A smashing ‘ghost’ in Peckham

When I was a small boy I was briefly a member of the local cub scouts group. I can’t remember much about my time in Baden Powell’s troupe but I do recall many games of handball, turning the lights out in the church hall (to make the Guides scream) and playing ‘knockdown ginger’ on the way home.

Kids getting up to ‘no good’ when they are out of the supervision of adults is nothing new of course and I was a pretty well behaved child for the most part. This case from 1872 suggests that at times ‘bad behaviour’ can get out of hand.

A girl by the name of Nott (we aren’t told her Christian name) was brought up before the sitting magistrate at Lambeth to be charged with criminal damage. The residents of Charles Street in Peckham, south London, had fallen victim to a number of attacks on its windows. Apparently windows were being smashed but when the householders looked outside no one was to be seen. The offender or offenders had disappeared; it was as if a phantom or poltergeist was at work.

Eventually one of the Met’s detectives looked into the matter and traced the disturbances to the home of the defendant. While he was there he heard the smash of glass and soon found Nott standing over a broken pane. His inquiries now revealed that she had been seen running inside shortly after some of the windows had been smashed.

She was arrested and taken to court. The justice, Mr Ellison. He was sure she was guilty but he could only convict her of two offenses on the evidence he had so he fined her 2s 6d, awarded damages of 7s 6d and costs of 2s.  However, the magistrate warned her parents that if she came before him again he would send her to a reformatory.


[from The Pall Mall Gazette, Monday, June 10, 1872]


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