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Queen's College Library, Oxford

Queen's College Library, Oxford

Photo: FoxingClever, licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Ghosts of Queen's College Library

6 April 2021 (Updated 8 September 2021)

Queen's College library is believed to be haunted by the ghost of an eccentric alumnus named Cuthbert Shields.

A true eccentric

Cuthbert Shields was born John Laing, but changed his name to Cuthbert as he believed himself to be the reincarnation of St. Cuthbert. The 'Shields' is because he was from South Shields!

Shields was a historian and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, but spent much of his time in the library at Queen's College. When he died in 1908 he left a box containing papers to the Queen's College library on the strict instructions that the box should not be opened for fifty years.

The university staff honoured his wishes and dutifully waited fifty years before excitedly opening the box to discover ... nothing more interesting than some letters to an archdeacon. These contained autobiographical details of his life, including the reason he had been admitted to Fulham asylum in 1878, as well as various musings on religion, history and philosophy. Details of this box can be found on the Bodleian website.

The ghost in the library

The box was left lying on a desk while the disappointed staff dispersed, but later a librarian noticed a figure he didn't recognise bending over the box. He approached, but before he could speak to the man, he disappeared.

The description of the man that the librarian gave matched descriptions of Cuthbert Shields. Since this time the figure has often been seen walking around the upper floors of the library, particularly in the area in which the box was opened.


  1. 'Oxfordshire Ghost Stories' by Richard Holland (Bradwell Books, 2013, ISBN: 9781902674735)