Guildford Gaol was the scene for the manifestation of a ghost, come to seek justice for its own murder. The story is given by Joseph Glanvill, who in 1681 wrote a treatise to disprove ‘Saduceism’ (the idea that there is no afterlife) by assembling what he considered trustworthy accounts of ghostly apparitions. Glanvill says that a few years previously, in about 1670, a certain Mr Bower, an elderly man from Guildford, was found on the highway ‘murdered very barbarously, having one great cut across his throat, and another down his breast’. Two men were arrested on suspicion and put in gaol to await trial. They shared a cell there with a highwayman imprisoned for some other matter. That night, the highwayman was woken around 1 a.m. by an old man who came in silently, pointing to a great gash on his throat and a wound on his breast; he tried to rouse the other two, but ‘they grumbled at him, but made no answer’, and next morning told him it was only his fancy.

However, the highwayman was so convinced of the reality of what he had seen that he talked about it to others, and the story came to the ears of Mr Reading, the Justice of the Peace who would try the case, and who was a cousin of the victim. He sent for the highwayman and asked him to describe the apparition; the description of the spectre’s colouring, beard, hair, and so on tallied exactly with those of the late Mr Bower. Realizing such evidence was not admissible in law, Mr Reading noted it, but kept it secret from the jury until after the two accused men had been convicted on quite different circumstantial evidence, though they denied their guilt to the last. Glanvill heard the story ‘from Mr Reading himself, who is a very honest person and not credulous’.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008