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The Story …
Jacob Good was a man who could expect to see many ghosts. Angry spirits and the wraiths of men and women filled with hate for Jacob, parading their soured souls in front of him, surrounding Jacob with their rage.
After all, Jacob had killed a lot of people.
As the Principal Hangman at Willengarten Prison it was Jacob’s responsibility to dispatch the condemned prisoners to the next world. All the guilty should be hanged.
Now one of those ghosts has appeared as Jacob is about to retire, taunting him, demanding that Jacob make sure the last guilty murderer doesn’t miss their appointment with Jacob’s noose.
The idea behind this story was pretty simple and inspired by a 1960’s movie, that I only caught the last few minutes of, in which the bad guy finally gets what’s coming to him and is hanged for his crimes. Regardless of your opinions on capital punishment or how deserved the execution may be, you might agree it’s a fairly ghoulish process and during the period in which this story is set, the end of the 1940’s, I felt an even stronger sense of the macabre. It’s like we, as a society, had a much greater awareness of what killing someone in the name of justice meant — compared to earlier centuries when authorities lopped the heads off criminals almost arbitrarily (if you know what I mean) — but there still weren’t the kind of safeguards and consideration for the well-being of the people carrying out the sentence.
So what I was thinking is that any government-appointed hangman, given this kind of potentially heavier burden of guilt over their job description, could be very prone to suffering the ghosts of their “victims” — of being haunted by the men and women they’ve hung, especially if any of these were innocent and victims themselves of misplace justice.
Okay, so that got all a bit “deep” and I simplified the whole thing down — you’ll get the idea. And I want to point out that in the process I didn’t worry too much (in fact, not at all) about researching the finer details of how condemned prisoners were hanged in the late 1940’s. This tale is entirely fiction, as you’d expect of a ghost story, and of course none of these people or places including Willengarten Prison exists (well… apart from Great Britain, obviously).
However, if you have any doubts about the presence of ghosts in an old prison, next time you’re in Western Australia take a tour of the old Fremantle Prison. It ran for 133 years and saw the hangings of over forty people, the last one a serial killer in 1964. These days the prison runs “torchlight tours” in the middle of night.
Nope, you won’t see me there — not a chance in hell. But don’t be surprised about anything you do see.
Lots of very unhappy, angry and unpleasant people die in jails. It’s no wonder they stick around afterwards.