Email Email icon Facebook Facebook logo Facebook Messenger Facebook Messenger logo Instagram Instagram logo Pinterest Pinterest logo Twitter Twitter logo WhatsApp WhatsApp logo

The York Ghost Merchants: A Collectors' Glossary

York Ghosts are souvenirs, made and sold by the York Ghost Merchants in the historic city of York, UK. Since opening their doors in 2019 their popularity has grown - largely through the power of social media - making York Ghosts desirable collectables. This is a guide to some of the terminology around the ghosts for new collectors.

York Ghosts are typically made from a non-toxic gypsum-based material in two sizes. The original size is 8.5cm tall and the smaller ones are 5cm. Larger and smaller ghosts have occasionally been seen as limited editions, and sometimes other materials are used. There is a massive range of colours and patterns available, and some of those styles have names used by the collecting community. Some ghosts can fall under more than one category. For example, the March, June and September 2021 Phantoms are described by 'Monthly', 'Phantom' and 'Veiled'.

For the names of specific online releases of ghosts, please refer to the archive on the York Ghost Merchants website. Otherwise, the descriptions below hopefully act as a useful overview of the types of ghosts and design archetypes seen so far. Typical RRP is noted, as they tend to get overpriced when resold due to relative scarcity and current popularity. A 'normal' original-sized ghost is sold in the shop for £15; little ones have an RRP of £8. Prices are subject to change, and are only correct at the time of writing.

