The Legend of Fisher's Ghost

First published as a brochure by the Communications and Marketing Department of Campbelltown City Council

On the Evening of June 17, 1826, a man by the name of Frederick Fisher, left his home in Campbelltown and was not seen again.

On a night almost four months later, a wealthy and respectable Campbelltown farmer, John Farley, stumbled into a local hotel in a state of shock, and claimed he had seen the ghost of Frederick Fisher.

The ghost according to John Farley, had been sitting on the rail of a bridge and had pointed to a paddock down the creek, then faded away.

The body of Fred Fisher was later discovered by police in the paddock where the ghost had pointed...

Many local residents believe the ghost of Fred Fisher haunts the Campbelltown Town Hall.

The legend of Fred Fisher has captured the imagination of generations. The sequence of events leading up to the subsequent trial - the murder of Frederick Fisher, the appearance of his ghost, the arrest of five men and the eventual hanging of one.

Frederick George James Fisher was born on August 28th, 1792. By his early twenties he was a shopkeeper, unmarried, but thought to be the father of two children. Either innocently or deliberately, Fred Fisher obtained forged bank notes through his business for which he was arrested and tried at the Surrey Gaol Delivery on July 26, 1815 and sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Australia.

By 1822 Fred Fisher has served half his sentence and applied for a ticket-of-leave and permission to purchase property. Among other properties, Fred Fisher secured a farm at Campbelltown. His neighbour was a man named William George Worrall, known to be an honest and industrious man.

In 1825 Fred Fisher and a local carpenter, William Brooker, had an argument over money, whereby Fisher pulled a knife. William Brooker was not badly hurt, however Fred Fisher received a light prison sentence. Worried about his property, Fred Fisher gave George Worrell Power of Attorney during his imprisonment. Fisher served his sentence and returned to town a short time later.

On the evening of June 17, 1826, Fred Fisher disappeared and George Worrell announced he had sailed for England because he was concerned about a forgery charge recently made against him. Three weeks later after Fred Fisher's disappearance, George Worrall sold Fisher's horse and personal belongings, claiming Fred Fisher had sold them to him before he set sail.

Several local townspeople became suspicious and on September 17, 1826, George Worrall was arrested on suspicion of Fred Fisher's murder.

Worrall claimed he had not murdered Fred Fisher, but that four other men had in fact committed the crime. All four men were then arrested.

One month later, October 25, 1826, two young boys were returning home across Fisher's farm and noticed bloodstains on a fence. On closer investigation, a lock of hair and a tooth were also found.

A local constable searched the area to no avail and decided to call in an Aboriginal tracker from Liverpool. On testing the water from puddles in the area, the tracker announced 'white fellow's fat here.' Fred Fisher's remains were found laying in a shallow grave on George Worrall's land.

George Worrall sat for trial in a criminal court on February 2, 1827. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging on February 5, 1827.

On the scaffold, Worrall confessed he had murdered Fred Fisher by mistake, thinking him a horse in the wheat crop, however, this confession was never believed by the locals. It is thought George Worrall had assumed when he had been appointed Fred Fisher's agent, all Fisher's property belonged to him. On Fisher's release from prison, George Worrall murdered him to fully obtain his property.

What then of John Farley's Ghost story? Why was it not used at the trial? Apparently any tales of the supernatural were not permitted in a Court of Law and could not be used as evidence against the accused.

Fred Fisher was buried in St Peters graveyard by his brother, Henry, however, no headstone was ever erected.

Bibliography Colonial days in Campbelltown : the legend of Fisher's ghost / by Verlie Fowler. (Campbelltown, N.S.W. : Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, 1991). Copies of this book are available in the local studies collection, Campbelltown City Library. Click on the library catalogue link above to find out how to locate copies of this book.

'The Harrow: the Fisher's Ghost Pub' / by David Patick. Grist Mills, Volume 11 No 3, November 1998. Copies of this article are available in the local studies collection, Campbelltown City Library.

Further information

Online Resources

Frederick Fisher and his ghost. An excerpt from Campbelltown - A bicentennial by Carol Liston. p59-67. Have You Seen Fisher's Ghost? 180 Years of the Fisher's Ghost Legend. Articles by Jeff McGill published in the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, 21 June 2006 p. 2, p. 135-136.
Reproduced with permission of the author and editor.

The History of Fisher's Ghost Festival. Article by Jeff McGill published in the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, 19 October 2005, pp 16-17.
Reproduced with permission of the author and editor.

Hardcopy resources

'Frederick George James Fisher' / by Ivor G. Thomas. Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society. Journal and Proceedings. Volume 1, Number 1, 1948. pp 84-89. Copies of this article are available in the local studies collection, Campbelltown City Library.

Worrell's Book of Trial, is a primary resource held by New South Wales State Records. It details the events surrounding the murder of Frederick Fisher as they were presented to the trial judge in January 1827. The original documents can only be viewed by visiting New South Wales State Records.

Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales 1788 - 1899, Rex v. Worroll. Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University.