A Manx Murder and a Ghostly Carriage

A new Palmer story emerges

In September 2002 I received an e-mail from Julie Laslett the Manager of Manx Multimedia Centre in the Isle of Man.

” I wonder if you can help me with my research into Hall Caine (an author from the Isle of Man). I have heard a story that he was associated with Palmer who stayed at the Peel Castle Hotel in the Isle of Man. During his stay a coachman was found dead, possibly poisoned and a sum of money stolen.

I have no other information, dates etc. to substantiate this story. Hall Caine was one of the most famous writers of the Victorian age but had many interesting associates. I would be very grateful if you can shed any light or doubt on this story, or where I might be able to research it further.”

A rumour disproved:

I was able to disprove the link with Hall Caine because Caine was not born until 1853 and Palmer was hanged in 1856. It appears that Caine had met with another murderer and the original storyteller had got their murderers mixed up.

A story from the Isle of Man unearthed:

Julie did some more research and came back with a murder story that she found in the Peel City Guardian dated May 16th 1992.

I was able to establish a link between the Isle of Man and Palmer, in that his brother Walter moved to live on the Isle of Man for a few years after he first went bankrupt. With additional help from Julie and Howard (Pip) Phillips from the Isle of Man Newspapers, I tracked down the following fascinating Palmer story:-

It is thought that William Palmer visited Walter and stayed at the Old Marine Hotel in Crown Street, Peel. Whilst he was staying there he became acquainted with a man called Spurrier a wealthy stagecoach driver from Onchan. The pair were frequently seen together on the front of the stagecoach running between Peel and Douglas.

One night in the hotel after a heavy drinking session, Palmer bet Spurrier that he couldn’t down 20 raw eggs. Unfortunately Spurrier accepted Palmer’s challenge and became ill and needed to retired to his room. Dr. Palmer followed him up and remained with him all night.

Next morning Spurrier was dead.

It was reported that Spurrier had arrived at the Marine Hotel with around a thousand pounds on him (apparently he did not believe in banks), however, not a single penny was found on the corpse. Although Palmer was suspected of foul play he was never brought to justice in the Manx courts and with no charges brought against him was able to return to Stafford.

There are stories that Spurrier’s fine coach and horses have been heard since on many occasions passing the site of the old hotel in the early hours of the morning being driven by the ghost of Spurrier.

picture of the Marine Hotel sent to me by Howard (Pip) Phillips. Taken some time before the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1885.
picture of the Marine Hotel sent to me by Howard (Pip) Phillips. Taken some time before the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1885.

The Old Marine Hotel was burnt down in 1885. The new Marine Hotel was not built on the same site but was relocated to Peel Promenade where it still stands today. The old Marine site was rebuilt as private houses and a ships provisions shop and accommodation known as the “Dales”.

Howard Phillips met a woman who had the building at the old Marine site exorcised. He asked why and she explained that items kept vanishing and turning up at different locations, but worse was an apparition that several people kept seeing of a male figure with a tall black hat. She claimed that she had never seen a picture of Palmer before but when Howard showed her a picture of Palmer the Gambler she said it was very scary.

Did Palmer commit another murderer in the Isle of Man or is this just another good story?