The Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of "a Magical library for the 21st Century" an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

More 8th floor weirdness

Regular readers of this blog may recall previous posts click here and here outlining some Library staff's odd experiences on the 8th floor of Senate House.

There have recently been reports of further incidents, although of a rather indeterminate nature. The current writer was, a few weeks ago, fetching books from the same room. As the only person in the stacks at the time, all was quiet. Even the famous Senate House howling wind was absent. Upon exiting the room, a very slight but definite touch of the hair on top of the head was felt, akin to walking through a cobweb. Upon re-examination of the doorway, no cobwebs were to be found. The 'presence' (if that is what it was) did not give an impression of being threatening or sinister, merely curious.

Another staff member reports fetching books on an adjacent floor recently, and hearing a loud, repeated clicking sound coming from this same 8th floor room. Again, there was no one else present - the person concerned had verified this to be the case.

Riddle: What makes a clicking sound and touches peoples' hair?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Who is the Blue lady?

The Senate Room during a presentation by Blue Firth at Hostings 4
Of all the ghosts stories from Senate House, the story of the Blue Lady is perhaps the most intriguing and mysterious.  She is said to appear in the Senate room, one of a suit of rooms  which once served as a meeting place for the governing bodies of the University -  the Court and the Senate. These wood panelled rooms are heavy with a smell that could be described as academic incense.  Paintings of notable academics  line the walls. Interestingly the portraits are all of men apart from one solitary painting of Queen Victoria in a pale blue dress!
The Senate room has been used as a venue for the GHost Project (led by Sarah Sparkes and Ricarda Vidal) for the Hostings events - interdisciplinary presentations and performances exploring the roles of ghosts in contemporary society.

The following account of the Blue lady was sent to us by Ricarda Vidal: 

The Blue Lady
"A member of staff of UoL conferences told me that when you walk into the Senate Room coming from the Jessel Room and look towards the far left corner you can make out the shape of a lady clad in blue sitting in one of the booths. When approached the apparition would dissolve. She had never seen the blue lady but colleagues of hers had and she herself had experienced a sudden drop in temperature when passing by close to the spot where the lady had appeared. I decided to investigate the room which I had planned to book for a workshop. It was a cold day in November and by the time I’d made it to the room it was already dark outside. The heating was turned to its maximum and the old wood panelling creaked and groaned. I looked to the far left corner, but couldn’t see anything, just rows of empty seats. As I walked towards the spot I found myself looking forward to the promised sudden drop in temperature: despite the high ceilings and the spaciousness of the room it was stuffy and I would have been grateful for a gust of cold air. But nothing happened. I took a photograph of the corner, which I’m sending you. I can’t see anything on it, but perhaps you can."
The Blue Lady's corner - Photograph by Ricarda Vidal

Friday, 1 July 2011

Tom Ruffles remembers the old HPL

Tom Ruffles has posted a fascinating and informative account on his blog detailing his memories of the Harry Price Library when it was still possible to access the contents of this unique archive together in one location. Tom was a regular visitor to the Harry Price Library (HPL) in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was undertaking a part-time psychology degree at Birkbeck. 

Here are some extracts from Tom's reminiscences:

"The space occupied by the HPL had a cosy feeling (or perhaps that is nostalgia giving it a glow). The wind used to whistle round, which was atmospheric. There was a good view but there was never time to spare for looking out of windows. Sometimes there would be other people working at the small tables and I seem to remember there was only space for three people at any one time. The rest of the floor was very quiet, seemingly unvisited. I remember going for a walk around the deserted stacks, finding it creepy and unnerving in the semi-darkness"
The Old Harry Price Library
Photograph by Tom Ruffles

"The librarian in charge of the HPL, Alan Wesencraft, was extremely welcoming and helpful Alan, or Wesey as he was generally known, had actually retired in 1977 and worked only part-time as the HPL’s Honorary Curator, so eventually I, like other regulars, was given a card that enabled me to ask for the key if he was not there and travel up to the HPL where I would work unsupervised and often alone"
Another view of the old HPL -
Photograph by Tom Ruffles
"Despite the cramped environment everything was well organised. There was always a huge feeling of serendipity when browsing the shelves, not knowing what might turn up. You felt like a small child in a toyshop, wanting to see everything as quickly as possible, unable to decide what to look at first, knowing you could spend years in there and only scratch the surface. In addition to the shelves of books there were film canisters on the window ledges, and filing cabinets with photographs, correspondence and clippings. One cabinet housed Eric Dingwall’s files, now sadly embargoed but then freely available to researchers. Had I realised that they would become inaccessible I would have made more use of them when I had the opportunity."

"Sitting in the room, there was a sense of continuity with the past, and one could feel that Harry Price himself might put his head round the door to see how you were getting on, and tell you about the collection of which he was so justifiably proud."

You can read more about Tom Ruffles memories of the old HPL on his blog  HERE

Tom Ruffles is Hon. Review Editor, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and author of "Ghost Images: Cinema of the Afterlife"

Read more about the SPR HERE