During my research for It Was Not a Ghost, I often come across humorous pranksters. They are children or men using contraptions or sheets to scare fellow citizens for a laugh.
Unfortunately, some of these stories end in death.
In this particular newspaper clipping, a man admits to terrorizing the town of Gower, Missouri for several years. You’ll understand shortly why he took the pranks to his deathbed.
Before Thomas P. Ogden passed away in 1902, he delivered an interesting deathbed confession: he had been the Gower Ghost. Ogden was the elusive phantom that was heard, but never identified, for several years. His pranks resulted in one death and the near murder of a man. Below are some of the incidents involving the Gower Ghost.
Grower utilized a rubber tube to create disembodied moans in a stable, which resulted in a ghost hunt.
In the livery stable in Gower were box stalls for the horses. Posts were set in the ground between the stalls and planked up on each side. Ogden bought a long rubber tube and, concealing himself in the haymow, let the tube down between the boards on one side of a stall. Then he groaned into the tube and the sound of his voice was carried down to a point close to the ground. In a little while the groans attracted the attention of the men employed about the barn. They tore the boards off one side of the stall, but Ogden drew the rubber tube up, and they found nothing.
A brave citizen decided to locate the source of the moans with a pick and shovel as hundreds of men watched. While he dug, the ghost (well, Ogden) played along: when the digger hit a rock, Ogden yelled that he had struck his bones.
The man kept digging even after nightfall until Ogden threw a white sheet on top of him. The digger jumped out of the hole screaming and the crowd scattered. One man ran into a tree and died during the chaos.
During another incident at the livery, Ogden the Ghost claimed he was the spirit of a man murdered by citizen James Woodward. The crowd nearly lynched Woodward (the article does not say what stopped them).
Ogden also decided an abandoned mansion in town would make the perfect location for a haunting. His trickery included moving lights, slamming doors, screams and moans. The house, now impossible to sell, became “a weather-beaten wreck.”
In a local cemetery, Ogden used a network of wires to create the illusion of dancing lights. Cotton balls were dipped in kerosene and attached to the wires. At night, he would light the balls of cotton while a fearful audience of thousands watched from a safe distance. He also used moving white figures and accompanying moans to add to the experience.
Like the mansion, the cemetery was avoided by citizens. Some family members “removed their dead from the dreaded place.”
While on his deathbed, Ogden called his friends and admitted to the years of tomfoolery. He felt great sorrow for the death of the young man. He also informed listeners he refrained from scaring children and women.
Source: The Newton Daily Journal, Newton, Kansas, 4 Oct 1902 (pg 7)