The intriguing tale of the murder of the Hammersmith Ghost and what happened when a band of ghost hunters armed with shotguns went searching for him.
Can you get the death penalty for shooting a ghost? It would appear so…
This was back in the early 19th century (January 1804) when the bloody code meant you got the death penalty for a wide range of crimes including robbery, forgery, burglary, abortion, sodomy and, of course, murder.
For months the local residents of Hammersmith had been reporting ghostly sightings in and around the local churchyard – some people even reported being grabbed by the ghost (which perhaps should have raised alarm bells that this wasn’t actually a spirit, but something more mundane).
There were plenty of skeptics at the time, with rumours that the ‘ghost’ had been spotted discarding a white tablecloth while running away, but all the same, people were nervous.
So nervous in fact that one man decided to solve the problem once and for all. On January 3rd 1804 a local man, Francis Smith, had a few beers and decided to go hunting for the ghost armed with a blunderbuss. Unfortunately, instead of finding the ghost he came across a local bricklayer called Thomas Millwood, who was dressed all in white. In a panic, believing he was the fabled ghost, he shot the unfortunate man. Immediately realising his mistake he took the man to The Black Lion pub, where Millwood died of his wounds.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Smith’s defence of believing Millwood was a ghost, didn’t convince the judge and jury when the case came to trial and he was condemned to death. His sentence was later commuted to a years hard-labour in prison.
But the true story of the Hammersmith ghost and who was behind the hauntings was never solved…