"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This account of a most peculiar death comes from the "London St. James Gazette and Evening Review," September 18, 1889.  I must confess, I don't have the slightest idea what to say about this one:

Mr. Coroner Carttar and a jury were for several hours on Monday night engaged in holding an inquiry into the death of Ann Georgina Hanks, aged eighteen, of 11, Frederick street, Greenwich. The court was crowded, considerable interest being manifested in the proceedings on account of the rumour that the deceased girl had been frightened by ghostly signs. An extraordinary story was told to the jury by Mary Ann Robinson Maxstead, aged fourteen, sister to the young man with whom the deceased was “keeping company.” She said that on Wednesday evening last she went with deceased to her bed-room. The witness carried a paraffin lamp. The deceased got an apron out of her box in the back bed room, and with her left hand felt round the corners of the box. When she got to the last corner, something like white thick smoke came up about six inches, startling witness.

When the smoke left her hand the deceased fell on the floor. When she moved her hand the smoke was with it, and when she fell the smoke dispersed in front of witness. There were light sparks in it. She called to her brother downstairs, but when he came the smoke had gone, where she did not see. She was frightened, and went downstairs with the light. There was no noise when witness saw the smoke, and no smell. She could not tell what it was. Evidence was given to show that shortly after falling to the ground, the deceased started screaming, which continued for half an hour. She never spoke again, or recovered consciousness, dying at half-past eleven on Saturday night. The coroner's officer and another witness searched the box for anything to account for the alleged smoke, but could find nothing. The witness Maxstead’s brother said that next morning she told him of the fire in deceased’s left hand, and of the cloud in front of her. He put down the cloud as a sign of death, but could not account for the fire. Asked by the coroner, "What put this in your head and your sister's head?" Maxstead could not say, and the coroner remarked that there had been a story of a Greenwich ghost, which was said to have manifested itself at a house near where the deceased lived.

It was stated that she had been employed at the lead-works of Messrs. Pontifex and Wood, Millwall, and it had been suggested that death was due to lead-poisoning; but this Dr. Hartt found was not the case, the actual cause of death being syncope, following an epileptic fit. Fright, he said, was a common cause of epilepsy, and the screaming referred to might have been epileptic. The post-mortem appearances were such as one would expect to find after severe functional disturbance. Epilepsy might have been produced by sudden excitement. He could not account for the alleged smoke at all. Phosphorus paste might cause it, but it would have to be handled. The Coroner thought some of the girl Maxstead’s story was imaginary. Ultimately the jury found a verdict of Death from syncope following an epileptic fit.

1 comment:

  1. Anything that a person could come up with in this case would be almost entirely conjecture. That's a weird one, all right.


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