Category Archives: Crime

Crime Witchcraft

Four devils appeared unto her

These fragments come from early 17th century witchcraft trials. As a primary source, these accounts provide us with fascinating first-hand evidence of the complex and often baffling details of  narratives and accusations of witchcraft and demonic possession.

The Examination of Anne Baker of Bottesford in the County of Leicester, Spinster:

Shee saith, That she saw a hand appeare unto her, and that shee heard a voyce in the aire said unto her, Anne Baker, save thy selfe, for to morrow thou and thy Master must bee slaine. And the next day her Master and she were in a Cart together; and suddenly she saw a flash of fire, and she said her prayers, and the fire went away and shortly after a Crow came and picked upon her cloathes, and she said her prayers againe, and bade the Crow go to whom he was sent and the Crow went unto her Master, and did beat him to death, and she with her prayers recovered him to life; but he was sicke a fortnight after, and saith, that if she had not had more knowledge then her Master, both hee and shee and all the Cattell had beene slaine.

The said Anne Baker, confesseth before before Sir George Manners Knight, and Samuel Fleming Doctor of Divinity, that she hath a spirit which hath the shape of a white dogge, which she calleth her good spirit.


The Examination of Joane Willimot:

This Examinat saith, That upon Friday night last, her Spirit came to her and told her that there was a bad woman at Deeping who had given her soule to the Devill: and that her said Spirit did then appeare unto her in a more ugly forme then it had formerly done, and that it urged her much to give it something. She saith, that shee hath a Spirit which shee calleth Pretty, which was given unto her by William Berry of Langholme in Rutland shire, whom she served three yeares, and that her Master when he gave it unto her, willed her to open her mouth, and hee would blow into her a Fairy which should do her good; and that she opened her mouth; and he did blow into her mouth and presently after his blowing, there came out of her mouth a Spirit, which stood upon the ground in the shape and forme of a woman, which Spirit did aske of her her soule, which she then promised unto it, being willed thereunto by her Master. She further confesseth, That she never hurt any body, but did helpe divers that sent for her, which were stricken or fore-spoken: and that her Spirit came weekely to her and would tell her of divers persons which were stricken and fore spoken. And she saith, That the use which shee had of the Spirit was to know, how those did which she had undertaken to amend; and that she did helpe them by certaine prayers which shee used, and not by her owne Spirit: neither did she imploy her Spirit in any thing, but onely to bring word how those did which she had undertaken to cure.

Shee saith further, That Gamaliel Greete of Waltham in the said County Shepherd, had a Spirit like a white Mouse put into him, in his swearing; and that if he did looke upon any thing with an intent to hurt, it should be hurt, and that he had marke on his left, arme, which was cut away; and that her owne Spirit did tell her all this before it went from her.

Further shee saith, That Joane Flower, Margaret Flower, and she, did meet about a weeke before Joane Flowers apprehension in Blackborrow hill, and went from thence home to the said Joane Flowers house and there shee saw two Spirits, one like a Rat, and the other like an Owle; and one of them did sucke under her right eare, as she thought: and the said Joane told her, that her Spirit did say, she could neither be hanged nor burnt.


The Examination of Ellen Greene of Stathorne in the County of Leicester:

She saith, That one Joane Willimot of Goadby came about sixe yeares since, to her in the Wowlds, and perswaded this Examinate to forsake God, and betake her to the Devill, and she would give her two Spirits, to which she gave her consent and thereupon the said Joane Willimot called two Spirits, one in the likenes of a Kitlin, and the other of a Moldiwarp, the first the said Willmot called Pusse, the other Hiffe, hiffe, and they presently came to her, and she departing left them with this Examinate, and they lept on her shoulder, and the Kitlin suckt under her right eare on her necke, and the Moldiwarp on the left side, in the like place. After they had suckt her, shee sent the Kitlin to a Baker of that Towne, whose name she remembers not, who had called her Witch and bade her said Spirit goe and bewitch him to death: the Moldiwarp she then bade goe to Anne Dawse of the same Towne, and bewitch her to death, because shee had; called this Examinate Witch, whore, jade, &c. and within one fortnight after they both died.

