In 1803, the 'Hammersmith Ghost', was terrorising that area of Greater London. It was assumed to be the spirit of a man who had committed suicide by cutting his own throat. In December of that year, a woman taking a short-cut home through the church yard was chased by a spectral figure that she described as being, 'very tall and very white'. When it grabbed her in its arms, she fainted. Later, her friends found her wandering aimlessly around the cemetery. She was gently led home and put to bed. She never recovered from the shock and died shortly after.
'Ghost' shot dead
An excise officer, by the name of Francis Smith, decided to investigate the alleged spectre. Maybe he had an idea that there was nothing supernatural about this 'ghost' because he went armed with a blunderbuss. This he loaded, not with silver coins, but with lead shot. When the ghost appeared, he fired.
Unfortunately, Smith's aim was true and the figure dropped to the ground. Upon investigation, Smith was horrified to find that he killed an innocent, dust covered bricklayer by the name of Thomas Milward who was on his way home. The body was taken to the nearby Black Lion pub. Smith was tried for 'wilful murder', found guilty and sentenced to death. This was almost immediately commuted to one year's hard labour. An interesting account of the trial can be found in the Newgate Calendar.
When the 'Hammersmith Ghost', as it had come to called, was apprehended, he was discovered to be nothing more sinister than a man a dressed up. He said that he was frightening people in retaliation for someone having scared his children by telling them ghost stories.
A real ghost
However, Thomas Milward, the unfortunate bricklayer, still haunts the Black Lion pub where his body was taken. The pub displays a plaque recounting the story. Drinkers hear their name whispered, computers turn themselves on and the upstairs floorboards can be heard creaking as if someone is walking across them.
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