RHUL rumours: True or false?

The closest I came to finding Thomas Holloway’s ghost black cat was when I saw a dead mouse on the steps near Crosslands


When it’s four in the morning, you could easily imagine a ghostly figure fitting in well with the aesthetic of Founder’s. From experience, it seems you’re more likely to be woken up by a wild night of drinking in the hallway,  followed by security herding students back to their rooms. Or, the fire alarm (it stopped being funny the first time).

I’ve heard some bizarre things about the uni in general, not all of them ghost related, and I’ve been trying to actually work out how many of them are based on anything more than too many cheap drinks and boredom. I’m yet to see Thomas Holloway in the form of a black cat wandering around the quad, or Jane on the fourth floor of founders west.

Still, we all know that surreal stories are some of the best things to tell when Egham feels that little bit too bland, so here are a few of the most famous:

The tunnels connecting parts of campus

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You can’t seem to go far around Founder’s without hearing of the mysterious tunnels. I’ve heard about twelve different versions of this one by now, from the one about an underground link between Founder’s and Kingswood to the horror cliche tale of the tunnel to the Holloway Sanatorium, which is now apparently a block of nearby flats. A friend, who shall remain nameless, went on a drunken 3am search. One hour later, there was a twisted ankle and very little in terms of tunnels or anything other than uncovering many cupboards of cleaning supplies. I think it’s a case of actually seeing the origin of the rumour rather than hearing some patchwork tales from freshers week.

Thomas Holloway’s ghost in cat form

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One of the most popular rumours that circulates campus every year is the story of Thomas Holloway’s ghost roaming the corridors of Founder’s in the form of a black cat. Many have claimed to have seen a cat appear briefly, only for it to have disappeared from sight seconds later.

The ‘cursed’ painting in the Picture Gallery

Casually devouring that ribcage

Casually devouring that ribcage

Take the famous cursed painting, which, let’s be honest, I do see where they’re coming from. Nothing says ‘relax during your exam’ like the thought of death and polar bear destruction. Sitting next to the painting is reported as a path to failure, just as the expedition itself didn’t exactly go to plan. The most unsettling legend is of a girl driven insane, in a trance-like state that eventually results in her suicide – supposedly, ‘the polar bears made her do it’. Research shows this to be unlikely, but if the university feels the need to cover it with a flag during exams, I still wouldn’t look them directly in the eye.

Students who drowned in Jane Holloway Hall

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Then there’s the walk past Jane Holloway Hall. The stories of drowned students when it was used as a swimming pool are another classic tale that’s been told on that walk through the woods. It’s then, when your brain is muddled, that stories like that seem to have their power (or when you have a three day power cut).

I sat in Founder’s library looking for information on whether any of these are true, from the tunnels, to the tale of the stained ceiling in the fourth floor of founders west, and found nothing. The truth seems just as solid as the ghosts which are meant to linger about in the shadows, but you can still see the inspiration for everything that’s been said by students past and present.

Despite the rumours of a lingering Thomas and Jane, and derelict tunnels, so far the scariest thing that’s happened is trying to get back up the hill from Medicine. The Founder’s woodlands are surprisingly scary in the dark, so some beady eyed polar bears have got nothing on trying to not to fall into a puddle ditch.