In October of 1941, the police arrived at the home of Philip Peters in Denver (Colorado), finding broken furniture and splattered blood. Peters (aged 73) lay dead on the floor with his hand clutching a broken cane. The police searched the house and were unable to find the attacker. Mrs. Peters was in the hospital at the time recovering from hip surgery. She did not return to live in the house and instead moved to Grand Junction. The house remained empty, except for a ghost.
Neighbors reported seeing a “tall, pale figure” walking around the house, coming to the conclusion it must be Peters’s ghost. The police went to investigate this “ghost” and found someone peeking out of the house. They chased “the ghost” through the house, pulling him out of a hole before he escaped into the attic. This wasn’t a ghost. This was Matthew Cornish.
Matthew Cornish (age 59) had lost his job and desperately followed Peters home, exploring the house when empty (September 1941). Cornish found an attic nook (7 ft x 4 ft) and lived here, coming downstairs to eat from the icebox when Peters fell asleep.
On October 17th, Peters went to visit his wife in the hospital. He returned home to find Cornish eating a roast from the icebox. Peters went for the intruder, but Cornish hit and stunned Peters with an old gun. Peters regained consciousness and hit Cornish with his cane (the article said “can” but I’m assuming it was a spelling error). Cornish eventually killed him a poker. The loud noises alerted neighbors, but Cornish had already returned to his hiding spot when the police arrived.
“An officer pushed against the trap door of my nest once,” Cornish explained, “but I held it with all my strength and I guess he thought it was solid roof.” After this close call, Cornish was able to live undetected in the house for 10 more months.
Cornish was dragged out of the attic dressed in dusty rags and covered in spiderwebs. At 6 feet tall, Cornish weighed less than 80 pounds. Survival was difficult as he could only sneak out of the house to steal food from neighbor’s iceboxes, the local grocery, and the trash.
Source: Kenosha News (Kenosha, Wisconsin), 31 Jul 1942 (pg. 16).