While researching Victorian ghost hunters, I don’t mean the toffs behind the Society of Psychical Research or the Ghost Club, but the common person’s approach to ghosts. Aside from violence on a mass scale there are also references to innocent people being attacked or in a few cases killed by policemen and soldiers believing them to be ghosts.
In June 1899, Henry Sutton was one such example. While on sentry duty at Forton Barracks, Gosport he discharged four rounds at Lance Corporal Davis wounding him in the head and thigh. How Davis survived is reported at the time as “miraculous” and one does wonder how he was able to survive during their primitive medical times.
Sutton was brought to the Winchester Assizes and was charged with shooting “with intent to murder”. In his defence it was claimed “that there had been a ghost scare at Gosport, and that the accused having listened to several tales of the “chilling shocker” he had become unnerved with the result that he expended several bullets on someone who was very much not a phantom.”
The judge and jury obviously believed his story and Sutton walked free.
To quote the Midland Daily Telegraph, “possibly “ghosts” will not haunt the neighbourhood of Forton Barracks when they know that Henry Sutton is on sentry.”
Photo © Chris Talbot (cc-by-sa/2.0)