Southam

T. F. Thiselton-Dyer, a late Victorian writer on the supernatural, drew attention to the fact that the journal Ackerman’s Repository in November 1820 carried an account of an unusual legal case which had recently arisen. A farmer returning from market at Southam was murdered, and next morning a man called on the farmer’s wife and told her a curious story. He said that, the night before, her husband’s ghost had appeared to him, showed him several stab wounds on his body, and told him he had been murdered by so-and-so and his body thrown into a marl-pit. A search was made, the body found, and the person whose name was alleged to have been mentioned by the ghost was committed for trial on the charge of murder.

The trial came on at Warwick before Lord Chief Justice Raymond. The magistrate committed the prisoner on the strength of this story, and the jury would have convicted him had not Justice Raymond intervened. He said he placed no credence on the ‘ghost-story’, as the accused had a hitherto unblemished reputation and there was no evidence that any ill-feeling existed between him and the murdered man. He added that he knew of no law that admitted that a ghost could give evidence, and, even if any did, the ghost had not appeared to give it.

The crier was then ordered to summon the ghost as a witness, which he did three times. No ghost appeared. Then Justice Raymond acquitted the prisoner, but ordered that his accuser be detained on suspicion of being himself the murderer. A search of this man’s house having revealed strong proofs of his guilt, he confessed to the crime and was executed at the next assizes.

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SOURCE:

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

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