Coppergate Walk, 7:30 p.m., outside the Jorvik Viking Centre, a small group of students is waiting for the so-called “Ghost Detective”, a man who will hopefully show us the dark side of York. Suddenly a guy with a strange facial expression walks down the street, searching for something we cannot see, staring at other people, eying us from top to toe. This has to be the Ghost Detective. Dressed in a black suit with a black hat and a folding walking stick he takes us to parts of York that we would never have explored on our own. After a few minutes we leave the big streets and typical tourist areas behind us and walk along narrow passageways and dark streets while hearing tales of phantoms, ghosts, apparitions and supernatural stories of the strange and macabre. We get to know stories of murderers whose victims’ screams you can still hear today on calm nights when the moon does not shine. We hear tales of children buried in a cupboard or a girl who died of starvation. Her parents locked her up because they thought she was infected with plague.
Here and there we stop in front of bright, nice houses but although they do not look suspicious they keep dark secrets and our guide knows them all. We listen spellbound as the Ghost Detective tells us the horrifying truth about these places in his own comedic style (for example when he shows us the most horrifying house in York: the tax building) .
On our way through old York the Ghost Detective (his real name is Gary Goldthorpe, a professional actor) does not merely tell bloodcurdling tales of the haunted and the damned – he actively investigates them, integrating our own speculations on what has happened at a special place, which gives the whole tour an atmosphere of immediacy and truth.
After an hour the tour ends at York Minster and we all see this wonderful and ancient city in a different light because we have to face the fact that there is more to explore than museums, shops or pubs. Now I know that York hides a lot of secrets, tales and mystery stories and this is entirely due to the Ghost Detective. His excellent mix of truth, horror and mystery, the combination of serious storytelling and British humour is my personal highlight of the Yorkshire Excursion 2006.