Editor’s Note: In last week’s “From the past” column, we recounted part of a story that appeared in the Record Observer 50 years ago. The story was about a trial in the late 1700s in which a ghost played a part. Thomas Harris’ illegitimate children sued their aunt and uncle for their father’s estate, but the uncle died and the aunt testified to Judge James Tilghman that she believed her husband was crazy because he told her he’d seen his brother’s ghost. In the spirit of Halloween, here’s the rest of the story.
William Briggs, a highly respected farmer, who had served under Washington and Harris, testified that about two weeks after his friend’s death he had been frightened to see him standing motionless inside a cemetery gate.
After the quarrel over the estate became public knowledge, Briggs testified that he saw the same specter several times, once while he was in the presence of John Bailey, another neighbor.
Finally, Briggs asked the specter why he persisted in frightening him. The strange, misty figure slowly replied that he wanted Briggs to remind James Harris to carry out the instructions by giving the estate to the illegitimate children.
Briggs testified that he told James Harris, who admitted the truth of the strange conversation. Bailey confirmed the testimony of Briggs — Harris’s children got the estate — thanks to the efforts of a ghost.