During the winter of 1849 the whole of Falmouth was on edge. The conversation in the shops, the alehouses and on the streets was only about one thing . . . Strange sounds had been heard at night, unexplainable, frightening noises that were keeping everyone awake.
There were various contradictory descriptions of what people were actually hearing, from melancholy, unearthly music to screeching cries of pain. Some fishermen said they had heard the noises on the water when crossing the bay, while other townsfolk had heard it in the backstreets, as far as the Greenbank, though they were never quite able to pinpoint exactly where it was coming from.
Some had even claimed to have seen the phantom take shape but were unable to describe what they had seen. The newspapers reported that:
‘The eccentric movements of this nondescript coupled with all the other matters connected with it, make all agree in this particular, that it must be a ghost, a prelude of some direful disaster about to befall the town of Falmouth’.
Shooting at Shadows
A slow panic began to build. Women and children stopped leaving the house at night and many couldn’t sleep without a lit candle in the room. The fishermen stopped going to sea and the entire town’s police force were sent out at night to ‘drive the spirits back from whence they came’.
A large number of local men took to the streets too and began patrolling the dark lanes around Falmouth. Many were armed and there were reports of a great many shots being fired throughout the night as the rag-tag army of civilians took aim at shadows.
A Cunning Plan
Around 30th November 1849 a group of men claimed to have seen and shot the spectre but that the shot had passed right through it without seeming to cause any injury. They concluded that this was somehow due to the colour of the balls of shot [???].
‘As dark or coloured balls were inoffensive when used to shoot ghosts’ wrote the Royal Cornwall Gazette.
It was decided that the balls should be whiten with chalk to make them more effective.
And, so armed with their whitened shot, the newly confident militia went out on the hunt again the next night. At about 1am the men apparently came across the ghost again. They fired and it seemed that their plan had worked. The phantom creature fell to the ground. According to the paper, however, the gallant men were too afraid to touch the beast until the sun rose.
However, the next morning all was not as the expectant crowd had anticipated.
The ghost was found to be ‘A fine, fat pig . . . the property of the much respected host of the Royal Hotel, Mr Dingley.’
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