Oct. 3, 2022

The Dead Do Tell Tales

The Dead Do Tell Tales


The Ghost of Ann(ie) Walker

In 1735, according to Arthur L Hayward’s ‘Lives of the most remarkable criminals: Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences,’  the ghost of Ann Walker named her murderer.


About the year 1631, a widower, a "yeoman of good estate" named John Walker lived in the English village of Great Lumley in County Durham. His live-in housekeeper was a niece, Ann Walker, an attractive young woman in her twenties. We do not know much else about John, other than that he was unpopular among his neighbours. He apparently was one of those people who, for undefinable reasons, had a knack for inspiring dislike and distrust. When Ann mysteriously disappeared from Great Lumley, villagers immediately suspected that there was more behind her sudden disappearance than the reasons they were presented with. According to John, his niece had taken ill, and went to stay with an aunt in a neighbouring village until she recuperated. The common belief amongst the village; however,  was that John sent the girl away because he had gotten her pregnant. The village was rife with speculation and gossip. 

To those concerned it seemed as if it was going to remain a mystery. Ann was going to take matters into her own hands. One evening, a local miller called James Graham, began to experience some strange and unsettling phenomena. Whilst working alone in his mill he saw the figure of a dishevelled and distressed woman begin to approach him. The figure bore five ghastly wounds to her head.  Graham knew that this was no living person and that he was seeing the spectre of a ghost-and so terrified was he that he crossed himself. The spirit told him, "I am the spirit of Ann Walker, who while in the flesh, lived with your neighbour John Walker; I was betrayed by Walker." It went on to tell him that she had fallen pregnant and been sent away to live with an aunt by John Walker. The spirit continued to recount what happened next that before her child was born John Walker had visited Mark Sharpe and arranged with him to remove her from her aunt’s house and take her to somewhere more suitable for when the baby arrived. Instead of a comfortable and safe place to see new life and joy brought into the world Ann was instead brought to a lonely moor. She explained that he used, "a pick, such as men dig coal withal, and gave me these five wounds." The remains of her body, she said, had been disposed of in a coal pit. She finished by warning Graham that he must tell her story to the Justice of the Peace and that she would continue to haunt him until he did so.


Believed to be the remains of the mill


Graham was a practical man who had up until this man not believed in the supernatural. He feared that he would not be taken seriously by recounting the strange tale he had just heard himself and so he remained quiet and so it was that the ghost of Ann Walker visited him for a subsequent and third time. Graham finally realised he had no choice, and fearful of the ghost returning once more, he went to the local Magistrate to tell all that he knew. A search was carried out of the area identified where the discovery of a female corpse was found exactly where the ghost of Ann Walker had said she would be. On the body five clear wounds just as Graham had described seeing were clear for all to see. The discovery of the murder weapon and bloodied, hidden clothes soon followed and Sharpe and John Walker were promptly arrested. 

Believed to be the spot where Ann was murdered

Further paranormal evidence was provided by the jury foreman, a Mr. Fairhair. Fairhair testified under oath that during the trial, he witnessed "the likeness of a child, stand upon Walker's shoulders." It was even reported that at the conclusion of the trial, Ann made an appearance in the courtroom, holding an infant baby in her arms and chanting:

 "Hush a baby!

Hush a baby!

Hush a baby be!

'Twas Sharpe and Walker that killed thou and me!" 

According to rumour, Ann's terrible spirit visited the judge as well. As far as everyone was concerned, all this was definitive proof that Walker had indeed made his niece pregnant, which led him to hire Sharpe to murder her. Despite the fact that neither man ever confessed to the foul deed, they were both found guilty and hanged.

Ann Walker's ghost was seen no more. I will leave you to be the judge as to whether you think justice was served or not. 

Below is a record by Arthur L Hayward written in 1735.

An Account of the Conviction and Execution of Mr. WALKER, and MARK SHARP, for the Murder of ANN WALKER by 

I am conscious that my collecting these relations may expose me to the raillery and ridicule of a very numerous tribe of wits in this age, who value themselves extremely on their contempt of supernatural stories, and their disbelief of all things which relate to apparitions or returns from that state in which souls go when they depart from the body. Yet the following story is so remarkable, the proofs so exceedingly cogent, and the mistakes made in the relation of it by various authors so likely, notwithstanding, to bring it in the course of time into discredit, that I thought I could not do a greater service to the public than to preserve it in its genuine purity, which I have had occasion to retrieve from the sight of some papers which related thereto, and from which the following account is written verbatim, without any alteration so much as in a letter.

