Ghosts in the City
It's not surprising that a city with a thousand-year-old university and a history that includes a lot of Civil War action would have its fair share of ghosts. Many spectres have been spotted across Oxford over the years - here's a short guide to places to spot a ghoul or two.
The older colleges are particularly known for their ghostly activity. One supernatural resident of Merton College is Colonel Francis Winderbank, a Royalist colonel in the Civil War. Winderbank was executed just outside the college, and can be seen floating along Dead Man's Walk, a footpath running just south of the college. St John's library, meanwhile, has a headless ghost - Archbishop William Laud, who can often be seen kicking his head along the floor.
In Carl Boardman's Oxfordshire Sinners and Villains, you can find out about the demonic abduction of Brasenose Lane. In the words of Nick Swarbrick, who drew our attention to this story:
Do you know the little barred window at the Radcliffe Sq end of Brasenose Lane? It is said that a fellow of the college was terrified on seeing a figure at that window dragging a person out late one night, and that on entering the college found that a riotous undergrad and member of the Hell Fire club was dead in his room - the room with the little window. The Devil had come to claim his own...
If you take a tour around Oxford Castle, keep your eyes open for shifting shadows - there have been reported sightings of dark shapes that appear without explanation, as well as poltergeist activity. The ghost of Mary Blandy, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of her father, has been seen in the courtyard. There's also a royal resident - despite not actually dying there, Queen Matilda has been spotted re-enacting her daring escape from the castle.
Ghosts across the County
It's not just the city that has a significant ghastly population. There are reports of ghost sightings across the county of Oxfordshire - some more benign than others.
Banbury is a hotbed of ghostly activity. The Co-Op Travel Shop is home to a poltergeist who locks the toilet door, knocks files over, and fills the place with the smell of toast. Ye Olde Reindeer Inn used to host the grisly ghost of a Cavalier, but unfortunately, he hasn't been seen in years. In the villages around Banbury, there's been a more devilish presence - Old Nick himself apparently helped with the construction of the churches at Bloxham, Adderbury and Kings Sutton.
The first Duke of Marlborough can sometimes be seen at Blenheim Palace, sharing his former home with some poltergeists.
Burford is also home to many ghosts. There have been spooky sightings at the Priory, which is haunted by The Monk in Brown, as well as the ghost of a gamekeeper who patrols the woods. There are some more mobile ghosts in the forms of Sir Laurence and Lady Tanfield, who travel around Burford's roads in a flaming coach.
Carterton Manor has a particularly unusual ghost - a haunted wardrobe, which made its supernatural debut in 1937. Its doors began opening and closing continually, while an old man in a deerstalker appeared around the house. The haunting didn't stop until the wardrobe was removed.
Animal-loving ghost hunters should take a trip to Charlbury. This village's local ghost is a white stallion, who gallops around the country lanes at night.
Cumnor Place is allegedly haunted by Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley, who history buffs will remember as a favourite of Elizabeth I. Rumour has it that she was reportedly murdered by her husband to clear his path to the Queen, and that the crime was staged to look like an accident.
Godstow Nunnery and The Trout Pub are home to a famous ghost, Rosamund the Fair (full name Rosamund Clifford), who was a nun and also, somewhat breaking her religious vows, the mistress of Henry II. Rumour has it that Rosamund was protected by a knight sent to guard her by her royal boyfriend - unfortunately, the knight was no match for the machinations of Henry II's wife, Eleanor of Aquitane, who organised Rosamund's murder.
The Bear Hotel in Woodstock is home to permanent ghost resident Elizabeth Downing and her young son Christopher, who may try to play hide and seek with you. There are two rooms that are reputed to be exceptionally haunted, which you can book for a night's stay!
Spooky Things to Do
If you want to get a closer look at Oxford's spooky side, Bill Spectre's Ghost Tour will take you round the city centre's haunted sites. Rated highly by Daily Info reviewers, this award-winning walking tour is the perfect way to learn more about Oxford's ghostly past.
To take a deeper dive into haunted Oxford, you could check out the upcoming Ghost Fest at Oxford Castle. There will be a number of spooky tours, including a particularly apt Midnight Tour on All Hallow's Eve itself