Ghosts With Revolvers

Today, I thought I’d take a break from things to do with Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders, and take a look at other scary stories that appeared in the Victorian newspapers in the late 1880’s.

Ghost stories have always been popular with journalists since their readers are also often intrigued by them and enjoy reading them.

It would appear also that a ghostly disguise was also quite a popular one amongst criminals who wished to evade apprehension, and it could happen that the person who saw this particular type of ghost had the additional fright of being confronted by a spectre that was armed!


The Illustrated Police News carried the following creepy tale in its edition of Saturday, 10th October, 1885:-

“Christopher Burrows, sixteen, was remanded at Derby, on Monday, on a charge of presenting a loaded pistol at a man named Gray, in order to resist apprehension.

Gray found the prisoner in a secluded part of the town covered with a sheet and other strange habiliments, and when he attempted to apprehend him the prisoner drew out a loaded pistol.

The police stated that great trouble had been caused by these so-called “apparitions”, and one woman had been seriously frightened and made ill. They had, in consequence, kept a watch.”

A ghost points a revolver at a startled man.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 10th October, 1885. Copyright, The British Library Board.


A few years later, another case of an armed ghost was doing the rounds, and this time, so the story went, the victims were soldiers at the Glencorse Barracks, just outside the town of Penicuik, in Midlothian, Scotland.

 The Stonehaven Journal reported the story in its edition of Thursday, 5th December, 1889, and you can imagine the consternation it caused amongst readers when they read that an entire regiment had been terrorised by this particular spectre that was making a distinct nuisance of itself to sentries on night duty.

At first, this seems like an intriguing, maybe even spooky, story – fearless soldiers being terrorised by a nocturnal visitor who, so the story goes, had hospitalised at least one of the soldiers.

But, in this case, the journalist who wrote the story dug a little deeper and, in so doing, discovered that the haunting was, in fact, the result of the local police officers wanting to teach a boastful comrade an ego-busting lesson!

The story read:-


“Early on Thursday morning an extraordinary story, says the Edinburgh Evening News, was circulated in Edinburgh.

According to the narrative, a private soldier on sentry duty at Glencorse Barracks on Thursday night was so frightened that he had been in a swoon for several hours.

It was asserted that the barracks at Glencorse had been the scene of several mysterious manifestations lately.


Last week a sentry was frightened off his post, and the only explanation he would give was that he had seen a ghost. The matter was laughed at by his comrades, and he became for a day the butt of the regiment.

Next night, the sentry who was on the same post came into the guardroom hurriedly in the middle of the night reporting that a ghost had threatened him, and that he had been obliged to fly. His pale face and the perspiration on his brow showed that he had seen something which frightened him.

The regiment did not laugh at this man, but an uneasy feeling began to pervade the ranks.


The man who had the irksome duty of going on the haunted spot the following night was generously treated to a series of lectures by his comrades on the manners and dangerous characteristics of ghosts.

When he too was frightened off his post, the affair reached such a climax that the regiment was panic-stricken, and the affair reached the ears of the officers.


Orders, it is stated, were then issued that the sentries were quite at liberty to use the bayonet on anything human or supernatural that refused to answer when challenged. It is supposed that this warning would have the effect of frightening the ghost, if it were only a practical joker.

That night the sentry did not come into the guardroom where his comrades were expecting him every minute.

When the relief went the rounds, however, the sentry was discovered lying on the top of his rifle in a dead swoon. No injuries were found about him. He was conveyed to hospital, where, when he recovered consciousness, he stated that the ghost had presented a revolver at his head, and had so frightened him that he lost his wits.


On inquiries being made into the affair, the story takes a somewhat different complexion.

It would appear that the police on the outskirts of the town have occasionally to patrol very dark and dreary rounds where there are no lamps, and where spiritual manifestations might be expected by anyone who was superstitious.

A young constable had been put on this duty, and he was rather a boaster.

Some of his comrades, who are wags, leagued themselves with the County men to give him a fright, and the story was told him to pave the way to a bigger joke.

It was intended to let him see a ghost, and watch if his bravado were equal to the emergency.

The story, however, was too clever, and it quickly gained credence among those who were not in the secret.

It is expected,  of course, that the policeman will not now meet the nocturnal visitor.”