Oxford University - Old library (Duke Humfrey’s). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Oxford Ghost Stories: The Ghostly Librarian at Duke Humfrey’s Library

Oxford University - Old library (Duke Humfrey’s). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Duke Humfrey’s Library, located within the historic Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, is not only renowned for its vast collection of ancient manuscripts and rare books but also for its eerie reputation as the home of a spectral librarian!

Legend has it that the Ghostly Librarian, said to be the ghost of Thomas Allen, a former librarian at Duke Humfrey’s, still roams the hallowed halls of the library, perpetually guarding its treasures even in death.

Who Was Thomas Allen?

Thomas Allen served as the librarian of Duke Humfrey’s Library during the 17th century. Described as a dedicated scholar and a meticulous custodian of the library’s precious volumes, Allen’s spirit is said to linger within the library long after his passing. Witnesses have reported encountering the Ghostly Librarian roaming the dimly lit corridors or silently browsing the ancient tomes within the library’s shelves, appearing as a shadowy figure clad in 17th-century attire.

Anecdotes of Sightings

The Ghostly Librarian is often encountered during the late hours of the night when the library is empty and shrouded in darkness, adding an extra layer of mystery to Duke Humfrey’s already storied history. Some claim to have felt an icy chill or heard whispered voices in his presence, while others have reported seeing books mysteriously rearranged or misplaced, attributed to the restless spirit’s spectral activities.

Despite his ghostly reputation, the Ghostly Librarian is generally regarded as a benign presence, more interested in preserving the knowledge contained within the library’s walls than causing harm to visitors. His spectral presence serves as a reminder of the enduring legacy of Duke Humfrey’s Library and the countless scholars, librarians, and students who have passed through its doors over the centuries.

Thomas Allen (1540-1632) depicted in a portrait of Trinity College, Oxford.
Thomas Allen (1540-1632) depicted in a portrait of Trinity College, Oxford.

Visiting Duke Humphrey's Today

Whether the Ghostly Librarian is merely a product of imagination or a manifestation of the library’s rich history and folklore, his legend continues to captivate those who visit Duke Humfrey’s Library, adding an extra layer of enchantment to one of Oxford’s most iconic landmarks.

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