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The Ghost of Ann Walker

According to Arthur L Hayward's 'Lives of the most remarkable criminals: Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences' (1735), the ghost of Ann Walker named her murderer in the early 17th century.

An Account of the Conviction and Execution of Mr. WALKER, and MARK SHARP, for the Murder of ANN WALKER

I am conscious that my collecting these relations may expose me to the railery and ridicule of a very numerous tribe of wits in this age, who value themselves extremely on their contempt of supernatural stories, and their disbelief of all things which relate to apparitions or returns from that state in which souls go when they depart from the body. Yet the following story is so remarkable, the proofs so exceedingly cogent, and the mistakes made in the relation of it by various authors so likely, notwithstanding, to bring it in the course of time into discredit, that I thought I could not do a greater service to the public than to preserve it in its genuine purity, which I have had occasion to retrieve from the sight of some papers which related thereto, and from which the following account is written verbatim, without any alteration so much as in a letter.

About the year 1631, there lived in a place called Chester-in-the-Street, in the County Palatine of Durham, one Mr. Walker, a yeoman of good fortune and credit. He was a widower and kept a young woman, one Ann Walker, a relation of his, in his house as housekeeper. It was suspected, it seems, by some of the neighbours, that she was with child, immediately upon which she was removed to one Dame Cair's an aunt of hers in the town of Lumley, hard by. The old woman treated her with much kindness and civility, but was exceedingly earnest to know of her who was the father of the child with which she went, but the young woman constantly avoided answering that question. But at last, perceiving how uneasy the old woman was because she could get no knowledge how the poor babe was to be provided for, this Ann Walker at last said that he who got her with child would take care of both her and it, with which answer her aunt was tolerably satisfied.

Some time after, of an evening, her old master Walker, and one Mark Sharp, with whom he was extraordinarily intimate, came to her aunt's house and took the said Anne Walker away. About a fortnight passed without her being seen or heard of, and without much talk of the neighbourhood concerning her, supposing she had been carried somewhere to be privately brought to bed, in order to escape her shame. But one James Graham, a miller, who lived two miles from the place where Walker's house was, being one night between the hours of twelve and one, grinding corn in his mill, and the mill door shut, as he came downstairs from putting corn into the hopper, he saw a woman standing in the middle of the floor, with her hair all bloody, hanging about her ears, and five large wounds in her head. Graham, though he was a bold man, was exceedingly shocked at this spectacle. At last after calling upon God to protect him, he, in a low voice, demanded who she was, and what she wanted of him. To which the woman made answer, “I am the spirit of Anne Walker, who lived with Walker at Chester-in-the-Street, and being got with child by him, he promised to send me to a private place, where I should be well looked to until I was brought to bed, and well again, and then I should come to him again and keep his house. And I was accordingly, late one night, sent away with Mark Sharp, who upon the moor, just by the Yellow Bank Head, slew me with a pick, an instrument wherewith they dig coals, and gave me these five wounds, and afterwards threw me into a coalpit hard by, and hid the pick under the bank. His shoes and stockings also being bloody he endeavoured to wash them, but seeing the blood would not go forth, he hid them there too. And now James Grime (so the country people pronounce Graham) I am come to you, that by revealing this bloody act my murderers may be brought to justice; which unless you do, I will continually pursue and haunt you.”

The miller returned home to his house very melancholy, and much astonished at this sight, yet he held his peace, hoping that if he did not reveal it she would go to somebody else. He was fearful of blasting the character of Mr. Walker, who was a man of substance, by telling such a tale concerning him to a Justice of Peace. However, he avoided as much as he was able being in the mill alone, especially at nights, but notwithstanding all his care, and though other persons were not far off, she appeared to him there again, and in a harsh tone demanded why he had not made known what she had spoken of to him. He made her no answer, but fled to the other end of the place where the people were. Yet some little time after, just after sunset, she met him in his own garden, and spoke to him with such a cruel aspect and with such fearful threats that he promised to go the next morning to a magistrate, which he accordingly did.

On the morrow, being St. Thomas's Day, he applied to a justice of the peace and told him the story. The justice having tendered him his oath, and taking his information in writing, forthwith issued his warrant, and apprehended Mr. Walker and Mark Sharp, who by trade was a collier, i.e., dug coals out of a mine. They made light of the thing before the justice, although he in the meanwhile had caused a place which Graham said the apparition had spoken of, to be searched, and there found the dead body, wounded in place and manner as before described, with the pick, the shoes and the stockings. However, Walker and Sharp were admitted to bail, and at the next assizes appeared upon their trial.

