Sampford Ghost

Transcribed from Taunton Courier for 23 August 1810


Ann Franklin <A.Franklin[at]tesco[dot]net>

Just as we were penning a few sentences on the subject, the subjoined letter came to hand. The writer is well known as a clergyman and a scholar, and fully entitled to implicit credit for the veracity of his statement, we therefore feel no hesitation in postponing until our next, the observations which would otherwise have been submitted to our readers in the present number. A moment, however ought not to be allowed to escape, without noticing the very singular and no less objectionable hypothesis advanced by Mr C. in the commencement of his letter, from the adoption of which, it is not improbable, that the whole of his impressions may have received a bias unfavourable to a correct judgement on the subject. Perhaps we may advert to this next week, and we trust we shall then be able completely to satisfy the public, that the whole of the events which have excited so much astonishment in the neighbourhood, and have kindled such various poetic fires on the banks of the Exe, have their origin in distrusting imposture and villainous delusion. Mr C. is unquestionably entitled to the thanks of the public, for his persevering solicitude to penetrate the circumstances of the affair, and we anticipate from his liberality, a very different statement in a short time, to that of which he has now favoured us.

We cannot lay down our pen without noticing an occurrence sufficiently worthless in itself, and wholly undeserving attention, did it not forcibly corroborate beyond a volume of testimony, the correctness of our opinion, that the whole affair is founded in an infamous conspiracy. A letter was received on Saturday last, by the proprietor of this paper, threatening to shoot him if he attempted to expose the authors of this plot! Perhaps the silly knave who sent this was not aware that under the Black Act, he has incurred the penalty of death, by having so done, and we hope, whoever he may be, that he will profit by this caution, as he may not always be fortunate enough to address epistolary threats to those who feel no other disposition than to treat them with unmingled contempt.


Mr Editor, - It is not the object of this letter to make converts to a belief in Ghosts; yet, were the existence of such supernatural Beings established, I am apt to suspect the effects produced by such a persuasion, (if any) would be rather favourable to virtue, than otherwise. On this subject, the Gospel preserves a dignified silence, although the only two passages that I conceive can be fairly brought to bear upon the question, by no means militate against such a belief, but rather confirm it. I should not have presumed (and particularly at a time when other engagements demand the whole of my attention,) to have troubled the public with any observations of mine upon this subject, had not many stories already got into circulation, so very contradictory, that the credibility of facts which certainly have taken place, is utterly destroyed by the palpable absurdity of other stories, so ridiculous, that they carry their own confutation with them. In addition to this, there exists in every country town, but chiefly where a stagnation of trade throws a great deal of time at once upon the hands of the inhabitants, while it also deprives them of their usual methods of employing it, a strong tendency to misrepresent facts, and to misjudge motives; thus a whole morning shall be spent in spreading a false report, and this very naturally finds employment for an whole evening in contradicting it. "Perditur ..... inter miseris lux." Perhaps there was some sense in this enigmatical advice attributed to Pythagoras, "when the winds are up worship the echo;" by which, I presume he meant, that when there are a variety of rumours in circulation, it is right to suspend our judgement, and wait patiently for the second report.

