Cambridge has always had a dual life when it comes to the paranormal. On the one hand, it is a world-leading university, a beacon of science. It is one of the cardles of the Enlightenment where the ideals of rationalism and logic rose to a prominence over superstition. But of course, Cambridge is much older than the Enlightenment. The University was founded in 1209, a time when arsenic was considered an effective laxative and leeches were the latest medical technology. Since then, Cambridge has accumulated a lot of dark history, which was hidden beneath the veener of science and modernity until 2010, when the University was desribed as “the most haunted Univesity in the world” by the Society of Physical research.
In this blog post, we will reveal some of the unexplained stories of the famous Cambridge Colleges…
St John’s College is probably the one with the largest number of reported sightings, incidents and bizarre happenings. The college was built on the site of a Medieval hospital that was forcibly closed down; the perfect spot to find dead spirits.
The Ghost of James Wood
The most famous College Ghost is that of Doctor James Wood. He was an incredibly poor student of the college. Today’s students have laptops, TV’s, mobile phones; James couldn’t even afford to light his room. He used to sit in the O staircase of the Second Court and used the light coming out from the other rooms to see his work at night. He eventually went on to become the master of the college. His apparition is said to still appear within the staircade on dark nights, and has surprised more than one student sleepily walking back to their rooms…
The Murder of James Ashton
In 1746 a brutal murder took place in the First Court, just next to the Library. A student called James Ashton was found stabbed to death in his room. Suspicion quickly fell onto his friend, John Brinkley, but he managed to escape charges due to some skillfull work on the part of his father’s lawyers. Shortly after the events, John fled the college and never returned.The vengeful spirit of James Ahton has been heard screaming in the First Court Building…
Clare College was founded originally by Richard De Badew, but later refounded by Elizabeth De Clare – better known as the Black Widow of the Cam. Elizabeth De Clare was married against her will at just twelve years old to the wealthiest man in England, who died shortly after the wedding. Elizabeth then found a second husband, a wealthy man, who also died shortly after getting married. She did found a third husband, just as rich asnd just as well-connected as the other two, but her sting of bad luck didn’t end, and he also succumbed to food poisoning. By the age of 26, Elizabeth became the wealthiest woman in Europe and seemed like no one was going to stop her. However, when romours about her seeking a fourth husband spread, local men intervented. Elizabeth De Clare was apprehended by a mob from the city, she was tortured until she confessed to murder. Local men tied her up and put her to a boat which they allowed to float until Clare Bridge, from where they fired burning arrows at the boat sending her to a painful and gruesome end. Her ghost is not only said to hunt the river, but to hate men.
King’s College was founded by Henry VI, but never finished within his lifetime. The king went insane in prison after being defeated in the War of the Roses. Since then, King’s College has been the site of lots of reported huntings.
The Chapel was used a garrison by Oliver Cromwell during the civil war. The building was gutted and used to house parliamentarian cavalrymen. There have been multiple reports of unusual noises inside the chapel at night time where people have heard scraping of feet, neighing of horses and seen strange shadows. The more usual ghost sightings isn’t on the inside of the chapel, but on the roof. Police have been called out several times after student or tutors have reported seeing figures moving about the roof.
A scholar called Barret, who was known for being an extreme eccentric, kept a room in the Gibbs Building, in which he kept a coffin. He was often heard screaming maniacally at night, but all scholars were considered to be a bit odd, so they ignored him as long as he did his job well. The problems started when he stopped screaming at night. Silence from his room was suspicious and when the other scholars tried to enter, his door was locked. After failing to rouse him they broke down the door and found him in his coffin dead, with a peaceful smile on his face. After this event, the Gibbs Building was never used as an accomodation again as people were complaining that it was impossible to sleep in there because of the screaming in the small hours. The College attempted to exorcise the building unsuccessfully, and now it is just patiently tolerated.
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you are thirsty for more and would like to go punting to hear other interesting stories of the Colleges, click here to book your tickets!