Image via Daniel Jansen

The Ghost That Was Charged For Contempt For Not Testifying Against His Acused Murderer

In the 1850s, a Virginia judge held the ghost of a murdered man in contempt of court when it didn’t show up to testify against the accused killer

Andrew Martin
4 min readNov 21, 2022


Some murders go unsolved and appear to have no trail of evidence linking to a killer. Accordingly, whenever possible it’s of the utmost importance for witnesses to come forward and testify. Even if offering testimony is difficult in these cases, all efforts are made by judges and lawyers to ensure compliance. This includes a 19th century case where the ghost of a murdered man was charged with contempt of court for not taking the stand against his accused murderer.

John Gamble was born in Pennsylvania in 1814. He grew up to become a carpenter, working in Beaver County. In 1850, he decided to alter the trajectory of his life and bought a small farm in West Virginia, which included a modest apple orchard.

Determining that a living could be made trading along the Ohio River, the carpenter floated goods and materials on a skiff to his new property with the intent of making and selling apple cider. It was considered a banner year for the fruit, so his expectations for success were high.

Unfortunately, his crops were so productive that the new orchardman ran out of barrels to store his cider. To get his beverage business back on track, he sold a wagon to the Whiteman brothers, new neighbors to his farm, in exchange for a $20 IOU. He then went to a nearby town to get materials to make more barrels.

When Gamble came home from his shopping trip, he stopped by the Whitemans to collect on the IOU. As chance would have it, the brothers were home entertaining Leb Mercer, a cattle trader from the community who had recently sold a calf to Gamble, for which he still owed $2. It was believed that all parties had been drinking throughout the day.

When Mercer saw Gamble, he asked him to pay the balance of his bill. Since Gamble had nothing smaller than a $5 bill in a pile of cash he flashed that was in the neighborhood of $200, he asked if the merchant was able to make change.When he asserted he was unable toGamble collected his IOU…



Andrew Martin

Dabbler in history, investing & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about history, diversity, culture, sports, investing and crypto.


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