« Lore

Episode 195: Straight to the Heart

2022-03-28 | 🔗

When a series of gruesome murders leaves one community feeling threatened and afraid, it was only through the reenactment of folklore that they eventually found relief.


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hmm, the hmm. in Southeastern Switzerland right at the little corner where France and ITALY, but up against it There's a city on Lake Geneva, called Lausanne for a very long time. They ve been maintaining a rare ancient tradition. Yes, the Olympic Committee headquarters are there, but that's not the tradition. I'm talking about know this one happens more regularly daily. In fact, you see every night began At ten p m alone figure wearing a wide black hat climbs. The one hundred fifty three stone steps that led up to the top of the cathedral look out on the city that surrounds it and then calls out the hour, and they ve been doing it every night, for six hundred and sixteen years, it's a real book of another era and artist that has somehow held on a bit of the middle ages alive. Well in our modern world once
Communities all over Europe used to have a nightwatchman, but there are only about sixty left today across nine countries still pay It is likewise on have kept at it, in fact, in August, twenty twenty but tortuous path to a new generation, twenty seven year old Cassandra or does- and yes, she is the first woman to hold the role in over six centuries. As I said or it's an ancient tradition. The night watchman was originally tasked with protecting their city by watching out for fires, crime, bad weather or other unexpected dangers. Today, though, they sleep announced, the time all their other role
I have been usurped by modern technology and because it still here, we can see how much our world has changed. How the relative safety we enjoy today would have seemed impossible just a few centuries before I will lack of systems and technology left people feeling adrift in a sea of fear and danger and how folklore cut off. And make the situation so much worse. I'm Erin Maggie- and this is lore. context is everything the setting and players and rules of a story are what give up momentum so that the action can drive home. So to understand the journey, I want to take you one. We need to first understand the road.
and I mean that literally obviously, the US have a rough understanding that the city of London is an ancient one, but for today's purposes we just need to go back about two centuries to the early part of the eighteen hundreds and there we would find an ancient street heading east from London. It was once many centuries ago known as the road that passed by the red Cliffs of the Thames, but over time, that Redcliffe Highway became the Ratcliff highway and now on most maps and tongues. It's just the highway, but in eight eleven. It was also something else. It was a major, artery through the poorest part of the city and a hotbed of thefts assaults, general danger for those passing along it. But of course it it's also home to thousands as well as a business center. Many Those shops had living quarters attached to them, allowing people to work at the street level and then go eat and sleep out back or upstairs. People worked insanely long hours to
So many businesses stayed open late into the night and all of that gave the area around the highway, the feel of a buzzing hive, but all of that fell apart on the night of December seventh of eighteen eleven that evening, around eleven fifty p M local business owner Missy MAR sent his servant girl Margaret Jewel out for some bread and oysters. While she was gone, Timothy and his apprentice James Gowan closed up the shop, while his wife Celia took care of their three month old son, timid. Junior. When Margaret returned half an hour later, the door was locked and no one would answer her Knox and shouts. She thought she heard movement inside though, so she just sat on the front steps and waited for someone to let her in about thirty minutes later, one of the parish night watchman walked by saw her and asked what the problem was.
After listening this man, George only did his own, knocking, which coffee attention of one of the neighbors and this neighbor man was glad to see the watchman because less than an hour before he swore he heard some strange noises from inside the mob. Shop after confirming with the nightwatchman, the neighbor agreed to try entering the house from the back and because that door was mysteriously unlocked. He slipped inside what he found was a charnel house beyond comprehension, the body of Apprentice James Gowan lay in a pool of blood, his head beaten so severely that there was no shape to it. Any more Celia Mars body was in a similar state and even the baby had been killed. Downstairs in the shop Timothy was found in a heap also brutally murdered, Urgency swept over everyone there. The watchman called for the authorities in an officer from the Thames division took control of the scene.
But a search of the shop only turned up more questions. Nothing had been stolen as far as anyone could tell even Timothy Mars, pockets had been ignored still containing money, but what they did and were the murder weapons, a bloody chisel on the floor of the shop and a ship rights mall, a sort of small sledge hammer that was discovered in the kitchen propped up and covered in fragments of bloody hair and fractured bone. Now enough of us have seen an episode or two of sea, situ know what should happen next, but in eighteen, eleven, eight just wasn't the way things worked, the bodies things evidence were simply left where they were found where they an inquest, could be inquest, usually in the area at a local pub.
