19th century england might bring to mind images of the Victorian Era, but today we're going back even further than that. George Washington's death was recent memory and Charles Dickens would not be born for nine more years.

In london, gas lighting was still several years away and the dark streets of Hammersmith were lit by flickering candlelight in December 1803 as anxiety swept through the town after two months of ghost sightings—and even a few direct encounters with this aggressive, tormenting spirit.

The spectre was said to stalk the local graveyard and word of mouth at the time said that the ghost was the spirit of a man who had died by suicide. At the time suicide was considered a sin and burying someone who died by their own hand in consecrated ground was illegal, but the victim was buried in the churchyard anyway, and was now unable to rest, instead returning to traumatise the people of Hammersmith.

One man described an encounter in the graveyard as he walked home. He descibed a pair of hands wrapping around his neck from behind. He span around and threw a punch, but his fist didn't meet anything solid, instead impacting softly with what he described as feeling like "a great coat." By the time the man had span around and found his bearings, the ghost had vanished, and he saw nothing but darkness.

The ghost was said to have attacked a pregnant woman, and to have scared a stagecoach driver so badly that he fled, leaving behind his coach and eight passengers.

In another encounter in late November, a woman was crossing through the churchyard on her way home when she caught sight of the ghost—a human figure wrapped in a white burial shroud.

She panicked and fled, but the ghost caught her and wrapped its arms around her. She passed out and was found unconscious in the graveyard by neighbours who led here home. After recovering from the initial shock, she retired to bed, a sleep from which she would never wake.

With a body count now under the ghost's belt, the local people were becoming more and more panicked. According to a night-watchman, William Girdler, locals began to form armed patrols to catch the spirit.

Girdler himself also had an encounter with the ghost when he caught site of it while patrolling the graveyard and gave chase. The ghost seemed to shed it's shroud and vanish.

On the evening of January 3rd, Girdler ran into Francis Smith, one of the armed citizens patrolling the area. Both men were determined to catch the ghost and agreed to meet at 11pm to search the churchyard together.

Just after 11, before meeting Girdler, Smith finally encountered the spirit. He cried out: "who are you and what are you? Damn you, I'll shoot you!" He fired his shotgun and the very corporeal form before him fell to the ground, dead.

A closer look revealed the corpse of Thomas Millwood, a local bricklayer who had been wearing the usual uniform of his trade: white flannel clothes with a white apron, all washed clean. The bullet had entered through Millwood's lower left jaw and passed through his spine.

Nearby was Anne Millwood, Thomas's sister. She had just parted ways with Thomas moments before the confrontation and was close enough to have heard her brother's final moments.

Neighbours arrived on the scene to find Smith "agitated" by what had just happened. They advised that he return home, where he was arrested a short while later.

The charge against Smith was wilful murder. During the trial, Millwood's wife testified that on at least one occasion previously, her husband had been mistake for the ghost due to his white uniform.

Knowing the hysteria that was spreading through the community, she urged her husband to wear a large coat to cover his uniform and avoid any misunderstandings in the future, but Millwood stubbornly refused.

Knowing the hysteria that was spreading through the community, she urged her husband to wear a large coat to cover his uniform and avoid any misunderstandings in the future, but Millwood stubbornly refused.

The jury seemed to sympathise with Smith and didn't view his crime as murder as, after an hour of deliberation, they instead returning a guilty verdict for the charge of manslaughter.

The judge rejected this, reminding the jury that the defendent was being tried for murder and they must return a verdict of guilty or not guilty for murder.

After further deliberation, the jury found Smith guilty of murder and he was sentenced to death. This sentence was ultimately commuted to a year's hard labour.

As the case gained more and more attention and the story of the Hammersmith Ghost spread further and further, the real culprit finally came forward: An elderly shoemaker by the name John Graham had spent the past few months wandering the graveyard in a sheet in order to frighten his apprentice, who had been scaring his children with ghost stories.

Why Graham continued the fake haunting for months, even after it became a huge concern among the people of Hammersmith and led to armed patrols, we don't quite know, and probably never will.