Judge Davenport heard the several circumstances of the woman's being carried out by Sharp, her being suspected to be with child by her master, Walker, and the story which Graham repeated exactly upon oath, as he had done before the justice. The foreman of the jury did depose that he saw a child standing upon the shoulders of the prisoner Walker, at the Bar, and the judge himself was under such a concern and uneasiness that as soon as the jury had found the prisoners guilty, he immediately rose up and passed sentence of death upon them, a thing never known before nor since in Durham, the custom being not to pass sentence until the close of the assizes.

Note: The map only shows a point somewhere near Chester le Street and Lumley and does pinpoint the site of the apparition.


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Re: The Ghost of Ann Walker

'Parish of Chester-Le-Street', The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham: volume 2: Chester ward (1820), pp. 136-206. URL: Date accessed: 05 January 2012.

“Before we come to speak of Apparitions, we shall premise some few things by way of caution, because there is not one subject (that we know of ) in the world that is liable to so many mistakes, by reason of the prepossessed fancies of men in adhering to those fictions of Spirits, Fairies, Hobgoblins, and such like, which are continually heightened by ignorant education and vain melancholy fears .”

First, therefore, the following narrative of a murder committed by Mark Sharp, Collier, at the instigation of John Walker of Chester-le-Street, Yeoman, and afterwards discovered by supernatural means, is, in the opinion of Master John Webster, practitioner of physic, (who wrote a book expressly for “the displaying and detecting of supposed Witch-craft”) one of “those apparitions and strange accidents which cannot be solved by the supposed principles of matter and motion, but which do evidently require some other cause, above or different from the visible and ordinary course of nature, effects that do strangely exceed the power of natural causes, and may for ever convince all atheistical minds.”

Secondly. The narrative is inserted in Dr. Henry More's letter, forming part of the Prolegomena to Mr. Joseph Glanvil's work, intituled, “Sadducismus triumphatus,” and is copied verbatim from John Webster (from whom, however, on other matters and occasions, Dr. More differeth toto cœlo), with the additional grave testimony of Mr. William Lumley, of Great Lumley, an ancient gentleman who was present at the trial, and of Mr. Shepherdson, whom the Doctor terms his “discreet and faithful intelligencer.” “This story of Anne Walker,” adds the Doctor, “you will do well (Master Glanvil), to put amongst your additions, it being so excellently well attested, and so unexceptionably in every respect; and hasten as fast as you can that impression, to undeceive the half-witted world,” who do so exult in the supposed slaying of the æmon of Tedworth (as if the Devil were really dead), that they do now, “with more gaiety and security than ever, sing in a loud note that mad drunken catch, 'Heyho ! the Devil is dead'.”

