Haunted Yorkshire

They're Closer Than You Think!


Most paranormal investigators believe that graveyards aren’t haunted due to the fact that the soul has already left the body prior to being buried. However, many years ago, upon creating a new graveyard a black dog would be buried alive on the north side of church yard to protect the spirits of mankind from the devil. This practice was normally used by the early Christians for creating a guardian spirit, the church grim, in order to protect the church. Thus, saving the human soul from the duty.

Buried Alive

The fear of being buried alive peaked during the cholera epidemics of the 18th and 19th centuries but accounts of live burial have been recorded further back. When philosopher John Duns Scotus (1266 – 1308) tomb was reopened, he was reportedly found outside his coffin with his hands torn and bloody after attempting to escape. The fears of being buried alive were heightened by reports of doctors and accounts in literature and the newspapers.

The recovery of supposedly dead victims of cholera, fuelled the demand for safety coffins.

The general fear of premature burial led to the invention of many safety devices which could be incorporated into coffins. Most consisted of some type of device for communication to the outside world such as a cord attached to a bell that the interred person could ring should he revive after the burial. A safety coffin of this type appears in the 1979 film The First Great Train Robbery. Other variations on the bell included flags and pyrotechnics. Some designs included ladders, escape hatches, and even feeding tubes, but many forgot a method for providing air.

The first recorded safety coffin was constructed on the orders of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick before his death in 1792. He had a window installed to allow light in, an air tube to provide a supply of fresh air, and instead of having the lid nailed down he had a lock fitted. In a special pocket of his shroud he had two keys, one for the coffin lid and a second for the tomb door.

The 1820s also saw the use of "portable death chambers" in Germany. A small chamber, equipped with a bell for signalling and a window for viewing the body, was constructed over an empty grave. Watchmen would check each day for signs of life or decomposition in each of the chambers. If the bell was rung the "body" could be immediately removed, but if the watchman observed signs of putrefaction in the corpse, a door in the floor of the chamber could be opened and the body would drop down into the grave. A panel could then be slid in to cover the grave and the upper chamber removed and reused.

In 1829, Dr Johann Gottfried Taberger designed a system using a bell which would alert the cemetery night-watchman. The corpse would have strings attached to its hands, head and feet. A housing around the bell above ground prevented it ringing accidentally. An improvement over previous designs, the housing prevented rainwater from running down the tube and netting prevented insects entering the coffin. If the bell rang the watchman had to insert a second tube and pump air into the coffin with a bellows to allow the occupant to survive until the casket could be dug up.

The systems using cords tied to the body suffered from the drawback that the natural processes of decay often caused the body to swell or shift position, causing accidental tension on the cords and a "false positive". Franz Vester's 1868 "Burial Case" overcame this problem by adding a tube through which the face of the "corpse" could be viewed. If the interred person came to, they could ring the bell (if not strong enough to ascend the tube by means of a supplied ladder) and the watchmen could check to see if the person had genuinely returned to life or whether it was merely a movement of the corpse. Vester's design allowed the viewing tube to be removed and reused once death was assured.

Saved by the bell..

Folk etymology has suggested that the phrases "saved by the bell", "dead ringer" and "graveyard shift" come from the use of safety coffins in the Victorian era; however, these have been dispelled as urban myth.


Mary's churchyard, a large hearse with four jet-black horses would appear beside the grave at night, ready to take him away. A group of ghostly mourners would appear from the coach and remove the body from its grave. The spectral coach, lit by burning torches and driven by a headless phantom coachman shrouded in a black cloak, would then gallop away at speed and plummet over the cliffs into the sea.



York's Bedern area, off Goodramgate, have often spoken of strange experiences, including the sound of children's laughter or screams of terror, as they walk through Bedern Arch on cold nights. In the 19th century this was the site of York Industrial Ragged School, where hundreds of orphan children were kept in dreadful conditions. Many died at the hands of the alcoholic schoolmaster George Pimm.


The village of Eyam, in Derbyshire, was devastated by bubonic plague in 1665. Two of the victims, Emily and Sarah, are said to haunt the 17th-century Miners Arms pub. They can be heard playing, as well as opening and closing doors. Also haunting the pub is an old woman who roams the corridors dressed in black. She is believed to be a former landlady, who was murdered by her husband.