William Robertson Davies (1913-1995), and (above) Massey College (University of Toronto), of which he was founding Master
EXTRACT FROM: Robertson Davies 1982 High Spirits. London: Penguin Books, p 13.
The ghost who vanished by degrees
Some of you may have wondered what became of our College Ghost. Because we had a ghost, and there are people in this room who saw him. He appeared briefly last year at the College Dance on the stairs up to this Hall, and at the Gaudy, he was seen to come and go through that door, while I was reading an account of another strange experience of mine. I did not see him then but several people did so. What became of him?
I know. I am responsible for his disappearance. I think I may says without unwarrantable spiritual pride that I laid him. And, as is always the case in these psychic experiences, it was not without great cost to myself.
When first the ghost was reported to me, I assumed that we had a practical joker within the College. Yet – the nature of the joke was against any such conclusion. We had had plenty of jokes – socks in the pool, fish in the pool, funny notices beside the pool, pumpkins on the roofs, ringing the bell at strange hours – all the wild exuberance, the bubbling, ungovernable high spirits and gossamer fantasy one associates with the Graduate School of the University of Toronto. The wit of a graduate student is like champagne – Canadian champagne – but this joke had a different flavour, a dash of wormwood, in its nature.
You see, the ghost was so unlike a joker. He did not appear in a white sheet and shout ‘Boo! He spoke to no one, though a Junior Fellow – the one who met him on the stairs – told me that the Ghost passed him, softly laying a finger on its lips to caution him to silence. On its lips, did I say? Now this is of first importance: it laid its finger where its lips doubtless were, but its lips could not be seen, nor any of its features. Everybody who saw it said that the Ghost had a head, and a place where its face ought to be – but no face that anybody could see or recognize or remember. Of course there are scores of people like that around the university, but they are not silent; they are clamouring to establish some sort of identity; the Ghost cherished his anonymity, his facelessness. So, perversely, I determined to find out who he was.