York Ghost Merchants

About a two-hour train ride north from London is one of the oldest, most haunted, and arguably most beautiful, places in England—York. Besides York Minster, which is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, there are many interesting places to explore within this historic city. My favorite is a unique little shop that famously sells miniature handmade ghosts and is known affectionately as the York Ghost Merchants. 

Outside the York Ghost Merchants shop in York.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to York with two of my roommates who were visiting me from the States. Taking the train from London Kings Cross Station, we found ourselves stepping out of the York Railway Station in just a few hours (the convenience of the public transportation system here never ceases to amaze me). We stayed in a house just outside the main city and spent the next few days visiting museums, going on ghost tours, and eating delicious food. On our last day, we decided to leave the best event for last—which was purchasing our very own miniature ghosts from the York Ghost Merchants. 

Interior of the York Ghost Merchants shop featuring some of the ghosts available to purchase.

I’d wanted to visit the York Ghost Merchants shop ever since I came across a video about it on TikTok and fell in love with its unique premise. According to the York Ghost Merchants website, each miniature ghost sculpture is handmade using the traditional methods of British Guild craftsmen over 200 years ago. This means that every ghost is unique, with each one having “a spirit all its own,” as advertised on the website. The store itself is located in The Shambles, which is arguably one of the coolest streets I’ve walked down in England because it features preserved medieval buildings. The York Ghost Merchants isn’t very large or flashy, and the store might have been easy to miss if it wasn’t for the crowds of people standing outside waiting to get in.

I’m not embellishing when I say that, throughout the three days my roommates and I were in York, there was always a line of people stretched outside the building and around the corner down to the next street. Even on a Monday when we decided to go, and even though we got there fifteen minutes before opening, we still had a three-hour wait. However, the time was made more bearable thanks to the shop’s employees, who were dressed in old-fashioned clothes and were extremely charismatic. It was fun chatting with them on the street about the history of York and the shop itself. 

The ghosts I ended up taking home!

While the wait was long, it was definitely worth it. Because the store is so small, only a few customers are allowed inside at a time. However, this made the experience of picking out our ghosts feel even more special. The interior of the store is also extremely unique with ghosts available to purchase lining the walls and special hidden ghosts that can be found behind various paintings and peepholes. I ended up purchasing five ghosts, and my roommates, who originally intended to only buy one each, couldn’t resist taking home a few more as well.

If you ever find yourself in England, I highly recommend taking some time to visit York and visiting the York Ghost Merchants for yourself!

Mackenzie Hornik is a student at University of Colorado Boulder and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying with ISA in London, England.

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