and, as you might imagine, it took time to gather a jury and staff that inquest by the eleventh of December, a full three days after the murder. The bodies and blood were all still there and if you think people are obsessed with true crime stories today you haven't experienced Edwardian England, people were printing booklets and flyers in word was spreading fast, often publishing the stories in pieces spanning multiple episodes. Each day those corpses were left uncollected, locals and curious. Outsiders were parading, pass the house to catch a glimpse, sometimes even walking inside, for a better look. Where were the police, while the simple answer is that they didn't really exist. Yes, there were a handful of paid officers in each district, but most of the safeguarding was performed by unpaid, voluntary patrols. People policed themselves, mostly out of a fear of what a paid armed police force might mean for their freedom, but his crime grew so.
who did their desperation, which is why no killer had been caught by the time the Mars were buried on December fifteenth eight whole days after their death. It was a funeral that drew an enormous crowd in all of them wanted answers, but they were going to have to for that, because something even more pressing was about to occupy the authorities time. Another murder. people learned of the second murder from the naked man who climbed out of the upstairs window of a pub down a rope made of bedsheets and that sounds like the beginning of a racy drama about a love affair. Nothing could be further from the truth. The name man was John Turner, a carpenter who is staying in the lodging room at the pub a place called the kings. Arms
as he climbed down that makeshift ladder. He was shouting at the top of his lungs. They are murdering the people in the house. The people, of course, were the Williamson's John Williamson was an elderly man, although described as large and powerful. Even in his old age, both he and his wife Elizabeth were well loved and their pub. The kings arms was described as a risk activists stably. It was where the Williamson's lived along with their fourteen year old, granddaughter and another employee named Bridget Anna Harrington. What John or witnessed was horrific. He had been out late that night and turn to his room at the pub around eleven p dot m, but just as he was getting into bed naked, I suppose he heard Bridget shout from the after we shall all be murdered in so he crept downstairs to have a look.
Found was an enormous man. Stooped over the body of MRS Williamson slicing. Her throat with a knife turner claimed that he bolted back upstairs in immediately. Crafted that bedsheet rope shouting as he climbed out the window by the time help arrived, the deed had been done. Every one in the house was dead, as you can imagine, the authorities were frustrated too Sets of murders in two weeks was just too much to deal with. They had enough leads to arrest some suspects, but almost all of them were brought in on nothing more than suspicion, no solid evidence to actually tie them to the crime. Now, if you've heard of this case,
For your probably aware that I am giving only the broad strokes honestly, if I were to go deep into this story, it would take all day, but the important path forward is the one that began three days later on December. Twenty second, because that's the day, the authorities believe that they had captured there. Man, his name was John Williams and he had a lot working against him. He was a sailor so, theoretically, familiar with the ship writes me He was known to have a temper, something that often got him into fights of people, and he was seen drinking at the kings arms the night of the murder. That said, he also did not fit the description of the large man seen inside the king's arms. I thought he was
a lot smaller and his initials didn't match the ones carved into the mall that had killed the Mars, but after dozens of suspects that all managed to walk free thanks to solid alibis. John Williams found himself as a sort of last man standing which wasn't a good position to be in and, of course, Williams was questioned and denied everything as he drank at the king's arms, but so did a lot of sailors. The pubs along the highway were all incredibly close to the docks and they were probably just as many foreign and domestic sailors on those side streets as there were local residents. But while the inquest gathered evidence and discussed their options, he was placed in the prison at cold bath fields in central London. There was more, Bates about the mall used in the MAR murder. There was more discussion about witness testimony such as Williams, laundry woman, who claim that
I had recently washed a shirt of his with blood on the collar, but above all, they needed a suspect, someone to blame and someone whose conviction would deliver hope and peace to a very frightened neighborhood. So Williams was held and everyone waited perhaps with more testimony. The truth would come to light and things would get better. Instead they got so much worse The the the. said he was in good spirits, John Woolley, We had a lot to be afraid of, consider He was sitting in a prison cell on suspicion of being the killer of two families, some of the most gruesome murders in recent memory. It's fair to say that the people of the east end what
see anything like it again for another. Seventy years when a guy named Jack would rip apart their sense of peace What John Williams did not know was that the more testimony the inquest heard, the less certain they felt about his connection to the killings, and he was scheduled to make another appearance in court on December, twenty seventh, where there was a good chance, he toss off those final chains of suspicion and walk free, except he never made On the morning of that appearance, a police officer went to fetch Williams and escort him to the courthouse, but when he got there, Williams was dead. All signs pointed to suicide, at least as far as the physical evidence went, but just everyone. Their prisoners and guards alike made it clear that Williams was a hopeful man and seemed odd that he would do something that many viewed as an act of desperation. Now people have been studying this case for two centuries, so I won't claim to be an
