From the Ashton Weekly Reporter and Stalybridge and Dukinfield Chronicle – Saturday 14 October 1871 – very much a non-ghost but a charming story and wonderfully written!
SINGULAR CONDUCT OF AN INDISPOSED POLICEMAN – A LAMPLIGHTER FRIGHTENED BY GHOST.
Some consternation was occasioned in the neighbourhood of the Foresters Hall, on Sunday morning last, by the extraordinary conduct of a man named Harrop, who is a member of the borough police force. It appears that about eleven o’clock, on Monday evening, the 2nd inst., Harrop felt so much unwell that he went to the police office, and declared himself incapable of going his rounds. He accordingly went to his home in New Springbank-street, and retired to bed. He continued to get worse, when the Doctor was called in, and it was discovered that he was suffering from an attack of bronchitis, accompanied with fever. He remained in a very low state until Thursday night, when he became unconscious, and he has not thoroughly regained his senses since that time.
He had been carefully watched and attended to, and on Saturday his wife arranged to be his attendant during the night. She did not leave his bedside until about five o’clock on Sunday morning, when she went downstairs for the purpose of making some tea. She had not been away from the bedroom many seconds, when Harrop very slyly got out of the bed, and pulled two of the sheets off. He then opened the window and threw the sheets on to the ground, and jumped out after them. He fell a distance of about 13 feet, and very much injured his head, which came in contact with some of the stones. He, however, got on his legs, threw the sheets over his shoulders, and bounded away towards the town, running barefooted, like a stag.
Shortly afterwards his wife went upstairs, and her consternation on seeing the bed minus its occupant, the window open, and no trace of her husband outside, may be better imagined than described. The alarm was instantly raised, and messengers were sent in all directions in search of the invalid. Some went to the river side, others to the canal, and a third party ran as far as Chadwick’s dams, thinking that he might have resolved upon committing suicide. Others went to the Town Hall to give information to the police, and a party was despatched to his relatives, but no tidings could be ascertained as to his whereabouts.
Whilst all this was going on, an amusing scene was being enacted in Ashton road. A lamplighter was engaged in extinguishing the lamps, and suddenly he saw a form approaching him. It was hatless and shoeless, and had the most extraordinary expression on the face, whilst the rest of the body was enveloped in something white. The nearer it came to him, the more frightened he became, and he arrived at the conclusion that for the first time in his life he had a real ghost before him. Fear came upon him, and he trembled to such extent that one might say the whole of his bones were almost made to shake. At length the figure passed him, and rushed towards Ridgehill-lanes, and the lamplighter thinking his ghostship might alter his mind and return, made off in the opposite direction ‘like one that on a lonely road Doth walk in fear and dread. And, having once turned round, walks on. And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread’.
Arrived in the town he narrated what he had seen, and it was explained to him what had occurred in the neighbourhood of the Foresters’ Refuge. He was told he ought to have stopped the man. “Nay, nay,” said he, “I wouldn’t ha’ spoke to him for a five pound note.”
A party took the track of the ghost from Ridgehill-lanes, but they could not discover him, and he was next heard of the top of Mottram-road. It appears, however, that when he had become somewhat fatigued, he repaired to the house of his father, and he was received there with much surprise. Knowing the severe illness from which he was suffering, the father tried to pacify him and get him to bed, but he would do nothing until it had explained to him that he had been walking his beat, and that Sergeant Warrington had been after him. He appeared to be quite satisfied that he had done his duty, and he then returned to his own house, which had been deserted by the whole family, who had gone in search of him. He went upstairs, and got into bed, and when his anxious pursuers returned he appeared to be comfortably wrapped in the clothes. It was then that the injuries to his head were discovered, and his medical attendant was soon his bedside. He was under great suffering and has remained so during the whole of the week. No doubt such an adventure as that of Sunday will have had a tendency to cause a relapse, and he is now in such a state that the greatest anxiety is expressed concerning him. We, however, trust that he will speedily recover from ‘his Thorny bed of pain. Again repair his vigour lost, And walk and run again.’