Beach Ghost
A regular shop ghost, but one with a blue upper and a sandy-coloured skirt which makes it reminiscent of the seaside. The design proved so popular it earned its own 'Beach Ghost' nickname. They appear in the shop fairly often.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
Bell Metal Bronze
A polished ghost which incorporates a bronze (dark gold) metallic colour, usually as a veil. It may be a front veil, or all the way around, and the base colours of the ghost can vary. This was the fourth type of metallic-coloured ghosts made by the York Ghost Merchants and, at first glance, similar to the Brazier.
RRP: £29 original, £15 small.
Black Box
A strictly limited edition ghost, distinctly different from the others sold by York Ghost Merchants. They are often made of unusual materials, by skilled craftspeople. Some Black Box ghosts have been solid metal, others carved wood or highly decorated.
RRP: around £125.
PICTURED BELOW: A Brass Black Box ghost.
'Boo' Ghost
An affectionate name for the smaller 5cm ghosts. It comes from their boxes; the word 'BOO' is printed beneath the oval window which the ghost looks through. The boxes of the larger ghosts are solid and have different decoration.
RRP: £8 for regular shop stock, a little more for polished and rare/unusual types.
A polished ghost which incorporates a brass (dark gold) metallic colour, usually as a veil. It may be a front veil, or all the way around, and the base colours of the ghost can vary. This was the third type of metallic-coloured ghosts made by the York Ghost Merchants.
RRP: £29 original, £15 small.
A ghost released online for sale with no previous announcement at irregular times. It will be down to luck if you find one to buy in the website shop. The 'Nocturnal Emperor' and 'Night Watchman' ghosts have been exclusively clandestine (although you may find similar in the shop).
RRP: Varies by ghost type.
A polished ghost which incorporates a copper metallic colour, usually as a veil. It may be a front veil, or all the way around, and the base colours of the ghost can vary. This was one of the two earliest types of metallic-coloured ghosts made by the York Ghost Merchants, the other being the Pewterers.
RRP: £29 original, £15 small.
Candy Corn
The 'Renninger' in October 2020 was a popular one-off release that resembled the classic American Candy Corn sweet. It was coloured with wide horizontal bands of yellow and orange, and had a white head. It was reputedly awkward to produce the batch and, despite their popularity, the Merchants have said they don't intend to make any more.
RRP: £15 original.
Ghosts with a multicoloured paint drip decoration streaking down fluidly from the head. They are named after the flamboyant Dandies of history; men who valued fashion and refinement. Only original-sized Dandies have had named releases (actually numbered as Dandies #1 to #5), although you may find Dandy-like ghosts amongst the normal shop stock.
RRP: historically £18 original, £15 for #5.
PICTURED BELOW: Dandy #3 and Dandy #4.
Plain original-sized ghosts (usually bone white) with an inscription etched into the reverse. Phrases featured in releases have included 'Memento vivere', 'Together in spirit' and other sentiments. Custom etched ghosts have previously been offered in an 'open' release where buyers could choose the inscription, up to 24 characters. Etched ghosts have also been given as short story and poetry competition prizes.
RRP: £32 (named releases), £44 (custom ones).
PICTURED BELOW: 'Not lost forever' (poetry prize), 'Tentatio Avaritia' and 'Memento vivere'.
Gem Stonemason
A Stonemason ghost with a polished upper body. The base is textured and slightly glittery, the upper part of the ghost is smooth and shiny. There several colour combinations that have been seen; the first ones were bright red or grey/black over a white Stonemason base.
RRP: £35 original, £18 small.
PICTURED BELOW: A Gem Stonemason in swirled dark grey.
Ghost Parade
A limited edition of 13 ghosts named after York Snickelways. These were about 10cm tall (larger than an original York Ghost) and were sold for charity after being displayed in York shop windows in Ghost Week 2020. A further 10 of these larger ghosts will be displayed during Ghost Week 2021, and likewise for sale afterwards. The theme of this second batch is 'Royal Court Ghost Parade'.
RRP: Whatever the charity bids raise, but likely hundreds.
PICTURED BELOW: 'Barker', in a shop window during the 2020 Ghost Parade.
Ghost Week
An event hosted by the York Ghost Merchants in the week of Halloween, alongside and in collaboration with some other independent York businesses. For 2020 it included the Ghost Parade and the Little York Ghost Hunt, where a number of the small ghosts were hidden in the streets of York, around York Minster, for people to find and keep. This is happening again in 2021.
Hanging Ghost
A small ghost with a hook and ribbon attached to its head. Intended as Christmas Tree decorations or similar, these are available around December, and there was a Valentines' edition in 2020.
RRP: £16 small.
PICTURED BELOW: A Christmas 2020 Hanging Ghost.
A name for an otherwise unnamed York Ghost design. In 2020 there was an online release of dull or bright 'Happenstance' ghosts, which was basically a lucky dip; you had no idea what your ghost would look like until it arrived.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
Ghosts with a light paint splatter decoration in one or more colours. The simplest ones can be a single colour splashed or sprayed on a solid coloured base (e.g. a Black & White Huckster). One of the most complex has seven colours on a white base (a Jubbergate Huckster). According to the Merchants: 'Huckster was a name given to a showy street peddler', and named releases of Huckster ghosts will be prefixed with a local York street (e.g. the Kings Court Huckster).
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
A ghost with a hole in the bottom, designed to hold a paper scroll inscribed with a message. The first release of Messenger ghosts were stained using tea, giving each a unique pattern. There likely won't be any small versions of these made due to the impracticality of them.
RRP: £40 original.
Monthly (Ghost or Phantom)
For each month throughout 2020, a particular design of original-sized ghost was designated as the monthly ghost: available in-store and via weekly online releases for that month only. The design was intended to reflect the nature of the month in some way, e.g. November 2020 had swirled grey and white and a green bottom, evoking the idea of wintery unsettled skies over moorland. The model changed somewhat in 2021; all 2021 monthly ghosts are Phantoms (see the definition below), and can usually be bought on the first of each month in an online 'open' release. The glow-in-the-dark-eyed October 2021 Phantom was, however, limited to a generous batch of 1200 online, and open releases may not continue into 2022.
