During my time in England (July 2018), I decided to book myself in for a night at one of York’s most haunted pubs, the Golden Fleece.
The day was hot and bright outside and walking into the pub early in the morning was a complete contrast. The pub was cool and very dark inside. Low beamed ceilings and wooden panels all around, gas lamps, uneven floors and crooked door frames; it all told a story of an ancient drinking tavern.
The Golden Fleece is in the heart of the city of York, opposite to the famous medieval shambles. It’s one of the oldest pubs in York. The exterior of the pub is tall and narrow and the figure of a golden sheep hanging above the front door depicts the name of the pub. The pub was named for guild members of the nearby Merchant Adventurer’s Hall who used to trade in fleeces and wool.
The pub, which also serves as a hotel, was built around 1503, at least this is when it was first mentioned in the York Archives. The pub was built with a wooden frame and has no foundations, the result is that the floors, ceilings and doorways all sloping, but it’s all adds to the character of this quaint hotel pub. Ancient roman roads run under the building. The building lies between two equally old oak beamed buildings. A ghostly white cat protrudes from the wall above the pub sign.
Regarding the cat, cats have played a part in York’s history and luck has been linked with them since records began as cats always land on their feet and have nine lives. Statues of cats have been placed on buildings in York for around two Centuries and some statues which have since been removed or rotted are thought to date from medieval times. The original cat statues were placed on buildings to frighten away rats and mice which can carry plague and illness. They were also thought to ward off wandering evil spirits and generally to bestow good luck and good health on citizens who needed feline friends to ensure a good night sleep. There are now 22 cats scattered around York city centre on roof tops, eaves and chimneys. Tourist can do the famous York cat trail to find these
The pub now consists of two bars front and rear (the rear known as the merchants bar) separated by a corridor (which I believe was once an actually alleyway) where stairs lead up to four bedrooms known as The Shambles room, Lady Pecketts room, The Minister Suite and St. Catherine’s room. Each room has an ensuite, but each room is uniquely different. The bathroom of St Catherine’s room had disappeared off the plans of the building and was only rediscovered in 2000. Lady Peckett’s has a preserved ceiling rose, The Shambles room as the name suggests looks over the York Shambles and the Minster Suite has views over the Shambles and the towers of the York Minster.
The pub is definitely proud of its haunted reputation and amusingly has a skeleton propped in the rear bar (his name is Saul Goodfellow and apparently he has his own blog) and there is also one sat in the beer garden. The walls in the corridor between the bar are covered with news reports of ghost stories related to the pub. The walls up the stairs have many pictures of the Shambles taken in the 18 century. A metal plate on the door warns “Beware of the Ghosts” and a phantom-themed walk entitled the ‘York Terror Trail’ starts from here every evening
There are thought to be fifteen spirits which haunt the pub. The most famous and the most talked about is Lady Alice Peckett, wife of John Peckett, who used to be the mayor of York and also the owner of the hotel. Many guests have reported seeing Alice wandering the corridors of the hotel, moving furniture around and walking up and down staircases in the small hours of the night. The pub is reported to be very active. The types of activity reported include, apparitions, footsteps in the corridor, items being moved around or disappearing.
Another of the famous ghosts is Geoff Monroe a Canadian airman who fell from the upper windows of the hotel (room 4) during World War II (1945) and broke his neck. His ghost has been said to haunt the bedroom from which he fell. He has been seen standing in his uniform and guests have claimed to have been awoken by the prod of an icey finger. Other ghosts reported include a man known as One Eyed Jack, who is often seen wearing a 16-17th century red coat, carrying a pistol, in the rear bar of the pub. Along with him someone described as a grumpy old man has also been seen in the rear bar. There are also stories of young boy who was trampled to death by horses during Victorian times and who is regularly reported to be seen in the front bar.
The pub cellar was used to hold the dead bodies of criminals as a temporary measure until their relatives came to identify them. Roman soldiers have also reported to been seen in the cellar of the hotel.
The pub was once investigated by the Most Haunted television programme in 2005 and is often now visited by paranormal teams including public ghost hunting trips.
