Last weekend I went to an investigation at The Black Swan pub in York The epicentre of ghostly sightings in the UK.


The Black Swan stands in Peasholme Green, so-called because the area used to be a water meadow used for growing peas. The pub, like many in York, is as interesting below ground as it is above. It dates back to the 15th century, when it was a private house, with alterations and additions been made in the following two centuries. Prior to the present building, a medieval inn had stood on the site and remains may well still be beneath the pub.

It was built for William Bowes, a merchant and Sheriff of York in 1417, who also became Lord Mayor in 1428.For many years it was believed that a passageway ran under the road, linking the pub to St Cuthbert’s Church, dating back to when the house was first built.

Later occupants of The Black Swan included William Briggs, who was landlord in the late 19th century, and Fred Wright, in the 1910s, who was there when the Layerthorpe Cycling Club used the pub as its headquarters. It was used as a Horse Refuge during World War II, an ideal place for it as the pub still had sizeable stables at the back. Landlord Edgar Henry was in the pub by 1959, and was quoted as claiming that a York brickmaker “sold his wife here, over a glass of ale, for 1s 6d” in 1884 – wife auctions being quite common in the 19th century.


The Black Swan has a number of ghosts, both in the public area and in the landlord’s accommodation.One of the ‘regulars’ is a workman in a bowler hat who fidgets and tuts, giving the impression he is waiting for someone. He then gradually fades away, while he is being watched, or walks from room to room appearing to look for somebody. The ghost would therefore have to date to after 1850, when bowler hats were introduced, and the overall impression he gives is said to resemble Charlie Chaplin.

Another frequently seen ghost is a young woman in a long white dress, she stands at the bar in the back room gazing into the fireplace, but there is a discrepancy here as her hair has been said to be both long, flaxen and glowing slightly, and long, black and hiding her face.

There is also the rather disconcerting apparition is a pair of man’s legs, seen wandering around the staff quarters, and descending a staircase.


The investigation was held by Haunted Nights and was a well-organised event. I was in a team of 6 people, we were all fairly knowledgeable about the investigating methods we would be using.

The pub itself was still open until 11pm, there weren’t that many people actually in the pub itself to cause noise pollution even at that time.

We investigated mainly the bedrooms until the pub was officially closed. We were using the spirit box (SB-7) and getting some replies mainly unfriendly towards the ladies in the group. Think the word ‘Whore’ frequently came out.

Two of the ladies saw what they believed to be a pair of legs inside the room near the door, I personally didn’t see them but I’ve no reason not to believe what they had seen.

Nothing further happened upstairs on the night. We went downstairs when the pub was closed, there was our team on one side of the bar, and another in an adjacent room… a couple of people from each team said they saw a shadow at the bar at the same time… Again I can’t confirm I saw the shadow, but it was interesting that two teams saw the same thing at the same time.

Nothing occurred on several attempts of using an Ouija board, however, we had an interesting experiment where we had a large planchette on wheels.

5 members of the team were blindfolded, I included… while the remaining team member had a card with yes and no on which they could place on the table at any point without us the participants knowing where she had placed it. The object of the experiment is to ask YES/NO questions and see if we were to receive any relevant replies. The planchette on several prompts of a question went quite forcefully at times to the corresponding card on the table. I can’t really remember what the questions were now, I wished I had recorded the session but at the time did seem reasonable responses. Overall the night was fairly quiet in relation to physical activity for myself, however the group had excellent energy and for some of them they did experience some kind of paranormal activity.

Simon Wilson

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: