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Man Sued For Slandering A Ghost

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Sometimes I run across a unique story I really want to share. The one below definitely fits in that category. Who said the fixation with the afterlife is a modern-day event?

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If one was to look through centuries’ worth of court records, they would be hard pressed to find a more bizarre case than Booty v. Barnaby. Some specific details are unknown (such as the first names of the participants), and the whole thing sounds too unbelievable to be true. Yet, an official excerpt of this case was actually found in the records of the Court of the King’s Bench from 1688. The story goes that on May 15, 1687, a sea captain named Barnaby and his crew were shooting for rabbits on the island of Stromboli in Italy. That afternoon, they saw a man being chased across the island by a figure dressed in black. Barnaby recognized the man being pursued as Mr. Booty, his neighbor from back home in Gravesend, England. The two figures ran toward a volcano and mysteriously disappeared into some flames of fire.

Months later, Barnaby returned home and was shocked to learn that Mr. Booty had died around the exact same time Barnaby saw him being chased on Stromboli. Barnaby became convinced that he had seen Booty’s ghost and that he was chased into the flames of Hell. His story soon spread around town, but Barnaby received a stunning surprise when he found out that the deceased man’s widow, Mrs. Booty, was filing a lawsuit against him for slander. Apparently, she did not like the idea of Barnaby spreading rumors that her late husband had been condemned to Hell. Believe it or not, this case was actually heard at the Court of the King’s Bench. Barnaby had recorded the incident from Stromboli in his ship’s journal, and at least 30 witnesses backed up his story. Many of them testified that Mr. Booty appeared to be dressed in the same clothing he was wearing at the time of his death. The court came to the conclusion that a whole 30 witnesses could not be mistaken. They ruled that Barnaby had not committed slander. Mrs. Booty lost the case.

Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently worked on a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow.


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