Eoin Swithin Walsh writes about the murdered lecturer whose ghost roams the old college’s halls, former students who became horror writers and why you should not enter House No. 25!
Trinity College is well-known to everybody, to both tourists and locals alike. In the main square, at twilight, on a misty autumnal evening, it’s possible to imagine you’re in a bygone era. The Georgian and gothic buildings cast shadows of times long since past. Given its centuries of history, it will come as no surprise that spirited students aren’t the only souls that move through the pathways and corridors of Trinity College. The paranormal is always close at hand.
Edward Ford’s Ghost
The most well-known and most seen spectre that still haunts Trinity College met his demise there in March 1734. Edward Ford was firstly a student of Trinity, before becoming a lecturer there.
While teaching, he lived in the Rubrics building, which is the oldest building still standing in Trinity today. It is the red brick building located at the very back of the main square, behind the campanile.
Ford was not liked by the students. He often got involved in student matters and was strict at enforcing the rules of how students should conduct themselves.
One night, a group of students coming back from a night of revelry, started throwing stones at his bedroom window to annoy him. One stone broke one of the panes of glass. Ford was furious.
He couldn’t see who the culprits were but got out his pistol and started firing at them from his upstairs window. The students were livid about what they thought was a gross overreaction.
They got their own pistol and returned, waking him again. He returned to the window to accost them. Just then, several shots rang out, hitting Ford in the chest and head. He died some hours later.
Four students were charged with his death. They were, however, later acquitted. The fact the chief witness – the night porter – had also been drinking that night counted in their favour. He couldn’t, for certain, identify them.
They were all expelled from the college though, as punishment.
‘House No 25’, where Ford died, is still a ‘bogey’ place for students and lecturers today. No one likes to draw the short straw and get their office there, or even worse, sleep in his former bedroom!
Edward Ford’s ghost is easy to identify. His distinctive attire of a wig, knee breaches, and a night gown – the attire he died in – certainly make him stand out as he passes along the corridors and precincts of the Rubrics building.
Gothic writing came into its own in the 1800s. It is hardly a coincidence that three of the foremost writers of the gothic horror genre were all past pupils of Trinity College. Charles Robert Maturin is known as ‘father of gothic literature’. His 1820 novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, is now considered a classic of this genre of writing.
The novel’s main character, Melmoth, is a scholar who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for an extra 150 years of life. He then searches the world for someone who will take over the pact for him.
During his lifetime, Charles Maturin was described as ‘eccentric almost to the point of insanity’. Perhaps the novel was more autobiographical than a work of fiction?