Category Archives: Curiosities

Curiosities Horses

If you will have your horse fetch and carry a glove

These fragments come from The English Horseman (1607), a complete guide to horse ownership. What follows are some curious instructions on how to get a horse to perform tricks, such as fetching a glove, counting with its hooves, and pissing on demand.

I will shew you in this breefe relation, by the example of two or three tricks, how you shall make your Horse to doe any other action as well as any Dogge or Ape whatsoever, except it bee leaping upon your shoulders, climbing uppe houses, or untying knots, all which are contrary to the shape and strength of his greate body; but for fetching or carrying, (as commonly Dogges do) for counting numbers with his feete, or for chusing out any particular person amongst a multitude.

You shall therefore know, that if you will have your Horse fetch and carry, either Glove, Handkerchife, Hat, or any such like thing, you shall first bring your Horse to an especiall love, fear; and knowledge of your person by this meanes; You shall not suffer any Man whatsoever to rubbe, dresse, or so much as to speake to the Horse, but your selfe only, neither shall you let him have any foode, Drinke, or other nourishment, but what he receives from your hand, and to that end you shall continually keepe him in the Mussell, you shall seldome bee from him, but either picking or trimming him, you shall when you walke abroade, take him in a string abroade with you, and make him conversant and familiar with you, (suffering no other Man to give him either faire word or faire looke). If your Horse out of ignorance bee about to doe contrary to your will, then to use this word, Be wise, at which if he do not stay and take better deliberation, but wilfully pursue his error, then correct him and use this word Villayne or Traitor, or such like, so you use but one word; and when he doth as you woulde have him, cherrish him, and use this word So boy, and in a short space you shall bringe him to that knowledge that he will wholly be directed by those words and your commandement.

Then you may begin to teach him to fetch your glove, first by making him take your Glove into his mouth and holding it, then by letting the glove fall to the ground, and making him take it up, and lastly by throwing the glove a pretty way from you, and making him fetch it and deliver it unto you, & every time he doth to your contentment, yow shall give him two or three bits of bread, and when he offends you then two or three strokes.When your horse will receive your glove, take uppe your glove, and fetch your glove, you shall then make him carrie a Glove whether you will in this sort: first you shall make him receive it in his mouth, and then pointing out a place with your rod you shall say unto him Deliuer, and not leave repeating that word sometimes more sharpely, sometimes gently til he lay or at least bow his head down with it to that place where your rod pointed, and then you shall cherrish him, and give him bread.

Now if you will teach your Horse to reckon any number, by lifting up and pawing with his feete, you shall first with your rodde, by rapping him upon the shin, make him take his foote from the ground, and by adding to your rod one certaine word as Up: or such like. Now when he will take up his foote once, you shall cherrish him, & give him Bread, and when hee sets it uppon the ground, the first time you shall ever say one, then give him more bread, and after a little pause, labour him againe at every motion, giving him a bit of bread til he be so perfect, that as you lift up your rod, so he will lift up his foot, and as you move your rod downeward, so he will move his foot to the ground. Then you shall make him encrease his numbers at your pleasure, as from one to two, from two to three, and so fourth, till in the end hee will not leave pawing with his foote, so long as ever you move your rod up and downe.  Then you may adventure to bring him into any company or assembly, and making any Man thinke a number, and tell it you in your eare, you may bid the Horse tell you what number the man did thinke, and at the end of your speech bee sure to saye last Up: for that is as it were a Watch-worde to make him know what hee must doe, and whylest you are talking, you shall make him looke in your face, and so your eye dyrecting him unto your rodde, you may with the motions thereof, make him with his foot declare the number before thought by the by-stander. From this you may create a World of other toyes, as how many Maydes, howe many Fooles, how many Knaves, or how many Richmen are amongst a multitude of gazing persons.

