"...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, April 1, 2015

Newspaper Clipping of the Day



This tale of a medium who "saw" a murder comes from the "Illustrated Police News" for August 22, 1896:

Last month a man named David Thomas, who had for a short time been employed by Lord Winidsor as his estate carpenter, was found shot dead in a lonely spot on the roadside near Fairwater, a village not far from Cardiff. No trace of the murderer could he found, and no motive has been supplied for the foul deed.

David Thomas was, from all accounts, a quiet, peaceable fellow, well liked by his intimates, and happy in his domestic relations. He was a native of the little fishing village of Aberavon, in Cardiganshire, but he had lived in Glamorganshire for some years, and had married a respectable woman, a native of the Vale of Glamorgan. A few months ago he received the appointment of carpenter on Lord Windsor's estate. He then removed with his family to live in the little village of St. Pagan's, a few miles out of Cardiff. He had hardly settled down there when the tragedy took place. It happened on a Saturday night. He had given up work early and had come home to cut the grass in the little green in front of his cottage, and to tidy up his new home. Early in the afternoon he seems to have grown tired of the work, and went indoors. His wife asked him to take the children out for a stroll. He made no reply, and his wife, busy in another part of the house, did not pay much attention to his subsequent movements. She knows, however, that he washed and went upstairs to put himself tidy, and then went out--without the children.

He seems to have met a friend on the road, and went for a walk with him. They called at a public-house, and had a glass or two of beer. Then, about ten o'clock, they parted. Thomas was quite cheerful, and started for home at a brisk pace. He came presently to a lonely part of the road. A wayfarer heard a pistol shot and a scream, and presently he met a man who was hurrying away from the direction of the scream, and who wished him a gruff good night. Two hundred yards further on the traveler saw in the dim night the body of a man stretched out on the side of the road. He fetched assistance; the body was that of David Thomas. He had been shot about 100 yards behind, but he had not been killed outright. He had run in terror up the road, spouting blood as he went, and leaving a ghastly trail behind him.

But a weird story which is told in the Western Mail of Cardiff serves to lend that touch of horror to the tale which renders it more thrilling than any story which the most daring novelist would venture to create.

A young girl, who is not yet 20, has been in the habit for some time past of attending seances held by the Cardiff Psychological Society. One night at a seance, while in a state of trance, she was seized with a strange convulsion. Through her lips came the words:--

" I--WILL--have--my--revenge.''

"Who are you, friend?" asked the interlocutor.

"David Thomas. I--was--shot."

This entirely unexpected answer was followed by sensational statements concerning the murder and the identity of the murderer. Some days after she was taken out to Fairwater--which she had never before visited--and re-enacted in a trance the scene of the murder. The story leaked out, and came to the ears of the Western Mail. Doubts were cast at once on the bona fides of the girl and the whole story. An offer was made to repeat the experiment in the presence of two Mail representatives. The offer was accepted, and one night this week, at ten o'clock, the little party met outside the Railway Inn, where poor David Thomas had had his last drink.

A start was made. The medium walked at an easy pace between a male and female friend, whose arms were linked. The night was very dark. The faint outline of the road ahead led always on towards a wall of blackness.

At last they came near Fairwater. Suddenly the medium spoke:-

"I see a pistol right in front of me--held towards me--it is a shiny one--there it is, held up--it has a large mouth."

Forty yards further on the medium spoke again. "Hark! I hear footsteps! I see a man!"

"Where?

"Right in front of us. There he is, creeping along under the hedge. He is keeping out of sight."

"What is he like? How is he dressed ?"

The medium described her vision very minutely. Her pace increased suddenly; she dragged her linked companions on with a lurch forward. The farmhouse where she first saw the phantom stranger was well passed. She was following him eagerly now.

A piercing scream came from the girl. A pressman sprang to her side and helped to prevent her body pitching headlong forward.

This was at the spot where David Thomas fell at the first shot.

"O--o--oh !"' moaned the medium, twisting her left arm round to the back, to a spot immediately below the shoulder-blade, as if in intense agony. Then, supported on either side, she staggered forward.

A light was struck to see her face. It was the hue of death. Her eyes were turned until the whites alone were visible.

"Let her go down! " Moaning, she was allowed to sink, and lay there prone. Her means expressed intense agony, and were like those of a man dying; blood gurgling in the sound; it was scarce conceivable a woman actually lay there.

"Speak, friend," said the interlocutor, and presently came the slow answer, a whisper: "David--T--T--Thomas."

"What do you want of us, friend ?"

"I--was-SHOT!" The tones of the voice were those of a man's.

"Who shot you ? "

A name was given.

"What do you want us to do, my friend?"

Slowly, distinctly, with relentless purpose came the answer. "I--will--have--my--revenge. He shot me."

Then the medium told them where the pistol had been bought by the murderer a year ago under an assumed name, and where the pistol would be found. All this while the poor girl lay prone on the roadside under the thin sinister telegraph pole.

Gradually she revived. "Look, look!" she cried, in a voice of horror, "look at the blood!"

"'Where?"

"Here--look! Look here!" indicating spots invisible to anyone else.

"Take me away," she shuddered, but before her frightened exclamation could be obeyed, her body suddenly stiffened. " He is there!" she said; with pitiful horror in her tone, but with her face expressionless and her eyes still white.

"What do you see?"

"The ghost."

Then the party returned, shaken in mind and surfeited with horrors.

Sadly, despite this spectral recreation of the crime, Thomas' seemingly inexplicable killing--which had a certain amount of contemporary fame as the "Fairwater Murder"--was never solved. In this world, at least. Perhaps his ghost managed to get his own vengeance.

4 comments:

  1. It would be interesting to know if then police followed up on the name given by the medium as the name of the murderer. You'd think the police would at least inquire as to relations between the two men - or perhaps they already had, and dismissed him as a suspect.

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    1. Strangely, I wasn't able to find out any more information about that. I can only assume that this person had an alibi--although, on the other hand, the local police got a great deal of criticism for their investigation of the crime. So, perhaps they just dismissed this "medium" entirely.

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  2. Doesn't the wife's story seem a little suspicious or is it just me? I mean, if I ask the husband to take the kids out for a stroll that means it's alone time for Pauline and you better round up those rug rats and get out of the cottage for awhile. But then she doesn't know what he was up to or where he went? Maybe she never wanted to live in St. Pagans to begin with and thought she'd take advantage of her family's "new neighbor" status. Murder was a much easier business for women back when no one believed a "respectable" wife and mother would ever do such a thing... And now I feel a short story coming on...

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    1. Dang, girl, we do think along the same lines. I thought that detail of the wife saying, "Hey, take the kids and get out of here," seemed a bit odd, but who knows what--if anything--it meant.

      It would make a heck of a short story, though, wouldn't it?

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