expert. But, like I said earlier, this is a complex story that I've boiled down to a dark reduction and cut straight to the heart of it. and one of the elements you might want to read more about are the two men that Williams was known to hang out with one of whom had a grudge with Timothy, more and the other who was a very large man, because of some people believe these two men were the true killers and John Williams was their final loose end. It's easy to. Imagine them staging the suicide to cut that final tie between themselves and the murders, What happened next only confirms that the investigators took the bait John Williams, apparent death by suicide was interpreted by the court as an admission of guilt, no, he had never been formally charged with the crime, but they saw this as easy answer to a frustrating situation, so they declared him guilty stating that he had worked alone and with that their nightmare and John Williams. Life were both over well
Almost because, in the early nineteenth century, the folks in England still followed an ancient practice when it came to those who took their own lives. You see, they believe that people who did that had committed a crime against themselves and God and therefore deserved a very public humiliation and a troublesome burial. Theirs. A lot of folklore out there about crossroads, often centering on things like summoning the devil for some sort of a deal or that cross roads were the look. she, where one might see ferries, are trolls or some other supernatural creature, but running beneath. All of that was an older undercurrent. The notion that crossroads by their very nature accused spirits. He was rooted in this idea that spirits could easily get lost due to all the options that were available at a crossroads. Imagine any that an intersection of two or three roads, but having signs to tell you where to go, apparently that disorienting situation was even worse for the spirits of the dead and they risked never reaching the afterlife
So on New year's eve of one thousand eight hundred and eleven, the magistrate's involved in the MAR and Williamson murders have the corpse of John Williams strapped to the surface of a wide board and propped it up in the back of a horse drawn cart so that it was clearly visible beside his body.
Hi down the ship Rights Mall and the bloody chisel. Think of it as a grotesque version of that science project display, we all had to build when we were kids. The cart was then driven down Rackliff highway first to the Mars linen shop. Then, to the kings, arms pub making stops at each for roughly ten minutes. It's recorded that when the horse stumbled up to the marketplace Williams Head rolled to the side facing away from the shop as if the corpse didn't want to look one of the officials who were present had to reach over and turn the head to face it. After all of those pit stops amidst hundreds of on lookers the card headed north to the intersection of what is now today, cable streets and Cannon Street Road Williams body was untied
aloe grave was dug, and once he was tossed in a stake was driven straight through his heart to keep his spirit, trapped and confused right or wrong. The community felt, like justice, had been served. They believed that the threat that had clouded over them had finally been chased away, and they were convinced that even in death, the killer could no longer haunt them all. Thanks to a heaping dose of folklore. Criminal investigation is a complex puzzle today that puzzle is a bit easier thanks to modern forensic tools and better methods for processing a crime scene, but two centuries ago, that puzzle must have felt like a steep challenge.
certainly in the case of the murders that shook the area around the Ratcliffe Highway. That was true and because the full case was a tangled web of witness testimony, tips from locals and shadowy figures. Seen from a distance, it's easy to see how confused and frustrated everyone could have become both the authorities and the larger community. The most obvious outcome was a tragedy, no matter how you interpret it. If innocent John Williams represents the hopelessness of wrongful conviction and the damage that can be done when someone gets caught up in the wheels of the justice system and, if truly guilty, he dodged responsibility for his actions. No matter where you come down in the story. There's no question that delivers a lot of pain and a lot of loss, but there were some good things to come out of the events of eighteen,
Levin, those two mass murders tested the limits of their current police methods and the thin patches and gaps were put on full display people after that started to call for reform and law enforcement. They warmed up to the idea of a full time. Armed police force some one to keep them safe. The next time a killer, proud their streets. For a while, they'd have to rely on that weird mixture of volunteer parish, Watchmen, a handful of paid officers and private police for hire. Companies like the Bow street runners accrue, incidentally, that dressed in blue pants, blue jacket, black boots and black hats, possibly giving inspiration for the police uniforms of later generations, clearly the way people handled crime was, if you'll pardon the pun at a crossroad, but by one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine. The people of London had the metropolitan police. Not perfect for sure, if history is any indication but better And John Williams
his body remained stake than hidden underneath the dirt at the corner of that old crossroad. For a very long time. In eighteen, eighty six, though, the same year, Coca COLA was first sold. Thirsty customers in the statue of liberty was completed in New York. Harbor, a gas company dug up the intersection to lay some new pipe. What they uncovered was a skeleton buried face down with a wooden stake, drive through its just John Williams, had returned, but this being the late eighteen hundreds there were fewer rules for handling a discovery like that. The man who owned the pub right there at the corner, a place called the crown and dolphin, took the skull and set it up at his bar, where it greeted customers for years Today, no one knows for sure where it's gone, which feels like it was part of the script all along. After all, the p. All of the east end had wanted to make sure he was lost in.
