The Hauntings of Trinity College, Dublin

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Trinity College Dublin is a hallowed ground for both students and spectres, says guest writer DAVID McHUGH

Trinity College Postcard

Haunted Tour of Trinity College Dublin

As I continue my ramble through my native city, I’m always struck by the number of statues that adorn here – some on plinths, testament to the long history this city of Dublin has, from Viking and Dane, Norman and Colonial; and of course, native Irish. 

Now, as the modern LUAS tram, buses, trains and all other modes of transport including self-hire bicycles wind through our city streets, it’s hard to think of ghosts; especially in unseasonable early sunny autumn weather, yet they are always there.

Ghosts know no time. They are residual, they are part of the place; of the stone, of the structure. This was in my mind as I passed by the statue of Edward Grattan, and walked into the main entrance of Trinity College, Dublin.

I passed Spanish students wearing Slipknot t-shirts and munching McDonald’s, American visitors taking selfies, and a myriad of other visitors simply savouring this wonderful city, little realising  realise the spooky undertones. As we walk under an arch and into a courtyard follow me, as we discover this supernatural underbelly in the middle of the city…

On our last journey, we heard the stories behind Marsh’s library. Before his time at the library and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Narcissus Marsh was the Provost of Trinity College during the 1670s.  While he haunts the library in search of a lost note between the pages of the books, he is also seen upon the college campus, where he oversees his academic haven. He is not the first, nor the last phantom said to wander the halls of this fantastic building…

Edward Ford is perhaps the most famous of the otherworldly occupants of Trinity College, Dublin. Allow me to introduce him, as that once sunny weather reveals a chill in the courtyard.

Ford was a former student and eventual fellow of the college during the early 1700s.  He lived in Trinity’s Oldest Building, the Rubrics, and, during his fellowship, Ford was notorious amongst students for being an “obstinate and ill-judging man” In other words, he put his nose in where it wasn’t wanted, and he was curmudgeonly.

Trinity College Dublin, Postcard

One night, that nosey persona was to turn Ford from a human to a phantom…

A particularly rowdy group of students, had previously been given a severe reprimand by Ford for harassing a college porter at the Front Gate and had now returned home from a night of carousing. They passed by House 25, Ford’s dwelling and decided to throw rocks at his window. 

Needless to say, Ford reached for his pistol and shot at the students through his newly broken window; awake in anger. The students fled uninjured, but decided to retaliate with their own firearms. It resulted in the shooting of Ford, who died two hours later because of this drunken revenge.  It is rumoured that his last words requested that the students be forgiven for their unthinkable actions: “I do not know, but God forgive them, I do.”

This is not the end. I chatted with some former and current students about this, and it still gives them the chills. Why?

It is believed that Ford’s ghost still lingers at his old residency, and he is said to wander around the Rubrics, dressed in wig, gown, and knee breeches.

Sceptics, believers and indeed even an American tourist in broad daylight saw a figure walking through the rooms in what she believed was period costume. It matched Ford’s description…

The day is still unseasonably warm; however, I can’t dismiss a slight chill and clouds forming as I walk towards the other gate. I had also heard about George Francis Fitzgerald, who was a physicist in the 1800s. This other phantom of TCD left me a little worried as I walked alone, and pondered the Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction, a theory of the relativity of space to speed.

He was a Trinity mathematical and experimental science student, and graduated at the top of his college class.  He was then hired as a tutor at Trinity, and advocated for an increase in practical teaching of experimental physics at the college, and was soon granted a fellowship. Fitzgerald died in 1901 at the young age of 41, which many understand to be a result of overwork.

Can the paranormal influence weather?

I detect a distinct chill and change in temperature as I walk towards the Physical Laboratory, now known as the Fitzgerald laboratory. A friend of mine, a man of science and fact, and a graduate of TCD, told me that in the early 1970’s students in this part of the college always felt worried as if something or someone was watching them. Is it Fitzgerald checking space and speed?

I decide to walk back towards The Campanile in the Front Square. It is an iconic landmark of College. And although not ghostly (can I feel the chill dispersing?), it is a location bound to an interesting superstition on this old ghostly grey campus. Legend has it that if a student walks underneath the Campanile as the bell tolls within the tower, they will fail all of their exams. 

Old Trinity College Postcard

The bell is known to ring at completely random intervals, meaning an unfortunate student walking under the Campanile can be cursed at any moment. But, if the cursed student can touch the foot of former Provost George Salmon’s statue before the bell stops ringing, the curse is reversed and a student’s academic fate remains in their own hands.

I’m rambling back out from the relative quiet, yet spooky Trinity; and under the arch into sunlight. Memories flood my mind, reflecting on how many came in here, and more importantly; how many remain. Yes, the statues are still here. But as I approach the front gate again I’m wondering what roams beneath?

Because legend has it that there is a network of underground tunnels underneath Trinity, that only an exclusive few contain access to. These tunnels contain an underground route from the Lecky Library to the Berkeley Library. Other rumoured tunnel routes that pass-through Trinity include a passage from the Provost’s House to St Stephen’s Green, and from the Berkeley to the Book of Kells. 

There are also rumours of a wine cellar underneath House 10 in Front Square that also serves as a tunnel to the nearby Royal College of Surgeons, a tunnel that was used during the 1916 Rising to transport ammunition. 

These may perhaps be the tunnels that helped Doctor Samuel Crossey medical professor on campus who by night, turned body snatcher and killer. He can still be seen, a shadowy figure, skulking the dark pathways and corridors, his surgeon’s bag in  one hand and a suspicious hessian sack in the other…

Now, the tunnels might be hearsay, but as I smell the Dublin autumnal air, I watch as the clouds move over and the sun shines on Grattan’s Parliament; now the Bank of Ireland. His statue sitting dead still. I wonder what roves beneath me or what other spectres I may encounter on my travails through Dublin City?

Have you seen a ghost at Trinity College in Dublin? Tell us in the comments section below!

Trinity College Dublin


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