Sunday, 7 January 2018

A-Z of the Accused: Jane Brooks

Name: Jane Brooks

Location: Shepton Mallet, Somerset

Date: 1657/8

Accusations: The elderly Jane, along with her sister, was accused of tormenting young Richard Jones. Jane had begged bread from him, and in return had given the boy an apple; after taking a bite from it he had suffered a fit and could not move or speak. Jane and her sister were said to then have continued to torment the boy, visiting him in spectral form; on one momentous occasion the apparition was stabbed in the hand by one of Richard's relations, only for the same injury to be discovered on Jane herself shortly afterwards. 

The boy continued to suffer strange fits and was seen to be in great agony, and matters continuing to escalate, despite rumours that the sisters had offered Richard money to drop the case against them. Most memorably, it was claimed by witnesses that on 25 February 1658 Richard Jones was lifted into the air by an invisible force and transported for three hundred yards – a journey that included clearing a stone wall – after which he was thrown to the ground with such force that he lost consciousness. Jones claimed upon waking that Jane had been responsible and had lifted him into the air – no mean feat for an elderly and frail woman. On another occasion, Richard was discovered floating up by the ceiling of his house, remaining there for quarter of an hour much to the amazement of the several witnesses who saw him.

Outcome: Jane and her sister were sent to the Shepton Mallet House of Correction before being tried at the Chard Assizes in March, 1658. The pair were sent to gaol on 10th March, from which point Richard Jones ceased to suffer further fits. This did not save Jane however, and she was executed on 26th of March, while her sister died in prison.