Gallery E

The Black Lion Inn

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The London Ghost Murder Of 1803

By James Donahue

The Black Lion Inn of Hammersmith, in West London, is a completely restored building following a serious fire in 2009. It is not known whether the fire chased away a ghost that haunted the building for over 200 years. That ghost was believed to have been the result of a "ghost murder" in a nearby graveyard in the year 1804.

The case has gone down in London history as the Hammersmith Ghost murder.

It seems that rumors had been circulating about a strange ghostly figure that had been seen by various residents moving around in the graveyard. The story soon evolved that it was the ghost of a local man who had committed suicide by cutting his own throat. His body was buried in that cemetery.

The white spectral figure frightened one woman who went screaming out of the churchyard, and later, it was said another woman was found unconscious after she had been confronted by the ghost. She said the ghost actually grabbed her as she attempted to run away. As the story is told, the woman was taken to her home where she went to her bed, never to recover.

That was when Francis Smith, a local excise offer, decided to play vigilante and investigate this alleged ghost. He armed himself with a blunderbuss and began camping out in the cemetery. Sure enough, there appeared before him a tall, white ghostly figure moving slowly through the tombstones. Smith aimed his blunderbuss at it and fired. The ghostly figure collapsed to the ground.

It turned out that Smith had murdered Thomas Milward, a local bricklayer dressed in a white shirt and covered in dust from his work that day. Milward had chosen that night to take a shortcut through the cemetery on his way home. The identity of the real Hammersmith Ghost may have never been learned. Some said it was always Milward, who was taking that route home from his job every night.

Smith was tried and convicted on a charge of murder. A death sentence was later reduced to a year of hard labor because of the strange circumstances leading to his decision to shoot at the ghostly figure.

The ghost story does not end here, however. Milward’s body was removed to the Black Lion Inn while police investigated the shooting. It was after that that ghostly activity began occurring at the inn. There have been strange sounds, footsteps on the floor of an empty room overhead, lights that turn on and off for no reason, strange voices, and even customers who have felt a tap on the shoulder and turned to find nobody there.