Nestled amidst the North York Moors, Byland Abbey is haunted by rumours of ghostly shenanigans. Byland impresses its visitor, defying the Dissolution and Time to retain many original features, whilst also offering tales of tragedy and woe. Tourists expect to be spooked; and long shadows and strange noises don’t disappoint. Rumours are generally embellished with the telling - this eight hundred-year-old abbey has had plenty of time to perfect the art of scaring its visitors. Some non-believers have had their cynicism tested while wandering the site alone.
Pleasure rather than work prompted paranormal investigator Porter Biggleswade’s trip to the abbey. Not that she’s ever ‘off duty’, for paranormal activity isn’t strictly nine-to-five. She had overheard someone say that Byland is the most haunted monastery in England, a statement underpinned by its great age and ruinous state, and was intrigued to see for herself.
Porter wasn’t surprised by the claim; many believe the dead have nothing better to do than haunt ancient buildings - the more dilapidated the property, the greater the number of ghosts. Working on that principal, Byland’s exhausted state makes it an obvious candidate for ghostly activity.
A popular ghost story connected to the ruin involves a local girl and a monk. The pair fell in love and decided to elope. Unfortunately for them a fellow monk found out. Fearing shame would be brought on Byland, he captured his fleeing brother, and buried him alive in the abbey grounds.
A beautiful woman (well, she can hardly be ugly, can she?) is said to roam the abbey in search of her lost love, with her cries of despair polluting quiet nights. Sightings are limited to the early hours - the ghost is apparently shy of company.
Porter had also heard it said that a poltergeist plagues the site, amusing itself by ambushing unsuspecting visitors. Flying rocks, upturned benches, and people being shoved, are just some of the grievances performed by invisible hands. There is also a quiet corner of the abbey, which is always impeccably maintained, even though the gardeners show it no special attention. Whoever is responsible is yet to own it.
Mysterious balls of light floating over the nave have been noted on occasion, but attempts to photograph this strange anomaly haven’t met with success. Some think them the souls of monks, keeping an eye on their former home.
Porter thought she saw a shadowy figure loitering near the altar, but it was probably a trick of the light. She certainly didn’t witness flying rocks, darting orbs, or woeful cries others claim to have experienced.
While there may be some truth to Byland’s rumours, for not all activity kowtows to obvious explanation, evidence of it continues to elude. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, for those visiting a site like Byland who want to believe there is more to the place than meets the eye will leave still doing so.