About three yeares since, this Examinate removed thence to Stathorne, where she now dwelt: upon a difference betweene the said Willimot and the wife of John Patchet of the said Stathorne Yeoman, she the said Willimot called her this Examinate to goe and touch the said John Patchets wife and her childe, which she did, touching the said John Patchets wife in her bed, and the child in the Grace-wifes armes, and then sent her said Spirits to bewitch them to death, which they did, and so the woman lay languishing by the space of a moneth and more, for then she died; the child died the next day after she touched it.


The Examination of Margaret Flower:

She saith and confesseth, That about foure or five yeare since her mother sent her, for the right hand glove of Henry Lord Rosse, afterward that her mother bade her go againe into the Castle of Bever, and bring downe the glove or some other thing of Henry Lord Rosse, and she askt what to do? Her mother replied, to hurt my Lord Rosse: whereupon she brought downe a glove, and delivered the same to her mother, who stroked Rutterkin her Cat with it; after it was dipt in hot water, and so prickt it often, after which Henry Lord Rosse fell sicke within a weeke, and was much tormented with the same.

Shee further faith, That finding a glove about two or three yeares since of Francis Lord Rosse, on a dunghill, shee delivered it to her mother, who put it into hot water and after tooke it out and rubd it on Rutterkin the Cat, and bad him goe upwards, and after her mother buried it in the yard, and said a mischiefe light on him, but hee will mend againe.

Shee further confesseth, that by her mothers commandment, she brought to her a piece of a handkerchiefe of the Lady Katherine the Earles daughter, and her mother put it into hot water, and then taking it out, rubd it on Rutterkin, bidding him flie, and goe; whereupon Rutterkin whined and cried Mew: whereupon she said, that Rutterkin had no power over the Lady Katherine to hurt her.

Margaret Flower, at the same time confesseth, that she hath two familiar Spirits sucking on her, the one white, the other blacke spotted; the white sucked under her left breast, and the blacke spotted within the inward parts of her secrets. When she first entertained them she promised them her soule, and they covenanted to do all things which shee commanded them.

She further saith, That about the 30th of January last past, being Saturday, foure Devills appeared unto her in Lincolne Jayle, at eleven or twelve a clocke at midnight: The one stood at her beds feet, with a blacke head like an Ape, and spake unto her, but what, she cannot well remember, at which she was very angry because hee would speake no plainer, or let her understand his meaning: the other three were Rutterkin, Little Robin, and Spirit; but she never mistrusted them, nor suspected her selfe till then.

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Crime Execution Family Murder

A most unnatural father

These fragments come from an account of a murder committed by John Rowse in 1621. The killing of children was, as ever, regarded with abject horror, but what I find interesting about this particular account is the genuine sympathy extended to Mr Rowse, perhaps marking a move in this period towards attempts to understand mitigating circumstances and psychological torment in certain criminal cases.

This John Rowse being a Fishmonger in London, gave over his trade, and lived altogether in the Towne of Ewell, neere Nonesuch, in the County of Surry, ten miles from London, where he had Land of his owne for himselfe and his heires for ever to the value of fifty pounds a yeere, with which hee lived in good and honest fashion, being well reputed of all his neighbours, and in good estimation with Gentlemen and others that dwelt in the adjoyning Villages.

Untill at the last he married a very honest and comely woman, with whom hee lived quietly and in good fashion some six months, till the Divell sent an instrument of his, to disturbe their Matrimoniall happinesse: for they wanting a Maidservant, did entertain into their house a Wench, whose name was Jane Blundell, who in short time was better acquainted with her Masters bed than honesty required, which in time was found out and knowne by her Mistris, and brake the peace, in such sort, betweene the said Rowse and his Wife, that in the end, after two yeeres continuance, it brake the poore womans heart, that she dyed & left her Husband a widdower, where he and his Whore were the more free to use their cursed contentments, and ungodly embracements.

Yet that estate of being unmarried was displeasing to him, so that he tooke to wife another woman, who for her outward feature, and inward qualities was every way fit for a very honest man, although it were her hard fortune to match otherwise.

