All aboard the York Necrobus for a spectral ride through the city’s haunted past. The York Ghost Bus Tour offers a spooky, entertaining and immersive experience amongst the historic city’s grim history, ghost stories, and haunted locations.
I bought a ticket and embarked the eerie black bus on a rainy winter night, but did the 75-minute tour do the city’s ghostly reputation justice?
York is well-known for its ghosts and hauntings. The narrow winding streets and ancient buildings create an atmospheric and eerie setting that is perfect for ghost stories. As well as the bus tour, there are ghostly walking tours and even a shop that sells souvenir ghosts, which has become one of the city’s most popular tourist hotspots.
The York Ghost Bus Tour offers a unique and entertaining way to learn about the city’s rich history and spooky past with a comedy twist. We climbed aboard the Necropolis Bus Company’s vintage funeral bus. Our conductor and guide, Boris, told us that the company once had a fleet of black buses that carried the mourners, as well as the dead, until a mysterious fire in the depot destroyed all but three of these buses. The other two are found in London and Edinburgh.
As the bus set off from a bus stop outside York Station, driven by Bobbi, Boris kicked off the tour by welcoming us to York, which he described as “the most haunted city in Western Europe.” He promised passengers, “tonight you’ll see sites of murder, torture, execution and scariest of all traffic lights.” The tour takes visitors on an immersive and spooky ride past the city’s most haunted locations and explores their grisly history, including St Mary’s Abbey that’s said to be haunted by the Black Abbott, the Theatre Royal where a phantom nun is said to roam, and Clifford’s Tower which was the site of one of the worst moments in York’s long and sordid history.
After a very wet day of sightseeing, the bus was a welcome break from the rain outside and an enjoyable experience regardless of the weather. Admittedly, the wet and wintery conditions did cause the windows of the bus to fog up with condensation, but lack of visibility doesn’t actually detract from the tour all that much.
To be brutally honest, you wouldn’t see much from the bus anyway. The bus tours are conducted in the evening, as the spooky atmosphere and ghost stories are more fitting for the darker hours. Of course, in the summer it might still be light, but for the rest of the year it will be dark outside, which can make it harder to see the sights out of the bus’ windows.
Halfway through the journey, passengers are given the chance to get off the bus and explore one of the city’s most interesting and atmospheric areas on foot. Although this walk is optional, don’t miss out on this night-time stroll through the Shambles, which is the highlight of the York Ghost Bus Tour for many visitors. The medieval street is one of the most visited tourist spots in York, but few visitors will know of its more dark and sinister past. It’s during this nocturnal stroll that we learnt about the river of blood that once flowed down the Shambles, and a little boy called Jeremy and his decapitated head.
The tour uses a mix of onboard live action, and audio and visual effects in the form of eerie music and ghostly voices, that help to set the mood and bring York’s spookiest legends to life. The visuals are vital to the tour in fact. As the Necrobus is a double decker, you’d lose sight of the conductor when he is on the other deck, but screens throughout the bus allow you to see all the action via several well-placed cameras, no matter where it takes place.
The York Ghost Bus Tour is very quite comical, which could be seen to detract from the historical elements and sights of the tour, but the tour is not meant to be a strictly historical or educational one, or meant to be taken too seriously for that matter. The more theatrical elements help to make the tour more enjoyable for visitors of all ages. Despite this, there are some solid ghost stories shared along the way, including the tales of the ghost George Villiers who is said to haunt The Cock & Bottle Inn, the strange activity reported on the site of the Jorvik Viking Museum, and the ghost of a woman who wanders along the stunning Bishopthorpe Road.
The York Ghost Bus Tour offers visitors an immersive, entertaining and spooky experience, combining storytelling, history and a good dose of the paranormal with a theatrical and comical approach, while also visiting some of the most haunted locations of the city, including a guided walk through the Shambles.