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Halloween 2015: Bristol’s tales of the unexplained

Pat Dunn (née Stinton) (BA 1955) as an executioner on a RAG float in 1953

Not a prison mug shot, but an ID card of Charles Buck (BSc 1977) as Chair of the Entertainment Committee at Bristol

28 October 2015

With Halloween just around the corner, we asked alumni for their student stories of the unexplained. From flying hair brushes, to commanding lightning, here are your best spooky tales to sink your teeth into.

The flying hairbrush

Pat Dunn (née Stinton) (BA 1955) says: 'Rodney Lodge was an 18th-century merchant house with some Victorian alterations situated near the Suspension Bridge and Hotwells. There were 16 female students in residence there in the early 1950s under the supervision of a Miss Stinchcombe. I can recall a dark cellar full of dust, cobwebs and old wine bottles.

'Myself and my two roommates, all called Patricia, were upstairs in Room 7, a pleasant room with enormous windows, a fire, three single beds, three wardrobes and a table and chairs in the centre. My bed was against the back wall under a large window overlooking the street. Very quickly, I noticed that there appeared to be children’s fingerprints on my window, verified by the other Pats.

'I must confess I didn’t like to be left alone in the room when the others had to go somewhere, and on one such occasion a hairbrush from the top of Patricia Anne’s wardrobe whizzed to the dark side of the room: it didn’t drop straight down as one would expect, but moved as if it had been thrown. I didn’t tell either of them about the incident, in fact I had forgotten about it until a couple of years ago. Anne rang to say she had met an ex-Bristol student who was housed in Room 7 and who said it was referred to as the haunted room as the childish fingerprints had been noticed on the window.'

An act of God?

Charles Buck (BSc 1977) says: 'In 1975, I shared a flat with Tim Newman on Pembroke Road, a hundred yards or so from the Clifton Cathedral (also known as the Elephant House). We had both retired to our bedrooms when a sudden and violent thunderstorm broke out. I opened my window and peered out just in time to see lightning strike the cathedral.

'Both Tim and I emerged from our rooms with nothing on but raincoats, both having had the same idea: "let's go up to the bridge to watch the display!" The rain was so torrential that the road was like a river as we waded up in bare feet. By the time we got to the grassy mound on the way to the observatory the rain had stopped and the storm had drifted down the gorge and was lighting up the hills in the distance.

'We were disappointed, so I shouted up to God requesting a lightning strike on the nearby bridge tower. We were a touch surprised when he (she?) obliged only a few seconds later with a startling and prolonged strike right there! We were quite shocked and both went into slow motion running away. Very odd, the strike seemed to persist for ages, long enough for us to run at least five or six steps, necks twisted anxiously watching the display behind us. We were buzzing for hours and went home to listen to Tim's Thin Lizzie and Robin Trower records.'


Anne Rettie (née Jack) (BA 1955) says: 'In 1954, Margaret, a medical student, was revising for an exam in her room. Most people had gone to the Halloween dance in the Victoria Rooms. She was expecting her friends to come in for coffee on our return from the dance. Margaret was crossing the corridor to the kitchen to fill her kettle when she was surprised to see the swing doors begin to swing. She went into the room and heard shuffling footsteps, crossing the room and disappearing out of the window. The window overlooked an old cemetery area. But there was nothing to see!

'There was a story passed around without any real knowledge that a student, alone in the room at Halloween some years before, had fallen to her death out of that window. When we arrived, we found Margaret very shaken and puzzled. She was the most sensible, practical and down-to-earth person, but had no explanation for her experience.'

Further information

Do you have any Halloween stories to tell? Let us know: we'd love to hear from you.