John Webster, in his Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677), gives an account of a murder here that was revealed by a ghost. He says that, about the year 1632, near Chester-le-Street, there lived a man called Walker, a well-to-do yeoman who was a widower and had a young relative to keep house. One night she was fetched away by Mark Sharp, a Lancashire-born collier, and not heard of again. As neighbours already suspected that she was pregnant, not much talk was occasioned by this.
Then, the following winter, a local miller called James Graham or Grime was alone late one night at his mill grinding corn. At about midnight or one o’clock, he came down the stairs and, though the mill doors were shut, there stood a woman in the middle of the floor, with her hair hanging down, five large wounds on her head, and all bloody:
He being much affrighted … at last asked her who she was, and what she wanted; to which she said, I am the Spirit of such a Woman, who lived with Walker, and being got with child by him, he promised me to send me to a private place, where I should be well lookt to until I was brought in bed, and well again; and then I should come again, and keep his house. And accordingly (said the apparition) I was one night late sent away with one Mark Sharp, who upon a Moor (naming a place that the Miller knew) slew me with a pick … and gave me these five wounds, and after threw my body into a coal-pit hard by, and hid the pick under a bank, and his shoos and stockings being bloody he endeavoured to wash, but seeing the blood would not wash forth he hid them there. And the apparition further told the Miller that he must be the Man to reveal it, or else that she must still appear and haunt him.
Despite this warning, the miller said nothing of what he had seen and tried to avoid being in the mill alone at night thereafter.
The apparition was repeated, however, until he revealed the matter, when the body was found in the coal-pit as described, and also the pick, shoes, and stockings, ‘yet bloody’. On this evidence alone – for they never confessed to the murder – Walker and Sharp were executed. Some claimed that the apparition also appeared to the judge or the foreman of the jury, ‘but of that I know no certainty’.
The account of the murder appeared also in a letter written by Dr Henry More, printed in Joseph Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus (1681). More adds details learned from his ‘discreet and faithful intelligencer’, a Mr Shepherdson, and from the testimony of William Lumley of Great Lumley, present at the trial. Lumley testified that the young woman, whose name was Anne Walker, was sent to her aunt in Great Lumley, where she told her that the father of her child would look after her ‘and bid her not trouble her self’. After a time, Sharp came to Lumley, ‘being a sworn Brother of the said Walker’s’, and together they called her out of the house. It was fourteen days afterwards (not the lengthy interval reported by Webster) that she appeared to Graime (not Graham or Grime), ‘a fuller’ (not a miller), with the same consequences as before.
Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson –
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008