We went on a Halloween ghost tour of Royal Holloway

Apparently we’re one of the most-haunted unis in the UK

It’s official: Royal Holloway is one of the most haunted universities in the UK. According to the Telegraph, the history of Founder’s is scary enough to earn us ninth place on the list of most haunted unis, with St Andrew’s leading the way at the top.

Intrigued, I went on a ghost tour of the uni with Sabrina, self-confessed ghost expert, to see what scary sights Royal Holloway has to offer.

Sabrina, the self-confessed ghost expert helped me on my hunt

Sabrina, the self-confessed ghost expert helped me on my hunt


First stop on our ghost hunt was Royal Holloway’s infamous cursed painting in the Picture Gallery. So the legend goes, the painting of the polar bears named “Man Proposes, God Disposes” has driven many students mad, even to suicide. In the 70s a student refused to sit in front of the painting for fear of its dark power, so the poor registrar ran to find something to cover it up, and the only thing he could find was a Union Jack, which we still use today.

Enough to drive you mad

Enough to drive you mad

The legend goes that one student killed themselves in front of it after writing “The polar bears made me do it” on their exam paper. Another is said to have stabbed themselves in the eyes to avoid seeing the painting. In daylight it seems harmless, but we thought night-time might make the painting come to life. There were no signs of phantom polar bears stalking the corridors though.


Is there someone lurking in the corridors at night?


Next stop is the quads where our founder Thomas Holloway supposedly haunts the uni in the form of a black cat. No one seems to know why he is a cat and I spent a hour searching for old Tom in his new form without any luck. Sabrina says she’s seen a black cat around campus and can feel his presence nearby but I’m not so sure. After all, she is slightly obsessed: so much so she chose her first year accommodation because it contained a paranormal presence.


The search continued up to the fourth floor where Thomas’s wife Jane is said to have been spotted. On our hunt we found a Founder’s resident who confirmed Jane has made an appearance wandering the halls, her dress has even been heard rustling in the breeze.

There have also been reports of a young boy roaming the corridors to be found standing at the foot of some poor fresher’s bed. Some say a ghostly figure has tried to wake them in their sleep. The sceptic in me wants to disagree, but the overwhelming number of people who’ve confirmed ghost sightings leads the hunt further. Although I didn’t see Jane, I can’t deny a ghostly air lingers in this corridor at night.


I made it to the 4th floor


The lesser-known and sadly more recent paranormal activity is found on the top floor of Williamson, haunted by a student who walks the corridors where they tragically committed suicide. Although we weren’t allowed into Williamson we still went to check out the building. No ghosts though


1:30am – The end of the hunt

Further afield is Holloway Sanatorium, Founder’s sister building at Virginia Park down the road. I won’t be going there tonight as there are no concrete reports of hauntings, but Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and Jane and Thomas Holloway were some of the more famous names to spend their time as patients there. I wonder if their shadows run through the walls. Is the ghost of Florence still holding her lamp?

Unless I ever venture over there, I’ll probably never know for sure. After all, despite the many convincing reports of hauntings at Royal Holloway, I didn’t see any ghosts first hand. This won’t stop me searching, but I wouldn’t trust reports from those out on a Friday night at the SU, seeing things in the dark after one too many VKs.


What paranormal figures feature in the dark?

So remember – when something goes bump in the night this Halloween, it might not be your neighbour having a good time but instead be something from beyond the grave wanting to make an appearance.