Campus Watch: Halloween Special

St Andrews

Founded in 1413, St Andrews is Scotland’s oldest university. Over 400 locations in the city of St Andrews are reportedly haunted, and the University is no exception.

Rumours of the White Lady, St Andrews’ most notorious ghost, have circulated for over 200 years. Sightings are most commonly reported on cathedral grounds, but she has been said to roam the nearby university grounds.

The White Lady is reportedly slender and very beautiful, with waist-length hair and wearing a long white dress. In many accounts she glides silently towards the cathedral’s haunted tower, vanishing once she gets close enough.

In 1868, while carrying out repairs on the haunted tower, two stonemasons broke into a sealed chamber. They found several coffins, one of which contained a young woman in a white dress. The young woman was well-preserved, ‘as if she had fallen asleep that very hour.’

The White Lady is most commonly seen during October and November, so if you’re visiting St Andrews soon, make sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Queen’s University Belfast

Belfast has seen its fair share of violence over the years, so it’s no surprise that many ghosts are rumoured to roam the University grounds.

One popular legend tells of three men, walking through the dark underground tunnel which connects the Ashby and David Keir buildings. The tunnel was unlit, so the men couldn’t see. One man felt someone holding his hand in the darkness. When he exited the tunnel, he was alone; his friends had gotten scared, and hadn’t entered it with him.

The buildings lie close to a former monastic settlement, dating back to around the third century; some believe that the affectionate ghost may have once lived here.

Sources claim that many staff members won’t go through the tunnel alone, due to the ‘intense, unnatural coldness’ and general bad aura that it offers. Another employee reportedly felt a hand on his shoulder, but, when he turned around, the tunnel was eerily empty.

Facing the Keir building is Friar’s Bush cemetery, said to be the final resting place of over 400 cholera sufferers and 5,000 famine victims. Those who visit the graveyard have reported feeling hands tugging at their clothes, and the ground squirming beneath their feet.

Leeds Beckett University

Not too far from home, the Headingley ground of our Varsity rivals is said to be full of paranormal activity.

The Grange, which is the oldest building on campus, is the most notable hotspot for otherworldly presences. Denise Shanks, a cleaner at the University, describes feeling constantly watched as she cleans its grounds; she believes it to be the ghost of a former maid who worked in the building, checking that she does her job correctly.

The Grange boasts a grand spiral staircase. Legend has it that a servant once jumped to his death from here, driven to suicide by heartbreak. One member of staff reportedly felt a presence touch her arm as she held the staircase’s bannister. Others tell of seeing and smelling cigar or pipe smoke on the stairs.

The uppermost floor of The Grange has been said to harbour strange poltergeist activity; lights turn on and off unaided, and furniture is often found in different positions than it was left in. Ghost hunters once visited the University, and reportedly sensed a malevolent spirit in Room 209.

University of Oxford

Brasenose, one of Oxford’s many colleges, was reportedly once a host to the Devil himself.  

In the late 1820s, Brasenose undergrads set up a Hellfire Club. These clubs were common across the UK in the 18th century, and, although their business was confidential, it was rumoured that they were for upperclassmen who wished to take part in ‘socially perceived immoral acts’. The Hellfire Club of Brasenose was said to have revelled in ‘vice, drunkenness and atheism in the face of authority’.

The legend is as follows:

Late one night, one Brasenose resident saw a tall, cloaked man outside the bedroom window of the Hellfire Club’s President. The student in the bedroom was being slowly drawn through the wire netting and iron bars which secured the window, blood and anguish on his face.

nobody could explain the wire mesh marks on his face

At the same time, hearing screams from the bedroom, the college porter rushed in. The Hellfire Club had been having a meeting in the President’s room; the President lay dead on the floor. Although his official cause of death was ruled as a burst blood vessel, nobody could explain the wire mesh marks on his face.

Members later admitted to conducting a Black Mass that night, trying to summon the Devil. The Brasenose resident who had seen the cloaked man believed to his dying day that he had seen the devil that night.

College records confirm that Edward Trafford, President of Brasenose Hellfire Club, did die in his bedroom in 1834.

Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway, part of the University of London, boasts an eerie painting that is reportedly cursed.

‘Man Proposes, God Disposes’ is an 1864 Edwin Landseer painting which hangs in the university’s picture gallery. It depicts polar bears devouring human corpses, with a shipwreck in the background.

Royal Holloway’s picture gallery doubles as an exam venue at the end of term. Rumour has it that the painting is bad luck, and that whoever sits in front of it will fail their exams. Dr MacCulloch, the university’s curator, believes that the rumours may have started in the 1920s or 1930s.

The university now covers the painting with a Union Jack flag during exam time. This tradition began in the 1970s, when one student refused to sit her exam near the painting. A panicked registrar, looking for something big to cover the painting, found the large Union Jack – the same flag has been used every year since.

One popular rumour takes the superstition even further. It tells of a student who, after accidentally staring into the polar bears’ eyes, went ‘mad’ and committed suicide in the exam hall, after etching the words “The polar bears made me do it” into the exam paper.

Dr MacCulloch says she’s heard many iterations of this rumour, but that there is no record of any such incident happening on university grounds. Nonetheless, MacCulloch recognises that the Union Jack eases students’ worries during exam season; for now, at least, the tradition is here to stay.

Megan Cummings, News Editor

Images: [Megan Cummings, BBC]