Now to conclude, that you may make a Horse to pisse when you woulde have him (or at least to straine and move himselfe thereunto) or to leave pissing when you please, you shall for two dayes at the least, watch him, and keepe such distance of times, that hee may never pisse, but when you urge him, and to that end you shall once in two or three houres leade your horse uppe and downe upon straw, so softly, that hee may as it were but put out one foot and stand still, then another & stand still, your selfe continually saying unto him Pysse, Pysse, and thus you shall do if it be a whole day togither, till he do pisse or straine himselfe to pisse, and then you shall reward him with bread; and til he do pisse or straine himselfe to pisse, you shall neither moove him in any other lesson, nor let him taste foode though it were for a weeke together, and by this meanes after he understands your meaning, you shall no oftner say pisse, but he either will pisse, or straine himselfe to Pisse, and then at your pleasure acquainting him with a contrarie worde as No more or such like, which being spoken in threatning sort, and accompanied with correction, you shall make him staie his pissing when and as oft as you please. As this motion of pissing, so you may use him in his eating, drinking, or anie other naturall action, and though these appeare verie unnatural, yea even to horsemen themselves, yet they are as easie to bee effected, as anie toye whatsoever.
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Curiosities Death Women

No childe rightly shaped

These fragments from 1609 come from a disturbing account of the birth of a child in Kent.

It is not unknown to most part of the kingdome, that Sandwich is one of the principall townes in Kent, bordering upon the Sea, unto which towne now standeth a very olde house, being the dwelling place of one Goodwife Wattes, whose husband is a shepheard, a very honest poore old woman, well-beloved of the country, and of an honest conversation amongst her neighbours.

Upon the thirty of July last past, 1609, being Saturday, there came unto this old poore womans house, a certaine wandring young woman, great with child, handsome, and decently apparelled, and being not well able to travell further, by reason of her great belly, desired succour of this kind-hearted old woman Mother Watts.  Mother Watts not onely granted her houseroome and lodging for that night, but also sucker, helpe and furtherance at the painefull hour of her deliverie. This bigge belly wandring young woman, having thus by her humble intreaties obtained lodging, the very first night of her lying there, fell into a most strange labor, where her wombe was tormented with such greevous paine that it much affrighted the old woman Mother Watts, and she immediately called in her neighbours, being women all of a willing forwardness in such a business. But not any of them knew how to shift in such a dangerous case, wherefore amazedly they looked one of another, til such time as one goodwife Hatch, the younger, was sent for, being a Midwife of a milde nature, and of good experience, who at her comming thither, so cunningly shewed her skill, that with the helping hand of God, this distressed young woman was speedily delivered.

But her wombe yeelded forth into the world a kind of creature, but no childe rightly shaped, for it was most strange & dreadful to behold, and drove the Midwife goodwife Hatch and the rest of the company into a great fright, even readie to sinke downe dead to the ground with feare.  For it had no head, nor any signe or proportion thereof, there onely appeared as it were two faces, the one visibly to be seene, directly placed in the breast, where it had a nose, and a mouth, and two holes for two eyes, but no eyes, all which seemed ugly, and most horrible to be seene, and much offencive to humane nature to be looked upon. The other face was not perfectly to be seene, but retained a proportion of flesh in a great round lump, like unto a face quite disfigured, and this was all of that which could be discerned.  The face, mouth, eyes, nose, and breast, being thus framed together like a deformed peece of flesh seemed as it were a chaos of confusion, a mixture of things without any discription, from the breast downeward to the bowels it was smooth and straight, all the other parts of the body retained a most strange deformitie, for the armes grew out at the toppe of the shoulders, having neither joynt nor elbow, but round and fleshy, at the end of which armes grew two hands, with fifteene fingers, the one hand had eight, the other seaven, of a contrarie shape, not like to the naturall fingers of new borne children: also it had foureteene toes, of each foote seaven, beeing as it were like geese or ducks feete.

They were all strucken almost sencelesse: the Roome also where this childe lay, smelled so earthly (for it was dead borne) that not any of them all could hardly endure the scent thereof.  Among other remembrances, this is to be observed for a thing of strangenesse, that the woman her selfe confessed, that this monster, a little time before her delivery, moved in her belly not like unto other naturall children, but as shee had beene possessed with an evill spirit, which put her to extreame torments.  Not many hours passed, before the reports of this strange birth was bruited abroade, and the eares of the inhabitants thereabout dwelling, so filled with the newes thereof, that they came in multitudes to behold it, in such aboundance that it was wonderfull.

