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Robert Kent

The mysterious figure
of Peterhouse College
in Cambridge University

The ghost of an 18th century suicide victim was stalking the corridors of Peterhouse College in Cambridge University and perturbed professors wanted to call in an exorcist. The college bursar and two butlers reported seeing the mysterious figure in an oak-panelled dining room. 

Founded in 1284, Peterhouse is Cambridge University's oldest college. Historians in the town can tell you a great deal about the college's well-documented history. They know every recorded fact, detail and date of the college's buildings. They can list with pride the many famous academics and alumni from Peterhouse who have made a mark on the world. But, today, gossips in Cambridge have no interest in any of these glories of the college's past. Talk now focuses only on the past lives of Peterhouse's servants and staff. The sudden appearance of a ghost in a college dining room is to blame.

The ghost was first seen last year by two college butlers who were tidying away after a formal dinner in the Combination Room. At exactly the same moment, the two men became aware of a faint figure stepping out from the wooden panelling of the walls. The ghost moved towards the room's famous William Morris fireplace. And then it simply disappeared. Alarmed, both men looked at each other. They knew they had seen the exact same thing: an unhappy soul from Peterhouse's past!

At first the college bursar, Andrew Murison, dismissed all the reports of a ghost. But Murison changed his mind a few months later. He went into the Combination Room a little before midnight to get some fruit left in a bowl on the table. The room was as cold as a tomb, he remembers. But the central heating was on full. Suddenly, all the heating pipes screeched eerily together. A dark figure stirred at the back of the room. Not surprisingly, Murison says he raced out of the room without looking back.

After this, Graham Ward, the dean of Peterhouse, called in a priest to ask how the college could get rid of the ghost. Unfortunately for everyone, the religious rites that deal with this sort of haunting are completely out of step with the demands of a modern-day institution. To see a ghost off for good, everyone who lives or works in a haunted building must gather together to take part in a religious service with the priest. This is impossible to arrange in a college where everyone's time is taken up with research, lectures, conferences, exams and all the many tasks of running a complex seat of learning.

So the ghost at Peterhouse is likely to disturb the college for some time to come. Many people in the college are keen to know the true identity of their uninvited guest. Some people link the ghost to the great uncle of George Washington, bursar of Peterhouse in 1695. But many others simply dismiss this connection as far-fetched.

These people suggest the ghost might well be Francis Dawes, bursar of Peterhouse until 1787. The unfortunate Dawes oversaw the election of a master of the college who thereafter made his life as bursar sheer misery. In complete despair, Dawes hanged himself from a bell rope. This unhappy death may be cause enough for Dawes' spirit to walk again. But until more evidence can be found, no-one can be really sure.

Source: New English Digest


stalking: walking stiffly (recorriendo)
: enclosed passageways (pasillos)
feeling of self-respect, personal worth and satisfaction (orgullo)
graduates (ex-alumnos)
made a mark on: became successful in (tuvieron éxito en)
gossips: informal conversation usually malicious (los chismes)
focuses only on: only centers in (se centra exclusivamente en)
lives: plural of life (vidas)
staff: personnel (personal)
sudden: unexpected (repentina)
ghost: phantom (fantasma)
to blame:
to accuse (para echarle la culpa)
butler = manservant (mayordomo)
tidying away: putting things in order (poniendo todo en orden)
became aware = realized (se dieron cuenta)
stepping out: going out (saliendo)
fireplace: hearth (chimenea, hogar)
bursar = treasurer (tesorero)
tomb = grave (tumba)
on full: completely on (totalmente encendida)
screeched: made a noise in an unnatural manner (crujieron, chirriaron de un modo extraño)

raced out = ran away (huyó, corrió)
dean = administrator
priest = clergyman (sacerdote)
get rid of = do away with (sacarse de encima)
haunting: follow constantly (persecución, embrujo)
taken up: absorbed, occupied (absorbido, ocupado)
research = investigation (investigación, estudio)
tasks = jobs (tareas, ocupaciones)
seat: center (centro)
is likely to = will probably (es probable que)
for some time to come = in a near future (próximamente)
keen: clever, smart (sagaces)
link = connect
far-fetched = difficult to believe (rebuscada, poco creíble)
oversaw = supervised (supervisó, administró)
sheer misey = miserable (muy penosa)
hanged himself: killed himself by hanging (se ahorcó)
bell rope: thick cord of a bell
(cuerda de campana)