Ghosts of the Past: An amusing police case

3rd January 2024. Reading Time: 3 minutes General, Ghosts Of The Past. 898 page views. 0 comments.

Grab some popcorn because this article from ghosts of the past is a doozy! It involves a Mother in law, a sword swallowing witness, some stolen furniture and a plot with ghosts to murder the Son in Law!

In this series, I take a look at some historical accounts of ghostly encounters published in newspapers.

One of the things I love about the Ghost of Past series is the very weird and wonderful stories that seem so out there, yet they really happened!  The below almost sounds like it was from a movie, but it really happened and in fact, found its way to court! 

The below article was published in the Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser QLD on the 22nd of October 1884.  Grab some popcorn and have a read!  (This is written exactly as it appears in the newspaper)

An amusing case was heard on the 26th September at Melbourne City Police Court, before the Police Magistrate, Mr. Call. A young man of respectable appearance, named Harry Claude Winters, described as a gymnast, was charged by his mother-in-law, Mrs. Elizabeth Shepherd, with stealing her furniture, which she valued at £40. Mr. Morgan appeared for the prosecution. The complainant, an elderly woman, who had taken out a warrant and had the prisoner arrested, said she was a widow, and earned her living as a dressmaker. She used to live at 4, Pel ham-street, Carlton. The prisoner and his wife lived there also, as he had no home of his own. On the 16th July she left the house to go into service, the prisoner having charge of the furniture. On the 16th instant, having left her place, she went back to see if all was right, when she found the house empty, and discovered that all the furniture 'had been removed to an auction room in Bourke-street. In cross examination by the accused she admitted having told him the night before he was married that his wife was not really her daughter, and that the girl's mother was in England. She would swear now that the girl was her daughter. The reason she told the prisoner this falsehood was that the girl, who was a notorious liar, had
begged of her to say so. The prisoner paid the rent of the house. For the defence the prisoner called Stuart Bell, who remembered hearing Mrs. Shepherd say that her son-in-law - the accused— need not be so hard on her as to turn her out, as she had given him all the furniture in lieu of the rent which he had paid. The accused's'  brother, S. L. Winters, was then called, and gave some extraordinary evidence. He announced himself as a professional ' sword-swallower' and contortionist aud performer on the horizontal bar. The complainant, Mrs. Shepherd, was a believer in ghosts and spirits, and held conversations with the latter. On one occasion, while he and his brother (the prisoner) were in the house together they heard a noise which so alarmed them that they concealed themselves in a cupboard, taking weapons of defence in case of it being burglars breaking into the place. While secreted in the cupboard, peeping through the cracks, they saw Mrs. Shepherd and a little girl enter, who forthwith darkened the house, and called out to the spirits in affectionate terms. The prisoner, being a bit of a ventriloquist, answered her from the cupboard ' in a ventriloquial
voice,' saying, "Yes, dear," when she asked if a spirit was present. Then Mrs. Shepherd adjured the spirits, and said; she morally and bitterly hated her son in-law, and mentioned in the course of her colloquy with the ghostly beings she was in imagination addressing that she was in love with au old 'gentleman, who reciprocated her affection and would marry her. Mr. Call here interposed with the remark, "What was said about the furniture ; to whom did it belong?"  The witness then, in a long rambling account of the interview between Mrs.Shepherd and the spirits, said the former had distinctly owned to having given up the furniture, and wanted the ghost to aid her in putting a bullet through the prisoner and helping her afterwards if convicted and sentenced to be hanged for murder to die like a brave woman. All the while this spiritualistic conversation was going on a jingling noise was heard in the Cabinet, where the two brothers were concealed, fooling the woman. After listening to a good deal of this peculiar evidence, the Bench dismissed the case. 

I'd like to send a thankyou to Haunts of Brisbane for sending me this one. If you find an old treasure in trove you feel is worthy to be included in Ghost of the Past, please do send it my way!

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