Bill Spectre's Ghost Trail, touring Christ Church College on a mild October early evening, is an upmarket affair from start to finish - let's say more MR James or The Canterville Ghost than the ghost train on Skegness Pier. The surroundings all but guarantee a touch of class. Our group of 30 comprising among others the ex-landlord of the Mitre Inn in Turl St, his transfixed son Euan, a bemused couple from Uzbekistan and Lauren from Virginia, was warmly greeted in the splendour of the Christ Church Hall by Helen Camunas-Lopez, the Visitor Manager, and by college waiters bearing chocolate brownies (Daily Info took two in the interests of research) and hot cinnamon punch. We then set off round the college in gathering dusk, meandering from Tom Quad to the Master's Garden via the Lee Building, Queen Henrietta Maria's doorway and the Cheshire Cat's oak tree. We passed many a wall but alas Humpty Dumpty was absent, perhaps at an un-birthday party.
The format of the tour was simple but varied: snippets of college history and Lewis Carroll references, interspersed with ghost lore and punctuated by sleight-of-hand magic tricks. Mr Spectre (the gently punning name seems appropriate to his persona) is a sprightly soul with a touch of upright melancholy and a suitably sepulchral voice. He at chosen moments conjured up the spirit of a long-dead chef from Corpus Christi prone to sneaking up on unwary Christ Church diners and tapping them on the left shoulder - The Mitre Inn was thus duly tapped to his and our surprise.
Then off we set. An encounter with the legendary buried key of St Frideswide had young Euan's hair standing on end - literally. We were baffled by a rendering of Jabberwocky under Dr Pocock's ancient oriental plane and then invited to speculate on whether the mole or the bluebottle makes for better eating. A jumping edition of Alice in Wonderland was succeeded by an incendiary volume of incunabula. Lauren from Virginia took part in a suicide hanging in the gloom, and then, in pursuit of fearless journalistic truth, my arm was sawn off in the quad with a shriek that must have reached Jericho.
This was a well-planned and fun tour, just right for children and adults alike and performed with a bit of style and panache. Highly recommended!