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Friday, December 19, 1997 Published at 10:19 GMT


Ghost sightings haunt Cambridge college

Peterhouse, the oldest of the Cambridge colleges, is hoping to make a local spectre a ghost of Christmas past by summoning an exorcist to banish the spirit and return campus life to normal.

The ghost, thought to be that of a former Peterhouse bursar who hanged himself in the 18th century, was first seen last spring and most recently seen two weeks ago.

The Bursar and the Dean describe the ghostly happenings at Peterhouse (4' 22")
Some of the college staff are refusing to enter the so-called combination room, a 13th century oak-pannelled chamber linked to the fellows dining room, where the apparition was last seen.

Two butlers reported seeing the ghost moving slowly across the room before disappearing near the spot where Dawes's body was discovered.

College dons believe the ghost sightings are impairing the smooth functioning of the institution.

The Times Higher Educational Supplement reports that the local exorcist appointed for the diocese proposed the only way to banish the ghost is to hold a full-requiem mass in the presence of all 48 fellows and the kitchen staff.

The Dean of Peterhouse, Dr Graham Ward, is reported to be exploring these measures to restore college life to normal.

However, some fellows, including a few scientists, are agreeing not to attend the mass because they say they don't believe in ghosts.

History of ghoulish goings-ons

Mr Dawes, who is buried in the neighbouring churchyard of Little St Mary's, committed suicide in his 60s after blaming himself for the controversial election of Francis Barnes as Master of Peterhouse.

The election, overseen by the bursar, was marked by skullduggery and resulted in a highly unpopular victor. Documents note that hundreds of people attended the funeral of Dawes, a respected classicist.

Two previous exorcisms have been carried out in the college. In the 18th century a poltergeist was removed from a student's room and, more recently, a former Dean carried out a ceremony because of the appearance of a dark presence in a corner of the old courtyard overlooking the graveyard.

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