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  • The Mystery of Ghost Riots January 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    ghost riots

    This blog has reported many historical ghost stories over the year. Now it is time for a bit of reflection. Let’s pretend that your neighbour John Smith on Treacle Row in London, has reported that he has seen a ghost in a flowing gown running up and down the stairs. Now think carefully about this one. What would you do? Would you

    a) go and stand in the cold and rain and fog outside his house and watch for three or hours hoping that the ghost would turn up

    b) have an early night and do some light reading or play chequers with the wife/husband.

    Yes, Beach too. Who but a moron would go and stand outside on the offchance that the sweep of a dress might glimmer through a distant window? Well, the answer is the populations of most British towns for much of the last two hundred years. Hard as it may be for us to believe, ghosts were to the general populace, like cat nip to furry things. Here are some examples from London from 1867-1921. It would be difficult to go much later but the reports go way back into the nineteenth century and presumably beyond and, of course, they can be found in many other British cities and, indeed, towns and villages. In the capital though they sometimes took on quite frightening dimensions. Does this happen in America too?

    8 Jun 1867, Maid Tel, 3: the Bow-street Police-court, Friday, Frederic Cousins (17), Henry Jackson (17), George (15), Walter Solomon (15), John Brown (21), Arthur Knight (21), William Durham (16), George Young (25), and Charles Carr (21) were charged with creating a disturbance in Woburn-square, and obstructing the police in the execution of their duty on Thursday night. It appeared that onThursday and several previous nights, large crowd assembled ‘to see the ghost,’ and the noise and disturbance were such that the police found it necessary, in order put a stop the riot, to clear the square altogether. In doing this they met with considerable resistance, particularly from the prisoners, all of whom refused to go away, and endeavoured to maintain their ground, in some instances, being backed up by a compact crowd resisting in the same way, they presented a very formidable obstacle to the officers clearing the square. Two had struck the constables. Several of the inhabitants complained of the uproar and riot as excessively annoying and even alarming to all the inhabitants.

    3 October 1868, Hudds Chron, 8, A ‘ghost’ has been causing serious obstruction in Cromwell Terrace, Paddington, London. Great crowds collected, but no one seems to have seen the shadowy disturber of public peace.

    1 May 1874, Ed Ev Ne, 4 ‘What am to do about the ghost?’ was the plaintive inquiry of a gentleman at the Hammersmith Police Court on Tuesday. The question was not intended to invoke the arm of the law as a protection from a spiritual visitant, but came from the unfortunate occupier of a house which had unjustly gained the reputation of harbouring the ghost. Crowds are in the habit of collecting round the favoured spot, and when the ghost fails to put in an appearance at the orthodox hour [midnight?] the impatient spectators proceed to shout and break the windows, just as in theatre under like circumstances the gallery begins to stamp and whistle. On Monday, one member of the crowd, Irish by nationality and a washerwoman by occupation, in her anxiety to obtain an introduction to the ghost, even went so far as to knock at the door. Mrs M’Carthy in so doing was found to have brought herself within reach of the law, being in condition less spiritual than spirituous; but there seems no way dispersing the general crowd of ghostseers unless, as the magistrate said, ‘an overt act’ is committed. Their expectation of seeing a ghost at this particular house is based on the fast that a burglary was supposed to have taken place a few doors off. Why a burglar in one house should be associated with a ghost not far off it is hard to see. The inclinations of burglars are usually earthly, sordid, acquisitive, and not spiritual. Still there the crowds are be found every night, and nothing can be done turn them away, because they commit no overt act.’

    22 Sept 1880 Ab Jo, 7: has been covered in another post.

    22 Aug 1895, Dun Ev Tel, 2: Seldom has such a scene occurred in a London churchyard as was witnessed during the early hours of yesterday morning in the churchyard of the old Parish Church of St John Hackney, when fully a thousand men and women turned out from their houses in the neighbourhood to hunt the parish ghost. For some time past people passing through the churchyard late night have been startled ‘a ghost in a sheet.’ Women have fainted with fright, the local newspapers have published accounts of the strange affair. Whether yesterday morning’s scene was planned cannot be ascertained, but between ten and eleven o’clock the previous night a mixed crowd began to assemble at the rear of the church where the ghost was supposed be, and where in the usual way scarcely any one passes after eleven o’clock. A long wait until midnight, and then, as no ghost appeared, the crowd went in search of it. Armed with lanterns and candles, and carrying sticks and stones, the crowd climbed the railings from the pathways and took possession of the burial ground. Graves and tombstones were clambered over, and recently restored mounds were trampled down. A portion of the crowd looked upon the whole affair as a joke, and consequently every few minutes the cry was foolishly raised of ‘There it goes!’ and immediately the whole crowd rushed in the direction indicated, and, no ghost could be seen, it was argued by the more superstitious portion of the crowd that the ghost had disappeared into the earth. Others in the crowd amused themselves by making the night hideous with imitations of unearthly cries, and although the police were called to clear the place, it was not until the verge of daylight that the last few disappointed stragglers went away.

