Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anne Naylor’s Ghost

This is a true story about two grisly murders, one resulted in a haunting that still occurs today. 

Children at London Workhouse
18th Century

The Naylor sisters, two orphans were residents or inmates * at a workhouse in 18th century London. It was common practice at this time for children once they reached the age of 12 to be apprenticed out to a local business. 

Anne Naylor, ** and her younger sister were given into the care of a local woman who ran a millinery shop. A Mrs. Sarah Metyard and her daughter Sarah “Sally” Metyard ran this establishment. These two women had five young girls apprenticed to them, but what they provided would not be characterized as “care.”

The girls under the Metyard’s care were often beaten and starved. Both women had hot tempers and enjoyed inflicting pain. Anne unfortunately, was often their primary target for she was sickly and could not keep up with her assigned work. 

At one point Anne managed to escape the Metyard’s house, but they sent a boy, who found her and forcefully returned her to their shop. As punishment Sally beat Anne and then locked her in the attic where she was given only bread and water.

Anne now desperate once more escaped the Metyard’s home. This time Sally brought her back. She viciously beat Anne with a broomstick, and then Mrs. Metyard tied Anne to the Attic door where she was forced to stand for hours during the day. 

She was tied to this door for three days without food or water. Mrs. Metyard pointed her out to the other apprentices warning them that this would happen to them if they ever tried to escape, or disobey her.

On the fourth day, the other apprentices noticed Anne was not moving. They called for Sally. She beat Anne about the head with a shoe, but when she didn’t respond, she called for her mother. Mrs. Metyard tried to revive Anne with smelling salts, but when this didn’t work, the two women realized Anne was dead. 

They locked her body in a trunk in the attic. They made a show of taking food to her for days so the other apprentices would not suspect anything was amiss. They even left the attic door open and the shop door ajar, claiming Anne had run away yet again.

However, Anne’s sister did not believe them. She managed to tell a lodger in the house that she suspected Anne was dead. Furious, the Metyards murdered her as well. ** 

After two months had passed, the two women started to worry the neighbors would wonder about the smell for Anne’s body was still in the trunk in the attic. 

On Christmas day they dismembered the body and wrapped each piece in cloth. At first, they tried to burn these pieces in their fireplace but realizing this caused an odor—they instead took the fragments to Chick Lane and dumped them in a mud puddle near a sewer.

When these human remains were found, it was assumed that it was a body that had been snatched and then dissected by medical students. 

Soon after, witnesses started to see the ghost of a young girl dressed in white in the area where the body had been dumped. 

Other witnesses heard a young girl’s scream. So many people saw and have listened to this apparition that eventually most of this London parish felt Chick Lane was haunted.

The Metyards might have gotten away with this murder if it had not been for Sally confessing. Four years after they disposed of Anne’s body, the two women had a big fight, which prompted Sally to move out and live with a man who was her lover. 

When he mentioned the ghost of Chick Lane, Sally told him what she and her mother had done. Naively, he informed the authorities—downplaying Sally’s role in the belief she would not be accused.

But both the Metyard women were arrested, tried, and found guilty. The judge, when sentencing both women to hang, announced that justice would not be complete unless both their bodies were dissected after death. 

When Mrs. Metyard was walked to the scaffold, she collapsed. Her jailers were not able to revive her, so she was hanged while still unconscious. Sally cried as she took this final walk. Both bodies were put on public display after they were hanged, at Tyburn on July 19, 1768. Their bodies were then dissected at “Surgeon’s Hall.”

Farringdon Station
Chick Lane is now called West Street. Many of the 18th-century buildings in this area have been torn down—new ones have replaced them. Despite these changes, the neighborhood is still haunted. 

One hundred years after Anne’s death, in 1758, a prominent London ghost hunter investigated—he experienced the same activity everyone else had—so the site was pronounced authentic. 

Today, near the area where Anne’s body was dumped, stands the Farringdon Station—a stop on the London Underground. Countless witnesses have heard Anne’s screams as they stand on the platform, after the last train leaves. Several people have caught these screams on their recorders.

* People who lived in workhouses were called inmates—this is fitting because these Poor Law institutions were similar to prisons. This is probably why we call prisoners inmates today.

** Anne Naylor was 13 years old when she was beaten and starved to death.

*** It is not known how the Metyard’s killed Anne’s sister or what they did with her body.

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