I knew this before we went, and while I was looking around every quiet corner and hoping to catch a glimpse of a Roman Legionnaire, I didn’t really expect to experience a ghost of my own.
But I was wrong!
All it took was a bit of hunger, a big street sign, and an impulse decision to follow the propaganda and see what it lead to.
But see, we didn’t even know. We just wanted lunch, and where better to try a meal than the pub with the longest held license in the entire two thousand year old city? We figured even if the food sucked, we would still have the experience of spending time inside a business that was somewhere around five hundred years old. Possibly even older, but the records don’t really exist before that.
After following the sign and squeezing our way through a very narrow alleyway we came out into this beautiful and peaceful courtyard full of flowers and people happily enjoying their beer.
We found a small empty table in the front room right next to the fireplace, and sat next to a lovely couple who brought in their sweet dog. Their sweet dog who hid under the table and who seemed very reluctant to go into the main room of the restaurant.
See that photo above? I took that from my seat in the Inn, and it’s become my second most popular photo on Instagram, still collecting likes every day. I’m not really sure why? Maybe because I mention the ghosts.
You see, at this point I still didn’t know about the ghosts.
The ghosts of the cats who were entombed alive in this pillar.
Can you just imagine it? Two poor little dusty cat skeletons left to collect cobwebs forever. What we now know is that it was a common local superstitious practice for centuries during the construction of these buildings to brick up a pair of back cats into a central pillar. The spirits of the cats were considered to bring good luck, and to ward off fire and evil spirits.
What I knew at the time is that sweet dog wouldn’t get anywhere near it, and that that I was sitting right next to a permanently closed interior door which, over the course of two hours, continuously sounded like it was being scratched by an animal.
Then I read the back of the menu and learned about the legend of the cats, along with the stories of the Royalist soldier and the Old Woman who can only be seen by children.
It was our lucky day! Here we were totally surrounded by the beautiful and incredibly historic city of York, and we were getting a front row seat to the sounds of one of their most famous local ghosts!
When we were ready to leave, I walked through the restaurant to see what was on the other side of the door. Do you see that hostess station behind and to the left of the pillar above? That’s it. There were no cats, no dogs, no access for any guests or children who could have been doing any kind of scratching. I’m pretty sure the host on duty that day wasn’t down on his knees making scratching noises for my benefit.
No, I think we had an actual ghost cat experience.
That’s my belief and I’m sticking to it, mainly because I love the idea of it. Of course it could have been rats in the walls, or something just as logical, but that would be no fun. No, it was the cats. Two poor cats who were victims of superstition and tradition, trying to escape their perpetual imprisonment.
What about you? Are we the only ones who have heard or seen a ghost?