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Ghost Hoaxing in Early Australia
Playing the Ghost
The Ghost
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW)
Date: 19 February 1839
Page Number: 4
'Tis about twenty years since ABEL LAW,
A short, round-favored, merry
Old soldier of the Revolutionary
Was wedded to
A most abominable shrew.–
The temper, sir, of Shakespeare's “Catharine”
Could be no more compared with her's,
Than mine,
With Lucifer's.

Her eye was like a weasel's.
She had a harsh
Face, like a cranberry marsh;
And spread
With spots of white and red,
As if she had the measles;
With hair of the colour of a wisp of straw,
And a disposition like a cross-cut saw.
The appellation of this lovely dame
Was Ann, or Nancy–don't forget the name.

Her brother–David–was a tall
Good-looking chap, and that was all.
One of your great, big nothings, as we say
Here in Rhode-Island; picking up old jokes,
And cracking them on other folks.
Well, David undertook one night, to play
The Ghost, and frighten Abel, whom he knew
Would be returning from a journey, through
A grove of forest wood,
That stood
The house–some distance, half a mile, or so.

With a long, taper
Cap of white paper
Just made to cover
A wig nearly as large over
As a corn basket; and a sheet
With both ends made to meet
Across his breast;
(The way in which ghosts are always drest;)
He took
His station, near
A huge oak tree;
Whence he could overlook the road, and see
Whatever might appear.

It happened, that about an hour before, friend
Had left the table
Of an inn, where he had made a halt,
With his horse and wagon,
To taste a flagon
Of malt
Liquor, and so forth; which being done,
He went on;
Caring no more for twenty ghosts,
Than if they were many posts.

David was nearly tired of waiting–
His patience was abating,
At length, he heard the careless tones
Of his kinsman's voice;
And then, the noise
Of the wagon wheels among the stones.

Abel was quite elated, and was roaring
With all his might; and pouring
Out, fragment confusion,
Scraps of old songs, made in “the revolution.”
His head was full of Bunker-Hill and Trenton.
And still he went on,
Scaring the whip-poor-will's among the trees,
With rhymes like these.
  “See the Yankees
   Leave the Hill,
   With baggerets declining–
   With lopp'd down bats,
   And rusty guns,
   And leather aprons shining.”

“See the Yankees.–What! Why what is that!”
Said Abel, startling like a cat,
As slowly, on the fearful figure strode
Into the middle of the road.
“My conscience! What a suit of clothes!
Some crazy fellow, I suppose.
Halloo! friend What's-name; By the powers
  of gin
That's a strange dress to travel in.”

“Be silent, Abel; for I now have come
To rend your doom.
Then, hearken, while your fate I now declare.
I am a Spirit,”–“I suppose you are,
But you'll not hurt me; and I'll tell you why.
Here is a fact which you cannot deny.
All spirits can be either good or bad–
Thats understood.
And be you good or evil, I am sure
That I'm secure.
If a good spirit–I am safe. If evil,
And I don't know but you may be the DEVIL
If that's the case, you'll recollect I fancy,
That I am married to your sister NANCY.”
Part 1: 1819 to 1853
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Originally printed in New-Hampshire Statesman, (Concord, NH) Monday, February 16, 1824; Issue 7; col A, as a reprint from the Manufacturers' & Farmer's Journal; Title: Poetry Run Mad, No. 2 the Ghost ; By the author of “Ezekiel's Visit to Deacon Stokes.”
American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)
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General George Washington crossing the Delaware
at the Battle of Trenton on Christmas night 1776
The Sydney Herald (NSW)
Date: 19 April, 1842
Page Number: 2
Robert Robinson, master mariner, and Richard William Nelson, surgeon, both belonging to the ship Carthaginian, were indicted for having, on the 24th of December last, on board that vessel, while on the high seas, committed an aggravated assault on the person of Margaret Ann Bolton by forcing her on the deck of the said vessel, and throwing water on her, and afterwards committing an act of false imprisonment by placing handcuffs on her. A second count charged the offence as a common assault.
I had on my shoes and stockings on the night when I was forced on deck ; I put them on when they came down and forced us to go on deck; cursing and swearing at us in a most awful manner. I was not playing the ghost ; I am not afraid of ghosts. There were but two screams. I do not know who was playing the ghost. Some light women played the ghost, who had before that night been singing, dancing, and drinking, with the captain and doctor.
The immigrants arriving by the Carthaginian 1842 were assisted by a 'bounty system'.
This was a sum of money paid by the colonial government (New South Wales) to anyone who brought immigrants of a 'suitable age and occupation' to the colony.
 The Verdict
Empire (Sydney, NSW)
Date: 5 June, 1852
Page Number: 2
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW)
Date: 25 December, 1819
Page Number: 3

—This term is applied to those frauds which are creative of much loss to those they are aimed at, and of no profit to those who do the mischief; and the London accounts of these delusions, which are similar in their intent, though interwoven with greater mischiefs than the trivial jests passed upon the first of April, are more of a thrilling than a pleasant nature.

