Grave Doings at Dewsbury

Leeds Times – Saturday 23 June 1838 

A few days ago, a tradesman well-known in Dewsbury consigned one of his children to the house appointed for all living, but the grave this instance did not terminate the anxieties of the parent, for the safety of his offspring. This remark of course applies merely to the poor mortal remains. The disease of the child was somewhat peculiar, and this being known to one or two members of the Esculapian line, Mr F (for so we shall call him for distinction’s sake) was afraid these relentless destroyers of human flesh would send the bodysnatchers for his infant, and he therefore determined, if such was their intention, to frustrate it.

He accordingly went on the night of internment to a respectable Inn in the town where he supplied himself with sufficient of that which makes a Dutchman courageous, and mine host kindly furnished him with a gun and a brace of pistols, which were duly charged for warfare with the resurrectionists. Thus armed, our friend set off to the awful church-yard, at that dreaded hour when ‘spirits walk the earth;’ he was not long before he reached its precincts, and with a heart full of anxiety he cast a hasty glance, before he entered towards the spot which contained the remains of his child, when, to his unspeakable horror, he beheld a form ‘tall and ghastly standing motionless o’er the new-opened grave’: and he for a moment stood as motionless as the figure. What was to be done? Was he alone to brave the scene? Prudence suggested assistance and fear approved the suggestion. He immediately retraced his steps to seek a companion, nor was he long in finding one, and back they trudged to the church-yard, where the same lank figure met their eyes.

There was, however,this consolation: it appeared now to be somewhat bent forward, and this satisfied them that it must be a resurrectionist and no ghost, therefore, with renovated spirits, they made a nearer approach. Mr F. planted his gun, took the aim, called out, pulled the trigger, and fired. The form remained, and nothing now was left but to advance forward; they did so, when lo’ the apparition, the resurrectionist which had been pictured, dwindled to a long sweeping-brush appropriately dressed for the occasion, by some wags, who had slipped out of the inn when our friend F. was arming. Rage now took the place of fear; and woful (sic) would have been the case of that man who came within the range of the pistol shot. Mr F. soon gave a proof of his courage: footsteps were heard advancing – a pistol was raised, and a trigger was about being pulled;when the grave-watcher, No.2, saved his angry companion from a worse mistake than the first. The footsteps were of a horse that had made its way to the church-yard, which would inevitably have been shot, but for the timely interference of the less enraged party.