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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Or her daughter Alse Gooderidge


story produced a sensation. Those who heard it declared at once that the woman must have been Elizabeth Wright, or her daughter Alse Gooderidge, women long suspected of witchcraft. Alse was fetched to the boy. She said she had never seen him, but her presence increased the violence of his fits. Mother and daughter were carried before two justices of the peace, who examined them together with Alse's husband and daughter. The women were searched for special marks in the usual revolting manner with the usual outcome, but only Alse herself was sent to gaol.[8]

The boy grew no better. It was discovered that the reading of certain verses in the first chapter of John invariably set him off.[9] The justices of the peace put Alse through several examinations, but with little result. Two good witches were consulted, but refused to help unless the family of the bewitched came to see them.

Meantime a cunning man appeared who promised to prove Alse a witch. In the presence of "manie worshipfull personages" "he put a paire of new shooes on her feete, setting her close to the fire till the shooes being extreame hot might constrayne her through increase of the paine to confesse." "This," says the writer, "was his ridiculous practice." The woman "being throghly heated desired a release" and offered to confess, but, as soon as her feet were cooled, refused. No doubt the justices of the peace would have repudiated the statement

that the illegal process of torture was used. The methods of the cunning man were really nothing else.

The woman was harried day and night by neighbors to bring her to confess.[10] At length she gave way and, in a series of reluctant confessions, told a crude story of her wrong-doings that bore some slight resemblance to the boy's tale, and involved the use of a spirit in the form of a dog.

Now it was that John Darrel came upon the ground eager to make a name for himself. Darling had been ill for three months and was not improving. Even yet some of the boy's relatives and friends doubted if he were possessed. Not so Darrel. He at once undertook to pray and fast for the boy. According to his own account his efforts were singularly blessed. At all events the boy gradually improved and Darrel claimed the credit. As for Alse Gooderidge, she was tried at the assizes, convicted by the jury, and sentenced by Lord Chief-Justice Anderson to imprisonment. She died soon after.[11] This affair undoubtedly widened Darrel's reputation.

Not long after, a notable case of possession in Lancashire afforded him a new opportunity to attract notice. The case of Nicholas Starchie's children provoked so much comment at the time that it is perhaps worth while to go back and bring the narrative up to the point where Darrel entered.[12] Two of Starchie's children had one day been taken ill most mysteriously, the girl "with a dumpish and heavie countenance, and with a certaine fearefull starting and pulling together of her body." The boy was "compelled to shout" on the way to school. Both grew steadily worse[13] and the father consulted Edmund Hartley, a noted conjurer of his time. Hartley quieted the children by the use of charms. When he realized that his services would be indispensable to the father he made a pretence of leaving and so forced a promise from Starchie to pay him 40 shillings a year. This ruse was so successful that he raised his demands. He asked for a house and lot, but was refused. The children fell ill again. The perplexed parent now went to a physician of Manchester. But the physician "sawe no signe of sicknes." Dr. Dee, the famous astrologer and friend of Elizabeth, was summoned. He advised the help of "godlie preachers."[14]

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