—A gentleman displeased at the importunity of his taylor, who resided in a court in Wych-street, and was esteemed, got a report to be circulated that his house was haunted ; and the malice of the report corresponding with its design, the court was for several weeks like a common fair, and every body that passed in or out was stared at with amazement by the spectators, who either considered that those going in were in danger of being devoured by the ghosts ; or that those who came out had had a miraculous escape.
The Sydney Monitor (NSW)
Date: 11 July, 1832
Page Number: 2
SoIomon Gorman was handed to the bar to answer the charge of being drunk in the streets and disturbing the peace. It appeared that a report was spread among the neighbours near to the place where Solomon was found, that the Cock-lane ghost had lately favoured Sydney with a visit. Strange noises were heard without apparent cause. Some averred that the theatre had been the sufferer. But nothing conclusive could be arrived at, except that the sounds of supernatural import were positively heard by good judges of preternatural history. "Jennie my honey will ye rin for the Priest to lay this ghost ?" "I would not move out for a span new bonnet (said Jenny) d'ye think I'm mad ?" The constables arriving at this time, and being rather mettlesome as well as meddlesome, they swore, that they would either lay the ghost, or the ghost should lay them. The clock tolled the solemn hour of midnidght, and the noise still continued at intervals. After waitiing for their cue, the watchmen discovered, that it proceeded from a drain, which served to render it more gutteral and of course ghostifical. They proceeded cautiously towards the sound, when the figure was observed to raise itself and sit upright, and presently he gave forth a howl from his ghostly lungs, which would have shaken the Hero of Waterloo himself had he been these. The watchmen however, braver than Wellintgton, advanced, though with trembling knees. They grasped the ghostly phantom, when lo ! it turned out to be flesh and blood ! "Come along Mr. Ghost" said the soul-revived watchman; "Me ghost ! you vilifying catchpole (retorted the fleshy spirit) me a ghost ! that has got a corporation as overgrown as that of Bristol ! me a ghost, that put aside sixteen half-pints of max no later than last night ! you ought to be ashamed of yourself to take away a man's character in this way ! "This was uttered in a voice so uproarious, and accompanied by such threatening gestures, that the gentlemen of the baton thought it advisable to confine him in a place of security.
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Cock Lane Ghost (1762)
Bathurst Free Press (NSW)
Date: 20 October, 1849
Page Number: 2
The Abeille Cauchoise tells the following story:—

"A few nights ago a worthy farmer, living near Yvetot, who has lately become a widower, was aroused at midnight by the loud barking of his dog. On going to it the animal displayed extreme terror, whereupon the farmer took his gun and proceeded to an inspection. All at once he saw a horrid, phantom, clothed in a white sheet, rise behind the hedge. The farmer turned deadly pale, and his limbs shook with dismay. He, however, contrived to ejaculate, 'If you come from God speak ; if from the devil, vanish !' 'Wretch !' exclaimed the phantom, 'I am your deceased wife, come from the grave to warn you not to marry Marie A—, to whom you are making love. She is unworthy to share my bed. The only Woman to succeed me is Henriette B——. Marry her, or persecution and eternal torment shall be your doom !' This strange address from the goblin, instead of dismaying the farmer, restored his courage. He accordingly rushed on the ghostly visitor, and, stripping off its sheet, discovered the fair Henriette B—— herself, looking excessively foolish. It is said that the farmer, admiring the girl's trick, has had the banns published for his marriage with her."
Empire (Sydney, NSW)
Date: 26 September, 1851
Page Number: 4
Considerable excitement has prevailed in a parish not far from Lochrutton, for the last week, from a report that something no very canny had been playing some mysterious cantrips about a sequestered farmstead. On Sunday, the 18th, noises unusual began to be distinctly heard, to the no small annoyance of the respected tenant and his family, and, as if emboldened by familiarity, each fiendly visit made some fresh inroad, in the shape of setting some particular article of furniture in motion. Sometimes "peter-dick" was heard to begin at the window-sash, and immediately chairs were heard to move to and fro ; tables, also, as if obsequious to the call, joined in the magic dance ; nor was this all—the bedclothes were taken off the children, and the curtains neatly folded up, were thrown to the back of the bed. Nor were the meal sacks and their contents allowed to be idle spectators, for, as if by dint of the conjuror's wand, they passed from one side of the room to the other. Indeed, it would be endless to repeat all the different movements attributed to this strange phantom. Suffice it to say that on Wednesday evening public curiosity became so great, that many were seen wending their way to the haunted spot, where a company of twenty-five brawny fellows waited anxiously till morning for the appearance of the supposed ghost but no ghost came. On the following evening the number would have been trebled, for what with navvies at the water works, and a new bobbin factory established here, such a force could not have been mustered for a long time back for such an occasion : but, as the number on the preceding night had been considered more than enough, it was thought advisable to dispense with all their services save two or three confidential neighbours, who undertook to keep watch while the master and family got their much-needed sound repose, bereft of which they had been for several nights ; and, as everything remained tranquil, it was pronounced to be all a hoax. Yet the imagination had been wrought up to such a pitch, that it was not till the Sunday morning, when a person in the house who had been strictly taken to task confessed to the whole affair, that the master could be made believe it was anything else but something very solemn. What the pretended ghost's intentions were, remains a mystery unsolved as yet. There seems to have been no ill-will on either side, and whether any assistance was got from other parties cannot as yet be proved. One thing is certain since Wednesday the evil spirit has fled.