About the year of our Lord 1632, (as near as I can remember, having lost my notes, and the copy of the letters to Serjeant Hutton, but am sure that I do most perfectly remember the substance of the story,) near unto Chester in the Street, there lived one Walker, a yeoman of good estate, and a widower, who had a young woman to his kinswoman, that kept his house, who was, by the neighbours, suspected to be with child, and was, towards the dark of the evening one night, sent away with one Mark Sharp, who was a collier, or one that digged coals under ground, and one that had been born in Blakeburn hundred in Lancashire; and so she was not heard of a long time, and no noise, or little, was made about it. In the winter-time after, one James Graham or Grime, (for so in that country they call them) being a miller, and living about 2 miles from the place where Walker lived, was one night alone very late in the mill, grinding corn; and about 12 or 1 o' the clock at night, he came down the stairs from having been putting corn in the hopper; the mill doors being shut, there stood a woman upon the midst of the floor, with her hair about her head, hanging down, and all bloody, with five large wounds on her head. He being much affrighted and amaz'd, began to bless himself; and at last, ask'd her who she was, and what she wanted? To which she said, I am the spirit of such a woman, who lived with Walker, and being got with child by him, he promised to send me to a private place, where I should be well look'd to, till I was brought to bed, and well again; and then I should come again and keep his house. And accordingly, said the Apparition, I was one night late sent away with one Mark Sharp, who, upon a moor, naming a place that the miller knew, slew me with a pick, such as men dig coals withal, and gave me these five wounds, and after threw my body into a coal-pit hard by, and hid the pick under a bank; and his shoes and stockings being bloody, he endeavoured to wash 'em; but seeing the blood would not forth, he hid them there. And the Apparition further told the miller, that he must be the man to reveal it, or else that she must still appear and haunt him. The miller returned home very sad and heavy, but spoke not one word of what he had seen, but eschewed as much as he could to stay in the mill within night without company, thinking thereby to escape the seeing again of that frightful apparition. But notwithstanding, one night when it began to be dark, the apparition met him again, and seemed very fierce and cruel, and threatened him, that if he did not reveal the murder, she would continually pursue and haunt him; yet for all this, he still concealed it until St. Thomas's eve before Christmas; when being, soon after sunset, walking in his garden, she appeared again, and then so threatened him, and affrighted him, that he faithfully promised to reveal it next morning. In the morning, he went to a magistrate, and made the whole matter known with all the circumstances; and diligent search being made, the body was found in a coal-pit, with five wounds in the head, and the pick and shoes and stockings yet bloody, in every circumstance as the apparition had related unto the miller; whereupon Walker and Mark Sharp were both apprehended, but would confess nothing. At the assizes following, I think it was at Durham, they were arraigned, found guilty, condemn'd and executed; but I could never hear they confess'd the fact. There were some that reported the apparition did appear to the judge, or the foreman of the jury, who was alive in Chester in the Street about ten years ago, as I have been credibly inform'd, but of that I know no certainty. There are many persons yet alive, that can remember this strange murder and the discovery of it; for it was, and sometimes yet is, as much discoursed of in the north country, as any thing that almost hath ever been heard of, and the relation printed, tho' now not be gotten. I relate this with the greater confidence (though I may fail in some of the circumstances) because I saw and read the letter that was sent to Serjeant Hutton, who then lived at Goldsbrugh in Yorkshire, from the judge before whom Walker and Mark Sharp were tried, and by whom they were condemn'd, and had a copy of it until about the year 1658, when I had it and many other books and papers taken from me; and this I confess to be one of the most convincing stories, being of undoubted verity, that ever I read, heard, or knew of, and carrieth with it the most evident force, to make the most incredulous spirit to be satisfied, that there are really, sometimes, such things as apparitions; thus far he.

This story is so considerable, that I make mention of it in my Scholia, on my Immortality of the Soul, in my Volumen Philosophicum, tom. 2. which I acquainting a friend of mine with, a prudent, intelligent person, Dr. J. D., he of his own accord offer'd me, it being a thing of such consequence, to send to a friend of his in the North, for greater assurance of the truth of the narrative; which motion I willingly embracing, he did accordingly. The answer to this letter, from his friend Mr. Shepherdson, is this:—I have done what I can to inform myself of the passage of Sharp and Walker; there are very few men that I could meet, that were then men, or at the trial, saving these two in the inclosed paper, both men at that time, and both at the trial; and for Mr. Lumley, he lived next door to Walker, and what he hath given under his hand can depose, if there were occasion. The other gentlemen writ his attestation with his own hand; but I, being not there, got not his name to it. I could have sent you twenty hands, that could have said thus much, and more by hearsay, but I thought these most proper, that could speak from their own eyes and ears. Thus far Mr. Shepherdson, the Doctor's discreet and faithful intelligencer; now for Mr. Lumley of Lumley, being an ancient gentlemen, and at the trial of Walker and Sharp, upon the murder of Anne Walker, saith, that he doth very well remember that the said Anne was servant to Walker, and that she was supposed to be with child, but would not disclose by whom; but being removed to her aunt's in the same town, called Dame Caire, told her aunt, that he, that got her with child, would take care both for her and it, and bid her not trouble herself. After some time she had been at her aunt's, it was observed, that Sharp came to Lumley one night, being a sworn-brother of the said Walker's; and they two, that night, called her forth from her aunt's house, which night she was murder'd; about fourteen days after the murder, there appeared to one Graime a fuller, at his mill, six miles from Lumley, the likeness of a woman, with her hair about her head, and the appearance of five wounds in her head, as the said Graime gave it in evidence; that that appearance bid him go to a justice of peace, and relate to him, how that Walker and Sharp had murthered her in such a place as she was murthered; but he fearing to disclose a thing of that nature, against a person of credit as Walker was, would not have done it; upon which, the said Graime did go to a justice of peace, and related the whole matter. Whereupon the justice of peace granted warrants against Walker and Sharp, and committed them to a prison; but they found bail to appear at the next assizes, at which they came to their trial, and upon evidence of the circumstances, with that of Graime of the appearance, they were both found guilty and executed.

William Lumley.