With this last Wife of his he lived much discontented, by reason of his keeping his lewd Trollop in his house, so that by his dayly Riot, excessive drinking, & unproportionable spending, his estate began to be much impoverished, much of his Land morgag’d and forfeited, himselfe above two hundred pounds indebted, and in processe of time to be (as a lewd liver) of all his honest neighbours rejected and contemned.

His estate and credit being almost past recoverie wasted and impaired, he forsooke his Wife, came up to London with his Wench, where he fell in league with a corrupted friend; who (as he said) did most courteously coozen him of all that ever he had, & whom at this time I forbeare to name; because it was John Rowse his request before his execution, that he should not be named in any Booke or Ballad. This false friend of his (as he said) did perswade him to leave his Wife for altogether, and did lodge and boord him and his paramore certaine weekes in his house, and afterward caused him and her to be lodged (having chang’d his name) as Man and Wife in an honest mans house neere Bishopsgate, at Bevis Marks, where they continued so long, till his money was gone, (as indeede he never had much, but now and then small petty summes from his secret friend aforesaid) and he being fearefull to bee smoak’d out by his Creditors, was counselled to leave his Country, and depart for Ireland; and before his going over-Sea, his friend wrought so, that all his Land was made ouer in trust to him, and Bonds, Covenants, and Leases made, as fully bought and sold for a summe of two hundred and threescore pounds.

In Ireland he stayd not long, but came over againe, and was by his friend perswaded to goe into the Low Countries: which he did, never minding his Wife and two small Children which he had by her, having likewise a brace of bastards by his Whore (as some say) but he said that but one of them was of his begetting. He came over againe into England to his too deare friend, demanding of him his Bonds and Leases of his Land which hee had put him in trust withall.  But then his friend did manifest himselfe what he was, and told him plainly, that he had no writings, not any Land of his, but what hee had dearely bought and paid for. All which (Rowse replyed unto him) was false, as his owne Conscience knew.

These (or the like) words, in effect passed betwixt Rowse and his Friend (Trusty Roger) which entring at his eares, pierced his heart like Daggers; and beeing out of money and Credit, a man much infamous for his bad life, indebted beyond all possible meanes of paiment; a perjured wretch to coozen himselfe, having no place or meanes to feede or lodge, and fearefull of being arrested, having so much abused his Wife, and so little regarded his Children, being now brought to the pits brim of desperation, not knowing amongst these calamities which way to turne himselfe, hee resolved at last to goe home to Ewell againe to his much wronged Wife, for his last refuge in extremitie.

The poore Woman received him with joy, and his Children with all gladnesse welcomed home the prodigall Father, with whom he remained in much discontentment and perplexitie of minde: the Divell still tempting him to mischiefe and despaire; putting him in minde of his better estate, comparing pleasures past with present miseries, and hee resolving that hee had beene a man in that Townem had beene a Gentlemans companion, of good Reputation and Calling, that hee had Friends, Lands, Money, Apparell, and Credit, with meanes sufficient to have left for the maintenance of his Family, and that now he had nothing left him but poverty and beggery, and that his two Children were like to be left to go from doore to doore for their living.

Being thus tormented and tost with restlesse imaginations; hee seeing dayly to his further griefe, the poore case of his children, and fearing that worse would befall them hereafter, hee resolved to worke some meanes to take away their languishing lies, by a speedy & untimely death, the which practise of his (by the Divels instigation and assistance) he effected as followeth.

To bee sure that no body should stop or prevent his divellish enterprise; hee sent his Wife to London in a frivolous errand, for a riding Coate: and she being gone somewhat timely, and too soone in the morning, both her Children being in bed and fast asleepe, beeing two very pretty Girles, one of the age of sixe yeeres, and the other foure yeeres old, none being in the house but themselves, their unfortunate Father, and his ghostly Counsellor, the dores being fast locked, hee having an excellent Spring of water in the Cellar of his house in which hee purposed to drowne his poore innocent children sleeping: for he going into the Chamber where they lay, took the yongest of them named Elizabeth forth of her bed, and carried her down the Stayres into his Cellar, and there put her in the Spring of Water, holding downe her head under that pure Element with his hands, till at last the poore harmelesse soule and body parted one from another.

