Ghost Fest is here! How haunted is Oxford?

Ghost-Fest-6In 2009 our very own Empress Matilda was declared Britain’s most seen ghost. Although she did not die here, many people have claimed to have seen her dressed in the white cape she wore when she made her escape from the castle one snowy night in 1142. Mary Blandy has also been witnessed, which some believe could be because she was wrongly convicted, or simply because she was executed here. It is hardly surprising that the castle is considered to be haunted, having once been filled with prisoners, many of whom died within its walls or were executed in the courtyard. If you have a penchant for the paranormal, a taste for terror, or simply enjoy dressing up and pumpkin carving, then why not come to one of our Ghost Fest events? We have events running throughout October and there’s sure to be something for everyone.


Oxford has a lot to offer when it comes to ghosts so we’ve collected a few stories to whet your appetite:

Godstow Nunnery: the nunnery and the nearby Trout pub are said to be haunted by the ghost of Rosamund the Fair, or Rosamund Clifford, a nun and mistress of King Henry II. Henry supposedly kept Rosamund in a secret garden which was guarded by a knight and could only be reached by making one’s way through a labyrinth. The knight held the end of a silver thread which led the way to Rosamund, and the story goes that the King’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, killed the knight to gain access to the garden, then poisoned Rosamund.[1]


St John’s College: students at St John’s have heard Archbishop William Laud walking through the library, kicking his head along the floor. Laud was a student of St John’s before becoming its president and then chancellor. He was accused by Parliament of endangering the Protestant faith through his “Catholic” orders, but on failure to prove him guilty for this, a Bill of Attainder was passed and he was executed in 1645.[2]


Merton College: Francis Windebank was a colonel in the Royalist army during the Civil War. He was put in charge of Bletchingdon Park, garrisoned by the Royalists. When the Parliamentarians came to attack the house Windebank surrendered it. The Royalists, believing he had shirked his duty, had him shot. He was shot against the town wall which adjoined that of Merton College and is said to wander the college and Dead Man’s Walk, the footpath running alongside the city wall.  Interestingly, those who have seen him say he appears only from the knees up; the explanation given for this is that he is walking on what was the original ground level.[3]


Magpie Lane: The ghost of a young Puritan woman named Prudence Bostock has been sighted in Magpie Lane. She is believed to have died of a broken heart after her Cavalier lover ran away and continues to roam the lane in hope of his return.[4]


Hopefully that will have got you in the mood for Halloween and where better to spend it than the home of Britain’s most witnessed ghost?! Join us for Ghost Fest…if you dare.



[2] C N Trueman “Archbishop William Laud”, The History Learning Site, 17 Mar 2015 (, 16 Aug 2016).