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Science Hoaxes Before 1700
The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth, 1661 (Early 1660s)The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth was a case of suspected poltergeist activity. In the early 1660s John Mompesson of Wiltshire began to hear strange noises in his home. There was the sound of a drum beating, as well as scratching and panting noises. Objects seemed to move of their own accord in the house, and sometimes a strange sulphureous smell lingered in the air.
Mompesson believed that a man he had helped send to jail, a drummer named William Drury, had, through some form of witchcraft, caused a malevolent spirit to invade his home. The case attracted interest throughout England, and many people came to witness the spirit for themselves. However, when the King sent two representatives to investigate the haunting, they found no evidence of supernatural activity.
Skeptics, of which there were many, dismissed the entire thing as a hoax. They suggested that Mompesson himself may have been behind it, either to profit from those who came to see the spirit, or to decrease the value of the house (which was rented). Another possible culprit was Mompesson's servants, who seemed quite pleased at the travails of their master, and who often taunted him by pointing out that he could never fire them because no one else would agree to work for him under such conditions.
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