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The Devils of Loudun, by Edmund Goldsmid, [1887], at

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Instances sent me (Baxter) from the Duke of Lauderdale; more in other Letters of his I gave away, and some Books of Forreign Wonders he sent me.


It is sad that the Sadducean, or rather atheistical denying of spirits, or their apparitions, should so far prevail; and sadder, that the clear testimonies of so many ancient and modern authors should not convince them. But why should I wonder, if those who believe not Moses and the prophets, will not believe though one should rise from the dead? One great cause of the hardening of these infidels is, the frequent impostures which the Romanists obtrude on the world

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in their exorcisms and pretended miracles. Another is the too great credulity of some who make everything witchcraft which they do not understand; and a third may be the ignorance of some judges and juries, who condemn silly melancholy people upon their own confession, and perhaps slender proofs. None of these three can be denied, but it is impertinent arguing to conclude, that because there have been cheats in the world, because there are some too credulous, and some have been put to death for witches, and were not, therefore all men are deceived. There is so much written, both at home and abroad, so convincingly, and by so unquestionable authors, that I have not the vanity to add any thing, especially to you; but because you have desired me to tell you the story of the nuns at Loudun, and some others, I shall first tell you of a real possession near the place I was born in; next of disquietings by spirits, (both of which I had from unquestionable testimonies) and then I shall tell you what I saw at Loudun, concerning that which I do not doubt to call a pretended possession, sure I am a cheat. About 30 years ago, when I was a boy at school, there was a poor woman generally believed to be really possessed. She lived near the town of Duns, in the Mers, and Mr John Weems, then minister of Duns, (a man known by his works to be a learned man, and I knew him to be a godly honest man,) was perswaded she was possessed. I have heard him many times speak with my father about it,

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and both of them concluded it a real possession. Mr Weems visited her often, and being convinced of the truth of the thing, he, with some, neighbour ministers, applied themselves to the king's privy council for a warrant to keep days of humiliation for her; but the bishops being then in power, would not allow any fasts to be kept. I will not trouble you with many circumstances; one I shall only tell you, which I think will evince a real possession. The report being spread in the country, a knight of the name of Forbes, who lived in the north of Scotland, being come to Edinborough, meeting there with a minister of the north, and both of them desirous to see the woman, the northern minister invited the knight to my father's house, (which was within ten or twelve miles of the woman) whither they came, and next morning went to see the woman. They found her a poor ignorant creature, and seeing nothing extraordinary, the minister says in Latin to the knight, to "Nondum audivimus spiritum loquentem." Presently a voice comes out of the woman's mouth, "Audi, loquentem, audis loquentem." This put the minister into some amazement, (which I think made him not mind his own Latin,) he took off his hat, and said, "Misereatur Deus pectatoris;" the voice presently out of the woman's mouth said, "Dic peccatricis, dic peccatricis;" whereupon both of them came out of the house fully satisfied, took horse immediately, and returned to my father's house at

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[paragraph continues] Thirlestoane Castle, in Lauderdale, where they related this passage. This I do exactly remember. Many more particulars might be got in that country, but this Latin criticism, in a most illiterate ignorant woman, where there was no pretence to dispossessing, is evidence enough, I think.

Within these 30 or 40 years, there was an unquestionable possession in the United Provinces; a wench that spoke all the languages, of which I have heard many particulars when I lived in the Low Countries. But that being forreign, I will not insist on it.

As to houses disquieted with noises, I shall tell you one that happened since I was a married man, and hint at more, which, if you please, I can get you authentically attested.

Within four miles of Edinborough, there lived an aged godly minister, one that was esteemed a Puritan; his son, now minister of the same place, and then ordained his assistant. Their house was extraordinarily troubled with noises, which they and their family, and many neighbours (who for divers weeks used to go watch with them) did ordinarily hear. It troubled them most on the Saturday night, and the night before their weekly lecture day. Sometimes they would hear all the locks in the house, on doors and chests, to fly open; yea, their cloaths, which were at night locked up into trunks and chests, they found in the morning all hanging about the walls. Once they

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found their best linnen taken out, the table covered with it, napkins as if they had been used, yea, and liquor in their cups as if company had been there at meat. The rumbling was extraordinary; the good old man commonly called his family to prayer when it was most troublesome, and immediately it was converted into gentle knocking, like the modest knock of a finger; but as soon as prayer was done, they should hear excessive knocking, as if a beam had been heaved by strength of many men against the floor. Never was there voice or apparition; but one thing was remarkable (you must know that it is ordinary in Scotland to have a half cannon-bullet in the chimney-corner, on which they break their great coals,) a merry maid in the house, being accustomed to the rumblings, and so her fear gone, told her fellow maid-servant that if the devil troubled them that night, she would brain him, so she took the half cannon-bullet into bed; the noise did not fail to awake her, nor did she fail in her design, but took up the great bullet, and with a threatning, threw it, as she thought, on the floor, but the bullet was never more seen; the minister turned her away for meddling and talking to it. Alt these particulars I have had from the mouth of the minister, now living; he is an honest man, of good natural parts, well bred both in learning and by travel into foreign parts in his youth. I was not in the country myself during the time, but I have it from many other witnesses; and my father's

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steward lived then in a house of mine, within a mile of the place, and sent his servants constantly thither; his son now serves me, who knows it.