Which first Act of this his inhumane Tragedy being ended, hee carried the dead corps up three payre of stayres, and laying it downe on the floore, left it, and went down into the Chamber where his other Daughter, named Mary, was in bed; being newly awaked, and seeing her father, demanded of him where her Sister was? To whom he made answer that he would bring her where she was. So taking her in his armes, hee carried her downe towards the Cellar: and as hee was on the Cellar stayres, shee asked him what he would doe, and whither he would carry her? Feare nothing, my Child (quoth hee) I will bring thee up againe presently: and being come to the Spring, as before hee had done with the other, so hee performed his last unfatherly deed upon her, & to be as good as his word, carried her up the stayres & laid her by her sister; that done, he laid them out, and covered them both with a sheete, walking up and downe his house, weeping and lamenting his owne misery.

The miserable Mother of the murdered Children said that her heart throbbed all day, as fore-boading some heavy mischance to come: and having done her businesse that shee came about to London, as soone as shee came home, she asked for her Children, to whom her Husband answered that they were at a neighbours house in the Towne. Then said she, I will goe thither to fetch them home. No quoth he, I will goe my selfe presently for them. Then said his wife, let the poore woman that is heere goe and bring them home. Then her Husband told her that hee had sent them to a Kinsmans of his at a Village called Sutton, foure miles from Ewell, and that hee had provided well for them, and prayd her to bee contented and feare nothing, for they were well. These double tales of his, made her to doubt somwhat was amisse: therefore shee intreated him for Gods sake to tell her truely where they were. Whereupon he said, If you will needs know where they are, goe but up the staires into such a Chamber, and there you shall finde them. But in what a lamentable perplexity of mind the poore woman was when shee perceived how and which way they lost their lives, any Christian that hath an heart of flesh may imagine.

Presently the Constable was sent for, who tooke him into his custody, who amongst other talke, demanded of him why and how hee could commit so unnaturall a fact, as to murder his Children? To whom he answered, that he did it, because he was not able to keepe them, and that hee was loth they should goe about the Towne a begging: and moreover, that they were his owne, and being so, that hee might doe what hee would with them, and that they had their lives from him, and therefore he had taken their lives from them, and was contented to lose his life for them: for he was sure that their miseries were past, and for his part, he had an assured hope to goe to them, though they could not come to him.

So being had before a Justice, his Examination was very briefe; for he confest all the whole circumstances of the matter freely; so that he was sent to the common Prison of Surry, cal’d the White Lyon, where hee remained fourteene or fifteene weekes a wonderfull penitent Prisoner, never, or very seldome, being without a Bible or some other good booke meditating upon; and when any one did but mention his Children, he would fetch a deep sigh, and weepe, desiring every one to pray for him and upon his owne earnest request, he was praide for at Pauls Crosse, and at most of the Churches in London, and at many in the Country, and at the Sessions holden at Croydon, the latter end of June last, he made such free confession at the Barre, declaring the manner of his life, his odious Drinking, his abominable Whoring, his cruell Murther, and the false dealing of his deceitfull friend, which was the cause of his finall wracke: with which Relations of his pronounced, with such vehemency and protestations, he moved all that heard him to commiseration and pitie.

So, according to Law and Justice, he was there condemned and judged (for the murthering of his two Children) to be hang’d; which Judgement was executed on him at the common Gallowes at Croydon, on Munday the second day of June.’

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Crime Curiosities Death Murder

The haunting of Isabel Binnington

These fragments come from a pamphlet entitled A Strange and wonderfull discovery of a horrid and cruel murther committed fourteen years since upon the person of Robert Eliot, of London, at Great Driffield in the East-Riding of the county of York (1662). The murder was discovered, ‘in September last by the frequent Apparitions of a Spirit in several shapes and habits unto Isabel Binnington, the Wife of William Binnington, the now Inhabitants in the house where this most execrable murther was committed,’ and the pamphlet includes details of the conversations which passed between the ghost and Isabel Binnington, recorded under oath before two Justices of the Peace.

