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Sunday 27 February 2011

The Daemon of Tedworth

The picture above was taken by Paul Jackson while out for a walk yesterday near his home in Wiltshire. It shows Tedworth House, which was the scene of one of the best documented poltergeist cases of the seventeenth century. At that time, the house was owned by a man named Mompesson, who had a dispute in 1662 with a vagrant who had been a drummer in Cromwell's army -- resulting in the latter being sent to prison. While the drummer was incarcerated, Mompesson's house was subjected to a barrage of unexplained phenomena ranging from drummings and other noises to sulphurous smells, strange lights and objects being hurled around. These phenomena were blamed on the drummer, who was said to have used witchcraft to summon an evil spirit, or daemon -- hence the case has become known as "the Drummer of Tedworth" or "the Daemon of Tedworth".

The Tedworth case features prominently in Joseph Glanvill's book Saducismus Triumphatus: Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions, published posthumously in 1681. A facsimile of the first volume of this work is available online, but unfortunately the Tedworth "Case Study" appears in Volume 2!

However, there is a brief mention of the Tedworth Daemon in the publisher's introduction to Volume 1 (see extract on the left), in which he complains bitterly about skeptical non-believers... whom he refers to picturesquely as "Exploders of Apparitions and Witches".

Glanvill's book has another claim to fame, in that it was one of the shudderingly blasphemous tomes referred to by H .P. Lovecraft. Aficionados of HPL will be familiar with the way he scattered book references (both real and fictitious) throughout his stories. The following is taken from "The Festival" (1925):

"...I saw that the books were hoary and mouldy, and that they included old Morryster's wild Marvells of Science, the terrible Saducismus Triumphatus of Joseph Glanvill, published in 1681, the shocking Daemonolatreia of Remigius, printed in 1595 at Lyons, and worst of all, the unmentionable Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred..."

The Daemonolatreia is a real book like the Saducismus, while "old Morryster's Marvells of Science" was invented by Ambrose Bierce in his short story "The Man and the Snake" (1890)... and the Necronomicon, of course, is Lovecraft's own most notorious invention.

POSTSCRIPT 1/3/11... Further searching has uncovered an online copy of the second volume of the Saducismus, courtesy of Cornell University. The start of the Tedworth account can be found here. The following quote, referring to the attitude of skeptics, is particularly amusing: "But 'twas bad logick to conclude in matters of fact from a single negative, and such a one against numerous affirmatives... By the same way of reasoning, I may infer that there were never any robberies done on Salisbury Plain, Hounslow Heath, or the other noted places, because I have often travelled all those ways, and yet was never robbed; and the Spaniard inferred well that said there was no Sun in England, because he had been six weeks here, and never saw it."


Anonymous said...

Andrew, you posted a link to Joseph Glanvill's book Saducismus Triumphatus: Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions.

If you look at the top let picture on page 2, you will see that this is a representation of the "demon drummer" case.. you can clearly see the devil floating above the house with his drum. This image is often reproduced when people talk about the case.


Andrew May said...

I hadn't noticed that, but now I look you're quite right. I think I've seen all these pictures before somewhere.

It's a pity I couldn't find Volume 2 online, but with your downloading skills you might be able to!