Halloween: love it or hate it, there’s certainly no escaping it.

Halloween is really quite a funny celebration when you step back and take a look at it from afar. I can only imagine what a visitor from another planet would think if they chose to take a trip to Earth on the one day of the year where we all choose to dress as something vile/dead/terrifying, carve creepy faces out of vegetables that remain otherwise unloved for the remaining 364 days of the year, and go round knocking on doors asking for sweets, despite having spent our entire childhood being told never to take candy from strangers. Us humans are strange creatures sometimes.

It seems the North East is the perfect place to bask in the Halloween madness. Just a quick Google search brings up countless stories of paranormal activity and unusual goings-on; some indeed more questionable than others. I have to say, I don’t hold out much hope of bumping into the ‘Twisted Man’, who has apparently been spotted emerging, ‘twisted and bent over’ from a cellar on the North Bailey, dressed in a fine ruffled white shirt and smart black trousers. Neither do I rate my chances of encountering ‘the ghostly sounds of armies clashing weapons just as they were in 1346’ at the site of the Battle of Neville’s Cross -though, admittedly, that may be more down to my reluctance to very publicly walk three times around the shaft of the stone memorial cross before placing my ear to the ground (I might look a little bit weird).

Students at Castle College, however, should maybe be a little less sceptical. The general consensus amongst avid paranormal activity enthusiasts is that the Black Staircase in Durham Castle is by far the most haunted location in the city, with numerous reported sightings of a fleeting figure on the stairwell seemingly providing a chilling authenticity to the claims. Just who is keeping these students company remains a mystery though…

Durham Castle – creepier via Instagram?

Many believe the spirit to belong to the wife of one of the old Prince Bishops of Durham, who reputedly fell to her death on the stairwell from its uppermost heights. Another legend, however, tells of Frederick Copeman, one of the very first Durham University students in the 19th Century. The story goes that Frederick lived in the highest room in Durham Castle, at the top of the Black Staircase. When the results of the final exams were pinned to the noticeboards on Palace Green – first class at the top, second in the middle, third at the bottom, those who failed with names absent – Copeman was seen frantically scanning the results for his name only to find it wasn’t there. Returning to his room in despair, he was heard pacing the floor before eventually vacating his room and racing to the top of the cathedral tower, where he threw himself to his death. In a true FML moment for poor Freddie, it later emerged his name had been at the top of the first-class degree list, but had been obscured by the sheet pinned above. To this day, it is thought that his phantom footsteps can be heard pacing the floor up there in his old room…

Clearly, here at Butler, we shouldn’t be worried – we’re safe up at the top of that hill, in our own little haven of ghoul-free modernity, right? Well, apparently not.

You may or may not have already heard about the paranormal commotion that befell upon Butler College during the summer months. Such a commotion in fact, that it was genuinely suggested by a member of University staff that a Catholic priest should be called into the College to perform an exorcism. Yes, you did read that right. Such suggestions were the result of the mass hysteria that raged through the pre-sessional students during the summer break, after one student reported a sighting of a dark figure standing at the end of their bed during the night. Following this report, numerous other students claim to have also encountered the spectre. The recommendation for an exorcism came as the co-ordinators of the pre-sessional programme were inundated with visits from concerned students, fearful of just what lurks in their temporary halls of residence; some even driven to frantically calling their families at home in an utterly hysterical state.

You heard it here first.

Although the exorcism was a serious recommendation, the reasoning – “just to calm everyone down and put their minds at rest” – was a clear indicator of the scepticism in the air. Suggestions have been made that the figure was ‘probably just the cleaner’ and the subsequent sightings simply the result of an overactive imagination in light of the initial report. However, at this spooky time of year (and not wanting Castle to have all the fun), I do like to wonder: what if that student was actually right? What if there really issomething there? We do live next door to a crematorium after all…


Meanwhile, in Butler…

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Who needs the pre-sessional ghost when Monday 29th October 2012 saw Butler invaded by ghosts, ghouls and monsters aplenty?! The All Hallows Eve Formal brought vampires, Death Eaters, witches, goths and many, many more up the hill for a night of fun and thrills in Butler Bar (including a fantastic mash-up of Ghostbusters and Gangnam Style courtesy of resident DJ Tom Fraine); however, the Creepiest Costume of the Night award has to go to Mr Dave Lane for this terrifying get-up —————->

An impressive display of pumpkin carving talent has also been exhibited from Butler students in the past week!

We hope that, wherever you are and whatever you dressed as, you all enjoyed the Halloween period as much as we did! Now, 52 days until Christmas…


About butleralumni

The Butler Alumni blog is aimed at all alumni of Josephine Butler College, Durham University. We aim to keep you in the loop with interesting interviews with alumni and current Butler students, reviews of Butler events and updates on what is going on in both the College and alumni communities. The blog is edited and managed by the Alumni Relations Assistant, Sally Crawford, but she is always looking for ideas or volunteer writers to help make the posts more interesting and interactive! If you're interested in contributing to the blog, Sally would be thrilled to hear from you at jbalumni.association@durham.ac.uk.
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