The Examinant sworn and examined, saith, That she and her Husband William Bennington came to the house where she now dwells (being the house of one Mr. Belt of Hull) about the beginning of June last, And saith, that in that house on the 23 of August last, as she was sitting by her fire-side, having also a Candle lighted by her, betwixt the hours of 8 and 9 at night there appeared unto her a Spirit having long flaxen hair in green cloaths, and bare-footed, and without a hat; she conceived that it was some wandering person that might have come for Lodging, and thereupon asked it, saying, What art thou? Thereupon it removed somewhat nearer unto her: then she begun to be sore affrighted, and said, In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy-Ghost, If thou wouldest have any thing, speak, Then it said, Fourteen years have I wandered in this place, suffering wrong three times, and seven years I have to wander, twenty one years is my time. Then it went into the parlour, and came again about a quarter of an hour after and said, Be thou not afraid of me, I will never hurt thee, and thou shalt never want. Then it vanished, glideing away without any motion of steps. It had appeared to her three times before, First resembling a man, and secondly resembling a boy about twelve years old.’

‘On Sunday August the 24 (which was the fifth time that it appeared) it said nothing, nor she to it, it was about eight or nine of the clock at night on Wednesday following, being the 27 at the usual time it appeared to her again in white, like a winding sheet, then she said, If thou wouldest have any thing, speak: then it began, My life was taken from me betwixt eight and nine of the clock at night in this place, she asked what place, it answered, In the Chamber, & I received my Grave betwixt twelve and one. And so it went away. On Friday following it appeared to her again about the usual time, and she said to it, I pray thee tell me thy name.  It said My name is Robert Elliot. Then she said, I desire thee to tell me who took thy life. It replied, I was knock’d in the head fourteen years since in my bed by three women, Mary Burton, Alice Colson the elder, and Anne Harrison. On the Saturday next it appeared to her again in white, and then desired that there might be made a bright fire of Coles in the place where she pulled up the stakes and found the bones, then she desired it to tell its Fathers name? To which it replied My Father’s name was Jacob Elliot and my Mother’s Rebecca, and my Father was a Hackney-Coachman in London.’

‘On Sunday the 31, about five of the clock in the afternoon it appeared to her again in white, and said, Blessed be the time that ever this fire was made, and blessed be they that gave consent to the making of it, for the Stake is now as warm at the root in my heart, as my heart was when the Stake was striken through it. On Monday the first of September about ten of the clock in the forenoon it appeared to her again, in the same likeness, and spoke to her to this effect. That he was an Apprentice to a Raft-man, and that he came into the Countrey about his Masters business, and that he came to this house for lodging, and that Mary Burton was very unwilling to lodge him, and that he demanded of her three and twenty pounds, which he had lent her three years before; and that they had some cross words about it, and that he was killed that very night in his bed, by the said three Women, and that the said Mary Burton took out of his pocket three and twenty shillings in monies, which she gave to her Maid, and two Gold Rings which were his Grandmothers, and one Silver Rings which was his Mothers, and some Writings which concerned his business, which shortly after she carried with her near to London, and by vertue of them she demanded certain things of his Sister which belonged to him, viz. a Rug, worth about four and twenty shillings, and a silver Tankerd, worth about five nobles, which they gave her, and she sold them in London: his eldest sister Kate delivered them, It said no more at that time, She observed that it spake altogether the Southern speech.’

‘This Examinant also saith, That at one time she desired it that it would speak to others, and it said that until seven years were expired it could not speak with any other, but it would be seen by divers in its own likeness. The Examinant being further questioned concerning the digging in the place where the murthered Person is supposed to have been buryed, saith, That sweeping in the room, she perceived some loose mold in the floor, and thereupon said to some of her neighbours with her, that there might possibly be some money hid there, but made no further search at that time, but at another time finding a hole in the place she begun to digg in it with her knife, which casually fell out of her hand into the hole, thereupon she took a piece of a broken dish wherewith she cast up the earth, and made a hole till she came at a Stake of wood, which she pulled up by the half (for it was so rotten that it broke) and burnt it, and digged further til she came at a great stone under which she found certain bones (viz.) A scalp or head; some of the teeth, and other bones, which she supposeth might be of a man. Before the digging in this place she never saw the Spirit, she never knew any of the persons which the Spirit named, nor ever heard of them before.’

