Tag Archives: SusannahFowles

The trial of Susannah Fowles of Hammersmith, that was try’d at London for blaspheming

Susannah was indicted for using blasphemous words against Jesus Christ, her husband said she was possessed by the Devil, she said unlawful things and was then visited by an apparition of a man and afterwards went into fits, some ministers thought her to be a cheat, Jordan a papist gave her a spell, a hot iron was put on her, and someone tricked her by dressing up as the devil, and she was therefore found to be a cheat, she confessed and was found guilty, and then jailed

The trial of Susannah Fowles of Hammersmith, for blaspheming Jesus Christ

Susannah’s husband reported her being bewitched, and seeing the Devil in the shape of man, going into fits, a spell had been put on her neck by Jordan a Papist, when touched with a hot iron she reacted, and was found to be counterfeiting, she was found guilty and sentenced to jail

A full and true account of the life

Brief summary:

Susannah Fowles, wife of a laborer, was persuaded by Jesuits to feign possession, Jordan a Papist seemed to be the main person responsible, she saw the devil in the form of man, when examined by Protestants she was thought to be a cheat because she didn’t go into fits when hearing the Lords prayer in Latin, they confirmed this by burning her with a hot iron, she eventually confessed, she was found guilty and jailed.

Fuller summary:
The author begins with a condemnation of Catholicism and an expression of joy that it is no longer England’s religion. However, there remain sneaky, deceptive Papists who attempt to prove the supremacy of their faith, and impugn that of the Protestants, through schemes intended to prove that they have the power to cast out devils. He cites as an example Susannah Fowles, who claimed to have seen the devil, to have been possessed by it, and to have fallen into fits as a result of such possession.

Her fits and actions took the form of blasphemy: she claimed, upon hearing God’s name, to be herself the Lord, and she would respond to the Lord’s Prayer and to the name of Jesus with curses. However, some Protestants, suspecting her to be pretending, observed her and noted that her expression remained the same during her seizures, and that she responded not only to actual prayers, but to the appearance of them–a sign that human, not demonic, forces controlled her behavior.

It became still more clear that Fowles’ possession was a sham, and to what end she was manifesting these behaviors, when she claimed to have been given a spell by Jordan, a Catholic, which would cure her from her fits when emissaries came from the Portugal embassy. Clearly, she was to be an example of the power the Catholics claimed to have, that of performing exorcisms, which Protestants held to be blasphemy.

A series of tests were then administered to Fowles to determine whether she was lying. Although she responded with curses to the Lord’s Prayer in English, she had no reaction when it was recited in Latin, implying that she, not some supernatural force, was in control of her behaviors. Furthermore, when she was in fits during prayers, she responded to a hot iron by drawing her hand away from it, revealing her sensibility to external stimuli. And she ran away from a man in ugly clothing, claiming he was the Devil, when in fact he was one of those testing her claims.

When confronted with this evidence of her falsehoods, and threatened with bodily harm if she did not confess them, she admitted to having faked the fits to get money. She was tried at the Old Baily for blasphemy, and offered the defense of believing herself to be either possessed or bewitched, and redacted her confession; the jury declared her guilty, and she was ordered to pay a fine and to stand at the pillory three times, as well as to behave well for a year.