Posts Tagged ‘UK’

This case is interesting because it was in 1804 and set out a legal precedent in the UK about self-defense; could someone be held liable for their actions even if they were the consequence of a mistaken/misguided belief…

Near the end of summer in 1803 a number of people claimed to have seen and even been attacked by a ghost in the Hammersmith area, London. It was believed that the ghost was a man who committed suicide the year before and was buried in the Hammersmith churchyard. It was believed he should not be buried in consecrated grounds, it was thought that suicide victims would not find rest if that happened.

3rd January, 1804 and a member of the armed patrols set up in response shot and killed a plasterer, Thomas Millwood. The man mistook the white clothes of Millwoods trade for the ghost and 29 year old Francis Smith was found guilty of murder. Mr Smith was tried for willful murder, and a witness stated she had warned the victim he might want to put on something that stopped him being all white, she had said he had already been mistaken for the ghost on a previous occasion.

Millwood’s sister testified that Smith had called on her brother to sop or he would shoot but he then fired almost immediately. The Lord Chief Baron Macdonald advised the jury that Smith’s character before may well have been good and there may have been no malice but the question was more if he had at that point shot with intent to kill.

Smith had not been provoked and had not made any attempt to apprehend the ghost, therefore he felt that the jury should be directed to find him guilty if they believed the facts presented. It took an hour for the jury to come back with a verdict of manslaughter. MacDonald said they could not deliver that response, it must be either guilty or acquittal, the belief that he was a ghost was to him irrelevant to the case. The jury then came back with guilt… MacDonald stated he intended to pass the case to the king, who had the power to commute the sentence.

Initially the trial stated that it was a sentence of hanging and dissection. It was commuted to a year’s hard labour. The publicity meant that the true culprit of the ghostly encounters came forwards, John Graham had been pretending to be the ghost so that he could frighten his apprentice, and his apprentice had been scaring the local children with stories of ghosts.

The impact on the law was that a question arose about whether the action taken under a mistaken self-defense would be chargeable, and it went to the Court of Appeal. It wasn’t clarified until 1984, when appellant, Gladstone Williams, had seen a man dragging a younger man along the street, the younger man was shouting for help. Williams thought that an assault was taking place and intervened, Williams had not known but the person being dragged had been caught trying to commit theft. Williams was then convicted of assault with actual bodily harm, and the Lord Chief Justice Lane referred to the debate when the appeal came up.

It was a problematic issue, Williams was trying to help albeit without understanding the situation he had seen someone in peril and thought he was doing the right thing. It was not unreasonable perhaps, that he stepped in trying to assist, the man was crying out for help. So in the end for Williams an appeal was allowed and his conviction was quashed… the decision was also later written into a more concise reference for law, Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, section 76.

And all this because a man dressed up in a white sheet and tried to scare his apprentice!

Hammersmith Ghost.PNG
Public Domain, Link

 

England’s history for a small island is quite varied and bloodied, there are lots of ghostly tales but as a result of the Royal Commissions probe the Public Record Office gave Edgehill the official recognition of having paranormal activity.

23rd October 1662 was the first fight of the English Civil War, Royalist troops were marching to London to support the King but they were intercepted by Parliamentarian troops at Edgehill. Edgehill lies between Banbury and Warwick and the fight went on for three hours with casualties on both sides. The fighting proved to do very little, both sides saw death, the Parliamentarian troops went to Warwick Castle and the Royalists then did not venture on to London. It was a senseless death score for both sides in pretty much every regard.

Even after the smoke and bodies had cleared the battle raged on. Only a few weeks afterwards reports came in about how the terrible scene kept being regularly re-enacted. King Charles 1 was so intrigued by the reports he sent out a Royal Commission to investigate it. They witnessed the events and were able to point out faces in the crowds, including the King’s Standard bearer, Sir Edmund Verney. Slowly the frequency of replays died down until they eventually stopped altogether.

Incidentally Verny’s story does not end there, during the battle he refused to give up his role and the Parliamentarian’s cut off his hands that gripped on the standard. His hands were later identified due to a ring he wore, it bore the resemblance of the king. His hands were then returned to his home, Clayton House, for burial.

Since then Verney is said to be seen around the house, his body was never recovered from the Edgehill Battlefield and so it seems he might be trying to find a way to get himself back together one day, as he cannot rest as he is.

