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Stockden's Murder

Six dreams, dreamt late Dec. 1695-Jan.1696, by Elizabeth Greenwood.

From John Beaumont's An Historical, Physiological, and Psychological Treatise of Spirits, quoted in The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams (1865, v.2, ed.. Frank Seafield). Beaumont opens: "Mr William Smithies, curate of St Giles's, Cripplegate, an. 1698, published an account of the robbery and murder of John Stockden, victualler in Grub Street, within the said parish, and of the discovery of the murderers by several dreams of Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Greenwood, a neighbour of the said Stockden; an abstract of which account I give you as follows..."

Mr. Stockden was robbed and murdered by three men, in his own house, on the 23rd of December, 1695, about midnight. A little after the murder there came a woman into the street, and said she believed one Maynard to be one of the murderers, because she was informed he was full of money, both silver and gold; upon which there was a warrant taken against him, but he could not be found.

Soon after this, Stockden appeared to Elizabeth Greenwood in a dream, and showed her a house in Thomas Street, near "The George," and told her that one of the murderers lived there. She went the next morning, and took one Mary Buggas, an honest woman, who lived near her, to go with her to the place to which her dream directed, and asking for Maynard, was informed that he lodged there, but was gone abroad.

After that, Stockden appeared again to Mrs. Greenwood, and then representing Maynard's face, with a flat mole on the side of his nose (whom she had never seen), signified to her that a wire-drawer [wiremaker] must take him [capture Maynard], and that he should be carried to Newgate in a coach.

Upon inquiry, they found that one of that trade who was his great intimate, and who, for a reward of ten pounds [$500-$1000 today], promised him on his taking, undertook it [Maynard's capture], and effected it. He sent to Maynard to meet him upon extraordinary business at a public house near Hockley in the Hole, where he played with him till a constable came, who apprehended him before a magistrate, who committed him to Newgate, and he was carried thither in a coach.

Maynard, being in prison, confessed the horrid fact, and discovered his accomplices, who were one Marsh, Bevel, and Mercer, and said that Marsh was the setter on, being a near neighbour to Stockden, who knew he was well furnished with money and plate; and although Marsh was not present at the robbery, yet he met to have a share of the booty. Marsh, knowing or suspecting that Maynard had discovered him, left his habitation.

Stockden appeared soon after to Mrs. Greenwood, and seemed by his countenance to be displeased. He carried her to a house in Old Street, where she had never been, and showed her a pair of stairs, and told her that one of the men lodged there; and the next morning she took Mary Buggas with her to the house, according to the direction of the dream, where she asked a woman if one Marsh did not live there? To which the woman replied that he often came thither. This Marsh was taken soon in another place.

After this, Mrs. Greenwood dreamed that Stockden carried her over the bridge, up the Borough, and into a yard, where she saw Bevel, the first criminal (whom she had never seen before), and his wife.

Upon her relating this dream, it was believed that this was one of the prison yards, and thereupon she went with Mrs. Footman (who was Stockden's kinswoman and his housekeeper, and was gagged in the house when he was murdered) to the Marshalsea, where they inquired for Bevel, and were informed that he was lately brought thither for coining [counterfeiting], and that he was taken near the Bankside, according to a dream which Mrs. Greenwood had before of his being there. They desired to see him, and when he came, he said to Mrs. Footman, "Do you know me?" She replied, "I do not." Whereupon he went from them.

Mrs. Greenwood then told Mrs. Footman that she was sure of his being the man whom she saw in her sleep. They then went into the cellar, where Mrs. Greenwood saw a lusty woman, and privately said to Mrs. Footman, "That's Bevel's wife whom I saw in my sleep." They desired that Bevel might come to them, and first put on his periwig, which was not on the time before. The lusty woman said, "Why should you speak to my husband again, since you said you did not know him?"

He came a second time, and said, "Do you know me now ?" Mrs. Footman replied, "No;" but it proceeded from a sudden fear that some mischief might be done to her, who had very narrowly escaped death from him when she was gagged; and as soon as she was out of the cellar, she told Mrs. Greenwood that she then remembered him to be the man. They went soon after to the Clerk of the Peace, and procured his removal to Newgate, where he confessed the fact, and said, "To the grief of my heart, I killed him."

Mrs. Greenwood did not dream anything concerning Mercer, who was a party concerned, but would not consent to the murder of Stockden, and preserved Mrs. Footman's life; nor has there been any discovery of him since, but he is escaped, and the three others were hanged.

After the murderers were taken, Mrs. Greenwood dreamt that Stockden came to her in the street, and said, "Elizabeth, I thank thee; the God of Heaven reward thee for what thou hast done!" Since which she has been at quiet from those frights which had so much tormented her, and caused an alteration considerable in her countenance.

This relation is certified by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, who, with the then Dean of York, the Master of the Charterhouse, and Dr. Alix, had the particulars of the foregoing narrative from Mrs. Greenwood and Mrs. Buggas.

EDITOR'S NOTE

This account stands out (from innumerable cousins over the centuries) for its specificity. I haven't seen Smithies' full account, but even this summary names names, dates, locales. Few accounts this early are really verifiable; this one might be. Parish registries, anyone?

I also admire the persistence of Stockden's ghost, or, if you don't accept him, the unprompted initiative and heroism of Elizabeth Greenwood. One murderer might be caught following a lucky dream-tip; call it chance. This is something else! At least six dreams guide Greenwood and Buggas to patiently track down three murderers. Not only does this weaken the case for chance, it's a lot of trouble and danger to go through on a mere whim or suspicion. So I'm inclined to believe Greenwood's claim she was spurred by specific, persistent dreams.

And their accuracy is intriguing whether its source was subliminal knowledge of the conspiracy (though she says she'd never even met Bevel at least), a vengeful ghost, or ESP (since I've never met a ghost but had useful clairvoyant dreams myself, I favor the last; but what matters is that her dream-tips worked so consistently.)

Just three thieves are taken; Mercer gets away. But not because Greenwood's dreams steer her wrong; they simply ignore him. He didn't consent to Stockden's murder and spared Mrs. Footman. Mere theft's nothing to the shade of Mr. Stockden.

Now that's a vengeful ghost with priorities.

--Chris Wayan



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