York Dungeon provides the visitor with an unparalleled view of the seamier side of life through history – in this case largely the fascinating and grisly history of the city of York, the centre of many scandals and horrors through the centuries. Bring the whole family for an experience which is suitable for all but very young children – and expect a day which will linger in the memory for a long time to come…
The infamous highwayman Dick Turpin is celebrated at the York Dungeon in style. The story behind the life of Turpin, who has been portrayed in many dramatic interpretations as a dashing character who led a life of romance and glamour, comes to life with historical accuracy at the Dungeon with the aid of realistic sound effects and chilling sword-fight sounds. Turpin, whose career came to an inglorious end when he was hanged for horse-rustling (intriguingly, not highway robbery), was – according to biographers – a man with a violent nature rather than the lovable rogue anti-hero of popular literature, and the Dungeon helps reveal some of the truth behind the legend. His connection with the city of York is primarily based on a 15-hour ride he is supposed to have made while making an attempt to establish an alibi – a feat which is in doubt, but which helps to give the legend local currency if nothing else.
The Ghosts Of York exhibition continues the Dungeon’s trip into the dark side of life, with the chance to come face to face with a spirit from a higher plane of existence. As the visitor passes along a darkened room, the sense of danger builds until he or she is confronted by a pale, almost transparent figure who lingers for a while. Does this emissary from the underworld have a message? Only it knows…
Moving back to more earthly – but equally awe-inspiring and unsettling – phenomena, the Gorvik attraction is devoted to a study of the fearsome Berserkers, the Viking warriors whose fighting abilities were second to none thanks to the frenzied, bestial nature of their attacks. Totally unafraid of injury or death, these powerful fighting men were among the most deadly warriors of the Viking or any other army, with rumours of their rage being induced by drugs only adding to their terrifying reputation over the centuries. The full story of these long-gone fighters and of the Viking race themselves is explored in full in this fascinating exhibit.
Elsewhere the Dungeon hosts an interactive exploration of the plague which swept York in the 17th century, passing on to annihilate over half of Europe’s population at the time (over 24 million lives lost). It’s a grim and at times grisly attraction – if ‘attraction’ is even the right word for such a terrible subject – but it really educates the visitor about the near-unimaginable scale of the human catastrophe which it explores.
12 Clifford Street, York, YO1 9RD
Tel: 0190 463 2599
Times: Daily, 10.00 – various, dependent on season