In 1772 the residents of the then retired village of Stockwell were alarmed by an apparition, known as “the Stockwell Ghost”.
Mrs. Golding, an elderly lady, who resided alone with her servant, Anne Robinson, was sorely surprised, on the evening of Twelfth Day, 1772, to observe an extraordinary commotion among her crockery. Cups and saucers rattled down the chimney; pots and pans were whirled downwards or through the windows; and hams, cheeses, and loaves of bread disported themselves upon the floor just as if the devil were in them. This, at least, was the conclusion to which Mrs. Golding came; and, being greatly alarmed, she invited some of her neighbours to stay with her, and protect her from the evil one. Their presence, however, did not put a stop to the insurrection of china, and every room in the house was in a short time strewed with fragments. The chairs and tables at last joined in the tumult; and things looked altogether so serious and inexplicable that the neighbours, dreading that the house itself would next be seized with a fit of motion and i tumble about their ears, left poor Mrs. Golding to bear the brunt of it by herself. The ghost in this case was solemnly remonstrated with, and urged to take its departure; but the destruction continuing as great as before, Mrs. Golding finally made up her mind to quit the house altogether. With Anne Robinson, she took refuge in the house of a neighbour; but his glass and crockery being immediately subjected to the same persecution, he was reluctantly compelled to give her notice to quit. The old lady, thus forced back to her own house, endured the disturbance for some days longer, when suspecting that Anne Robinson was the cause of all the mischief, she dismissed her from her service. The extraordinary appearances immediately ceased, and were never afterwards renewed a fact which is of itself sufficient to point out the real disturber. A long time afterwards Anne Robinson confessed the whole matter to the Rev. Mr. Brayfield. This gentleman confided the story to Mr. Hone, who published an explanation of the mystery. It appears that Anne was anxious to have a clear house to carry on an intrigue with her lover, and she resorted to this trick in order to effect her purpose. She placed the china on the shelves in such a manner that it fell on the slightest motion; and she attached horse-hair to other articles, so that she could jerk them down from an adjoining room without being perceived by any one. She was exceedingly dexterous at this sort of work, and would have proved a formidable rival to many a juggler by profession.