When they cut the dead men down from the gallows they carry them to Newgate cemetary, and throw them into a pit where the tangled limbs of unnamed, unclaimed and unwanted convicts rot and stink in one mass grave.
On hallows eve each spirit disencumbers his crumbling bones from those of his neighbours, to walk alone, as, following his nature, he haunts, punishing those mortals who cannot forget him, or visiting those for whom he aches. Some malicious ghosts with a taste for tradition shamble in rattling chains, making a cacophoninous clank which grabs at the entrails of all unfortunate folk who hear, leaving them quaking in fear. Others, with theatrical flair, can be seen only through the corner of the eye; they disappear at the turn of the head. These phantom tricksters rustle papers in the corner of the room. They requisition the wind, which swings windows wide open. They slam doors shut. They sigh and moan while an eerie chill fills the firelit cheer.
Many of the victims of the hangman’s noose are innocent of the crime for which they were convicted and killed. Lost in endless misery they drift, desperate for deliverance from their dragging affliction. They appear in dreams, to be half-remembered when we awake in the deep of the night. Their stories slip and slide in our minds as we try to hold tight to them. In the morning they are an insubstantial smoky wisp which drifts, thins in the atmosphere, then disappears.
Foul Frederick steps on fetid limbs as they reach for the lip of the grave, kicking them back in, to land, bone on bone, with a clatter on the weakest, who wait their turn. With every kind of weapon, with fists and teeth and squeezing hands he murdered friends and foes and strangers, showing no favoritism, and less sympathy. He needs no sweet lips to smile at him, no kiss to warm his breath. He lived for the thrill of bringing screaming death to those who crossed his path. The people of London celebrated on the day that he was hanged.
The dread demon ghoul could have been a teacher in a ghostly school for all the tricks he knows. But he tutors nobody. His skills are for him alone. See him roam the darkened roads, grabbing the throats of foolish folk and desperate souls who walk the Newgate streets at night, lost and cold or reeling drunk, all of them fodder for his hungry hands. But this is no more than an hors d’oeurve. He hunts the pockets of the slumped body for a knife, and when he finds it, he is in his element.
Dawn finds Foul Frederick daubed in damp scarlet rags, beneath the soil, contentedly rotting away until next year’s joyous party, while the blood of last night’s losers soaks into the bones of innocent and guilty victims of Newgate Gaol.
On November 1st every year, screams and weeping echo through the streets of Newgate, strangled and slashed bodies are removed, blood is washed from the streets, and the hunt for the Halloween killer is renewed.
The Daily Post #Eerie
©Jane Paterson Basil