My night in the pub
The night I was staying in the Golden Fleece was the night England was playing Croatia in the Football world cup semi-final, so York was pretty busy with people packing into pubs to watch the match. The Golden Fleece didn’t have TV, so the pub remained quiet during this time. As the pubs were so busy, I ended up watching the match with my husband and son in my room. England lost unfortunately, but the streets remained quite busy with until gone around 1 am with pub goers spilling out onto the street (drinking to console themselves rather than celebrating!). Also the pub had a band playing in the bar until midnight. It was hard to do any investigation during this time.
I was staying in the Shambles room. This was a beautiful room with a large four poster bed, a sofa and an original fireplace in the room. The view of the Shambles was fantastic and below my window I should see the hanging golden sheep and above my window the ghost cat. The bathroom was tastefully renovated with the original fireplace retained in the room. The floors in the bathroom were slopping so much that to walk to the toilet you were literally walking up hill!
The room had a good atmosphere and I didn’t feel uncomfortable or threatened at any time while I was there.
During my stay I carried out 3 or 4 evps sessions in the late evening and in the early hours of the morning after the pub had closed. I took EMF readings and temperature readings over the night. The evp sessions during the evening were tricky as I was mainly picking up a lot of bar noise and street noise. Later on, although the bar and street was quieter, it seemed quite dead activity wise and I didn’t capture any responses. I captured a couple of EMF spikes while sat on the bed, but otherwise the EMF readings remained steady. The temperature in the room fluctuated between 23ºC and 25ºC, with no major variations.
Before heading off to bed, I left some trigger objects such as spoons and a necklace in an arrangement and took some photos in case anything moved. I encouraged any spirits there to move them. Unfortunately nothing had moved by the morning.
Despite the lack of action with the equipment, I did have some interesting experiences, particularly over the night which I have tried to explain below.
The smell of flowers on the staircase
As myself, my husband and my son headed up to my room in the early part of the evening to watch the football, there was a strong flowery smell on the staircase. We all smelt it. My husband commented it was probably air freshener from the toilet (there was a small ladies toilet half way up the stairs). I smelt the same strong flowery smell on two other occasions, later that evening and then once the next morning, and interestingly on different parts of the staircase each time. The smell was very localised, i.e. just on a specific area the stairs each time; if you went further up or down the stairs the smell disappeared. On both latter occasions, I went into the ladies toilet and checked around. I could see no air freshener there or anyway else around the staircase. Even going into the ladies toilet I couldn’t smell the flowery smell in there. The source of the smell for me, therefore, remains a bit of a mystery.
Nausea, musty smells and the TV
At exactly 3.03 am I awoke suddenly from a dream in which I was dreaming that I was feeling really sick, only to awake and find that I was actually feeling quite nauseous. To make it worse I could smell an incredibly strong smell which I can only really describe as being quite musty and quite unpleasant. Having been in the room all evening I don’t recall having smelt this smell before. Then the TV flashed and came on. I had to get up out of bed and find the remote to switch it off. The nausea disappeared once I was awake and I the smell seemed to have disappeared as I got back into bed.
In the morning I explored the TV and the remote to see how easy it was for the TV to come on by itself, but the only way it would come on was to press down the on off button. There was no standby. Other than watching the football early in the evening, the TV had been off the rest of my time there.
As I got back into bed following the TV incident, I could hear the stairs creaking outside as if someone was walking up and down. The creaking kept stopping and starting. This could have been another guest creeping around. I should have just opened my door to check, but my door was also so creaky and loud I didn’t want to freak anyone out if they were moving around on the staircase. I set my voice recorder up and got back into bed and left this running for the reminder of the night while I went back to sleep. I still have analysis to do on the recording, but I’ve picked up creaking on the stairs, numerous bangs and what sounds like a dragging sound, this happened 3 to 4 times. As mentioned above Lady Alice Peckett is supposed to wander the staircase on a night. But having not opened my door to investigate (which I kind of regret now), I may have to put this down to another guest creeping around. I’m not sure what might have made the other sounds. I’m aiming to try and amplify these a bit more to see if I can determine what they could be.
That really sums up my stay at the Golden Fleece for a night, so I had a few interesting experiences and some possible activity particularly with the smells, and the TV incident. Overall, I loved staying there. The pub was such an old interesting and characterful place and the room was beautiful. I’ll definitely plan to stay there again and do some more investigation on my return to the UK.
I would recommend it to anyone visiting York if especially if you’re interested staying somewhere with a ghostly reputation.