The Ghost of Anne Walker, Durham, England: The Murdered Woman Who Ensured Her Killers Were Executed

In 1630 it was reported that the ghost of a murdered woman had appeared to a local man, she wanted to make sure that her killers were brought to justice for what they had done to her.

The Ghost of Anne Walker
The ghost of Anne Walker is one of the great paranormal legends of the UK

Gossip soon sprang up around John Walker, a widower of comfortable means, when he took in a young relation of his, Anne Walker, to keep house for him in the village of Lumley, near Chester-le-Street, Durham. Late in the year 1630 the scandalised neighbours were convinced that he had got the girl pregnant, and their suspicions were correct.

A few weeks before the child was due, Walker took young Anne to her aunt, Dame Cave, who lived in Chester-le-Street, promising the aunt that he would provide both for the girl and her future baby. But one evening towards the end of November, he returned in company with an acquaintance of his, a Lancashire coal miner named Mark Sharp, from Blackburn, and told Dame Cave that he had made other arrangements for the girl. Sharp, he said, would take Anne to Lancashire, to a place where she could remain in peace and safety till her confinement was over.

Walker would not say where this place was, but the aunt, knowing him to have an excellent character apart from his recent indiscretion, allowed him to take the girl away.

Fourteen days after Anne had left the district with Sharp, James Graham, a fuller who lived about six miles from Walker's house in Lumley, as was his practice stayed on working late in his cloth mill, the doors of which he had closed up. It was past midnight when he came down the stairs from the upper to the lower floor of the mill and was horrified to see standing before him, in the centre of the ground floor, a woman with dishevelled and bloodied hair hanging down about her head, on which were several large wounds. Graham halted, appalled, and quickly blessed himself. Gradually he recovered sufficiently to ask the poor woman who she was, and what she wanted.

The apparition said, "I am the spirit of Anne Walker, who lived with Walker, and, being got child with him, he promised to send me to a private place, where I should be well looked to till I was brought to bed, and well again, and then I should come again to keep his house."

"Accordingly, I was one night late sent away with one Mark Sharp, who, upon a moor (name a place known to the fuller) slew me with a pick. such as men dig coals withal, and gave me these five wounds, and after threw my body into a coal-pit hard by and hid the pick under a bank; and his shoes and stockings being bloody, he endevoured to wash them, but seeing the blood would not forth, he hid them there."

The spectre told the fuller that must be the man to reveal the crime and have her murderers punished or she would appear again and haunt him.

Graham returned home "very sad and heavy" but did not say a word to anyone about what he had seen, nor did he act on the ghost's startling information. Instead, he took care to leave his mill early in the future, and when kept there till late in the day, never to be without company. But one night, just as darkness fell, the apparition appeared to him again, this time seeming "very fierce and cruel", and warned him that if he did not reveal the murder she would continually pursue him and haunt him. Still, Graham did not act, hoping that it was the last he would see of the ghost, but night after night, the urgent spectre pulled the clothes from his bed, and on Decemeber 20, as he was walking in his garden soon after sunset, it reappeared and threatened him so strongly that he finally promised to obey its wishes. The next morning he went to a magistrate and told the whole extraordinary story.

A search was made and Anne Walker's body was found in the coal pit exactly as directed by the apparition, with five wounds on the head. The pickaxe, and the bloody shoes and stockings, were also found at the spot she had named.

A warrant was issued and John Walker and Mark Sharp were both arrested but would confess nothing. The fact of Sharp's bloodstained clothing, and the pick being found at the scene of the murder was strong evidence against the collier, but no evidence could be brought against Walker other than the account given to Graham by the ghost, which charged his complicity. Both men were allowed bail and in August 1631 their case came before Judge Davenport at Durham Assizes. In the meantime the circumstances of the murder and the nature of its discovery became known all over the North of England, producing much excitement at the trial.

During the hearing, the judge appeared "much troubled". He summed up strongly against the prisoners, and when the jury found them guilty, he pronounced the sentence that night, a thing which was unknown in Durham, either before or after.

Walker and Sharp were executed, protesting their innocence to the last. The foreman of the jury, named Fairbair, said afterwards that during the trial he had seen the likeness of a child standing on Walker's shoulders. It was believed that the agitated judge, too, had seen it or the spectre of Anne Walker herself, which had appeared "as if to supply in his mind the want of legal evidence."

