2nd Update: St. Osyth's Haunted Witch Prison Nov 17, 2013 23:54:50 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Nov 17, 2013 23:54:50 GMT -5
St. Osyth: Haunted Witch Prison
Step into the strange world of witchcraft, torture and execution, where even today, the dead still roam. The Cage of St. Osyth, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, is 500-years-old. Tragedy, depression and suicide have plagued the many past residents of “The Cage.” Is it just coincidence, or the curse of tortured witches, who once languished there awaiting their final pitiful end. The Cage is infamous for the imprisonment of Ursula Kemp and Elizabeth Bennett, both of whom were accused of witchcraft and hanged in 1582.
During the infamous St. Osyth witch trials of 1582, 13 village women were accused of witchcraft and although many were imprisoned, only Kemp and Bennett were executed following a lengthy imprisonment in The Cage. Kemp, the most powerful and notorious of all the women, made a living as a nursemaid, midwife and healer and she also had a reputation for removing spells from folk who believed they were the victims of black magic. Many consulted her for potions to cure their ills.
Kemp ended up in prison after she was asked by Grace Thurlowe, a local women, to cure her son and Kemp succeeded. However, witnesses swore she had cured the lad by using incantations. Mrs. Thurlowe returned and this time asked Ursula to cure her arthritis and Kemp suggested a cure she claimed she had learned from an old wise women and requested a shilling in payment. However, Mrs. Thrulowe refused to pay and her arthritis worsened, at which point she complained to Lord Brain Darcy and the witch trials commenced.
Justice Darcy claimed Ursula made a full – but private – confession in which she said that approximately 10 years previous, she had experienced a “lameness in her bones” and consulted a local cunning woman who told her she had been bewitched. The woman recommended a ritual that included hog’s dung, charnell, sage and St. John’s wort. After performing the ritual, Kemp claimed she recovered. Afterward, two women consulted her for lameness and she helped them in the same manner she had been helped herself and they apparently recovered.
She also allegedly admitted to having four familiars that her son had mentioned: two male spirits, who killed people, and two female spirits, who brought sickness to people and destroyed cattle. She continued, claiming she sent her familiars to lame Grace Thurlow and to kill Joan Thurlow, Elizabeth Letherdale and Kemp’s own sister-in-law. She named 12 other women as witches, six of whom were hanged along with Kemp in 1582. Many of the accused freely confessed to the practice of witchcraft despite the knowledge their confessions meant death on the gallows. Ursula Kemp was hanged in Chelmsford.
In 1921, the skeletons of two women were discovered in a St. Osyth garden by Charles Brooker and one of the skeletons was believed to be that of Ursula Kemp. The “witches’s skeletons” became a local tourist attraction and an admission was charged to view it. In 2007, historian Alison Rowlands, who had researched the witch trials, said the skeletons could belong to any of 10 women who were executed for witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries. A more recent forensic study suggests the bones are from the Roman era.
It is generally accepted that the spirit of a condemned witch still haunts the prison where she was held. Vanessa Mitchell, owner of the cottage, as well as many paranormal investigators, believe there is definitely something otherworldly in the old building.
“I have seen three ghosts in there as clear as I could see someone living,” Mitchell claims. “I also experienced activity that was unexplainable to me – taps turning on and off, door latches rattling through the day and night, a Coke can whizzing across the table, objects disappearing then turning up in unusual places or not turning up at all ... something walking up and down the stairs in the night, physical touch, aggressive touch, voices as if people talking to each other.”
Sources: The Cage St. Osyth, Marion Gibson and "Bones of Contention" by Alison Rowlands.