I now proceed to a short detail of circumstances, to the truth of which, I have voluntarily sworn with a safe and clear conscience; I am well aware that all who know me, would not require the sanction of an oath, but as I am now addressing the public, I must consider myself before a tribunal of which my acquaintance constitute a very small part. And first, I depose solemnly, that after an attendance of four nights, (not successive) at Mr.CHAVE's house, in the village of Sampford, and with a mind perfectly unprejudiced, after the most minute investigation, and closest inspection of all the pressures, I am utterly unable to account for any of the phenomena I have there seen and heard, and labour at this moment under no small perplexity, arising from a determination not lightly to admit to supernatural interference, and an impossibility of hitherto tracing these effects to any human cause. I farther depose, that in my visits to Mr.CHAVE's house, at Sampford, I never had any other motive direct, or indirect, avowed or concealed, but an earnest and I presume not a culpable wish to trace these phenomena to their true and legitimate cause. Also that I have in every instance, found the people of the house most willing and ready to contribute every thing in their power, and to co-operate with me in the detection of the cause of these unaccountable sights, and violent blows and sounds. Also, that I am so deeply convinced of the difficulty of proving these effects to be human, that I stand engaged to forfeit a very considerable sum to the poor of my parish, whenever this business now going on at Sampford shall be made appear to have been produced by any human art or ingenuity , collectively or individually exerted. Also, that I have in the presence of many gentlemen, repeatedly sworn the domestics to this effect, namely, - that they were not only utterly ignorant of the cause of those circumstances which then astonished us, but also of the causes of many other things equally unaccountable, which we ourselves did not hear, nor see, but to the truth of which they also swore, no less than to their perfect ignorance of the means by which they were produced. Also, that I have affixed a seal with a crest to every door cavity etc., in the house, through which any communication could be carried on; - that this seal was applied to each end of sundry pieces of paper in such a manner that the slightest attempt to open such doors, or to pass such cavities, must have broken these papers, in which case my crest must have prevented their being replaced without discovery; - that none of these papers were deranged or broken; and also, that the phenomena that night were as unaccountable as ever. Also, that I have examined several women, quite unconnected with the family of Mr.CHAVE; but who some from curiosity, and some from compassion, have slept in this house - that many of them related the facts on oath - that all of them wished to be so examined, if required, and lastly, that they all agreed without one exception in this particular; - that their night's rest was invariably destroyed by violent blows from some invisible hand - by an unaccountable and rapid drawing and withdrawing of the curtains - by a suffocating and almost inexpressible weight , and by a repetition of sounds, so loud, as at times to shake the whole room. Also, that there are more than twenty people of credibility, quite unconnected with the owner, or the present tenants of this house in question, who have related to me the most astonishing circumstances they have seen and heard on these premises; all of which they are ready to substantiate if called upon, on oath. Also, that it appears that this plot, if it be a plot, hath been carried on for many months, that it must be in the hands of more than fifty people all of whom are ready to perjure themselves, though not one of them could possibly gain anything by it; - that the present owner is losing the value of his house, the tenant, the customers of his shop, whom fear now prevents from visiting it after sunset, and that the domestics are losing their rest; and all these evils are with the most exemplary patience submitted to, without any object but the keeping of a ridiculous secret, which although so many are privy to it, and many more interested in discovering, hath not yet been divulged, although such a disclosure would be attended with circumstances highly advantageous and gratifying to any person who could be induced to discover it.]

To the truth of the above cited particulars enclosed between the two crotchets, I voluntarily make oath, in the presence of B. Wood, Master in Chancery, Tiverton, B. WOOD, M. C.

With respect to the facts that have led me to the above conclusions, to detail them would be to engross the whole of your paper; but here I must once for all observe, that I by no means wish your readers to conceive that these mysterious circumstances never can, or will be discovered, because I have not been able to effect it; it is true I have given the subject all the attention I thought it deserved, but others may be more fortunate in their methods of investigation. But that I may not appear singular in such occasions as the experience of my senses has forced upon me, I shall here subscribe the names of a few, selected from a cloud of witnesses, on whose mind a sensible experience of similar facts hath produced similar convictions, facts which they are willing to substantiate on oath they are utterly unable to trace any human agency. The names are as follow:-

Mr. JOHN GOVETT, Surgeon, Tiverton.
Mr. BETTY, Surgeon, Tiverton
Mr. PULLING, Merchant, Tiverton
Mr. QUICK, Landlord of the White Horse, Tiverton.
Mr. MERSON, Surgeon, Sampford
JOHN COWLING, Esq., Sampford
Mr. CHAVE, Mere, near Huntsham.

All these gentlemen are ready if called-on, to depose to their having witnessed circumstances in this house in Sampford, to them perfectly inexplicable, and for which they are utterly incapable to account. Requesting you will give this tedious letter a place, with the subscribed names, have the honour to remain, Sir, your's truly,

August 18th, 1810