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HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS

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Author Topic: HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS  (Read 2309 times)
Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #90 on: November 15, 2009, 05:17:28 am »

"I went to hear it," he writes; "for it is not an apparition but an audition. We set out[Pg 95] from the opera, changed our clothes at Northumberland House, the Duke of York, Lady Northumberland, Lady Mary Coke, Lord Hertford, and I, all in one hackney coach, and drove to the spot; it rained in torrents; yet the lane was full of mob, and the house so full we could not get in; at last they discovered it was the Duke of York, and the company squeezed themselves into one another's pockets to make room for us. The house, which is borrowed, and to which the ghost has adjourned, is wretchedly small and miserable; when we opened the chamber, in which were fifty people with no light but one tallow candle at the end, we tumbled over the bed of the child to whom the ghost comes, and whom they are murdering by inches in such insufferable heat and stench. At the top of the room are clothes to dry. I asked if we were to have rope dancing between the acts. We heard nothing; they told us (as they would at a puppet show) that it would not come that night till seven in the morning, that is, when there are only prentices and old women. We stayed, however, till half an hour after one."

The skepticism patent in this letter was shared by all thinking men. Letter after[Pg 96] letter of criticism, even of abuse, was poured into the newspapers. No less a personage than Oliver Goldsmith wrote, under the title of "The Mystery Revealed," a long pamphlet which was intended both to explain away the disturbances and to defend the luckless Knight. The actor Garrick dragged into a prologue a riming and sneering reference to the mystery; the artist Hogarth invoked his genius to deride it. Yet there were believers in plenty, and there even seem to have been some who thought of preying on the credulous by opening up a business in "knocking ghosts."

"On Tuesday last," one reads in The Chronicle, "it was given out that a new knocking ghost was to perform that evening at a house in Broad Court near Bow Street, Covent Garden; information of which being given to a certain magistrate in the neighborhood, he sent his compliments with an intimation that it should not meet with that lenity the **** Lane ghost did, but that it should knock hemp in Bridewell. On which the ghost very discreetly omitted the intended exhibition."

Whether or no he took a hint from this publication, it is certain that, finding all other means failing, Knight now resolved to try to[Pg 97] lay by legal process the ghost that had rendered him the most unhappy and the most talked of man in London. Going before a magistrate, he brought a charge of criminal conspiracy against Clerk Parsons, Mrs. Parsons, the Parsons servant, the clergyman who had aided the servant in eliciting the murder story from the talkative ghost, and a **** Lane tradesman. All of these, he alleged, had banded themselves together to ruin him, their malice arising from the quarrel which had led him to remove to Clerkenwell and enter a lawsuit against Parsons. The girl herself he did not desire punished, because she was too young to understand the evil that she wrought. Warrants were forthwith issued, and, protesting their innocence frantically, the accused were dragged to prison.

Their conviction soon followed, after a trial of which the only obtainable evidence is that it was held at the Guildhall before a special jury and was presided over by Lord Mansfield. Then, "the court desiring that Mr. K——, who had been so much injured on this occasion, should receive some reparation," sentence was deferred for several months.[Pg 98] This enabled the clergyman and the tradesman "to purchase their pardon" by the payment of some five hundred or six hundred pounds to Knight. But the clerk either would not or could not pay a farthing, and on him and his, sentence was now passed. "The father," to quote once more from the meager account in The Annual Register, "was ordered to be set in the pillory three times in one month, once at the end of **** Lane, and after that to be imprisoned two years; Elizabeth his wife, one year; and Mary Frazer, six months to Bridewell, and to be kept there to hard labor." Thus, in wig and gown, did the law solemnly and severely place the seal of disbelief on the **** Lane ghost; which, it is worth observing, seems to have vanished forever the moment the arrests were made.
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