Trinity College, England Is Haunted!

People aren’t used to thinking of Trinity College as the underdog. As one of Cambridge’s oldest and largest colleges, it normally manages to pull its weight in most respects. But not when it comes to hauntings.

For some reason, Geoff Yeates’ Cambridge College Ghosts – the Bible for budding Cambridge spectre-spotters – doesn’t even give Trinity a section. It’s time to set the record straight about Trinity College – and how better to do that than with a good old-fashioned ghost hunt? We don’t have to dig too far to find ghosts in Trinity. There is one particular ‘appearance’ which, until recently , made itself known annually. Each year a student from Harvard is sent to Trinity as part of the Fiske Scholarship scheme. Each year, they are given the same room (B3, New Court). And each year they were met with by an unexpected visitor.

Lt. Charles Henry Fiske, an alumnus of both Trinity and Harvard, died in France in 1919 after suffering severe wounds in battle. Following his death his grieving parents established the Fiske scholarship as a way of keeping his memory alive. Little did they know that Charles had plans of his own. Sometimes appearing dressed in full military uniform, sometimes only as an unseen ‘presence’ preventing the students from entering the room, Fiske’s mischief eventually led the college to call in professional help. Once the staircase had been searched by ‘ghost investigators’ the college decided to arrange an exorcism. Since then, Fiske’s troubled spirit seems to have moved on, and the scholars can finally study undisturbed.

But the college is still far from peaceful. Should you venture past the Clock Tower and under King’s Gate, you will find yourself wandering in the oldest part of Trinity. Porters and students alike have often felt eerie drafts and drifting ‘presences’ watching over them as they pass these medieval walls. One second-year Trinitarian, who wished to remain nameless, spoke to TCS about feeling a “strange breeze” while walking through the area alone at night: “I wasn’t frightened, but I really wouldn’t want to stick around there too long.” A dark and disused spiral staircase may provide the key to these hauntings. Mr Jon Smith, Trinity College’s archivist, told TCS of “a tale told about [the] staircase in King’s Hostel, which a student of King’s Hall fell down in medieval times.” It remains mysteriously closed-off to this day.

Perhaps the most chilling of Trinity’s ghost stories can be found in Howitt’s History of the Supernatural (1863). Howitt first heard the tale from the poet William Wordsworth, who in turn had been informed of it by his youngest brother Christopher, then Master of Trinity. According to Howitt, a young man staying in college came to Dr Wordsworth to request a change of room. He explained that the chambers themselves were very convenient, but that he should be obliged to leave them. Howitt’s account runs as follows:

“When Dr. Wordsworth asked him why, the young man replied that he might think him fanciful, but the rooms were haunted. That he had been woken each night by a child that wandered about the rooms, moaning, and strange to say, with the palms of its hands turned outwards… Dr. Wordsworth said, he would now be candid with him; that these rooms had been repeatedly abandoned by students who asserted the same thing.” The young man was granted a change of room, but the hauntings were never explained.

Not all of Trinity’s ghost-gossip is quite so convincing. In 1922, T.C. Lethbridge – a self-confessed ‘explorer, archaeologist and parapsychologist’ – claimed to have seen a ghostly figure in the form of a man walking through New Court in a top hat. Although Mr. Lethbridge initially thought it was a porter, he remembered that porters only wore hats on Sundays. Thus, he concluded, it must have been a ghost. Chilling stuff, eh?

But so far as spurious spooks go, Letheridge’s account has got nothing on a certain 18th Century anecdote involving five of Trinity’s bedders. The incident, which made its way into The Public Advertiser (a popular paper at the time), was reported as follows:

“A letter from Cambridge, dated 14 January says, Yesterday a terrible Fray happened here, the Occasion of which as follows: one of the Bedmakers of Trinity College, being firmly persuaded she had seen a ghost walk around the Conduit Spot, and about the Hour that the supposed Ghost had appeared, one Wish, commonly called ‘Chin’ Wish, a Lad who belongs to the College, happening to pass that Way, the Amazons flew at him, and after stripping his Cloaths off his Back, would have thrown him into the Conduit; but disentangling himself, he knocked two of the Bedmakers down, and then made his Escape shirtless. His Disaster may be ascribed to the Uncouthness of his Visage, which is so particularly horrid, as Pierre calls it, that the greatest Physiognomist would mistake it for a Mast [mask].”

Uncouthly-visaged students aside, Trinity College can clearly hold their own when it comes to ghost stories. It just goes to show that there’s more to Cambridge’s colleges than the same old stories we hear repeated time and again by tour guides and punters.

Sofia Christensen & Tristram Fane-Saunders


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).