In 1889 16 year old George Orchard who lived at 77, Grange Road, Plaistow, found himself in West Ham Police Court on a charge of “wilfully extinguishing a pubic street lamp at Upper Road in Plaistow. When asked the reason for his exaction he explained to the court that he had climbed the lamp-post and turned the gas down because people wanted to see “the ghost.”
Police Constable Dubery told the court that he had been on duty in Upper Road at around ten O’clock, when he noticed a huge crowd of some 200 people, all of whom had come “to see the ghost.” The common consensus amongst the crowd was that they would have a much better chance of a sighting if the lamps were turned down. Apparently this had been going on every night for the best part of the previous month.
Mr Baggallay, the presiding magistrate, asked the constable if anyone had actually seen this ghost, to which Constable Dubery replied that he had been on duty there for a month and had seen nothing, nor, to his knowledge, had anyone else.
At this point the Court Clerk, Mr Fowler intervened and asked the policeman “They have found out now what “the ghost” is haven’t they?” Constable Dubery nodded and explained that “it was a granite tombstone” which, when the light caught it at a certain angle gave it the appearance of a ghost.
According to Dubery, the crowd was always very disorderly “they push people of the path, and skylarking generally goes on.
Turning to the prisoner in the dock Mr Baggallay asked him to explain why he had done it. Orchard replied that “the cemetery-keeper, a grave digger, and another man went into the cemetery and they hollored out, “Turn out the light.” I did so, and just at that moment the constable took me.”
Mr Baggally told him that he’d “better not put the lamps out again” and then announced that the “police had better see that some extra constables are put on the spot for duty,” to which Inspector Bishop replied: “All right, your worship. The lad is a good boy.”
Observing that Orchard had only done as he was told, Mr Baggallay told him that he could go, and George Orchard was duly released.