The Ghost of St Mary’s Abbey, York

Dear Ms Sant,
Whilst in your marvellous City on Saturday I took the attached photograph. 
I can only promise you is not a fake.  I took the picture because I thought the colours particularly good and deliberately waited for a ‘people free’ moment. I was sure I got it, so was puzzled by the dark image in the bottom right hand corner? ​

Ghost at St Mary’s Abbey York Copyright: Helen Sant donated by anonymous photographer*

The words above are from an email and photo sent to me in December 2011, informing me of a ghost sighting which the man* believed he’d had, while visiting York.  

*Please note: The photo is copyright to the gentleman, who didn’t want any publicity, so his name and details have been kept private. 

Bit of Background on St Mary’s Abbey

St Mary’s Abbey in the Museum Gardens in its heyday, was the richest abbey in the North of England.  Tales abounded of the monks’ indulgences.  They drank, feasted and lived an affluent lifestyle. Needless to say their way of life changed when they had to flee, according to rumours, through a tunnel under Stonegate, a well-known street in York.  Henry VIII was busy overthrowing the Catholic faith, seizing monasteries and abbeys including St Mary’s.  He took the Abbot’s house for himself and renamed it  ​King’s Manor.

The gentleman who contacted me and sent me the photo at the top of this page, went on to say:

​”At first I thought somebody had wandered into the shot without me noticing and was going to ‘remove’ him/her. It’s not though, is it?? Thinking I might find another picture that revealed the reason for the shadow, I looked on the internet.  I couldn’t find anything as such, but was taken aback to see there have been many sightings of the ‘Black Abbot’ at St Mary’s. 

​Any thoughts at all please? Both the preceding and subsequent shots do not have similar marks and this one was taken at 160th [of a second], which means that the bright comet type thing is moving pretty fast. Although deceptive, I reckon the ‘figure’ stands about the height of a tall person. Also, the image mostly remains dark when you increase the exposure, which suggests that, ​whatever it is, has mass. “

Black Abbot image slowed down

​Curioser and curioser…! Well I didnt have an answer for him except that I told him if he felt he had captured a ghost, to contact the Fortean Times and send it ​to them. I seem to think he declined this idea, as he didn’t want any publicity.

Past Monk Sightings

Back to the present where tales float about of sightings of a phantom monk dressed in black, wandering through the Museum Gardens after dark.  Of course few of us can corroborate such a story since the gates are locked at dusk, though there have been daytime sightings too apparently.

Continuing the monk theme, I once worked at York Library (now Explore York).  I was told one of the librarians had seen a hooded figure in the bright morning sunlight,.  The librarian was not afraid as it felt a very natural experiene to her. She watched as the figure hovered ​by the window, which overlooked Mary’s Abbey, before it melted away….!

Roman grave in Museum Gardens copyright Helen Sant

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