Boswells Gets Ghoulish for Halloween

Boswells Gets Ghoulish for Halloween

As the nights grow longer and darker and the eerie Autumn mist begins to settle and shroud the city it can mean only one thing: Halloween is nearly here!

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To help get you in the mood for all things gruesome and ghastly we’ve been digging up some chilling local ghost stories, and some of them are really quite brilliant.

Founded over 1000 years ago, it figures that the city’s history is full of grisly tales of horrific deeds and suffering spectres. It seems that most, if not all, of the older colleges have at least one spooky story to boast, and spirits supposedly abound in other key spots around the city as well! Here are a few of our favourite Oxford ghost stories, but the feint of heart should beware, severed heads abound…


Ty Beanie Ghost

The Playhouse Theatre

The Playhouse Theatre is apparently haunted by a white veiled lady, who lingers in its stairways. Who the veiled ghost might be is unknown, but some say she’s a manifestation of a ruined nunnery/friary that stood on the spot until about 500 years ago. Whoever she is though, she’s no doubt seen some incredible performances over the years! Keep an eye out for her on your next visit.



Magdalen College

Spooky ImageOne particularly spooky Oxford tale is an account of a mysterious spectre spotted on the lawns of Magdalen College. When the story initially dates from is slightly murky, but the story goes that a student was walking across the College grounds early one morning when they spotted a figure dressed entirely in black. As it drew closer the student noticed that not only was the figure gliding, rather than walking, its face (or its head, depending on who’s telling the story) was altogether missing. As it approached the light, the apparition vanished. There have been alleged sightings ever since.


Charles I Execution Painting

Christ Church College

Christ Church College lays claim to a famous, in fact a royal, ghost, amongst its many other accolades. The spirit of King Charles I supposedly lurks in the College grounds, at times appearing with his head, and at others reportedly without. During the height of the English Civil War Oxford was a Royalist stronghold, and Charles made the Christ Church College Deanery his palace, and held Parliament in its Great Hall, perhaps explaining why many have claimed to have seen him there. Alternatively, he might just have developed a posthumous interest in Harry Potter, you never know…

(Image Credit).


Banbury Road

Skull ImageOne of the grisliest Oxford ghost stories features a headless wanderer on the Banbury Road, the late George Napier. Napier was hanged, drawn and quartered for being a Catholic priest at a time when a fervently Protestant England was still very fearful of Catholicism in the wake of the failed gunpowder plot, only 5 years before. Following his gruesome execution Napier’s quarters were separated and a piece was sent to each of the four city gates, while his head was apparently set on Tom Tower. The story goes that Napier’s ghost assembled the various pieces of his body, but could not find his head. He’s said to roam up and down the Banbury Road in an endless, and ultimately fruitless, search for his missing head.


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St John's College

St John’s College Library is apparently host to the ghost of Archbishop William Laud, who was the Chancellor of the College from 1629-1633. He was rather unfortunately beheaded for treason in 1645, after spending several years locked in the Tower of London. Students have reported being disturbed by Laud while studying late in the Library. His ghost apparently wanders the library passageways a couple of centimetres above the ground, a candle in one hand as he kicks his ghostly severed head along the corridor before him. Some accounts have him removing his own head from his neck and aiming it at those unfortunate enough to cross his path. Incidentally, the library itself was supposedly built, in part, with the leftover bricks from the ruined friary where The Playhouse Theatre now stands—a somewhat eerie coincidence?



Cartoon Ghost ImageThat’s right, as a not-so-new establishment ourselves, Boswells of course has a few spooky tales of its own, and although (as far as we’re aware) no one has ever seen our resident ghost, George, he can from time to time be heard clattering about. There are numerous stories about who George was and how he died, but he’s believed to have worked as a pharmacist at Boswells in the 1920s or 30s. Some say he committed suicide, others that he fell down the lift shaft. Either way, whenever anything mysterious happens here at Boswells, poor George tends to get the blame. Of course he also gets the blame for little things like knocking stock off shelves and the frequent disappearance of people’s pens…couldn’t possibly be any other explanation…


But whether you believe in George or not, the staff have some great stories to tell, and so here are a couple just for you!

Stockroom ImageLaura from our Accessories department told us that she’d heard George wandering about a few times. On two occasions she was in a stockroom, in one of the older, creakier parts of the building, when she heard footsteps on the old wooden floorboards. When she looked there was no one else to be found on the entire floor. Laura said she’d also heard similar mysterious footsteps in the basement, and again there was no one around.

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Anne in our Toy Department also had a particularly chilling story to share. She said that one day she got chatting to a customer who was staying in rooms adjoining Boswells. The customer told her “how noisy our night security guard was, banging about, walking noisily, and this happened over several nights.” The customer was somewhat alarmed when Anne told her that there was no night security guard. No one at all had been in the building overnight.


Happy Halloween!

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If all of this talk of ghosts has sufficiently whetted your appetite for some ghoulish Halloween fun then you’ll be delighted to hear that we’ve got a great new selection of costumes, make-up and decorations in store and online to help make your Halloween a hit. And why not pop in and say hi to George over the coming weeks, we’re sure he’d love to meet you...

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Our special thanks to the Boswells staff for generously sharing their ghost stories with us, some of which we sadly didn’t get a chance to use. If you’ve got any great Oxford ghost stories of your own that you’d like to share with us we’d love to hear them!

Happy Halloween from all of us at Boswells!

Image Credit: Jake Bevan

15th October 2016

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