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Exeter College Chapel

Exeter College Chapel

Photo: Lawrence OP, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr

Headless Ghosts at Exeter College, Oxford

31 March 2021 (Updated 1 February 2023)

A lecturer in choral music told an unusual tale about what he saw outside his college room on Halloween 1916.

According to Dr. Thomas Wood, he opened his door to find a headless figure standing just outside with an arm raised as if to knock.

Wood stared at it in amazement for a few seconds before the figure suddenly disappeared.

Excavations uncover a statue

There were excavations taking place at the college at the time to enlarge a coal cellar. These turned up a broken statue dating back to the 1600s.

Wood claimed that when he saw the statue he got a shock because the statue was not only dressed in the same period garb that he recognised on the figure outside his room, but the statue was also missing its head!

Exeter College, via the Wellcome Collection

An illustration of Exeter College circa 1875. Credit: Wellcome Collection

The ghost of John Crocker?

Later research revealed the statue to likely be of a previous alumnus of the college, one John Crocker. The statue had previously stood in the old college chapel until it was demolished in the 1850s. The statue was moved to the new college chapel, where it can still be seen today.

Richard Holland, writing of this story in his Oxfordshire Ghost Stories points out that it should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt as Dr. Woods said that when he saw the ghost he was just leaving his room to attend a meeting of a student society called 'The Unbelievers Club'. Such a tale would certainly have given the club something to talk about!


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