    18 Sep 1898, Rey New, 8: Five lads were in the dock of North London Police Court charged with disorderly conduct and causing a crowd to assemble at De Beauvoir-road, Kingsland. These are included [names follow all allged 16 or 17]. The evidence of the police was that the prisoners were on Thursday night amongst a crowd of 700 or 800 persons [!!] assembled about the Church of St Peter’s, De Beauvoir Town. They were looking for a ghost.

    18 Aug 1900 Der Dai Tel, 2 There has been a considerable amount of local excitement over a ‘ghost’ that is said to inhabit a house in Edith Villas, and last evening some fifteen hundred [!!!!] assembled near the house watching the window at which the spectre is said to have appeared. Several of the windows of the house have been broken, presumably with view to attracting the interesting occupant, and it now requires a strong force of police to protect the premises and keep the crowd on the move. The ‘ghost’ was reported to have been first seen week ago, but the story has since been repeated in a much elaborated form, although it is probable that a practical joke is being perpetrated, there appears be some belief in its genuineness.

    12 Oct 1921, Sund Dai Ech, 2: London has a new ‘ghost’. It is at 27 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Holborn, and according to rumour it takes the form of a shadowy woman, who sits with her child on the dark doorstep. For some time crowds, consisting mainly of children, have collected round the house each evening.

    Any explanations, any parallels? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    ***The present post was accidentally pre-released. It was rapidly taking off line but Chris and KMH had already read and commented. That is why there are comments below dating prior to publication***

    18 Jan 2015: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes in: Here’s a parallel case from Miamisburg, Ohio. Other accounts emphasize that thousands of people came to watch for the apparition. It sounds like a good draw for the merchants of the town, but would a hoaxer have put their life in danger from bullets and shot?A GENUINE OHIO GHOST.
    Dayton People Turn Out En Masse to Lay It, but It Will Not Down.
    A thousand people surround the graveyard in Miamisburg town, near Dayton, Ohio, every night, to witness the antics of what appears to be a genuine ghost. There is no doubt about the existence of the apparition. Mayer Marshall, general collector, and hundreds of prominent citizens all testify to having seen it. Last night several hundred people armed with clubs and guns assaulted the spectre, which appears to be a woman in white. Clubs, bullets and shot tore the air in which the misty figure floated without disconcerting it in the least.
    The people of the town turned out en masse yesterday and began exhuming bodies in the cemetery to get at her ghostship. The remains of the Vuss family, composed of three people, have already been exhumed. The town is visited daily by hundreds of strangers and none are disappointed as the apparition is always on duty promptly at 9 o’clock. The strange figure was at once recognized by the inhabitants of the town as a young lady supposed to have been murdered several years ago. Her attitude while drifting among the graves is one of deep thought, with head inclined forward and hands clasped behind.
    Huntingdon [PA] Journal 11 April 1884: p. 2
    [From The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales]
    18 Jan 2015: KMH writes: When traditional religious belief and practice is on the decline, as it has been for several centuries now that science has gained a dominating position, we see a corresponding rise in fascination for the paranormal, the occult, pagan religions, and anything outside the religious mainstream. This is one indication of a dying civilization, as propounded by Gibbons, I think, in his book about the fall of the Roman empire. So, a century ago it was ghosts and spiritism; today, it has gone even further to also include UFO’s, aliens, bigfoot, crop circles, etc. There are now internet sites and TV programs devoted entirely to these phenomena.The glamour of ghosts has been eclipsed by the 20th century anomalous experiences, so no, crowds don’t gather for them like they used to. We also have the media to report and explain things – which makes it less important to investigate for oneself.