Trinity’s Horrible Histories

Whether you’re new to campus and want an excuse to go exploring or need to top up the booze fund by setting up fake Trinity tours, Rachel Lavin explores five of Trinity’s spookiest attractions to visit during this Halloween season.

1. The Tunnels

The tunnel is situated beneath the Berkley library and connects the library to the Old Library over the Book of Kells. All students are allowed to explore the early printed books section over the long library which is quite the experience. Go now if you’re wallowing in the library and need a study break adventure! This is not the only known tunnel. There is said to be a tunnel from the Provost’s house to Stephen’s Green beneath Grafton Street. I went to explore this and found a gated tunnel near the Provost’s Stables which are accessible via the arts block exit near the elevator. It seems to go in the direction of Dawson Street but it Is locked. Kudos to any student that ventures to explore a tunnel but the award for best underground explorers has to go to a group fo students in the 1980’s who discovered a wine cellar underneath House 10 and helped themselves to the odd bottle of expensive aged wine! College authorities eventually caught on and put a stop to it but for the time that was in it they pretty much won at being Trinity students.


2. The Rubrics Murder.

In 1732 a group of students got particularly annoyed with the fellow of the college so they did what all rational types do and gathered a mob outside his window and shot him. He was the son of the archdeacon of Derry, Edward Ford and had tried to track down a group of students who had destroyed his friend Henry Graffan’s room but received threatening letters in the process. Peter Henry’s History blog from 2010 recounted:

“Just after midnight on the night of March 7, 1734, a porter at the front gate was attacked by a group of young men wearing white, and shortly afterward Ford’s windows were smashed by stone-throwers in the Mall. Ford took out his pistols and shot at the gang. He then ordered two undergraduates also living in Rubrics to summon a porter.
Roan, one of the undergrads, advised Ford to go downstairs and not confront the troublemakers. We have Roan’s testimony from the court. He says he got dressed, and ran up to Ford’s rooms.
“Mr Forde stood near the windows and, looking to the Mall, said to me: ‘There they are.’” I endeavoured to prevent Mr Forde being hurt himself or shooting at the persons in the Mall by importuning him again to retreat, but he would not, and taking up a pistol advanced again toward the window and pointed the pistol downward at the persons in the Mall through a broken pane of glass. I immediately heard the shot from the Mall and Mr Forde was wounded.”
Roan and the other student, Hansard, took Ford down to Hansard’s rooms, “where he lay some time speechless, and then spoke for a surgeon”.
Roan testified: “We asked Mr Forde if he knew who shot him, who answered, ‘I do not know, but God forgive them, I do’. He lay pretty easy about ten minutes. Mr Dobs came in and endeavoured to bleed him, but he was dead.”

The group of students were subsequently expelled from college but no one was ever held found guilty in court as they had disguised themselves on the night in question.The murder took place in the first floor window of a rubrix apartment facing New Square which is now subsequently covered up and (based on reported sightings) it is said the ghost of poor Edward Ford still wanders front square….oooOOOoooHHHH.

3. Em bones, em bones need proper burial.

There are several burial sites, both marked and unmarked around campus. Most obvious is the tiny graveyard by the ATM of the Buttery (clearly a sacred burial place). This is Dublin’s smallest cemetary, named Chaloner’s corner and contains a few graves, the most notably the grave of Dr. Luke Chaloner ,who was the first provost of Trinity College.

There are however many unmarked graves around campus. Bones have been found in the past presumably belonging to monks as the site Trinity is built on was originally a monastic site after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. This also the reason why people say when you walk under the campanile as it rings you will fail your exams, as apparently some vengeful monks cursed the tower after their land had been taken away. In 1999 bones were discovered on the site of the extension of the Berkely Library. 20 human bodies of bones were found and also, strangely enough,two camel bones. The bones were believed to be the remains of bodies hastily and carelessly buried after medical students carried out anatomical work on them. The reason they were buried so hastily and suspiciously is because in the late 18th century (when the bones were dated to) the use of dead bodies for scientific research and learning was frowned upon by the church so medical students resorted to grave-robbing the bodies. The bodies were thus disposed of in a secretive manner. As for the mystery camel bone, I’m just going to assume some very crafty Zoology students are to blame. Speaking of grave-robbing….


4. The seven foot skeleton.

As grave robbing medical students, in 1760 when they heard about the death of a local Dublin man, Cornelius Magrath, famed for his above average height of 7 foot, well now, they just couldn’t resist could they? As the story goes, so determined were they to steal his body that they drugged the mourning wake-goers with sleeping pills and stole his body. Believe me? I probably wouldn’t but then how would you explain the seven foot skeleton that is encased in the Anatomy Building? In case the allure of a wake-robbed seven foot skeleton isn’t enough to attract to is of course inside the anatomy building which has a beautiful interior décor of shelves and shelves of skulls and various body bits. Heart-warming!

5. Harry Potter Stairs

Now that you’ve indulged in some rather nightmarish sites I suggest you conclude your tour with some childish fantasy by recreating the final fight scene of Harry Potter in the Museum Building. I cannot stress how beautiful this building is, so beautiful in fact that the marbles staircase were reportedly used as inspiration for the staircase used in the backdrop for the final fight scenes of Harry Potter. So yeah, we basically go to Hogwarts. There’s also some Dinosaur footprints, Elk Skeletons and other weird animal bits around the place if you’re into that kind of thing. Some lucky students actually get to go to class here and they may be killing your Harry Potter Fantasy buzz by actually doing serious work so I’d advise you to leave it until later in the day.

Matthew Mulligan

Matthew is Editor for the 62nd volume of Trinity News. He is a Sociology and Social Policy graduate and was previously Deputy Editor of tn2 Magazine.