—Dumfries Standard.
Peter-Dick :

a phrase to represent onomatopoeia,
a rhythmic pattern consisting of two or three short beats followed by one long,
frequently beaten out by the feet as a dance-step or with the knuckles on a board;

a child's play-thing which can be made so as to reproduce this rhythm
Constable M'Caskey deposed that between seven and eight o'clock, on Thursday night, the lad abruptly entered his house, wrapped from head to foot in a white shirt, carrying a light beneath. He expressed his intentions by saying, "I'll frighten the guts out of you, and no gammon." He so far succeeded, as to frighten the senses out of Mrs. Constable M'Caskey, who fell into convulsions. The constable further stated that he was obliged to procure medical aid for his wife, and she was not yet recovered. The Police Magistrate said it was high time to do something to check such pranks, and ordered the boy to find sureties for his good behaviour, himself in a 10l. bond, and two sureties in 5l. each, or in default to be imprisoned during seven days.

Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer (NSW)
Date: 14 May, 1853
Page Number: 2
No little excitement was manifested by the inmates of H. M. gaol, at Darlinghurst , during the early part of the week, by a rumour which was circulated, with blood-freezing rapidity, that the ghost of a man named Fyfe, who was executed a few years since for murder, had been playing midnight pranks in and about his last mortal residence, to the consternation of his brother criminals still in the flesh. On a representation being made to the governor of the gaol, that gentleman immediately quelled the fears of the trembling deputation by assuring them that they must be laboring under a delusion, as it was contrary to the regulations to allow spirits to enter into any of Her Majesty's prisons.
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Coming soon:
Cultural Context:
The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites.
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW)
Date: 2 November 1841
Page Number: 4
One Joseph Smith, whom eighty different persons resident in Wayne and Ontario counties declare to have been originally a "money digger," that is, one of those impostors who pretend to the power of raising, by spells, the treasures which buccaneers and others are said to have buried in different parts of the earlier settlements of America, is the person who announces himself the prophet of this sect...

Smith, Harris, and some others, were known as the "Gold Bible Company," before the pretended discovery of the plates, and for some time after that event seem to have had no notion of founding a new religion. In the authentication of the pretended discovery, signed by seven witnesses, which Smith published, the witnesses only testify, "We have seen and hefted (lifted), and know of a surety, that the said Smith hath got the plates of which we have spoken." Hence the original fraud appears to have been a scheme of pretended treasures and forged antiquities.

We shall soon see how this fraud is connected with the "Book of Mormon"...
Also see:
Young Men's Christian Association.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW)
Date: 9 August 1855
Page Number: 8
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The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW)
Date: 11 August, 1838
Page Number: 3
At the Maryle-bone Police Office yesterday James Painter, a youth about eighteen years of age, and footman in the service of Mrs. Chater, of Kilburn, was charged before Mr. Rawlinson and Lord Montford with having for some time past kept the far inhabitants of the above village in considerable alarm by sallying out upon them during their evening perambulations disguised as a ghost. Mrs. Ann Ansinok, a respectable married lady, living at Kilburn stated, that about eight o'clock on Saturday evening she was walking along Waterloo-place, contiguous to Mrs Chater's residence, accompanied by a female friend, when suddenly she found herself seized by a ghastly figure, habited in a white sheet and wearing a hideous mask, from which depended a long beard. The figure, on clasping her, exclaimed, "Who the devil are you !" and her friend having recognised the voice of the "ghost," replied, very promptly, "We'll let you know who we are, and that we are not to be frightened by you." The ghost then beat a retreat, followed by complainant and her friend and seeing it vanish over a wall, surrounding Mrs. Chater's premises, they were pretty well convinced that the defendant was the ghost. Miss Charlotte Hagerstone, the companion of the complainant, corroborated her statement. The defendant denied the offence. Mr. Rawlinson (to the defendant) :

