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The Orphans' Screams
Bedern, York


Bedern, off Goodramgate, was the medieval home of the Minister's Vicars Choral. The choristers finally moved out in 1574 and, unfortunately, the area degenerated in region of slums and warehouses. By the mid-19th century, a sort of orphanage-cum-workhouse was established here known as the York Industrial Ragged School. Its master was paid handsomely to round up local waifs and strays and put them to work and he was keen to keep hold of his earnings. The avaricious man paid out little on food and clothing for his workforce and the children died in great numbers - of starvation and exposure.

Being too lazy to even dispose of the bodies, the schoolmaster would lock them up in a large cupboard until the stench would eventually force him to clear up. In the cold Yorkshire winters, he would be prevented from digging even the shallowest of graves and was forced to leave the corpses to rot.

As the months passed, however, the bodies piled up and the master began to become convinced that he could hear terrified screams emanating from the padlocked cupboard. They played on his guilty conscience so much that he eventually went completely mad and ran through the school massacring the remaining children with a huge knife. The authorities discovered him next morning, whimpering amongst heaps of mutilated bodies. He was dragged off to the local asylum where he spent the rest of his life.

The restless spirits of the dead children are still occasionally seen in the area. More usually, however, it is their playful laughter which is heard. The passer by may stop to listen to the eerie sound but, as they do, it changes dramatically into screams of terror!

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