RRP: £15 (2020 Ghosts), £18 (2021 Phantoms), £19 (October 2021 Phantom).
Muttering Judge
The original 'Muttering Judge' ghost was white with a crazed or cracked pattern in black. Since this named release - which appeared as a Clandestine ghost multiple times in a single day - the pattern has appeared in many different colourways in the shop. The name appears to refer to a design archetype now, so you can find Muttering Judges with red, black, green and more. Their commonality is that cracked appearance.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
PICTURED BELOW: Muttering Judge variations: white with indigo blue cracks, red with black cracks.
Penny Dreadful
A polished jet black ghost with a coin embedded in the base. One limited edition (the 1900 Penny Dreadful) was a Phantom, and another (the 1901 Penny Dreadful) had a silvery veil. Plain Penny Dreadfuls dated 1890-1899 are intermittently available in the shop, and there have been a few small versions containing a silver three penny piece. The name comes from fantastical serialised Victorian stories, sold as cheap weekly pamphlets. Varney the Vampire had an impact on the characterisations of vampires in future literature, including Dracula. Not to be confused with Penny Blacks (as I keep doing) which was a Victorian postage stamp.
RRP: £60 original (the 1900 edition was sold for £50), £30 small.
PICTURED BELOW: 1900, 1901 and 1897 Penny Dreadfuls.
A polished ghost which incorporates a pewter (dark silver) metallic colour, usually as a veil. It may be a front veil, or all the way around, and the base colours of the ghost can vary. This was one of the two earliest types of metallic-coloured ghosts made by the York Ghost Merchants, the other being the Coppersmiths.
RRP: £29 original, £15 small.
A ghost where the eyes have been coloured separately; sometimes the eyes are neatly filled, often there are tear-like streaks down the ghost's body. The archetypal York Phantoms are the Sullied and Slovenly Phantoms (white with black eyes and black with white eyes, respectively), but they can come in all colours. The All Hallows' Phantom was a popular orange version produced in October 2020. A Monthly Phantom has been available to buy on the 1st of each month in 2021.
RRP: £18 original, £10 small.
PICTURED BELOW: Original Sullied and Dreary Phantoms, little Slovenly and Sullied Phantoms.
A ghost that has been 'plunged' or dipped in a colour, giving it a fading, graduated - or ombre - colour pattern.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
A ghost which has been given a buffed and shiny finish by the Merchants. A small selection of shop ghosts may be ready-polished, and - depending on how busy they are - it may be possible to request polishing of a normal ghost.
RRP: £25 original, £13 small.
A slightly imperfect ghost which has been held back from general sale in the shop. The nature of the imperfections vary, and Ragamuffins arise in all patterns and colours. Occasionally a shop visitor has purchased one of these lost souls, and six were memorably stolen from the shop exterior in 2021 (later safely returned). The majority of the ghosts in 2021's Ghost Week Little Ghost Hunt are to be Ragamuffin Ghosts. The hunt map says: 'They find their way instead on the streets of the city where they wait patiently as strays to be found by someone who will take care of them and give them a home.'
RRP: not generally for sale.
Sea Ghost
A ghost with a swirled patterned body, reminiscent of waves or maybe a cloudy sky. The first releases were blue, so the 'Sea Ghost' name stuck, but the swirled pattern is seen in lots of colours.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
Rough-textured ghosts whose manufacture includes a fine stone aggregate which gives them a slightly sparkling finish. The bright white ones look like glistening snowmen, but they also come in a sombre Almost Black, and many other colours including pink, blue and purple, sometimes swirled. Stonemasons can have larger flecks of colour in them (usually a single colour, unlike the Terrazzos), such as the 'Malabar' a.k.a. 'Salt & Pepper' ghosts. Striking lime green ones have been seen. There are also sometimes Stonemason Phantoms with coloured eyes, and the Gem Stonemasons (described above) are a related type.
RRP: £29 original, £15 small.
Stray Ghost
A ghost hidden in the wild, often very far from its original York home, to be found and kept by a lucky individual. Stray Ghosts have appeared in Manchester, Glasgow and more places; the Merchants often signpost their location via social media.
RRP: not for sale.
According to the Merchants, the name 'Sweep' comes from the brush used to apply colour to these ghosts; it is like a miniature chimney sweep brush. It creates a roughly stippled pattern of colour over the body, allowing some of the primary body colour to still show through.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
PICTURED BELOW: A polished Sweep, black over a burnt orange colour.
Rough-textured ghosts with a surface containing flecks of colour. These are fragments ground or chipped from many hundreds of York Ghosts during their manufacturing process, all combined back into a single individual. Named after Italian Terrazzo floors which were constructed with marble offcuts.
RRP: £29 original, £15 small.
PICTURED BELOW: Charcoal and White Terrazzos.
A password-protected area of the York Ghost Merchants website. Occasionally clues may be given via social media, and when the correct current password is entered, you can find a ghost available to buy. There has been one exclusive Understore ghost offered to date - the Minster Library ghost - which was the subject of an ingenious puzzle involving the 2020 Ghost Week map. The Understore has also held Penny Dreadful 1901 and Black Box ghosts at different times. An Understore ghost will normally be marked as such on the base, especially if it's exclusively from the Understore.
RRP: Varies by ghost type.
PICTURED BELOW: The Minster Library ghost (Understore #1) on a 2020 Ghost Week map.
A ghost with a vertical streak of colour, usually going from the top of its head to the bottom of its skirt. Occasionally, it's shorter. It can be patchy, thick or so thin as to be nearly invisible. This is supposed to resemble a mourning veil, referencing classic ghost story apparitions. A simple example is the 'Veiled Revenant' (a white veil on a black body), but they come in all colourways. The body of a Veiled ghost may be multicoloured, and have characteristics of other designs; you may find a paint-splashed Huckster wearing a veil. A few of the 2021 Monthly Phantoms have them too.
RRP: £15 original, £8 small.
PICTURED BELOW: A red variation of the Veiled Revenant, and a Tallow Chandler, which includes a veil in its design.