It often seems you can’t throw a stone or a pound or even a pound of stones in England without hitting a haunted pub, but the Golden Fleece in York, North Yorkshire, gets special consideration because it appears high on lists of “Most Haunted Pubs in the UK” … and it has a spooky skull with an eerie past to boot. Well, it HAD a spooky skull. Someone stole the Golden Fleece’s “Elizabeth” and neither the management nor the rest of the pub’s ghosts are having any luck finding it. Do they need it to maintain their “Most haunted” ranking? Or will business increase among those who objected to keeping a human skull on display?
“This is beyond us why anyone would want to take her and we sincerely hope the culprit had a lapse of judgement and will return her to us ASAP. We are currently looking through all our CCTV in order to hand it over. Please contact us if you have any information on her whereabouts to bring her back to her rightful home.”
That was on the Golden Fleece Facebook page on January 3rd. However, before you could say, “Is there a reward?”, the management updated the page with this message (their ALL CAPS):
“WE HAVE A POSITIVE I.D AND VERY CLEAR FOOTAGE OF THE THEFT. IF WE DO NOT RECEIVE ELIZABETH BACK IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS THIS WILL BE HANDED TO THE POLICE.”
The Golden Fleece pub and upstairs hotel was built around 1503, although some of the ghosts reportedly seen in the cellar resemble Roman soldiers. Of the fifteen identified spirits, the most famous is Lady Alice Peckett, wife of former York mayor and hotel owner John Peckett, who used to be the mayor of York and also the owner of the hotel, who is seen walking the halls and stairs or moving furniture around. Another is a Canadian airman who fell to his death from one of the upper windows of the hotel during World War II. Other regulars are One Eyed Jack, who wears a red coat and carries a pistol; a grumpy old man; and a Victorian boy who was trampled to death by horses.
Finally, there’s Elizabeth. She of the skull fame (photo of the skull here) is said to be Elizabeth Johnson, the last person executed in front of the pub -- poor Elizabeth was hanged in August 1800 after being found guilty of using a forged £1 banknote (worth £89 or $120 today). Her skull was somehow obtained and put on display in the pub. Or was it?
“This is obviously not Elizabeth’s real skull. We believe she frequented the Fleece when it was an Inn and this was made and donated to the owner at the time, although the entire story is not fully known. Thank you all for your comments, we appreciate your concern but are just trying to be reunited with our property. Thanks.”
In what appears to be an attempt to absolve the pub from illegally keeping human remains on display for advertising purposes for 500 years, the owners edited their Facebook post to let the offended know that they are not the offenders – it’s the thieves who must be brought to justice.
Is the punishment less for stealing a fake skull?
If you’d like to join in the hunt, the Golden Fleece takes reservations and has an excellent pub menu and plenty of other ghosts – with or without Elizabeth's skull.