The city of Lincoln was made for ghostly goings on. Perched a top the highest spot in Lincolnshire, it seems dipped into a bowl of howling winds laced with shadowy back alleys, half-buried arches and dead-ended flights of stairs. Its 900-year-old castle and cathedral, at the top of a street so precipitous it is called Steep Hill, sit on Viking, Roman and ancient British civilizations. Its Medieval Bishops Palace hides behind thick walls of stone where unfaithful wives were murdered and ghostly guardians protected the clerics.
Margaret Green, the resident expert on Lincoln's ghosts leads nightly ghost walks. Leading her charges through back alleys, down tiny cobbled lanes and through the whistling winds that swirl around Lincoln Cathedral, she strides along in a street sweeping black cape, relating spooky Lincoln tales with obvious relish.
Join Margaret Green at 6:50p.m. for a 7p.m. start outside the Castle Hill Tourist Information Center next to the White Hart Hotel, Lincoln LN1 3AR. To book, telephone her on +44 (0)1522 874056. The walk takes about 90 minutes and (in 2010) cost about £4. Meanwhile, here are a few of Margaret's stories.
The Ghostly HorsemenFolks who cross Castle Hill late at night have reported a ghostly horseman galloping across the cobbled square. He emerges from the Cathedral Arches at about one minute past midnight, races toward the Castle gates shouting, "Open the gates in the name of the King," and disappears into the Castle walls. According to legend, he was on his way to the Castle to deliver the King's pardon and stop an execution set for midnight. On the way, he stopped at a coaching in to change horses and have some refreshment. He succumbed to the warmth of a fire and fell asleep. As a result, he didn't deliver the pardon in time and the poor pardoned prisoner was hanged at the stroke of midnight. He's been racing to Lincoln to fulfill his task every night ever since.
The Bishop's Guardian
Not all Lincoln's ghost stories are of ancient vintage. This one is set in the early 20th century. It was late on a dark and stormy night (natch), when a man knocked at the door of the Bishop's Palace. The maid answered and the man told her that the Bishop was needed because someone was ill. When the Bishop came down, no one was in the hall but a note had been left on the floor with the address of a house where the Bishop was urgently wanted.The Bishop rushed out, but when he got to the address on the note, he found an empty house. Year's later, while making prison visits, the Bishop met an inmate who reminded him of that night, the note and the false errand. Apparently he and some others had conspired to attack the Bishop in the dead of night by drawing him out under a false pretext. "We were going to rob you," the prisoner said, "but we saw that big fellow with you, so we ran away." The Bishop, it transpired, had been all alone that night.