He was born around 1804 in Huddersfield.
He married Nancy Bamforth on 7 October 1829 and they had likely had three children:
Nancy died in 1845, aged 42.
By the time of the 1851 Census, he was a 47-year-old widower living on his own on Swan Lane and working as a hair dresser. At the time of the 1861 Census, he was a barber living alone on Bridge Street, Lockwood.
By the start of 1862, he had begun to start behaving oddly. At night, he would dress up in a long frock coat and disguise himself by blacking-up his face and donning a strange hairy wig and moustache, and then go stalking the streets of Lockwood. According to reports, he would conceal himself in dark places and then leap out when children or young women passed by, scaring them by flapping his arms against his heavy coat.
More than one person likened the strange apparition's appearance and actions to that of a gorilla or a giant bear.
A local policeman who saw him wandering the streets in his strange outfit reported that Shaw carried an umbrella and would open it if he thought he was being watched, as if to somehow conceal himself.
Over a period of three or four weeks in March and April, his behaviour created a mixture of terror and annoyance amongst the locals, especially the parents of children who were so scared they were unable to sleep for fear the "Lockwood Scar Ghost" might appear at their window.
On the evening of 10 April, the "ghost" was seen by a young man named Alfred Hanson. Hanson, fortified by an evening in the local pub, apparently decided enough was enough and ran after Shaw, giving him a sound beating and "laying the ghost" flat on his back. The following evening, Shaw ventured forth again and, this time, he was assaulted by Joshua Megson. Shaw was left sporting a black eye from this encounter.
Shaw brought a charge of assault against both men. However, in court, a number of witnesses were produced who testified against him — from children who had been scared witless by him to a young pregnant woman who had been so frightened by his assault on her that "she had since been under medical treatment for fear of a miscarriage." The magistrate was of the opinion Shaw had brought the two beatings upon himself, but fined Megson 2s. 6d. plus expenses for assault.
There were no further newspaper reports about his behaviour, so it would seem Shaw had been taught a lesson.
By the time of the 1871 Census, he was still living on Bridge Street but had his grandson, 12-year-old Sam Shaw, living with him.