a lot of ways. It seems they got their wish. Crimes like the Ratcliff highway murders were handled in a much different way than modern killings. Clearly, time has had quite an impact on the way we investigate and put suspects on trial, but one case just a few years before gives us an example of the opposite and action where a criminal case and not time itself brought about a significant change to the system, and it doesn't help that it was filled with ghosts and murder and a whole lot of folklore stick around through this brief sponsor break and I'll, tell you
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gotta, simply saved outcome, Slash lore and finally, this episode was made possible by square space if you're ready to start something new or finally launching that side project that you ve been working on. You're, probably feeling a little bit nervous about its and trust me. I know exactly what you're feeling, because seven years ago I was getting ready to click published on this pod cast for the first time and the thing that made me feel more confident than anything else having a professional website, something that wouldn't have been possible without square Space square space allows you to build the perfect website for your new project without code check out the lore website for a demonstration of just how great your website can be an olive that was done without knowing a lick of html. One hundred percent drag and drop baby swear. Space has a huge library of beautifully design templates to help get. You started. Powerful e commerce features free web hosting an award winning twenty four seven customer support all added up. It's the perfect partner,
launching your project, get started today for free, just visit square space, dot com, slash more to start your free trial website and when you're ready to launch it, be sure to use the offer, could more at check out to save ten percent scores mace, build something beautiful The if ever of eighteen o three a ghost began to haunt the neighbourhood, there are multiple sites, since and in a number of instances the ghost even attacked people, people were upset and they started telling stories and stories, of course, can often fan the flames rather than put them out. As usual, there was an origin story connected to the ghost locals said that is the wandering spirit of a man who had taken his own life a year before, but contrary to typical burial practices in that situation. This
and was interred on church grounds which, according to the legend, made the spirit, restless and thus the local huntings. Honestly, all the stuff makes a lot more sense. If you just suspend your disbelief, but hey that's folklore for you write. The reports were frightening to multiple people claim that the ghost had appear to them and try to choke them to death in two cases. Those who were attacked lived long enough to go home and tell others what they'd seen only to die later from fright, as one might say, when a couple of local brewery employees stumbled home one evening. They made the.
So wise choice to take a short cut through the churchyard. It was dark out, of course, and according to their later report, when they passed one of the grave stones, a hand reached out and grab is one of them by the neck. The friend try to intervene but claimed that he was confused by the powers of the ghost. The last thing he felt was something soft like a great coat. He told the police, so that was life for a while in this western one, neighborhood folks would lock their doors stay off the streets at night and generally just walk around as if they were waiting for the bad guy from a scooby doo cartoon to jump out of the shadows and that's what seemed to happen. On the night of December. Twenty ninth William Gertler was in night watchman patrolling the neighborhood on his usual route. But of course he was walking the streets that night with a bit of adrenaline in his blood, thanks to all the terrifying store,
he's so when he saw the ghostly form of a figure in white, appeared down the lane he shouted and chased after it and the ghost well, it ran guy either lost sight of his Corey a few minutes later, but came upon a young man named Francis Smith, who was also out hunting for the ghost himself, with a shotgun in his hand. They chatted briefly discuss the ghost and then parted company, which is why it was Smith and not Girdler, who made the next sighting around eleven p dot M
Smith, spotted the pale figure in Braun his shot gun up to take aim after shouting, who are you and what are you at the ghost Psmith pulled the trigger instantly, the ghost spun on its feet, toppled to the ground and lay still Owen. There was blood. The ghost it seems was a man named Thomas Millward, his occupation, a bricklayer which meant that his normal uniform was a pair of pale, trousers, white waistcoat and in April also white, which made sense. The man worked with white dust all day long. So why? Where anything else right? But it seems Francis Smith didn't understand that, or at least didn't look close enough to figure it out before firing his weapon. As a result, Thomas Millward was dead. He wasn't the ghost before, but now. Well, you get the idea
Smith, of course, went to court over the manner he was charged with willful murder, but it was naturally a tricky situation. Smith had believed that he was defending the safety of his neighborhood, but he was also fully aware and responsible for his surroundings. In the end, the court found him guilty after and sentenced to death by hanging the king stepped in and change the punishment to just a year of hard labor. Oh then, as a result of that very public trial, the actual ghost announced himself to one and all he too was a living breathing person. He was just an old shoemaker out for a bit of fun this episode of Lore was written and produced by me. Aaron Maggie with research by SAM liberty and music by Chad, Lawson
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-29.