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GHOSTS OF EDGEHILL

It is a cemetery in the Gorbal’s district, Glasgow, Scotland and was opened in 1840 to provide more affordable burials; there are over 250,000 burials there on various layers of the place. The Old Gorbals cemetery was vastly overcrowded, this is not unusual for the time period, London and many major cities around the UK were opening more graveyards to compensate for the lack of space in those already established.

The proposals for a new cemetery started in 1839 and the following year the land was purchased and the first burial commenced. The first soul laid to rest there was 16-month old and occurred 21st July 1840. The three sections opened as follows: Central in 1840, Eastern in 1846 and Western in 1850. In 1954 the cemetery suffered from a large group of children who were committed to hunting down a vampire that they believed was buried in the cemetery. The incident sparked it’s own urban legend, a vampire had killed two children. The influence for this was blamed on American horror comics like Tales from the Crypt, despite no evidence for the reason being the comics the moral outrage led to an increased comic censorship.

23rd September 1954 PC Alex Deeprose was called out and expected to deal with a case of vandalism, instead he was met with hundreds of children from around 4 years old up to 14. They were armed with sticks and knives and were patrolling around inside the cemetery. They told the constable that they were looking for a 7 foot tall vampire, with iron teeth and had that he had kidnapped and eaten two local boys.

The rumours started in the playground, and there was a Chinese whisper emerging that they were going to head out there after school. At three o’clock that day the school emptied and children headed to the graveyard, gathering around the walls. Some were too scared to go in and stayed outside. There were no records of missing children at the time and the only blame they could come up with – comics.

Newspapers at the time took the tale and ran with it, the children turned up a second evening running and the headmaster of a local school had told them it was a ridiculous tale and eventually had the crowd dispersed.

Some of the other people in the area pointed out that they had got little reason to blame comics, after all the children were taught the bible. Daniel 7.7 specifically mentions a monster with iron teeth in it. The political frenzy however meant blaming comics was far more convenient. A local man explained that they would threaten the local children with the Iron Man before then, it was meant to be a sort of bogeyman affair but the political agenda against the comics made a better fit for the reason.

The cemetery is now operated by Glasgow City Council and is protected as a listed Category B building with the entrance listed as Category A. The cemetery also has 11 Commonwealth burials.

Glasgow. Southern Necropolis. Thomas Lipton's grave

Manaton, Devon in the UK is a mound of grass that’s got the colloquially known Jay’s grave upon it. It’s through to be the resting place of a suicide from the 1700’s situated in the region of Dartmoor. It is a bit of a tourist trap for ghost hunters too these days.

Kitty Jay was denied a burial spot on consecrated grounds to to the religious laws about ‘self-murder’. Like many suicides in the past she was then buried at the crossroads to try and prevent the restless and confused spirits not being able to find their way into the afterlife.

Fresh Flowers often appear at the grave, some say delivered by pixies, but at least one human being has been involved. The author Beautrice Chase used to leave her flowers before her death in 1955. Other votive offerings include candles, coins, shells, crosses and toys.

Motorists have apparently had glimpses of ghostly figures in their headlights and some report seeing a dark hooded figure kneeling at her grave. It seems that fresh-flowers may have stopped in more recent years and silk ones more often appear, perhaps because they last longer as an offering.

As you may have guessed I am a big fan of the stories that are pretty well known locally, or even the very big stories. I like to look for the ones that are not always featured on blogs but also I like to find ones I haven’t heard of before. This one I stumbled across and thought was worth a share.

Happisburg is in Norfolk and the churchyard contains the unmarked grave of the “Happisburg Poisoner” his real name being Jonathan Balls. Legend has it that Mr Balls had worked out he was destined for hell, he died having accidentally taken his own poison… bit clumsy of him but anyway he asked to be buried with a Bible, a plum cake in one hand, a poker and a pair of coal tongues in the other hand. It seems that the locals were fearful he might not remain in the coffin as it was believed evil and suicidal people would become vampires after death.

Crossroads were places that these folks were buried as a precaution, the idea that they would be confused by which road to take. They also got buried in unholy grounds and suicides were then staked through the heart, this was legislation until 1834 (I can’t provide citation but I wouldn’t be surprised).

For some reason they exhumed him 6 months later, it was preserved by the arsenic he had consumed. He’d perhaps consumed it over a long period to build up a resistance, this was not an unknown practise. Anyway it seems that the reaction to this fact was not recorded, a shame as I am sure they would have been concerned by the potential of the vampire evidence presented.

Photos by HauntedIsle