Drummer of Tedworth

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Drummer of Tedworth

A poltergeist manifestation that disturbed Magistrate John Mompesson's household at Tedworth, Wiltshire, England, from 1661 to 1663. It was believed to be caused by a vagrant drummer who was aggrieved at his drum being confiscated.

The drummer was William Drury, a vagrant who "went up and down the country to show hocus-pocus [juggling], feats of activity, dancing through hoops and such like devices." In March 1661 Drury was accused of using counterfeit documents and taken before a justice of the peace. Drury was freed, but his drum was confiscated, and during Mompesson's temporary absence of the drum was taken to the magistrate's house. When Mompesson returned, he was told that night after night thumping and drumming noises were heard in the house. An invisible drum beat the rhythms of "Roundsheads," "Cuckolds," and "Tat-too," and knocks were heard.

This was the beginning of a period of extraordinary phenomena, reminiscent of the claimed disturbances of the modern Amityville Horror. The drumming was heard inside and outside the house, children were lifted up in the air, a Bible was hidden in ashes, shoes flung at a man's head, and chamberpots emptied onto beds. Mysterious lights were seen, a servant was terrified by "a great body with two glaring eyes," and there were sulphurous smells and drops of blood. A horse was found with one of its rear legs forced into its mouth.

In 1663 Drury was arrested in Gloucester and charged with pig stealing. He was found guilty and sentenced to deportation instead of the customary penalty of hanging. For a time, the poltergeist phenomena ceased. However, Drury jumped over-board from the convict ship and escaped to Uffcot, a few miles from Tedworth. The poltergeist phenomena started again. Surprisingly enough, Drury also continued his earlier nuisance, acquiring a new drum and beating it recklessly. On the orders of Mompesson he was seized and jailed. This time Drury was accused of witchcraft, but was acquitted due to a lack of evidence. On the earlier charge of pig stealing he was found guilty and sentenced to deportation to Virginia. Once again, the phenomena ceased, this time for good.

The case was investigated by Joseph Glanvill and reported in his book Saducismus Triumphatus (1668). According to Glanvill;

"The noise of thumping and drumming was very frequent, usually five nights together, and then it would intermit three. It was on the outside of the house, which is most of it board. It constantly came as they were going to sleep, whether early or late. After a month's disturbance without, it came into the room where the drum lay, four or five nights in seven, within half an hour after they were in bed, continuing almost two. The sign of it, just before it came was an hurling in the air above the house, and at its going off, the beating of a drum like that at the breaking up of a guard.

"On the fifth of November, 1662, it kept a mighty noise, and a servant observing two boards in the children's room seeming to move, he bid it give him one of them. Upon which the board came (nothing moving it that he saw) within a yard of him. The man added, 'Nay, let me have it in my hand.' Upon which, it was shoved quite home to him. He thrust it back, and it was driven to him again, and so up and down, to and fro, at least twenty times together, till Mr. Mompesson forbade his servant such familiarities. This was in the daytime, and seen by a whole room full of people.

"Mr. Mompesson perceiving that it so much persecuted the little children, he lodged them at a neighbor's house, taking his eldest daughter, who was about ten years of age, into his own chamber, where it had not been a month before. As soon as she was in bed, the disturbance began there again, continuing three weeks drumming, and making other noises, and it was observed that it would exactly answer in drumming anything that was beaten or called for. After this, the house where the children were lodged out, happening to be full of strangers, they were taken home, and no disturbance having been known in the parlor, they were lodged there, where also their persecutor found them, but then only plucked them by the hair and night clothes without any other disturbance.

"After this, it was very troublesome to a servant of Mr. Mompesson's, who was a stout fellow and of sober conversation. This man lay within, during the greatest disturbance, and for several nights something would endeavor to pluck his clothes off the bed, so that he was fain to tug hard to keep them on, and sometimes they would be plucked from him by main force, and his shoes thrown at his head. And now and then he should find himself forcibly held, as it were bound hand and foot, but he found that whenever he could make use of his sword, and struck with it, the spirit quitted its hold.

"The drummer was tried at the Assizes at Salisbury upon this occasion. He was committed first to Gloucester Jail for stealing, and a Wiltshire man coming to see him, he asked what news in Wiltshire. The visitant said he knew of none. 'No,' saith the drummer, 'Do not you hear of the drumming at a gentleman's house at Tedworth?' 'That I do enough,' said the other. 'I,' quoth the drummer, 'I have plagued him (or to that purpose) and he shall never be at quiet, till he hath made me satisfaction for taking away my drum.' "

Glanvill reports: "During the time of the knocking, when many were present, a gentleman of the company said, 'Satan, if the drummer set thee to work, give three knocks and no more;' which it did very distinctly, and stopped."

Glanvill himself heard some of the unusual sounds, stating:

"At this time it used to haunt the children, and that as soon as they were laid in bed. I heard a strange scratching as I went up the stairs, and when we came into the room I perceived it was just behind the bolster of the children's bed, and seemed to be against the ticking. It was as loud a scratching as one with long nails could make upon a bolster. There were two little modest girls in the bed, between seven and eight years old, as I guessed. I saw their hands out of the clothes, and they could not contribute to the noise that was behind their heads; they had been used to it, and had still somebody or other in the chamber with them, and therefore seemed not to be much affrighted. I, standing at the bed's head, thrust my hand behind the bolster, directing it to the place whence the noise seemed to come, whereupon the noise ceased there, and was heard in another part of the bed; but when I had taken out my hand it returned, and was heard in the same place as before. I had been told it would imitate noises, and made trial by scratching several times upon the sheet, as five and seven and ten, which it followed, still stopping at my number." Glanvill searched the room and was unable to find any evidence of trickery.

Mr. Mompesson suffered as word of these manifestations spread. Those who did not believe in spirits and witches declared him an impostor; other people considered the visitations to be the judgment of God upon him for some wickedness or impiety. As a result, he was continually exposed to censure and harassed by the curious people who gathered around the house.

The essayist Joseph Addison (1672-1719) wrote a comedy on the affair, "The Drummer, or the Haunted House," first performed at Drury Lane Theater on April 14, 1713.

(See also Cock Lane Ghost )


Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist: A Study in Destructive Haunting. New York: Perigree Books, 1981.