‘Yet, through the supernatural incident was thus fortified , and although there were other strong presumptions against the prisoners, the story of the apparition threw an air of ridicule on the whole evidence for the prosecution. It was followed up by the counsel for the prisoners asking, in the cross-examination of Macpherson: “What language did the ghost speak in?” The witness, who was himself ignorant of the English language, replied: “As good Gaelic as I ever heard in Lochaber.” “Pretty well for the ghost of an English sergeant,” answered the counsel. The inference was rather smart and plausible than sound. For the apparition of the ghost being admitted, we know too little of the other world to judge whether all languages may not be alike familiar to those who belong to it, It imposed, however. On the jury, who found the accused parties Not guilty although their counsel and solicitor, and most of the court, were satisfied of their having committed this murder.’
Scott’s hypothesis for the explanation of the alleged apparition is that giving information is unpopular in the Highlands, and Macpherson got up the ghost-story, ‘knowing well that his superstitious countrymen would pardon his communicating the commission intrusted to him by a being of the other world! This hypothesis (whatever other may be adopted) is not only without support in positive fact, but it assumes a degree of anxiety for the execution of justice wholly gratuitous, and certainly far from characteristic of the Braemar Highlander of that day. It also ignores the corroborative evidence of Isabel Machardie. What is even more important, it is out of harmony with the chronology of the story, for Macpherson related his ghostly visitation and buried the sergeant’s bones three years before any measures for the vindication of justice were taken, and, for anything that appears, no such measures would ever have been taken, but for the active interference of a retired officer of the army, named Small. This gentleman seems to have been inspired with a strong feeling as a friend of the government and of the army, in contradistinction to the Jacobite sentiments which then largely prevailed. So vigorous were his efforts to make out evidence against the murderers of Davis, that it was taken notice of in the formal defences of the accused, and orally by their counsel, the eminent Mr. Lockhart, who was notoriously a Jacobite.
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NPR: Oakland Ghost Ship Fire: Leaseholder Sentenced After Blaze Killed 36. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/09/975206741/man-sentenced-in-2016-ghost-ship-warehouse-fire-in-oakland-calif-that-killed-36?ft=nprml&f=1001