The Crisis Apparition of John Bonnell


Crisis apparitions appear once to convey a message. RICK HALE explores the historical example of John Bonnell at Queen’s College, Oxford

Crisis apparitions appear once to convey a message. RICK HALE explores the historical example of John Bonnell at Queen's College, Oxford

Oftentimes, when people find out I’m a ghost hunter,  I get asked various questions. Some are good, some not so much. It’s an occupational hazard.

But one of those good questions is, “What is the most common kind of ghost?

Good question, and it depends on who you ask. TV shows push the demon angle for ratings, of course.

Your everyday ghost hunter might say that intelligent or residual ghosts are the most common. And parapsychologists go on and on about consciousness. (Just kidding, folks.)

But believe it or not, the most common kind of ghost is a one-shot deal. By that, I mean, it shows itself once, imparts a message or warning, and then shuffles off to the great hereafter.

And parapsychology has classified this ghost as a crisis apparition. And depending on what they have to say, seeing one isn’t always a great thing.

When organised paranormal investigation and research were created in the 18th century by Britain’s finest minds, they heard many stories from family members of people who had just passed.

They reported that before the death of their loved one, that person mysteriously appeared before them. Although they were many miles away,

Some reported knowing that a family member was sick and on the verge of death.

Or they died suddenly in an accident. Either way, that person appeared and gave a message or even a simple goodbye.

While some may regard this as a ghost, others would disagree completely and say it was a telepathic projection caused by great distress. In case you were wondering, I stand in the latter camp.

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Although there are several examples of crisis apparitions, there is one that truly baffled all who were involved. And it continues to baffle to this day.

The Crisis Apparition of John Bonnell

Queen’s College at Oxford is Britain’s oldest and most respected institution of higher learning.

Since 1341, Queen’s College has turned out some of the finest minds in the history of the country.

And of course, with almost 700 years of history, the college has a number of reports concerning encounters with the other side of life.

But it is one apparition, the crisis apparition of John Bonnell, that is remembered.

The peculiar occurrence that people at Queen’s College still talk about to this day occurred on the morning of 18 November 1750.

On that particular morning, Mr Ballard and Reverend More were chatting outside, waiting for the lunch trumpet to sound, when they saw a curious sight.

Mr Ballard pointed out a man to his companion coming out of the college he was unfamiliar with.

Mr More commented that the man was none other than John Bonnell of Stanton Harcourt.

Mr More could tell it was John Bonnell due to his walk and the unique way he carried his robe.

But what exactly was it about the man that troubled Ballard so?

The reason Bonnell startled him was because his face was red and bloated, and he appeared to be frightened as well as confused. It was almost as if he didn’t know where he was, or where he should be going.

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According to Mr Ballard, it was a sight he would never forget.

The two men watched the figure of John Bonnell as he hurriedly walked up High Street until he just seemed to vanish when he came to Catherine Street.

A Frightening Revelation

The two men thought nothing of the disconcerting encounter until hours later, when the chapel issued its evening prayers for the dangerously ill and injured.

When the two men learned that John Bonnell was on the list, they were astonished to learn the man was ill. Even on the verge of death.

Both Ballard and More remarked they had just seen the man before the sounding of the lunch trumpet, and apart from his appearance, he seemed fine.

James Harrison, who was overhearing the conversation, remarked in awe that the two men were mistaken.

Mr Bonnell had been on his deathbed for days and would soon meet his creator in the afterlife.

Later, when the news was released that John Bonnell had indeed succumbed to his illness, both More and Ballard attested that they had indeed seen John Bonnell and were unable to explain the bizarre situation.

The story of this famous encounter with the crisis apparition of John Bonnell was taken from the book ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain‘ written by John Ingram in 1897.

Were More and Ballard mistaken when they saw another man who closely resembled John Bonnell?

It certainly is possible, as mistaken identity happens all the time. It’s quite common, as any of us would know.

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However, Mr More was absolutely certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what he and his companion saw was indeed John Bonnell.

Considering that people have seen crisis apparitions for centuries, it is certainly possible.

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Rick Hale
Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.


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