About the year 1631, there lived in a place called Chester-in-the-Street, in the County Palatine of Durham, one Mr. Walker, a yeoman of good fortune and credit. He was a widower and kept a young woman, one Ann Walker, a relation of his, in his house as housekeeper. It was suspected, it seems, by some of the neighbours, that she was with child, immediately upon which she was removed to one Dame Cair’s an aunt of hers in the town of Lumley, hard by. The old woman treated her with much kindness and civility, but was exceedingly earnest to know of her who was the father of the child with which she went, but the young woman constantly avoided answering that question. But at last, perceiving how uneasy the old woman was because she could get no knowledge how the poor babe was to be provided for, this Ann Walker at last said that he who got her with child would take care of both her and it, with which answer her aunt was tolerably satisfied.

Some time after, of an evening, her old master Walker, and one Mark Sharp, with whom he was extraordinarily intimate, came to her aunt’s house and took the said Anne Walker away. About a fortnight passed without her being seen or heard of, and without much talk of the neighbourhood concerning her, supposing she had been carried somewhere to be privately brought to bed, in order to escape her shame. But one James Graham, a miller, who lived two miles from the place where Walker’s house was, being one night between the hours of twelve and one, grinding corn in his mill, and the mill door shut, as he came downstairs from putting corn into the hopper, he saw a woman standing in the middle of the floor, with her hair all bloody, hanging about her ears, and five large wounds in her head. Graham, though he was a bold man, was exceedingly shocked at this spectacle. At last after calling upon God to protect him, he, in a low voice, demanded who she was, and what she wanted of him. To which the woman made answer, “I am the spirit of Anne Walker, who lived with Walker at Chester-in-the-Street, and being got with child by him, he promised to send me to a private place, where I should be well looked to until I was brought to bed, and well again, and then I should come to him again and keep his house. And I was accordingly, late one night, sent away with Mark Sharp, who upon the moor, just by the Yellow Bank Head, slew me with a pick, an instrument wherewith they dig coals, and gave me these five wounds, and afterwards threw me into a coalpit hard by, and hid the pick under the bank. His shoes and stockings also being bloody he endeavoured to wash them, but seeing the blood would not go forth, he hid them there too. And now James Grime (so the country people pronounce Graham) I am come to you, that by revealing this bloody act my murderers may be brought to justice; which unless you do, I will continually pursue and haunt you.”

The miller returned home to his house very melancholy, and much astonished at this sight, yet he held his peace, hoping that if he did not reveal it she would go to somebody else. He was fearful of blasting the character of Mr. Walker, who was a man of substance, by telling such a tale concerning him to a Justice of Peace. However, he avoided as much as he was able being in the mill alone, especially at nights, but notwithstanding all his care, and though other persons were not far off, she appeared to him there again, and in a harsh tone demanded why he had not made known what she had spoken of to him. He made her no answer, but fled to the other end of the place where the people were. Yet some little time after, just after sunset, she met him in his own garden, and spoke to him with such a cruel aspect and with such fearful threats that he promised to go the next morning to a magistrate, which he accordingly did.

On the morrow, being St. Thomas’s Day, he applied to a justice of the peace and told him the story. The justice having tendered him his oath, and taking his information in writing, forthwith issued his warrant, and apprehended Mr. Walker and Mark Sharp, who by trade was a collier, i.e., dug coals out of a mine. They made light of the thing before the justice, although he in the meanwhile had caused a place which Graham said the apparition had spoken of, to be searched, and there found the dead body, wounded in place and manner as before described, with the pick, the shoes and the stockings. However, Walker and Sharp were admitted to bail, and at the next assizes appeared upon their trial.

Judge Davenport heard the several circumstances of the woman’s being carried out by Sharp, her being suspected to be with child by her master, Walker, and the story which Graham repeated exactly upon oath, as he had done before the justice. The foreman of the jury did depose that he saw a child standing upon the shoulders of the prisoner Walker, at the Bar, and the judge himself was under such a concern and uneasiness that as soon as the jury had found the prisoners guilty, he immediately rose up and passed sentence of death upon them, a thing never known before nor since in Durham, the custom being not to pass sentence until the close of the assizes.