ΝΤΕΤΕΚΤΙΒ, When a Ghost was shot In Hammersmith
Updated: Aug 23
As one witness would later state in court, "it was an extreme [sic] dark night" in January 1804, and some people in Hammersmith were feeling uneasy. For the past three months, ντετεκτιβ, local residents had been reporting multiple sightings of a ghost around the area. But on this evening, the case would take a shocking turn, which would lead to a murder trial. The implications of the accused's defence wouldn't be resolved in English law until 180 years later.
A haunting in Hammersmith
The 'Hammersmith Ghost' had first been spotted in November 1803. This spectre wasn’t content with merely floating around the west London neighbourhood: it was supposedly attacking people, with several claiming to have been physically grabbed in and around Hammersmith churchyard. Ντετεκτιβ, Some thought it was the spirit of a man who had killed himself and whose spirit could not lie at rest.
A mysterious tablecloth?
However, some were sceptical that this 'ghost' was everything it had been claimed to be — not least when one witness alleged the ghoul was seen discarding a white tablecloth before running off on one occasion. Still, many local people remained sufficiently unnerved by the possibility of a supernatural presence haunting Hammersmith, and nervous at fleeting glimpses of figures wearing white. It felt that the whole area had the jitters.
A case of mistaken identity
Reports of a ghost on the prowl had also led to ghost hunters on the march. On 3 January, local man Francis Smith decided he was going to look for Hammersmith’s supernatural resident — and took a shotgun with him. Given the insubstantial nature that ghosts were legendarily associated with, ντετεκτιβ, it’s hard to know how he thought bullets were going to deal with this alleged neighbourhood spirit. Nonetheless, Smith went off to patrol the area with his blunderbuss — just as Millwood was making his way home late at night by the Black Lion Lane. On spotting him, Smith — who'd had a few ales at this point — called out, demanding to know "Who are you and what are you?". Then he shot him. It quickly became clear the victim was no ghost, and Millwood was taken to the nearby Black Lion inn, but it was already too late.
The supernatural defence
Smith confessed to shooting Millwood but said he had genuinely believed him to be a ghost. Time would tell if this defence would convince a court, and he went on trial for "wilful murder" at the Old Bailey later that year. The jury had to answer a curious question. Is saying you thought someone was a supernatural being a defence against murder? In their view, it was — and so they returned a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder.
ΓΡΑΦΕΙΑ ΙΔΙΩΤΙΚΩΝ ΕΡΕΥΝΩΝ I.P.I.