The other testimony is of Mr. James Smart, of the City of Durham; who saith, that the trial of Sharp and Walker was in the month of August, 1631, before Judge Davenport. One Mr. Fairhair gave it in evidence upon oath, that he saw the likeness of a child stand upon Walker's shoulders, during the time of the trial; at which time, the judge was very much troubled, and gave sentence that night the trial was, which was a thing never used in Durham, before nor after. Out of which two testimonies, several things may be corrected or supplied in Mr. Webster's story, though it be evident enough that, in the main, they agree; for that is but a small disagreement as to the years, when Mr. Webster says about the year of our Lord 1632, and Mr. Smart, 1631. But unless at Durham they have assizes but once in the year, I understand not so well how Sharp and Walker should be apprehended some little while after St. Thomas's day, as Mr. Webster has it, and be tried the next assizes at Durham, and yet that be in August, according to Mr. Smart's testimony. Out of Mr. Lumley's testimony, the christian name of the young woman is supplied, as also the name of the town near Chester in the Street, namely Lumley. The circumstances also, of Walker's sending away his kinswoman with Mark Sharp, are supplied out of Mr. Lumley's narrative, and the time rectified, by telling it was about fourteen days till the spectre appeared after the murther, when as Mr. Webster makes it a long time.

Two errors also more are corrected, in Mr. Webster's narration, by Mr. Lumley's testimony; the distance of the miller from Lumley, where Walker dwelt, which was six miles, not two miles, as Mr. Webster has it; and also that it was not a mill to grind corn in, but a fuller's mill; the apparition, night by night, pulling the cloaths off Graime's bed, omitted in Mr. Webster's story, may be supplied out of Mr. Lumley's; and Mr. Smart's testimony puts it out of controversy, that the trial was at Durham, and before Judge Davenport, which is omitted by Mr. Webster. And whereas Mr. Webster says, there were some that reported, that the apparition did appear to the judge, or the foreman of the jury; but of that he knows no certainly. This confession of his, as it is a sign he would not write any thing in this story, of which he was not certain, for the main; so here is a very seasonable supply for this, out of Mr. Smart, who affirms that he heard one Mr. Fairhair give evidence upon oath, that he saw the likeness of a child stand upon Walker's shoulders, during the time of the trial: it is likely this Mr. Fairhair might be the foreman of the jury,—and, in that the judge was so very much troubled, that himself also might see the same apparition, as Webster says report went; though the mistake in Mr. Webster is, that it was the apparition of a woman; but this of the child was very fit and apposite, placed on his shoulders, as one that was justly loaded or charged with that crime of getting his kinswoman with child, as well as of complotting with Sharp to murder her.

The letter also, which he mentions writ from the judge, before whom the trial was heard, to Serjeant Hutton, it is plain out of Mr. Smart's testimony, that it was from Judge Davenport; which, in all likelihood, was a very full and punctual narrative of the whole business, and enabled Mr. Webster, in some considerable things, to be more particular than Mr. Lumley; but the agreement is so exact, for the main, that there is no doubt to be made of the truth of the apparition. But that this, forsooth, must not be the soul of Anne Walker, but her astral spirit, this is but a fantastick conceit of Webster and his Paracelsians, which I have sufficiently shewn the folly of in the Scholia on my Immortality of the Soul, Volum. Philos. tom. 2. page 384. 

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Re: The Ghost of Ann Walker

The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain By John Ingram (1897)

Many judicial decisions have been based upon, or influenced by, the presumed testimony of apparitions, These pages contain more than one historical record of such cases, but none more singular than that of Anne Walker, which may be found fully detailed in the works of the famous Dr. Henry More, the Platonist.

In 1680, according to Dr. More, there lived at Lumley, a village near Chester-le-Street, in the county of Durham, a widower named Walker, who was a man in good circumstances. Anne Walker, a young relation of his, kept his house, to the great scandal of the neighbourhood, and, as it proved, 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 Cave, in Chester-le-Street, and promised to provide both for her and her future child. One evening towards the end of November, this man, in company with Mark Sharp, an acquaintance of his, came to Dame Cave's door, and told her 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, he was allowed to take the young woman away with him, and he professed to have sent her away with his acquaintance Sharp into Lancashire.

"Fourteen days after," runs the story, one Graeme, a fuller who lived about six miles from Lumley, had been engaged till past midnight in his mill; and on coming down-stairs 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 then proceeded to tell Graeme the particulars which have already been related as to her removal from her aunt's abode. "When I was sent away with Mark Sharp,'"' it proceeded, " he slew me on such a moor," naming one that Graeme knew, " with a collier's pick, threw my body into a coal pit, and hid the pick under the bank; and his shoes and stockiugs, 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 the 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 ho 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. Thomas's 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 all over 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 accounts 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."



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