The Roman Soldiers Mystery
In 1953, Harry Martindale, a young plumber’s apprentice in York, England, while working on plumbing in a large mansion known as The Treasurer’s House, observed a scene that nearly caused his death from sheer fright.
During repairing pipe work in the cellar, Martindale was perched high on a ladder when he gradually became aware of an odd musical sound that seemed to be coming from below. The sound seemed to be that of single trumpet-like notes and as they intensified, he saw below him a soldier emerging from the wall, wearing a plumed helmet, followed by a cart horse and numerous pairs of other Roman soldiers. Visible only from the knees up, they appeared to be legionnaires in marching formation. The startled apprentice fell from the ladder, and hid in a corner of the cellar.
Dazed, he watched in awestruck amazement as they marched by. Even in his traumatized state, three things were memorable about them; they carried round shields, wore daggers in scabbards on their right side, and the tunics they were dressed in were green. As they marched, he also began to see their legs and feet, shod in open sandals with leather straps to the knees.
They paid him no mind, going on about their business as if they knew what they were about and had no time to waste. They marched on and disappeared from view. The shaken apprentice was so frightened that he left the cellar and was not able to work again for several weeks. History does not say whether he went back to that job or not.
Meanwhile his story was derided as being all in his imagination or that he just didn’t want to finish his work. Decrying his description of the soldiers, his naysayers said it couldn’t have happened because Roman soldiers did not carry round shields, their scabbards were on the left, and they wore RED tunics, not green. However, the apprentice had a reputation of honesty, doing good work, never shirking anything assigned to him and actually seeming to enjoy making things work again. Anyone who knew him vouched for his integrity. He stuck to his description, and many thought him mad.
Martindale eventually was vindicated, when some of the details he gave of the Roman soldiers were verified years later. Excavations in York proved the descriptions given by the frightened apprentice, matched those of the local reserve soldiers who took over the Roman garrison when the regular soldiers left and returned to Rome. Bits of material showed they wore green tunics, there were round shields and the sword and scabbard were on the right side of the bones.
The Roman soldiers were also witnessed before this, by a party guest of wealthy industrialist, Frank Green, owner from 1897 to 1930, when the house was put into the National Trust. But he was laughed at, other guests saying that he’d had too much to drink at the party.
Another item of interest is that the mansion was built directly over one of the main Roman roads leading out of York to the north. When Frank Green had major renovations made, four Roman column bases were uncovered. Frank Green used one of those as the base for a set of four columns in the main hall. One remains in the cellar, in its original place, in the area where Martindale witnessed the soldiers.
The ghost of George Aislaby, the original owner, is said to haunt The Treasurer’s House too, and there are other ghosts as well, according to those who’ve visited. But the Roman soldiers visitation seem to be the most authentic of them all.
For the public, The Treasurer’s House is open to the public for a small admission, and free to members of the National Trust. The garden and Below Stairs Cafe are free to enter. Cellar and attic tours are available depending on the time of year.
So what’s your thoughts on Martindale’s experience? Was he just trying to get out of work or did he actually witness what he said he did?