Rhys, Ernest, ed. (18591946). The Haunters and the Haunted. 1921.
XLVIII. Anne Walker
IN the year 1680, at Lumley, a hamlet near Chester-le-Street in the county of Durham, there lived one Walker, a man well to do in the world, and a widower. A young relation of his, whose name was Anne Walker, kept his house, to the great scandal of the neighbourhood, and that with but too good cause. A few weeks before this young woman expected to become a mother, Walker placed her with her aunt, one Dame Clare, in Chester-le-Street, and promised to take care both of her and her future child. One evening in the end of November, this man, in company with Mark Sharp, an acquaintance of his, came to Dame Clares door, and told her that they had made arrangements for removing her niece to a place where she could remain in safety till her confinement was over. They would not say where it was; but as Walker bore, in most respects, an excellent character, she was allowed to go with him; and he professed to have sent her off with Sharp into Lancashire. Fourteen days after, one Graeme, a fuller, who lived about six miles from Lumley, had been engaged till past midnight in his mill; and on going downstairs to go home, in the middle of the ground floor he saw a woman, with dishevelled hair, covered with blood, and having five large wounds on her head. Graeme, on recovering a little from his first terror, demanded what the spectre wanted. I, said the apparition, am the spirit of Anne Walker; and proceeded accordingly to tell Graeme the particulars which I have already related to you. When I was sent away with Mark Sharp, he slew me on such a moor, naming one that Graeme knew, with a colliers pick, threw my body into a coal-pit, and hid the pick under the bank; and his shoes and stockings, which were covered with blood, he left in a stream. The apparition proceeded to tell Graeme that he must give information of this to the nearest justice of peace, and that till this was done, he must look to be continually haunted. Graeme went home very sad; he dared not bring such a charge against a man of so unimpeachable a character as Walker; and yet he as little dared to incur the anger of the spirit that had appeared to him. So, as all weak minds will do, he went on procrastinating; only he took care to leave his mill early, and while in it never to be alone. Notwithstanding this caution on his part, one night, just as it began to be dark, the apparition met him again in a more terrible shape, and with every circumstance of indignation. Yet he did not even then fulfil its injunction; till on St Thomass eve, as he was walking in his garden just after sunset, it threatened him so effectually that in the morning he went to a magistrate and revealed the whole thing. The place was examined; the body and the pickaxe found; and a warrant was granted against Walker and Sharp. They were, however, admitted to bail; but in August, 1681, their trial came on before Judge Davenport at Durham. Meanwhile the whole circumstances were known over all the north of England, and the greatest interest was excited by the case. Against Sharp the fact was strong, that his shoes and stockings, covered with blood, were found in the place where the murder had been committed; but against Walker, except the account received from the ghost, there seemed not a shadow of evidence. Nevertheless the judge summed up strongly against the prisoners, the jury found them guilty, and the judge pronounced sentence upon them that night, a thing which was unknown in Durham, either before or after. The prisoners were executed, and both died professing their innocence to the last. Judge Davenport was much agitated during the trial; and it was believed, says the historian, that the spirit had also appeared to him, as if to supply in his mind the want of legal evidence. This case is certainly a solemn illustration of the mal-administration of justice in an ancient court; yet the circumstantial evidence, arising from the appearance of the spirit, appears very strongthe finding of the body, and the boots and stockings. Yet we need perhaps to live more immediately within the circle of the circumstance to pronounce upon it. None of us, however, reading this book, would like to take upon ourselves the responsibility of those daring jurymen, who durst venture to throw away life upon evidence which, strong as it appears to have been, did not come to them, but only to one who had borne witness to them.