In 1872, Peckham was gripped by a supernatural horror.
For the past year, ghosts had been sighted around the Peckham Lanes area. In November 1871, a ghost had broken windows. It had jumped up to the first floor windows of Dulwich College and scared the daughters of the headteacher by throwing peas at their window. This distressed them so much that they took days to recover.
The window-breaking poltergeist returned in April 1972. Women were terrified to walk alone at night as the ghost had been known to grab women’s behinds while making ‘spooky noises’. Witnesses estimated the ghost to be six to eight feet tall, luminous breath and a ‘forbidding countenance’ (scary face). It could run at incredible speed and jump fences in a single bound. It screamed and babbled at anyone who caught sight of it. It also had horns. It took two specific incidents for the fine people of Peckham to investigate the horror, however.
In November 1872, Arthur Ridgway was walking home, cradling a stone jug containing half a gallon of his favourite beer. A dark figure loomed over him, then flung off a coat to reveal a pure white suit and screamed horribly at him. Arthur dropped the jug and ran…then turned to see the ghost running away with it.
The same evening, thirteen year old Matilda Ayres was cornered by the ghost. It waved its arms and screeched. She ran home and told her mother.
The residents of Peckham could take it no longer. They formed an Anti-Ghost vigilante committee, and combed the area for weeks for any signs of spectral activity. It took until 7th December locate any, when they found a homeless man named Joseph Mundy acting suspiciously. After chasing him to a derelict house, he was dragged to jail.
Police found his pockets stuffed with loose peas (which he claimed he had brought with him as a snack) and wearing an outfit of a pure white smock and a black cloak. He was sentenced to prison for six months.
However, this is not quite the end of the story.
A week after Mundy’s sentencing, James Sanson was driving his cart at night in Bury (Lancashire) when he was surprised by an identical ghost to the one reported in Peckham.