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 overboard
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. . . .
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Drummer of Tedworth
‘‘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
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.