Mary Bateman (1768 – 1809), also known as “The Yorkshire Witch” was a fascinating woman to say the least. Reading her story, I find myself wondering what led her to do what she did, to make the decisions she made, or to lead the life she led. I’m sure it was all out of necessity, but good lord- it took some… well… balls, big balls to even attempt half of this stuff.
Ok, so here’s the story. Mary was the daughter of a farmer in Asenby, North Yorkshire. She went to work as a servant girl when she was around 10 or 12, but got fired for petty theft (I kind of wonder if she was killing small animals at this point.) During the 1780s, she managed to convince a bunch of people she had supernatural powers (who’s to say she didn’t, right?) Her fortunetelling career took off- which led to a side business of potion making and magical remedies. All of which made her some decent money.
Here’s the fun part. In 1806, Mary claimed to have (and I’m not making this up) THE PROPHET HEN OF LEEDS. The prophet hen laid eggs which predicted the end of the world. Villagers believed that doomsday had arrived when all the eggs spelled out “Christ is Coming”. Well, it was clearly a hoax. Investigators discovered that she was writing the message in acid and re-inserting them into the hen. Ouch.
That same year, Rebecca Perigo and her husband William hired Bateman to reverse what they thought was a curse on Rebecca. Mary took the job and began feeding the couple a secret pudding to rid them of evil magic. What they didn’t know was that the pudding was laced with poison. Rebecca died as a result. William Perigo continued to pay for Bateman’s services even after the death of his wife- that is, until he finally realized he was being taken and reported her to the police.
She denied everything, but was found guilty of fraud and murder. She tried to avoid execution by claiming she was pregnant, but this too was a lie.
And because it IS Halloween, I will include the GORY ending to this story. After her execution, strips of her skin were sold as a magic charms to ward off evil spirits. WHAT?