Gower Street – London

In the main corridor of University College stands a handsome glass-fronted case containing the mummified body of one of its founders, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), who objected to Christian burial. He held that a corpse should be used for scientific instruction and then preserved as a permanent memorial, so in accordance with his instructions his body was publicly dissected – to the accompaniment of a violent thunderstorm, a circumstance which traditionalists might consider an appropriate symbol of the wrath of God. It was then mummified and put on display. The head, however, is a wax replica, since the real one responded less well than the body to the treatment; it used to be in a closed box in the same case, but is now kept elsewhere in the college – allegedly because students were once caught playing football with it. Bentham’s body is dressed as he was in life, and holds his favourite walking stick; it is said that sometimes he leaves his case and can be seen walking along the corridors towards the library – or, if not seen, the tapping of his stick is heard. The story has been passed down among college students throughout the twentieth century, and surely goes back far into the nineteenth.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008