Simon Fraser, a Scotsman from Glasgow, was a 27-year-old happily married husband and devoted father who, around 1 AM on the morning of April 10th, 1878, dreamt that a monster had come up through the floor to attack his family. Simon seized it and smashed it against the ground, only to wake up and discover that he had smashed the head of his 18-month-old son.
It was not the first time Simon had serious problems in his sleep. He suffered from somnambulism and night terrors, and had a long history of nightmares in which a white monster or savage beast broke into his house at night to attack his family. He did not deny what he had done, and told police that he thought he was defending the very child whom he had killed.
Witnesses at his trial before the Edinburgh High Court testified that he had long been afflicted with such dreams, during which he inflicted injuries on others. His sister testified that he had almost strangled her once, and that on another occasion, he had to be pulled from the sea after he jumped in to try and save her from drowning when she was back home, safe in bed. His father also took the stand to describe how he once awoke to the then-teenaged Simon straddling and beating him.
The foreman of the jury then informed the judge that there was no need to hear additional testimony because the jury was already of the unanimous opinion that Simon was not responsible for his actions. The court then decided to call expert witnesses to testify about his sanity, to determine whether he should be set free or be committed to an insane asylum for the rest of his life.
After hearing testimony from two medical experts, one of whom opined that Simon was sane while the concluded that he was not, the jury held a quick whispered conference right there in the courtroom, without even retiring. Within a minute, the foreman announced the jury’s verdict that Simon was not responsible for his actions and that he was sane. Accordingly, he was set free. However, to ensure that he would not harm another whilst in the grip of somnambulism and night terrors, special arrangements were made. He remained free during the day, but at night, he slept alone in a room locked from the outside, with his wife keeping the key.