But now againe to our purpose. On Sunday beeing the last of July, this new delivered woman, in reason seeming to bee weake and sicklie, lying in her bed, desired the olde woman, her hostess Mother Wattes, to goe into the towne, & to buy such necessaries as was needefull for a weake woman in child-bed to have, giving her money for the same purpose, the which mother Watts most willingly did. But before Mother Watts could returne from Sandwich, which was in lesse time then two houres, she had got up out of her bed, put on all her cloathes, and was gone from the house, leaving behinde her eight shillings, lying uppon the Table, the child being dead, layde by it, with an intent that the money should pay for the burial of the same.  All which mother Watts her returne, beeing found in this order, seemed to bee an accident most strange, whereupon she immediately called in her neighbors, where with a generall consent, they certified the same unto the Magistrates, who upon good consideration together, with the advice of a reverend and learned Minister, of Saint Clements church in Sandwitch, one M. Simons, who verie charitably gave it buryall, & withall, giving many godly admonitions to the people, concerning this most strange birth.

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A horrible stinke in the Hall

These odd fragments come from a 17th century account of demonic possession.

Upon the 15th day of November now last past, 1641, there was a yeoman of good and honest reputation, dwelling in the towne of Edinbyres upon Darwent in the Bishopprick of Durham, whose name was Stephen Hooper.  A man of good wealth, his neighbours being sicke, and lying in a weake state, he sent his wife whose name was Margaret Hooper to a farme which hee had in a village some three miles off.  Thus continuing there one day, she returned home to her husband as if she had beene bewitched, or haunted with an evill Spirit, untill the Wednesday at night following, which night she tooke her rest something indifferently untill the morning, at which time she began with much vaine speech to disquiet her husband, and to use much idle talke.

Her husband seeing her in such a mind, and finding that she was, as it were desperate; he persuaded her to call upon God, & that being the Creature of God, she should not forget to call upon her Creator in the day of trouble, wherefore he councelled her to pray with him, and to say the Lords Prayer after him, which shee partly did.  But shee began with a very sterne and staring countenance to looke on her husband in most wonderfull sort, that he was sore affrighted, and he called for her sister for he was not able to keepe her in the bed. When her sister and others were come into the chamber, they kept her downe violently in her bed, and forthwith she was so sore tormented that she foamed at the mouth, and was shaken with such force, that the bed and the chamber did shake and move in most strange sort.  Thus she continued untill the Saturday following, in which time she continued raging, to the great griefe of her husband, friends, and neighbours.

Upon the Sunday she seemed to be very patient, and comfortable until midnight, at which time the candle which was set burning in the same chamber was burned.  She then suddainly awaking, called to her husband, and cryed out saying that she did see a strange thing like a snail, carrying fire. Whereat her husband was amazed, and seeing the candle was cleene burnt out, called to his brothers and sisters that were in the house, with other of their friends watching, and sitting up to comfort her, who came in, and brought a candle lighted, and set it upon the table, which stood neere where the woman lay.  She began to wax very fearefull, saying to her husband and the rest, ‘Do not you see the Devill?’ Whereat they desired her to remember God, and to call for grace that her faith might onely be fixed upon him to vanquish the Devill and his assaults. ‘If you see nothing now,’ quoth she, ‘you shall see something by and by.’ And forthwith they heard a great noise in the street, as if it had beene the coming of foure or five carts, and presently they in the chamber cryed out saying, ‘Lord helpe us, what manner of thing is this that commeth here?’

Then her husband looking up in his bed, espied a thing coming to the bed, much like a beare, but it had no head nor taile, halfe a yard in height, and halfe a yard in length.  Her husband seeing it come to the bed, rose up and tooke a stoole and stroke at the said thing.  The stroke founded as though he had strucken upon a feather-bed, then it came to the woman, and stroke her three times upon the feet, and tooke her out of the bed, and so rolled her too and fro in the chamber, and under the bed.  The people then present, to the number of seven persons, were so greatly amazed with this horrible sight, that they knew not what to do. The candle was so dim that they could scarcely see one another. At the last, this Monster, which wee supposed to be the Devill, did thrust the womans head betweene her leggs, and so rolled her like a hoope through the other chambers, downe a high paire of staires into the Hall, where he kept her the space of a quarter of an hour.