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Crime Execution Murder Women

The Last Speech and Confession of Sarah Elestone

These fragments come from the last speech and confession of Sarah Elestone who was burned to death for killing her husband in 1678.

‘In Three-Faulken-Court, over against St. Margarets-hill, in Southwark, lately lived one Sarah Elestone, the late Wife of Thomas Elestone, a Felt-maker: a man very laborious in his calling, aged about forty years, and his Wife forty-six years old.  They lived many years very contentedly, she assisting him in his calling in what she was able, till such time as falling into the acquaintance of some lewd women, she was drawn to commit that filthy sin of drunkenness, which after a little practising of it, she became harden’d in it, and learn’d to swear by her Maker and to prophain the Lords Day, and hate good men.  Such an alteration there was perceived in her, that several of her Husbands acquaintance desired him to do all that he could to reclaim her, telling him also that it was his duty, to which he answered That he hoped God would turn her from these evil courses, but he for his part could do no good with her, for she was so obstinate, that the more he said to her the worse she was.  So that seeing he could not prevail by fair means, he sought some other way, as keeping her bare of money, but then she ran him in debt, and took up money at the Tally-shops, he having notice of it, told them if they trusted her any more he would not pay them: upon which she resolved of another way, which was to sell her goods, which she did by degrees, till they had scarce a Chair to sit on, or a bed to lye on.  This so perplexed her Husband, that he resolved to beat her out of this wicked course, and to that end did sometimes chastize her with blows, which she was not wanting to repay. So much was their fury sometimes, that their neighbours hath been forced to part them at all hours in the night.

In this like manner they lived for some years, which so troubled and disturbed the patience of the man; that oft he hath been heard to wish himself dead, or that he had been buried alive that day he was married to her, and she wicked and graceless soul would many times in cold blood threaten him, that at one time or other she would kill him; which proved to be too true, for she having been out with her Gossips, and having got a cup too much as it was thought, comes and finds her husband at work. She demands some money of him, and withall tells him That if he will not give her some presently she would be the Death of him. He seeing her in that condition, took her and thrust her down stairs, and shuts the door, and to work again.  Within a little time after when he thought her heat was over, he goes down in his shift as he was at work, intending to drink. She meets him at the stairs foot, and with one side of a pair of sheers gave him a mortal wound on the breast, of which he immediately dyed, upon which she presently fled. Her Husband being quickly found, Hue and Cry was made after her, and that night about twelve a clock she was taken by the Old-street Watch, to whom she confessed the fact, she had her Tryal at the Marshalses at the Assizes, beginning on the 22 day of March, last past, where she was condemned by Law to be burn’d to ashes for this horrid and bloody crime.

After sentence was past, she begged some time to sit and prepare her self, which was granted, as also to two other Malefactors. During her imprisonment she hath had several Ministers to visit her who laid open the haniousness of her sins, especially that of Murther.  She for the most part seemed but little concerned, many times talking of other things when they prayed for her, but a day or two before her Execution it pleased God to awaken her and to discover her sins unto her, and the need she stood in of an interest in the Lord Jesus. Which made her the willinger to dye, finding that it was according both to the Law of God and Man: and hoping that the Lord Jesus would have mercy on her poor sinful Soul. Now she loved good men, good discourse, and often cryed out what should she do to be saved: when she came to the place of Execution and beheld the Fagots, she cryed, O Lord for Jesus sake let this be my last burning. O that God would give me an assurance of the pardon of my sins, and blot out the black lines of my sins with the Red lines of Christs blood. Her last words were to exhort all good people to fear God, to keep the Sabbath-day, to refrain idle company, to have a care how they take the Name of the Lord in vain.  Thus with a few Ejaculatory Prayers, she concluded with that saying Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.  Having thus said, the Executioner doing his Office, stopped the Atropos of her Speech, and her body was consumed to ashes in the Flames.’

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