In eighteenth-century London, it seems it was not only the living who were disturbing the peace – the city also echoed with the cries of the dead.
Despite the march of scientific thought, superstitious and supernatural beliefs were still widely held by the general public. The folks of St Margaret’s parish in Westminster seem to have been particularly susceptible to fears about ghostly goings-on, as this account of Long Margery ‘the squeaking Woman’ attests.
Hearing loud shrieks while a women lies in childbirth? Unfathomable!
“The Parish of St. Margaret in Westminster.
The people here, it seems, are extreme cautious of being out too late at Night because of the squeaking Woman, call’d Long Margery, who is a great Haunter of this Parish. This Apparition (as the Tradition saith) appears in various Shapes and Forms, and has been seen and heard by many of the Women in this Part of the Town. The particular Office of this Ghost being to visit the Doors of Women in Child-bed only, and if they are not for this Life, to give them fair Warning by three loud Shrieks; and if a Midwife or a Nurse do but report they have heard anything like this, though the Woman shall be in the most happy Way of Recovery, the Husband would be thought worse than an Infidel, if Preparations are not immediately made for his Wife’s Funeral.
I have heard it would be as difficult to persuade these People out of this Notion, as it would be the Foot Guards out of their Tobacco and Geneva, so strongly are they confirm’d in it.”
- A View of London and Westminster, or, The Town Spy (1728)
- A gown, metamorphose’d into a ghost!!, Isaac Cruikshank