I could tell you an ancienter story before my time, in the house of one Burnet, in the north of Scotland, where strange things were seen, which I can get sufficiently attested, Also in the southwest border of Scotland, in Annandale, there is a house called Powdine, belonging to a gentleman called Johnston; that house hath been haunted these 50 or 60 years. At my coming to Worcester, 1651, I spoke with the gentleman, (being myself quartered within two miles of the house,) he told me many extraordinary relations consisting in his own knowledge; and I carried him to my master, to whom he made the same relations,—noises and apparitions, drums and trumpets heard before the last war, yea, he said that some English soldiers quartered in his house were soundly beaten by that irresistible inhabitant; (this last I wondered at, for l rather expected he should have been a remonstrater, and opposed the resistance,) and within this fortnight Mr. James Sharp was with me, (him you know, and he is now at London,) he tells me that spirit now speaks, and appears frequently in the shape of a naked arm; but other discourses took me off from further inquiry. These things I tell you in obedience to your desire, hut as I said before, I desire them not to be printed. Atheists are not to be convinced by stories; their own senses will no more

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convert them than sense will convert a papist from transubstantiation; and Scottish stories would make the disaffected jeer Scotland, which is the object of acorn enough already.

When I was in Dorsetshire, prisoner, one Mr Jo. Hodder, minister of Hauke-church, in that county, told me of strange apparitions and unquestionable evidences of the actings of spirits in a house, yea, a religious house of that county, of which he was himself an ear and eye-witness.

In Dorchester also, the son of a Reverend Mr Jo. White, (who was assessor to the Assembly at Westminster,) told me many particulars of that house in Lambeth, where his father lived in the time of the Assembly, which then was unquestionably haunted with spirits. I do well remember I dined with old Mr White there one day, and at dinner he told me much of it; and that that morning the spirit called up the maid to lay the beef to the fire. Of the two last you may be satisfied when you please: and at this present I am told that there is a house at Folie-John-Park, not three miles from the place, haunted with spirits.

But I must leave room for my Loudun nuns, and not write a book. In the year 1637, being at Paris in the spring, the city was so full of the possession of a whole cloyster of nuns, and some laick wenches at Loudun, books printed, and strange stories told, that few doubted it; and I, who was perswaded such a

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thing might be, and that it was not impossible the devil could possess a nun as well as another, doubted it as little as any body. So coming into that country, I went a day's journey out of my way to satisfy my curiosity. Into the chappel I came in the morning of a holy day, and with as little prejudice as any could have, for I believed verily to have seen some strange sights; but when I had seen exorcising enough of three or four of them in the chappel, and could hear nothing but wanton wenches singing bandy songs in French, I began to suspect a fourbe, and in great gravity went to a jesuite, and told him I had come a great way in hope to see some strange thing, and was sorry to be disappointed. He commended my holy curiosity, and after he had thought a while, he desired me to go to the Castle, and from thence, at such an hour, to the parish church, and I should be satisfied. I wondered at his correspondence, yet gravely went where he directed me. In the Castle I saw little, but in the parish church I saw a great many people gazing, and a wench pretty well taught to play tricks, yet nothing so much as I have seen twenty tumblers and rope-dancers do. Back I came to the nuns chappel, where I saw the jesuits still hard at work, at several altars, and one poor capuchin, who was an object of pity, for he was possessed indeed with a melancholy fancy that devils were running about his head, and constantly was applying relicks. I saw the mother superior exorcised, and saw the hand on which they

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would have made us believe the names I. H. S. Maria Joseph were written by miracles; (but it was apparent to me it was done with aquafortis) then my patience was quite spent, and I went to a jesuit and told him my mind freely. He still maintained a real possession, and I desired for a tryal, to speak a strange language. He asked, "What language?" I told him, "I would not tell; but neither he nor all those devils should understand me." He asked, "If I would be converted upon the tryal?" (for I had discovered I was no papist.) I told him, "That was not the question, nor could all the devils in hell pervert me i but the question was, if that was a real possession, and if any could understand me, I shall confess it under my hand." His answer was, "These devils have not travelled;" and this I replied to with a loud laughter, nor could I get any more satisfaction; only in the town I heard enough that it was a cheat invented to burn a curate, (his name, as I take it, was Cupiff,) and the man had been really burned to ashes as a witch, but the people said it was for his conversion from them. At my coming to Saumar next day, my countryman, Dr, Duncan, Principle of the College at Saumar, told me how he had made a clearer discovery of the cheat in presence of the Bishop of Poitiers, and of all the country, how he had held fast one of the pretended nuns arms, in spite of all the power of their exorcisms, and challenged all the devils in hell to take it out of his hand. This, with many more circumstances,

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he told me, and he printed them to the world; but this is already too tedious. One more journey I made to see possessed women exorcised near Antwerp, anno 16493 but saw only some great Holland wenches hear exorcism patiently, and belch most abominably. So if those were devils, they were windy devils, but I thought they were only possessed with a morning's draught of too new beer. Some of the Loudun nuns, after great resistance and squeaking, did, on great importunity, adore their host, and the jesuites did desire us to see the power of the church, where all I wondered at was his blasphemy, in saying to the pretended devil,—"Prostratum adorabis creatorem tuum, quem digitis teneo;" but my paper, as well as my discretion, calls for an end. Your desire, and my obedience, is all I can plead for your receiving so long a rabble, from, Sir,

Your most faithful Friend and Servant,


Windsor Castle, March 12, 1659.

Next: Appendix II