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Crisis Apparition of John Bonnell, The Queen’s College (1732)


On 18 November 1750 the crisis apparition of John Bonnell, born 1732 in Stanton Harcourt was witnessed by two people as it exited The Queen's College* of which Bonnell was a member. The following account of this experience was taken from ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ (1897) by John Ingram.

Like most of the older foundations of Alma Maier, Queen's College has had its ghost. The Rev. Mr. More of Leyton, Essex, formerly of Queen's, Oxford, a man of veracity and learning, who died in 1778, left this story of an apparition that favoured his own college with
a visit.

Mr. John Bonnell was a commoner of Queen's College, Oxford. He was remarkable in his person and gait, and, from a peculiar manner he had of holding up his gown behind, might be recognised almost as readily by his back as by his face.

"On Sunday, November the 18th, 1750, at noon, Mr. Ballard, who was then of Magdalen College, and myself," says Mr. More, "were talking together at Parker's door. I was then waiting for the sound of the trumpet for dinner, and suddenly Mr. Ballard cried out, 'Dear me, who is that coming out of your college?' I looked, and saw, as I supposed, Mr. Bonnell, and replied, ‘He is a gentleman of our house, and his name is Bonnell; he comes from Stanton Harcourt.' 'Why, bless me,' said Mr. Ballard, 'I never saw such a face in all my life.' I answered slightly, 'His face is much the same as it always is; I think it is a little more inflamed and swelled than it is sometimes, perhaps he has buckled his band too tight, but I should not have observed it if you had not spoken.' 'Well,' said Mr. Ballard again, 'I never shall forget him, as long as I live'; and appeared to be much disconcerted and frightened.

“This figure I saw without any emotion or suspicion," proceeds Mr. More; "it came down the quadrangle, came out at the gate, and walked up the High Street. We followed it with our eyes till it came to Catherine Street, where it was lost.

"The trumpet then sounded, and Mr. Ballard and I parted; and I went into the hall, and thought no more of Mr. Bonnell.

"In the evening the prayers of the chapel were desired for one who was in a very sick and dangerous condition. When T came out of the chapel, I inquired of one of the scholars, James Harrison, in the hearing of several others who were standing before the kitchen fire, who it was that was prayed for, and was answered, 'Mr. Bonnell, senior.' ‘Bonnell senior!' said I, with astonishment; what is the matter with him? He was very well to-day, for I saw him go out to dinner.' 'You are very much mistaken,' answered Harrison, 'for he has not been out of his bed for some days.' I then asserted more positively that I had seen him, and that a gentleman was with me who saw him too.

"This came presently to the ears of Dr. Fothergill, who had been my tutor. After supper he took me aside, and questioned me about it, and said he was very sorry I had mentioned the matter so publicly, for Mr. Bonnell was dangerously ill. I replied I was very sorry too, but I had done it innocently. The next day Mr. Bonnell died."

Mr. More states that Mr. Ballard was applied to, and bore witness to the fact that the figure he had so particularly noticed was stated to be Mr. Bonnell, who was of Queen's, and came from Stanton Harcourt. It may, also, be added that when this curious story, found among the Rev. Mr. More's papers at his decease, was published in the Gentleman’s Magazine and other contemporary publications, the particulars were confirmed, in various ways, by persons referred to in the story.

*The Queen's College was founded in 1341 in honor of Philippa of Hainaut (Born 24 June 1314 – Died 15 August 1369), Queen of England


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