This story is not one for the faint hearted. It has been passed along over time, though the details have not often changed. It is even featured in Whitby’s famous ghost walk, and for good reasons.
On Grape Lane (once known as ‘Grope Lane’) there is a building that still stands today, but what a lot of people don’t know is that it used to be an infirmary. Back in 1917 a girl who lived in Whitby, called Mary Clarke, was recognised often in town as she had the most beautiful, long, blonde hair that shone like the sun. To make the hair as beautiful as it could be Mary would take extra care, brushing it 100 times every morning and night, and finishing it off with a drop of ‘Dr Firth’s Patent Hair Oil’.
Sources differ on when exactly the story happened, some say the girl went into a baker’s during winter to keep warm, whilst others claim that the girl had gone into the local bakers with her father’s dinner to heat it up in his oven during the summer. No one is completely certain what happened next, but her beautiful long hair caught a naked flame and in an instant the whole of her head was on fire, much to the horror of the baker who witnessed the accident.
The girl, in a panic, began running outside but this only encouraged the flames which quickly spread to her clothes and engulfed the whole of the young girl in flames. The baker chased the girl and began to beat the flames from her, but he was too late, she had been burnt beyond recognition… but, unbelievably, she was still alive.
The baker took the girl to the infirmary, her skin bubbling and bursting as they walked, some of it even peeled off and dropped to the floor leaving grim remains of Mary. Mary died in agony an hour later as nurses and doctors tried to do all they could for the poor soul.
It is now believed that her ghost still appears on the lane in which she met her horrific fate, at first you will see flames and then Mary will appear within the flames accompanied by the sound of her skin crackling from the fire. She stares into the eyes of who sees her, then leaves, leaving the smell of burnt flesh behind.