Tricks of a Supposed Ghost in College Park (& also some parts of Kensal New Town & Willesden!)

This curious article appeared in the Willesden Chronicle on 20th January 1888:-

‘Since Christmas, the whole neighbourhood of College Park and some parts of Kensal New Town and Willesden, have been in a state of amazement, not to say alarm, at the doings of a supposed supernatural being, or a man in the resemblance of a demon.

The panic does not arise from an ordinary vulgar ghost habited in a white sheet, with two holes for the eyes, but is much more picturesque, weird, demoniacal affair, suggested somewhat of an artiste in these appearances.

According to the statements of an eye-witness, the demon makes his appearance suddenly in front of persons late at night, having come up noiselessly behind them.

The individual, for there is no doubt it is a human being, attired in a tight-fitting black, or very dark costume, has a white face, supposed to be chalked, dark rings round the eye, and a skull cap, also tightly fitting.

When the person on whom this strange “appearance” is made, stops to regard the extraordinary vision more closely, it stands still and opens wide its arms, which are stretched out to the full extent, whereupon a most amazing sight is witnessed.

From the outstretched, upraised arms drop down the semblance of bat-like wings – bat-like in their dusky hue, but rather resembling those in which Lucifer is pictured by Gustave Dore, in his wonderful illustrations to Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

The wings have the appearance of being unfolded, one witness describes them as coming down like those of some great bird – a Solan goose, for instance, while stretching itself – while another thinks them more like the representation of the Javanese bats, with ribs or fine bones running down, on which the wing folds.

Another thing very startling to a spectator suddenly witnessing it, is that the unfolding of the wings gives rise to a luminous exhalation, which some describe as like phosphorous in a dark room.

It is a sufficient fact that these astonishing appearances are generally presented to women and children, a fact suggesting the fear of men.

A few evenings ago, however, a “youth” of 19, ran home in a state of excitement, and for some time was unable to tell his friends what was the matter, when he described appearances similar to those mentioned above.

It seems that, on occasion, the winged-demon of College Park can show a very “clean pair of heels”, enabling him to disappear into empty half-finished houses, and so become lost, or to “take a fence” such as that at Welford’s Farm.

Various persons concur in the statement that the demon has been traced to Earlsmead Road, some even going as far as to state that it has been seen to go into or come out of the latter road.

The owner of a fish shop at College Park, states that he has lost custom, as the children usually fetching fish for supper dare not go along the road in the dark, although only coming from neighbouring streets.

Many men have in consequence of the alarm created, gone in parties with lanterns and revolvers, an American being particularly desirous of exercising himself with a trusty Derringer, brought over from the States.

But “Mr Demon” evidently had an objection to parties, stalwart men, and six shooters.

One night, Mr Thomas Wall was out till 4am, ready to give a warm reception to the demoniacal mystery.

The omnibus conductors, several of whom reside near Earlsmead Road, who are on the scene at “the Witching hour”, and who fear not weird-wings, phosphorescent appearances, & c., have also been several nights “on the scout”, determining to “go” for the individual at close quarters, but have been disappointed of their lawful prey.

On Friday evening, there was quite a large muster of visitors from Kensal Town, determined to bring down the offending person.’

I wonder if the culprit was ever caught or maybe he was just scared off?

Steve Russell

(Thanks to Colin Woodley for sending me the article)