In the next century, a murder trial in Scotland of two men denounced by the ghost of the victim did not have such conclusive results, though their guilt was widely believed and, it later transpired, not the least by their own agent or solicitor.

Events leading up to the trial began one night of 1751 in the remote Highland district of Braemar, in Aberdeenshire. Alexander Macpherson, a twenty-six-year-old farm servant living in the Hamlet of Inverey, was in bed in his cottage when someone came to his bedside and commanded him to get up and follow him out doors. Macpherson, believing the visitor to be Donald Farquharson, a neighbour, and friend, did as he asked, but when they were outside the cottage, to his amazement he saw that the night caller was not his neighbour but an apparition.

The spectre told him it was the ghost of a murdered English soldier, Sergeant Arthur Davis, and asked him to go and bury the sergeant's mortal remains, which, it said, lay concealed in a certain place in a moorland tract called the hill of Christie; he was to take Donald Farquharson along to help with the burial.

Macpherson solemnly agreed to do as he bid.

The next day, however, he went alone to the place described by his ghostly caller. He found remains of a human body, much decayed, but he did not bury them.

A few nights later, the sergeant's ghost came again and upbraided him for breaking his promise. Macpherson asked the spectre who was his murderer, and it replied that the killers were two Highlanders, Duncan Terig and Alexander Bain Macdonald. After this second plea by the ghost, Macpherson went for Farquharson and told his friend the story of his night visitor, and they went off together to bury the sergeant's bones.

This, for the two men, was an end of the affair, but their evidence was to form a vital part of the case for the Crown when proceedings were taken against the men named by the ghost.

Davis, a sergeant in General Guise's regiment of foot, had disappeared in September 1749. This was not long after the Civil War, and with passions still smouldering there was ample reason why a stray English soldier might meet his fate in that lonely region of Scotland. It was not until after long, determined efforts by a retired Army officer named Small that Duncan Terig and Alexander Macdonald stood trial on June 10, 1754, three years following the appearance of the apparition and Macpherson's burial of the bones.

Terig and Macdonald were tried before the High Court of Justice in Edinburgh, accused of the murder of Sergeant Arthur Davis on September 28, 1749. Davis, when he disappeared, was known to have had a fowling-piece and money and rings in his possession, and some of his valuables had afterwards been seen in the hands of the two Highlanders. Robbery appeared to have been the sole object of the murder.

Alexander Macpherson, who spoke no language but Gaelic and gave his evidence to the court through an interpreter, told of the visits of the sergeant's ghost, and his directed burial of the remains. His account was supported by Donald Farquharson, who had assisted him, while further evidence of the apparition was given by a woman named Isabel Machardie, who slept at the same communal house as Macpherson in one of the beds that ran along the wall in the Highland dwelling. She said that on the night when Macpherson said he saw the ghost, she had seen a naked man enter the house and go towards Macpherson's bed.

Her recorded evidence was that "she saw something naked come in at her door, which frightened her so much that she drew the clothes over her head; that when it appeared, it came in a bowing posture; that she cannot tell what it was; that next morning she askes Macpherson what it was that had troubled them the night before, and he answered that she might be easy, for it would not trouble her any more,"

In spite of this added testimony to the appearance of the sergeant's ghost, the whole incident was cleverly ridiculed by the defence and, in fact, was so discredited as to sway the case in the prisoners' favour, even though there were other strong presumptions against them.

Defence counsel, cross-examining Macpherson asked the farm servant, "What language did the ghost speak in?" Macpherson, who was entirely ignorant of the English language, replied, "As good Gaelic as I ever heard in Lochaber."

"Pretty well for the ghost of an English sergeant," commented counsel.

It was a remark which registered with the jury, who found no flaw in this inference that ghosts might reasonably be expected to make themselves understood only in the language they had known in life. The jury found the two Highlanders not guilty, though most of the court had little doubt that they had committed the murder.

Years afterwards, when both Terig and Macdonald had died, their solicitor disclosed that he was fully persuaded of their guilt. Now you have read this article, make sure you take a look at The Terrifying True Story Of The Ghosts That Have Plagued The Homes Of The British Royal Family


Thanks for subscribing!