Marine Ghost Demands Justice: The Restless Spirit Of A Young Man Who Wanted The Truth To Be Known

The restless ghost of a young American Marine haunted a house in Portland, Oregon, for two years trying to convey to his mother the truth about his violent and mysterious death.


The true story of a ghost that is believed to have returned to explain his death
The true story of a ghost that is believed to have returned to explain his death

Lieutenant James Sutton had been one of a large middle-class family living in Portland at the beginning of the last century. His parents, upright, respectable people, were proud when he was accepted for training as an officer in the Marine Corps at Annapolis Military Academy.


They looked forward to his letters, which were cheerful and affectionate. When the postman arrived on the morning of October 11, 1907, his mother rushed to the letterbox as usual and tore open the envelope with happy anticipation. The neatly written pages were full of good humour - but as Rosa Sutton, held the letter, her hand began to tremble and she had the feeling something was terribly wrong. While sitting with her family the next evening she suddenly had a sharp attack of pain, a feeling of shock. She went upstairs to read her son's letter again to make sure she had not missed anything.



The following day, still feeling troubled she went to Mass at her local Catholic Church. Afterward, she tried to busy herself with household chores but could not shake off a strong premonition that James would come home unexpectedly. She was so sure that her daughter, Louise, was sent to prepare his bedroom. They were taken completely by surprise when Mr Sutton suddenly arrived home from work looking distressed and very pale. "I have some bad news," he said - and told his wife gently that he had received a telegram from Annapolis informing them that their son had shot himself and he was dead.

Mrs Sutton, a devout Catholic, refused to believe that her son had committed suicide. "At that instant," she wrote later, "Jimmie stood right before me and said 'Mamma, I never killed myself... my hands are as free from blood as when I was five years old.'" No one else in the room saw or heard anything and when Mrs Sutton kept insisting he was there they merely thought the news of his death was too much for her.

What they could not dismiss, however, were the facts that came tumbling from her lips as she listened to the unseen presence. She had said her son was trying to tell them something vitally important... he had been hit on the head with the butt of a gun... three other men jumped on him, beat him and tried to rub his face into the ground... they had kicked him and broken his watch. "Oh, if you could see my forehead and put your hand on my forehead, you would know what they had done to me," moaned the ghost. "But I did not know I was shot until my soul went to eternity." Before disappearing he pleaded with Mrs Sutton to clear his name and said he would never rest until it was cleared.

The Phantom was persistent. On October 16 he appeared again. According to Mrs Sutton's testimony, he gave further details about his death, describing how his attackers had tried to bandage his head to hide what they had done. "My face was all beaten up and discoloured, my forehead broken and there was a lump under my left jaw."

As though to give final proof, the next time Mrs Sutton saw the ghost of her son it was with his face hideously disfigured and discoloured. Still wrapped in a great coat, he seemed to be looking for something. "It's my shoulder knot I can't find," he complained piteously.

By now the whole house was alive with the ghost's presence. The young Marine's brother, Dan, swore he had seen him on one occasion and his sister, Louise, was keenly aware of his presence. Another sister, Daisy "dreamed" one night that she had been shown a photograph of a crowd of young marines and could not take her eyes off the face of one of James's fellow officers, a man called Utley. Soon after, Mrs Sutton said her son tried to tell her that his body had been hidden in a basement and that a lieutenant called Utley had been responsible.

The first confirmation of Mrs Sutton's extraordinary experiences came three weeks after James's death when Louise returned from the funeral at Annapolis bringing her brother's belongings with her. Among them was a shattered wristwatch.

The Suttons listened with mounting disbelief to the authority's official story of their son's death. According to official records, Lieutenant Sutton and some friends had been to a naval dance. After it had finished they set off back to camp but were very drunk and a fight broke out. During the fracas, James was thrown to the ground and heard to utter threats that he would kill the other two before the morning. He returned to his tent to fetch some pistols. This led to his arrest and, during the attempt to seize him, he suddenly turned a gun upon himself.


Lieutenant Sutton had been buried at Arlington cemetery, but his ghost continued to haunt his old home in Portland. At first, the Suttons felt there was little they could do. The naval doctors at the inquest had sworn that James's face was not disfigured. A verdict of suicide seemed in order. But after nearly two years the agonised parents made a dramatic decision. They asked for their son's body to be exhumed.


An independent inquiry revealed some staggering facts. The remains showed that he had indeed been seriously disfigured, as though he had been beaten up. His forehead was broken in and a lump formed by an injury was visible under the left side of his jaw. After the autopsy, it was admitted that the angle of the bullet's entry into the body was not consistent with a self-inflicted wound. It was also found that the shoulder knot of his uniform was missing.

Soon after, the Suttons received an anonymous letter confirming the fact that Lieutenant Sutton had been murdered. The handwriting was traced and identified as that of the young serviceman who had been in the party after the naval dance. All attempts to track him down failed.

But it seemed the ghost was satisfied. He had needed to remove the stigma of suicide from his name. Mrs Sutton still caught a glimpse of him from time to time but the image grew fainter and then disappeared for good. Justice had been done.


Now you have read about the spirit of the young marine seeking justice, make sure you check out the ghosts that have haunted the British Royal Family for years.



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