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The Hammersmith Ghost






In the year 1804, the inhabitants of Hammersmith were much alarmed by a
nocturnal appearance; which, for a considerable time, eluded detection
or discovery. In the course of this unfortunate affair, two innocent
persons met with an untimely death; and as this transaction engaged the
attention of the public in a high degree, we shall fully relate the
particulars of it.

An unknown person made it his diversion to alarm the inhabitants, in
January 1804, by assuming the figure of a spectre. This sham ghost has
certainly much to answer for. One poor woman, who was far advanced in
her pregnancy of a second child, was so much shocked, that she took to
her bed, and survived only two days. She had been crossing near the
church-yard about ten o'clock at night, when she beheld something, as
she described, rise from the tomb-stones. The figure was very tall, and
very white! She attempted to run, but the supposed ghost soon overtook
her, and, pressing her in his arms, she fainted; in which situation she
remained some hours, till discovered by the neighbours, who kindly led
her home, when she took to her bed, from which, alas! she never rose. A
waggoner belonging to Mr. Russell was also so alarmed, while driving a
team of eight horses, which had sixteen passengers at the time, that he
took to his heels, and left the waggon, horses, and passengers, in the
greatest danger. Neither man, woman, or child, would pass that way for
some time; and the report was, that it was the apparition of a man who
had cut his throat in that neighbourhood above a year before. Several
lay in wait different nights for the ghost; but there were so many
bye-lanes, and paths leading to Hammersmith, that he was always sure of
being in that which was unguarded, and every night played off his
tricks, to the terror of the passengers.

One Francis Smith, doubtless incensed at the unknown person who was in
the habit of assuming the supernatural character, and thus frightening
the superstitious inhabitants of the village, rashly determined on
watching for, and shooting the ghost; when, unfortunately, in Black-Lion
Lane, he shot a poor innocent man, Thomas Millwood, a bricklayer, who
was in a white dress, the usual habiliment of his occupation. This rash
act, having been judged wilful murder by the coroner's inquest, Smith
was accordingly committed to gaol, and took his trial at the ensuing
sessions at the Old Bailey, January 13th, 1804. The jury at first found
him guilty of manslaughter; but the crime being deemed murder in the eye
of the law, the judge could only receive a verdict of Guilty, or
acquittal. He was then found guilty, and received sentence of death, but
was afterwards pardoned on condition of being imprisoned one year.





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