Could there possibly be room in York for yet another ghostly attraction? To find out David Nicholson took the ride to the other side
It’s no surprise that “Europe’s most haunted city” should be crawling with tourists every night in search of ghostly encounters. For this we can thank author John Mitchell who inspired York’s legendary storyteller Trevor Rooney to devise the entire ghost walk genre more than 30 years ago.
The success of this entertaining blend of street theatre, comedy, local history and mild supernatural scare stories has endured and led to a growing industry, widely emulated in several of Britain’s ancient heritage cities.
Now, if you fancy a slight twist on the original, who you gonna call? The answer, as we discovered this week, is Ghost Bus Tours.
Climb aboard a genuine Routemaster bus at Exhibition Square and prepare for an absorbing 75 minutes of tongue-in-cheek theatrical spookiness.
The concept is based on the “Necrobus”, a London funeral transport service that used to convey the deceased together with pall bearers and up to 50 mourners to out-of-town burial sites run by the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company.
York author Andrew Martin wrote about the same company’s train service in his murder mystery, The Necropolis Railway.
Inside the ghost bus and a spooky presence at St Crux. Click to see a bigger image
York’s restored Routemaster has been fitted out with suitably gloomy livery and the interior atmosphere is decidedly coffin-like.
The show – for a scripted show is what we were experiencing – is played for laughs from the start.
A slightly demented conductor is never far away, either in person on the upper deck and, when he is making an appearance on the lower deck, on the bus’s video screens.
Route and prices
The bus circumnavigates the city via Gillygate, Lord Mayor’s Walk, Foss Bank, Stonebow, Tower Street, then a detour via Dick Turpin’s grave, before heading along Bishopthorpe Road, Knavesmire and back by way of The Mount and Queen Street
Adults £15; children (under 15) £10; students and concessions £12; family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £45
The dozen or more ghostly tales – Tudor spirits at King’s Manor, plague victims in Gillygate, the Golden Fleece legends – are almost incidental to the immersive theatrical experience. This was a great way to get a real flavour of the city’s darker past.
Much of the attraction here is that the bus does the work, so this lazy YorkMixer could have done without the rigmarole of dismounting at St Crux churchyard – where a spooky silent character lurked in the corner, later to reappear at Clifford’s Tower, the other location where we also descended from the bus.
We would happily have stayed in the warm of the Routemaster, though fellow passengers seemed glad to have the chance to stretch their legs.
This entertaining frightseeing tour is jolly scary. Well, it’s jolly, all right, with the conductor taking frequent ad-liberties with Peter Davis’s well-crafted script; and, even though the ghostly tales describe some genuinely grisly events, it’s only a little bit scary.
The York Ghost Bus Tours leave from Exhibition Square at 7.30pm and 9pm. Arrive 15 minutes before departure time to meet your creepy conductor