The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Nov 24, 2007

Ghastly Tales of York

Ray Alexander of the Original Ghost Walk of York, clad in black, wearing whiteface, speaking in lugubrious tones, escorts us to the ramparts of the White Castle in ye olde York. [Xerones has kindly taken the adjoining photograph.] The following tale of woe and bitterness unfolds.

During the reign of Richard, lion-hearted King of England, religious passion and good old fashioned jealousy strikes the breasts of the yeomen of York. The Jews are far too rich and prosperous for their own good. Surely it is not to be borne that the killers of our Lord should grow fat while honest Christians labour in back-breaking toil?

In March 1190, a band of men bursts into the home of the late Benedict of York, put his widow and his family to the sword and plunder his wealth. The fanatic clergy and the indebted nobility take the opportunity to fan hatred, and sack other dwellings of Jews.
The alarmed Jews, with their leader Josce, sought shelter in the royal castle. One day the warden happened to be gone; the Jews were apprehensive lest he might hand them over to the besieging mob, and so they denied him admission. The warden called in the aid of the sheriff of the country; Richard Malebys, a noble deeply in debt to the Jews, commanded the siege. The rage of the mob was kept alive by the exhortations of a monk, who celebrated mass every morning in his white robes in front of the tower. A stone falling from the battlements killed the monk; his death infuriated the mob to a still higher degree.

The hapless Jews were short of rations; surrender spelled baptism or death by torture. In obedience to the exhortations of their religious leader, Yom Tob of Joigny, they chose to lay hands on themselves. . . . When, at daybreak, the [burning] citadel was captured, those who were still alive were put to death. . . . The mob then returned to the cathedral where the records of debts due to Jews were in safe-keeping. They compelled the guardians to turn these over to them to be burned then and there in the sanctuary. This done, the fury of the mob was spent, and the city was restored to its usual order and quiet. Similarly the mobs raged elsewhere...
A century later, the good townspeople are horrified to see that the walls of the castle have turned red. It is the blood of the Jews, goes the cry. People fall to their knees and beg the Lord to save them, but the blood flows endlessly.

This happens again and again, century after century. Clifford Tower is accursed and their sins weigh down the souls of the Yorkmen. It is not till Oliver Cromwell issues laws protecting the Jews and after the Jews pardon the city for its awful crime that the bleeding stops.

Ray encounters a school party recently and offers to take the kids on a tour of his city. As they approach Clifford's Tower, one girl gasps, "Why are the stones bleeding?" She is pale, shaking with horror, in tears. The teachers are aghast. "What did you tell them?" they demand. Ray is amazed - this has not happened in living memory. He tells the story of the murdered Jews. Only then does the girl calm down.


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