LEGION OF THE DAMNED

In the early 1950’s a young apprentice plumber, by the name of Harry Martindale, had been repairing a boiler in the basement of the Treasurer’s House, which stands close to York Minster. He was about to pack away his tools when he heard what sounded like a trumpet. He thought at first it was a perhaps a brass band in the street outside and so paid it little attention. Then came a second blast; only this time much louder and much closer. It appeared to be coming from the far end of the cellar. Harry peered into the dimly lit cavernous surroundings yet saw nothing. He was about to continue packing away his things when he found himself seized with horror.

A horse’s head suddenly appeared from out of the wall at the far end of the cellar. Its rider was then revealed, followed by fifteen Roman soldiers. The weary and dejected looking soldiers paid no attention to Harry as they shuffled their way across the cellar floor, only to disappear into the opposite wall.

Harry sat hidden behind the boiler, transfixed at what he had just witnessed. Eventually managing to gain his composure, he hastily gathered up his belongings and made a dash for the stairs. He emerged, on the ground floor, breathless and confused, making straight for the exit and the comforting reassurance of the fresh air and sunlight. Still breathless from his speedy exit, he stood confused and mystified from the experience. He felt it had all been too vivid to have been a mere figment of his imagination. At first he considered sharing his account of the events with someone, but then thought they might deem him mad.

He therefore resolved to keep quiet about the incident.

Twenty years passed and Harry still maintained a stubborn silence over what he had seen that day. He then read an article in a local newspaper about two other people who had shared similar experiences at the very same spot in the cellar. He finally decided it was time to reveal what he had seen.

Harry spoke of the soldiers’ appearance, each wearing shabby green kilted skirts that appeared roughly dyed. He had also noted that all the soldiers carried long spears and short swords. They also held round shields, which was uncommon for the Roman army. However, the most curious feature was that all the soldiers appeared to have been chopped off at the knee, the lower half of their legs disappearing into the stone floor.

It was around this time that a group of archaeologists’ had been undertaking some excavation work in the cellar area. They eventually came upon an old Roman road some eighteen inches below the modern floor level. Thus, anyone walking on the old road would have appeared to have been cut off at the knee, which is exactly how the solders’ had appeared to Harry.

By this time Harry had become a police officer, and was seen as an honest upstanding person who would not embellish, in any way, what he had seen that day in the cellar. He was subsequently interviewed by experts in Roman history. He claimed to know little about Roman history, other what he had gleaned from Hollywood epics. Nor was he interested in ghosts or the paranormal. Nonetheless, he swore by his account over what he had seen.

The experts deliberated on the details Harry had given them. Following a period of research they discovered that auxiliary forces to the Roman army had been based in York towards the end of the Roman occupation. Furthermore, they would have worn green kilted skirts and carried round shields rather than the common rectangular ones more commonly associated with Roman legions.

Harry claimed never to have had a paranormal experience until that day in the cellar, nor had he experienced one since. So who were the bedraggled looking ghostly soldiers? Perhaps they were a mercenary force attached to the Roman legion who had suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of the Picts during the collapse of Roman Britain. We shall probably never know.

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