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Cock Lane Ghost

Cock Lane Ghost

Widely discussed disturbances of a poltergeist in 1762 at a house on Cock Lane, Smithfield, in London, England. They were attributed to the restless spirit of a Mrs. Kent, a former resident of the house, and communications were received through raps that she was murdered by her husband. The accused party retorted that an attempt was being made to blackmail him.

Dr. Samuel Johnson, assisted by the Reverend Douglas, later bishop of Salisbury, investigated the case. It was discovered that the phenomena of raps and furniture movements centered around 12-year-old Elizabeth Parsons, the daughter of the occupant of the house, and that the noises followed her wherever she went. But nothing occurred in the presence of the committee. By threats the child was frightened into trickery. She did it with so little art that she was immediately exposed. The story is recorded in The Mystery Revealed (1762), a pamphlet said to have been written by Oliver Goldsmith, and in Andrew Lang's Cock Lane and Common Sense (1894). Johnson's account was first published in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1763.

Sources:

Grant, Douglas. The Cock Lane Ghost. New York: Macmillan; St. Martin's Press, 1965.

Mackay, Charles. Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions. London: Richard Bentley, 1841. Reprinted as Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Wells, Vt.: Fraser Publishing, 1963.

Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist: A Study in Destructive Haunting. New York: Putnam, 1981.

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