"Pretty behaviour, truly, this is a very aggravated assault. If fellows like you think they can frighten respectable females with impunity, they will be convinced of their mistake, by finding themselves within the walls of Newgate. You are fined four pounds, and it is to be hoped you will learn better for the time to come." The money was paid and the defendant liberated.
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Spring-heeled Jack was described by people who claimed to have seen him as having a terrifying and frightful appearance, with diabolical physiognomy, clawed hands, and eyes that "resembled red balls of fire". One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a helmet and a tight-fitting white garment like an oilskin. Many stories also mention a "Devil-like" aspect. Others said he was tall and thin, with the appearance of a gentleman. Several reports mention that he could breathe out blue and white flames and that he wore sharp metallic claws at his fingertips. At least two people claimed that he was able to speak comprehensible English.
South Australian (Adelaide, SA)
Date: 27 July, 1847
Page Number: 4
Teignmouth was greatly excited recently, in consequence of a "Spring-heeled Jack" investigation before the Magistrates. A delinquent of this genus occupied himself during the winter in frightening and annoying defenceless women, some of whom were rather roughly handled. The police having been on the alert for some time, suspicion fell upon a Captain Finch, of Shaldon—a man of alleged ill health, and apparently sixty years of age, about the last person that could have been suspected. He was summoned before the Magistrates. Mr Tucker, in opening the case for complainant, said it was not only difficult but most painful to him, his client belonging to the humblest rank, and the defendant, Capt. Finch, had been considered highly respectable. Should he not succeed in establishing the charge, the effect of tiie girl's evidence might prejudice her through life ; should he succeed, the moral character of one who had hitherto moved as a gentleman would be blasted. He had two charges of assault to prefer. His client, the servant of Miss Morgan, a lady living in Macfarlen's Row, Bitton Road, had been twice assaulted in January, between nine and ten at night, by a man disguised in a skin coat, which had the appearance of a bullock's hide, skullcap, horns, and mask : and the alarm had produced serious fits. Evidence having been given in favor of the charges, the Bench expressed pain at finding an old soldier guilty of such an assault; but there was no material refutation to complainant's evidence. He was fined 17s. for each assault. Defendant thanked the Bench for their impartiality. The case lasted from one to half-past seven in the evening.
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Capture of a Ghost.
The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW)
Date: 11 June, 1846
Page Number: 3
It is said that ghosts are not unfrequently inspired with a considerable share of puissant valour. A singular act of bravery on the part of a disembodied spirit has just come under our observation, and at the season of Christmas, as stories of ghosts and goblins are the order of the day, it may not prove altogether unacceptable. A widow lady, who resides in the parish of St. Martin, has of late been visited by a ghost of rather a mischievous character. Inhabiting, a lonely dwelling, with no other protection than that afforded by a servant girl little more than just entered into her teens, the lady with her two children, during the last four weeks, have had their nocturnal slumbers frequently disturbed by the escapades of an evil spirit. Precisely as the clock had struck what the Scotch poet has styled

                              The wee short hour ayont the twal,

a loud knocking at the door was heard. On the third evening of the occurrence of the mysterious knockings, the disturbed lady, having summoned up sufficient courage to look out from the window, beheld a figure, apparently in white, making its escape from the gateway. The occurrence made a powerful impression on the lady's mind, for it was the first time she had ever seen a denizen of the world of spirits. For ten successive nights the same sounds were repeated, every night the strength of the knocking gradually increasing. The ghost evidently thought that the depth of the slumbers of the inmates prevented them from hearing its efforts at obtaining an audience, for no notice whatever was taken of its proceedings. It was necessary, therefore, to alter his line of tactics, and the line which the ghost now adopted was of a somewhat novel nature. Instead of now knocking at the door every night, it began to throw stones, and one evening demolished three panes of glass in the windows of the drawing-room. This, however, was not to be endured much longer, and, even at the risking of coming in contact with an inhabitant of the lower world, it was at length determined to give battle to the spirit. The lady having communicated the circumstance to a gentleman who resides with his family about a quarter of a mile distant, a watch was set upon the premises. The gentleman referred to, armed with a good stout cudgel, took his station at the corner of the building, about ten paces from the spot from which the ghost was wont to hurl its missiles while at the opposite corner stood his manservant, armed in a somewhat similar fashion to his master. Precisely at the usual hour the figure clothed in white was seen to enter at the gateway, and having slowly made its way to within a few feet of the house, deliberately lifted a handful of pebbles and threw them at the window. This feat performed the ghost was about to depart, but the gentleman and his fellow-watch man sallied forth and intercepted its progress. The yell of horror which the spirit now uttered was awful in the extreme, and throwing itself at the feet of the gentleman, it besought in piteous tones his pardon. The white sheet in a moment was thrown from the back of the now disembodied spirit, and a bona fide human woman actually stood before them. A confession soon followed, and it was discovered that the ghost had determined to frighten the poor lady to death, in consequence of having been recently discharged from her service for theft.

—Jersey Times.