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Concerning The Murder Of Sergeant Davies

Categories: More Ghosts With A Purpose
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

There is at present living in the neighbourhood of --- an old lady,

about seventy years of age. Her maiden name is ---, {140} and she is

a native of Braemar, but left that district when about twenty years

old, and has never been back to it even for a visit. On being asked

whether she had ever heard the story of Sergeant Davies, she at first

persisted in denying all knowledge of it. The ordinary version was

then rela
ed to her, and she listened quietly until it was finished,

when she broke out with:--

"That isn't the way of it at all, for the men _were_ seen, and it was

a forbear of my own that saw them. He had gone out to try to get a

stag, and had his gun and a deer-hound with him. He saw the men on

the hill doing something, and thinking they had got a deer, he went

towards them. When he got near them, the hound began to run on in

front of him, and at that minute _he saw what it was they had_. He

called to the dog, and turned to run away, but saw at once that he had

made a mistake, for he had called their attention to himself, and a

shot was fired after him, which wounded the dog. He then ran home as

fast as he could, never looking behind him, and did not know how far

the men followed him. Some time afterwards the dog came home, and he

went to see whether it was much hurt, whereupon it flew at him, and

had to be killed. They thought that it was trying to revenge itself

on him for having left it behind."

At this point the old lady became conscious that she was telling the

story, and no more could be got out of her. The name of the lady who

keeps a secret of 145 years' standing, is the name of a witness in the

trial. The whole affair is thoroughly characteristic of the

Highlanders and of Scottish jurisprudence after Culloden, while the

verdict of "Not Guilty" (when "Not Proven" would have been stretching

a point) is evidence to the "common-sense" of the eighteenth century.


There are other cases, in Webster, Aubrey and Glanvil of ghosts who

tried more successfully to bring their murderers to justice. But the

reports of the trials do not exist, or cannot be found, and Webster

lost a letter which he once possessed, which would have been proof

that ghostly evidence was given and was received at a trial in Durham

(1631 or 1632). Reports of old men present were collected for

Glanvil, but are entirely too vague.

The case of Fisher's Ghost, which led to evidence being given as to a

murder in New South Wales, cannot be wholly omitted. Fisher was a

convict settler, a man of some wealth. He disappeared from his

station, and his manager (also a convict) declared that he had

returned to England. Later, a man returning from market saw Fisher

sitting on a rail; at his approach Fisher vanished. Black trackers

were laid on, found human blood on the rail, and finally discovered

Fisher's body. The manager was tried, was condemned, acknowledged his

guilt and was hanged.

The story is told in Household Words, where Sir Frederick Forbes is

said to have acted as judge. No date is given. In Botany Bay, {142}

the legend is narrated by Mr. John Lang, who was in Sydney in 1842.

He gives no date of the occurrence, and clearly embellishes the tale.

In 1835, however, the story is told by Mr. Montgomery Martin in volume

iv. of his History of the British Colonies. He gives the story as a

proof of the acuteness of black trackers. Beyond saying that he

himself was in the colony when the events and the trial occurred, he

gives no date. I have conscientiously investigated the facts, by aid

of the Sydney newspapers, and the notes of the judge, Sir Frederick

Forbes. Fisher disappeared at the end of June, 1826, from

Campbeltown. Suspicion fell on his manager, Worral. A reward was

offered late in September. Late in October the constable's attention

was drawn to blood-stains on a rail. Starting thence, the black

trackers found Fisher's body. Worral was condemned and hanged, after

confession, in February, 1827. Not a word is said about _why_ the

constable went to, and examined, the rail. But Mr. Rusden, author of

a History of Australia, knew the medical attendant D. Farley (who saw

Fisher's ghost, and pointed out the bloody rail), and often discussed

it with Farley. Mr. Souttar, in a work on Colonial traditions, proves

the point that Farley told his ghost story _before_ the body of Fisher

was found. But, for fear of prejudicing the jury, the ghost was kept

out of the trial, exactly as in the following case.