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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Till Glanvill was thoroughly taken in


noise-maker was called to account

by a stranger in the village, a Mr. Mompesson of Tedworth, who on examining the man's license saw that it had been forged and took it away from him. This, at any rate, was Mr. Mompesson's story as to how he had incurred the ill will of the man. The drummer took his revenge in a singular way. Within a few days the Mompesson family at Tedworth began to be annoyed at night by strange noises or drummings on the roofs. All the phenomena and manifestations which we associate with a modern haunted-house story were observed by this alarmed family of the seventeenth century. The little girls were knocked about in their beds at night, a stout servant was forcibly held hand and foot, the children's shoes were thrown about, the chairs glided about the room. It would seem that all this bold horse-play must soon have been exposed, but it went on merrily. Whenever any tune was called for, it was given on the drum. The family Bible was thrown upside down into the ashes. For three weeks, however, the spirits ceased operations during the lying-in of Mrs. Mompesson. But they sedulously avoided the family servants, especially when those retainers happened to be armed with swords. Well they might, for we are told that on one occasion, after a pistol shot had been fired at the place where they were heard, blood was found on the spot. In another instance, according to Mr. Mompesson's own account, there were seen figures, "in the shape of Men, who, as soon as a Gun was discharg'd, would shuffle away
together into an Arbour."

It is clear enough that a somewhat clumsy fraud was being imposed upon Mr. Mompesson. A contemporary writer tells us he was told that it was done by "two Young Women in the House with a design to scare thence Mr. Mompesson's Mother."[29] From other sources it is quite certain that the injured drummer had a hand in the affair. A very similar game had been played at Woodstock in 1649, and formed a comedy situation of which Scott makes brilliant use in his novel of that name. Indeed, it is quite possible that the drummer, who had been a soldier of Cromwell's, was inspired by a memory of that affair.

But there was no one to detect the fraud, as at Woodstock. Tedworth became a Mecca for those interested in the supernatural. One of the visitors was Joseph Glanvill, at this time a young man of twenty-seven, later to become a member of the Royal Society and chaplain in ordinary to the king. The spirits were less noisy; they were always somewhat restrained before visitors, but scratched on bed sheets and panted in dog fashion, till Glanvill was thoroughly taken in. For the rest of his life this psychic experimenter fought a literary war over this case with those who made fun of it. While we cannot prove it, we may guess with some confidence that this episode was the beginning of the special interest in the supernatural upon Glanvill's part which was later to make him the arch-defender of the witchcraft superstition in his generation.

How wide an interest the matter evoked may be judged from the warm discussions upon it at Cambridge, and from the royal interest in it which induced Charles to send down a committee of investigation. Curiously enough, the spirits were singularly and most extraordinarily quiet when the royal investigators were at work, a fact to which delighted skeptics pointed with satisfaction.


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