School Spirits

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In the Spring 2017 issue, Rolph-Bell Archivist Sylvia Lassam wrote of Trinity’s founder Bishop John Strachan, “Perhaps there are other institutions whose founder remains a palpable presence after 150 years, but I suspect it’s unusual.” But just how palpable a presence is he?

Bishop Strachan died on November 1, 1867, and some say his spirit returns to the college each All Saints’ Day, stalking the halls and grounds in his Bishop’s robes and mitre.

Stories of Trinity’s ghosts abound. From poltergeists at St. Hilda’s to voices in the Larkin building, read on to learn about some of the spirits reported at Trinity College.

Happy Halloween!



In response to the recent call for stories, one graduate, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us about activity on the upper floors of Macklem House.

“When various Divinity Professors lived in the apartments over the Provost’s Lodge and wandered the halls at odd hours, wags occasionally referred to them as the Macklem House Ghost, however there were several reports of a dark specter that would appear over the shoulder of people when they looked at themselves in the mirror in the rooms of Third Macklem particularly at night in a darkened room. It was reported that a group of Divinity students found a copy of the Latin Vulgate and attempted an exorcism, inspired by the release of a movie by the same name. According to the story, the specter departed the room in question and moved down the hall to another room. Its appearance is preceded by the appearance of an unnaturally cold patch on the floor of the room it is visiting between the bed and the mirror and the sound of raspy, asthmatic, belaboured breathing. A problem with the radiators and the steam system or something otherworldly?”



Writing for Richard Fiennes-Clinton describes his exploration of the many steam tunnels running under Trinity’s grounds.

“We stopped in front of a portion of brick that is the centre of the legend of these tunnels. This portion of the brickwork seems to be “patched up” in a fashion that doesn’t match up with the surrounding patterns. This has given rise to the legend of a man being bricked up within the wall. Apparently, he can roam through a limited space up and down these underground corridors, and this he does, in search of souls to drag back to the confines of his hole in the wall. It is said that for every soul he abducts, one of the bricks that holds him in is loosened, and when he has finally captured enough souls, and loosened enough bricks, he will be free to eternally wander the entire University grounds at will.”


The Trinity College Chapel is a beautiful space built to commune with the Holy Spirit, but another spirit  – the “grey lady” – is said to also frequent the Chapel. Some have reported seeing the figure of a lady dressed in a light grey or blue dress sitting by herself close to the wall on the left side of the nave about half-way up the Chapel. As one starts to descend the stairs she vanishes. The most likely time for sightings seem to be a times when the Chapel is the most quiet, on holidays or late at night. Some people have also reported being uneasy in the spiral staircase leading from the Chapel to the choir stalls as though there was someone else present even when they knew they were the only person there.

“It seemed like there was something crawling about on the floor at the front of the chapel, but it was really too dark to make it out. It was also said that there was someone peeking out behind the front pew of the chapel, looking back up at the person playing the organ, but when they turned their head to look, the figure would slink behind the pew and vanish.”



While researching this summer’s feature on Trinity’s “Secret Spaces” in Trinity magazine, some team members heard something strange in the abandoned language .

“I was standing with a colleague near one of the carrels when a voice very clearly said ‘hello?’ – The other person heard it too. The power was off, and there was no one in the control booth. We couldn’t explain where it had come from, but it was loud and clear!”



It’s not just  the old Trinity building that has stories of hauntings. Some report kinetic energy on the upper floors of St. Hilda’s.

“On the west side of the building, objects (plants, figurines, cups) that were on the windowsills suddenly tipped over in the presence of the resident, pictures that resisted being straightened when out of kilter no matter how many times they were adjusted and shadows that flitted about in an erratic manner near the ceiling close to the door transoms.”




While in Rome in October 2017, Rolph-Bell Archivist Sylvia Lassam visited the grave of Gerald Larkin, one of Trinity’s most generous benefactors. Larkin died in 1961 on a ship en route to Rome where he was buried in the Cimitero dei protestanti (otherwise known at the “Englishmen’s Cemetery). Both John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley were buried in the same cemetery.



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