It’s almost Halloween! And we’re celebrating by sharing some spooktacular stories from one of the most haunted Universities in the UK. Read on if you’re brave enough to meet the ghosts of the University of Oxford. Prepare to be creeped out…
King Charles I
This Royal Ruler resided at the University during the English Civil War. He transformed the Christ Church College Deanery into a palace and held counter-Parliament sessions in its Great Hall. However, after several years of fighting in the war, Charles was defeated, convicted of treason and executed in London.
Despite his death being in the capital, Charles is rumoured to haunt the city he held so close to his heart. His most noted sightings are in the Bodleian Libraries, where, in life, he was banned from borrowing books. As an act of rebellion, he is now said to spend his nights rushing around the upper reading room, tearing books from the shelves. Giving ‘judging a book by its cover’ a whole new meaning, he reads one line and then replaces the book back on the shelf – over and over and over again. It’s dizzying work!
The Priest of Wadham College
The former Head-Steward of the college could often be heard complaining about hearing footsteps in the dead of night. These footsteps could be heard going into a room, but never out of it.
Since this time, a ghostly figure draped in white ropes has allegedly been seen walking from the Chapel doors, across the First Quad and into the Dining Hall. Before he can gobble as much as a starter, he vanishes into thin air just in front of the High Table. No wonder he never left…
Perhaps the most famous of the University ghosts, in life Laud was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the religious advisor of King Charles I during his residency in our city.
Born and educated in Oxford, William spent much of his career imposing unity on the Church of England by introducing reforms that persecuted protestants. In 1644 he was blamed for starting the Civil War, and accused of popery, tyranny and treason. This resulted in his untimely beheading in 1645.
Laud was buried in his home city of Oxford, under the altar of the chapel at St John’s College. Recent suspected sightings suggest that his restless spirit roams the library night after night. Far from reading books, he gruesomely lifts his head from his neck, before kicking it along the floor in front of him. He sounds like a very pleasant chap to run into!
The tale of this ghost is one of tragedy. 17th century English Academic and the Catholic Master of the University, Obadiah Walker, attempted to follow the exiled James II to France. Unfortunately, Walker was caught and thrown behind bars.
Although he was released from prison ten years before his death, Walker left battered and broken by his experience. It is believed that his ghostly form now solemnly wanders Staircase VIII at University College, feeling incredibly sorry for himself. What a poor soul.
Colonel Francis Windebank
A young colonel of the Royalist army, Windebank was appointed governor of Oxfordshire’s Bletchingdon Park in 1645.
That year, he hosted a ball at his estate for his wife and friends. However, during the ball, the estate was invaded by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army. To save the lives of his wife and friends, Windebank willingly surrendered. The Colonel was taken to King Charles’ Oxford Headquarters, where he was sentenced to execution by a Royalist Court for failing to protect Bletchingdon Park from Cromwell.
It is now believed Windebank haunts his execution site – the town wall next to Merton College, suitably known as Dead Man’s Walk. He has also allegedly been seen crawling along the library floor on his knees – or merely walking on the original floor before it was raised. Either way, it is believed his spirit cannot rest because he still feels injustice at being punished for what he deemed was an act of chivalry.
Now you’ve learned the ghostly tales from the University of Oxford, do you dare to visit our city this scary season? Go on, book your stay at our boutique hotel now – you’ll have a better sleep than Count Dracula. Your coffin – ahem – bed awaits.