Her husband and they in the Chamber above, durst not come downe to her, but remained in prayer, weeping at the stairs head, grievously lamenting to see her so carried away.  There was such a horrible stinke in the Hall, and such fiery flames, that they were glad to stop their noses with clothes, and napkins.  Then the woman cryed out to her husband, ‘Now he is gone.’  Upon the suddain, she came up quickly. They greatly marveiled at it, then brought her to bed, and foure of them kept downe the clothes about the bed, and continued in prayer about her.  The candle in the Chamber could not burne cleare, but was very dimme.  Suddenly the woman was out of the bed and at the Window. The womans legs after a miraculous manner thrust out of the Window, so that they were clasped about the post in the middle of the Window betweene her legs.  The people of the Chamber heard a thing knock at her feet as if it had beene upon a tubb, and they saw a great fire at her feet, the stink whereof was horrible. The sorrowfull husband and his brother, imboldened themselves in the Lord, and did charge the Devill in the name of the Father, the Sonne, and the holy Ghost, to depart from her, and to trouble her no more, then they laid hands upon her, and cryed to the Lord, to helpe them.  Then the candle burned very brightly so that they might one see another, and the woman being in better feeling of her selfe was laid in her bed.  And she was thus so delivered of the evill spirit. And God be thanked she hath beene ever since in some reasonable order.

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Curiosities Death Family

She had a colour as fresh as a rose

These fragments come from a strange and troubling late 17th century account of a young girl who was dug up from her grave and put on public view by her father. Whether the exhumation took place to confirm the allegedly abusive behaviour of her employers, or whether her father had decided to exploit her death for financial gain, is a mystery.

There was a person who lived in Newgate-Street, a Servant, whose name was Grace Ashburne, a Hartfordshire woman, bound an apprentice to the wife of one Mr. Beachcroft, a Taylor, who now lives in Kings-head Alley in Newgate-Street. The wife of the person aforementioned was to instruct her in her art and trade of a Hood and Scarfe maker, which she did for a considerable time, although by relation of the neighbourhood, with many dry rubs and blows (which might possibly hasten her untimely End). This person, [Grace] was buryed on Christmas Eve last, and was heard by several neighbors most lamentably to groan and cry out in her grave, to the great astonishment of the neighbourhood; who upon complaint occasioned her to be taken out of her grave, after she had been buried four days.

Upon first taking out of the grave, several credible persons affirm that she was not only warm, but breathed, to the great astonishment of the beholders. Upon which her father (who is now a prisoner in the Fleet) caused her to be taken where some hundreds of spectators have been to view the dead corpse, amongst the multitude I myself was one.  She had a colour as fresh as a rose, nay more fresh than can possibly be conceived, yet on her arms she hath several bruises, and a scar on her head, which was reported to have been given her by her unkind master (through her mistresses perswasion) some months before her death.

Having been exposed to publick view for several hours, at a penny a piece, at a Smiths shop in the Long Walk near Christs Church Hospital, she was once more carried to her last home (the Grave).  A jury sat on her, who found the case so foul, that through some means they were contented to defer their evidence, or bring in their Verdict, until the Twenty Third of January.

In the time of this maids servitude she was much abused. Both master and mistriss were very harsh to her, as themselves cannot disown, unless they will contradict the whole neighbourhood. But to conclude, for certain the poor wench is dead, and her master is living, and her unkind dame too, who each of them live in one house in Newgate Street, in Kings head Alley, where any person may be informed of the truth of this relation.  For a truth, this I dare affirm, the poor girl was abused, and many times hath in the hearing of several, wished her self rather to be buryed alive, than to live under such hard and severe usage, and now her prayers have taken effect, let the world judge.

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