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The Hammersmith Ghost

Scary Books: Apparitions; Or, The Mystery Of Ghosts, Hobgoblins, And Haunted Houses

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 diversi
n 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.