, in the elbow area and in the groin region and they weep with mucus and pus, and as the disease progresses, these sores get redder and redder, darker and darker, blacker and blacker until eventually a horrible, rotting, death comes about.

If the disease reaches the lungs, then a particularly nasty death ensues, because, as the lungs fill up with the infected fluid, so the victim quite literally drowns in his or her own phlegm.

Well, the plague did visit this house and laid its cold hand on the shoulder of that merchant and his wife. They became very ill and local people found out about this, so one day, being very afraid of catching the disease themselves, these local people came out with hammer and nails and planks of wood and boarded up the entire building, thus imprisoning everyone inside.

Unfortunately, the merchant and his wife died quite quickly of the disease, but the little girl was one of those lucky people who are resistant: she became ill for a while, but then she recovered. Or was she lucky? There was only a limited amount of food and drink in the house, after a while, she started to get very hungry and thirsty. She began to bang on the planking - SCREAMING for people to let her out - but no one came to her aid. They thought she had the plague, you see, and they were frightened.

And so, that little girl must have died a very lingering death, of hunger and of thirst, no doubt clinging to the stiffening fingers of the decaying bodies of her own parents.

Well, it is said that the child haunts the place now. Apart from the crying noises, she has been seen at that very bedroom window as the glowing figure of a little girl with a tear-streaked face, looking out at the world - and no doubt the future - that she was so cruelly denied by those ignorant people.