In 1869, a court in Blackburn pronounced, amazingly, that a boggart had been responsible for breaking numerous windows in the Union Buildings. A respectable-looking man called George Hindle had been accused and taken to court. The court heard how windows had been broken by stones every night for several weeks, to the great expense of the residents. The disturbance had been so bad that a reward was offered to anyone who could reveal the assailant, who had always vanished before he could be spotted.
Finally, George Hindle was arrested by PC Livesey, who had been instructed to keep the buildings under constant watch. His evidence was that he had seen Hindle go into his brother-in-law’s house, from where he sent a stone flying at the opposite house. A moment later, Hindle came out of the house and picked up the stone again. However, that was the only point at which the Constable could say he had actually seen Hindle with a stone in his hand – not actually in the act of throwing it, but with it in his hand.
Hindle vehemently protested his innocence. He said that the stone had been in his hand because the Constable had asked people to collect the offending stones and give them to him as evidence. He said that, despite his innocence, he would rather pay the costs of the broken windows than be standing where he was that day; in court. In his defence, it was pointed out that the reward money had been doubled by the prisoner himself and, moreover, windows in his own house had been broken by the mysterious stone-thrower. Also, since Hindle had been in custody, more windows had been broken. Witnesses were also brought forward who said that they had been standing with Hindle when stones had come through their own windows – it could not have been he; it must have been a boggart.
Incredibly, the end result of this court case – which caused much laughter in the court-room – was that the magistrate had no recourse but to pronounce that a boggart had indeed been responsible for breaking the dozens of windows! George Hindle was released without charge.
Or was it the local window repair man?
But did the window smashing stop then? I would love to see that court documentation in writing.