Oxford Ghost Stories and Supernatural Tales

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Top 5 Oxford Ghost Stories and Supernatural Tales

Oxford Ghost Stories and Supernatural Tales

Oxford, with its rich history and ancient architecture, has accumulated a myriad of ghost stories and tales of the supernatural. Here are five popular Oxford ghost stories and the places associated to them.

These ghost stories contribute to the mystique of Oxford, adding an extra layer of intrigue to its historic streets, colleges, and libraries. Whether rooted in historical events or the product of imaginative storytelling, these tales continue to captivate locals and visitors alike.

Cumnor Place, located near Oxford, is associated with the tragic tale of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, a close friend of Queen Elizabeth I. Amy was found dead at the base of a staircase in 1560. Legends suggest her ghost haunts the area, with sightings reported of a woman in Tudor attire near the old staircase.

The tale dates back to 1560 when Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley—a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I—was found lifeless at the foot of a staircase in Cumnor Place. The circumstances of her death remain shrouded in mystery, fueling speculation about foul play or a tragic accident. Her passing occurred while her husband was away, leading to a flurry of conjectures and rumors.

Amy’s tragic death and the mystery surrounding it have inspired numerous works of literature, theater, and film, perpetuating her legacy as a figure of intrigue and fascination in English history. The story of Amy Robsart continues to capture the imagination of those interested in the Tudor era and the mysteries of the past.

Read more about Cumnor Place and how to visit >

Possible portrait miniature of Amy Robsart on the occasion of her wedding, 1550, by Levina Teerlinc.
Possible portrait miniature of Amy Robsart on the occasion of her wedding, 1550, by Levina Teerlinc.

Duke Humfrey’s Library in the Bodleian Library is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a former librarian. Some claim to have heard the sound of books being moved or pages turning when there is no one around. The library’s ancient and atmospheric surroundings contribute to the eerie atmosphere.

Legend has woven a tale of spectral intrigue around Duke Humfrey’s Library, nestled within the venerable Bodleian Library at Oxford University. According to local lore, the library is home to the enigmatic Ghostly Librarian, whose ethereal presence haunts its hallowed halls. Many believe this spectral figure to be none other than Thomas Allen, a former librarian who served in the 17th century.

The Ghostly Librarian is said to make his presence known during the quiet hours of the night, when the library is bathed in shadows and silence reigns supreme. Witnesses have reported eerie encounters with his shadowy figure, describing sightings of a spectral form clad in attire reminiscent of the 17th century. Some claim to have felt an inexplicable chill in the air or heard faint whispers echoing through the corridors in his presence.

Those who have crossed paths with the Ghostly Librarian recount peculiar occurrences, such as books mysteriously shifting on their shelves or pages turning as if by an unseen hand. Some even suggest that the spectral librarian continues his diligent work even in death, tirelessly preserving and organizing the ancient tomes that line the library’s shelves.

Despite the spine-tingling nature of these encounters, the Ghostly Librarian is generally regarded as a benign presence, more guardian than ghoul!

Read more about Thomas Allen, the spectral librarian >

Thomas Allen (1540-1632) depicted in a portrait of Trinity College, Oxford.
Thomas Allen (1540-1632) depicted in a portrait of Trinity College, Oxford.

St. John’s College is said to be haunted by a phantom cavalier from the English Civil War era. According to the legend, the ghostly figure rides through the college’s Second Quad, sometimes disappearing through closed doors. The story is often linked to the college’s historical connections with the Civil War.

Local legend tells of the Phantom Cavalier, believed to be the restless spirit of a nobleman whose life was tragically cut short during the turmoil of the English Civil War in the 17th century. Revered for his gallantry and valor on the battlefield, the cavalier met his untimely demise in a violent skirmish near St. John’s College, under circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Since that fateful day, sightings of the Phantom Cavalier have persisted through generations of students, faculty, and visitors to St. John’s College. Witnesses recount eerie encounters with a spectral figure adorned in the attire of a 17th-century cavalier, his ethereal form illuminated by the gentle glow of moonlight seeping through the college’s Gothic windows. Some claim to have heard the faint echo of hoofbeats piercing the night air, accompanied by the phantom’s haunting presence, adding to the intrigue of the legend.

Read more about the Phantom Cavalier >

Oxford University - St John's College. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.
Oxford University - St John's College. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the Bodleian Library, is said to wander the library, especially on the anniversary of his death. Witnesses have reported encounters with a scholarly-looking figure, believed to be Bodley, inspecting the books and shelves in the Radcliffe Camera.

Scholars, librarians, and visitors often report sensing the presence of the Spirit of Sir Thomas Bodley as they explore the library’s collections or engage in research within its ancient walls. Some attribute peculiar occurrences, such as mysterious drafts, flickering lights, or unexplained whispers, to his ghostly influence.

Despite the eerie atmosphere created by these encounters, the Spirit of Sir Thomas Bodley is generally perceived as a benevolent guardian rather than a menacing specter. His spectral presence serves as a comforting reminder of the enduring legacy of the Bodleian Library and its founder, inspiring countless scholars and book enthusiasts to pursue knowledge and enlightenment within its historic confines.

Read more about the Spirit of Sir Thomas Bodley >

Thomas Bodley, the founder of Bodleian Library of Oxford.
Thomas Bodley, the founder of Bodleian Library of Oxford.

New College is home to a haunting tale of a ghostly choir. Legend has it that a choir of unseen voices can be heard singing in the college chapel during the night. This spectral choir is said to be a manifestation of former choristers who met tragic fates.

In local legend, it is said that the Ghostly Choir represents the otherworldly embodiment of a choir that graced the halls of New College many centuries ago. The choir, composed of exceptionally skilled singers and musicians, gained renown for its celestial melodies and captivating performances that enchanted audiences near and far with their transcendent harmonies.

However, tragedy befell the choir on a fateful night when their rehearsal was abruptly interrupted by a sudden and catastrophic event. Some iterations of the legend suggest that a devastating fire swept through the college, tragically claiming the lives of the choir members and leaving behind only their spectral echoes. Other variations recount tales of illness, plague, or even a malevolent pact with supernatural forces that ultimately led to the demise of the choir.

Read more about the ghostly choir of New College >

Oxford Vintage & Old Photos: Oxford New College: Dining Hall
Oxford New College: Dining Hall

More Oxford Ghost and Supernatural Stories

The Ghostly Encounter at Christ Church Cathedral:

Christ Church Cathedral, part of the famous Christ Church College in Oxford, is said to be haunted by the spirit of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. According to legend, Amy’s ghost roams the cathedral’s cloisters, seeking solace for her tragic death. Visitors and staff have reported eerie encounters with her spectral figure, often accompanied by inexplicable cold spots and feelings of unease.

The Phantom Coach of Magdalen Bridge

Magdalen Bridge, spanning the River Cherwell, is the setting for a chilling legend involving a phantom coach that materializes on misty nights. According to local lore, the ghostly coach, drawn by spectral horses, emerges from the darkness and crosses the bridge in eerie silence before vanishing into thin air. Some witnesses claim to have heard the sound of hooves and carriage wheels echoing through the night, despite there being no visible presence of a coach.

The Mysterious Blue Lights of New College Lane

New College Lane, a narrow passageway near New College, is rumored to be haunted by mysterious blue lights that flicker and dance in the darkness. According to legend, these spectral lights are the restless souls of plague victims buried beneath the cobblestones, their presence manifesting as eerie orbs of blue flame. Locals and visitors alike have reported sightings of the ghostly lights, adding an extra layer of mystery to this historic thoroughfare

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