The familiars of Ellizabeth Clarke

Matthew Hopkins of Manningtree, Essex, a witch- finder of ill-fame, was the cause of bringing thousands of supposed witches to judgment and so to the stake.

He was paid 20s. in each town he visited and managed to rid of its suspicious characters, and he appears to have found his profession extraordinarily lucrative. In 1644 he was commissioned by Parliament to make a circuit through several counties with a view to discovering witches. He travelled in the company of several boon companions for three years and was instrumental in having sixteen persons hanged at Yarmouth, forty at Bury and at least sixty in other parts of Suifolk, Norfolk and Huntingdonshire.

During a notorious trial of a number of witches at Chelmsford, Essex, on July 29th, 1645, Hopkins made a deposition about an alleged witch, Elizabeth Clarke, who confessed that she had known the devil intimately for more than six years and that he visited her between three and five times a week. She invited Hopkins and his companions, one of whom was a man called Sterne, to stay at her house for a time until she could call up one of her white imps for them to see. Presently there appeared on the scene an imp like a dog, white and with sandy spots, which seemed to be very fat and plump, with short legs.

The animal forthwith vanished away. The said Elizabeth gave the name of this imp as Jarmara. And immediately afterwards there appeared another imp, which she called Vinegar Tom, in the shape of a greyhound with long legs. The said Elizabeth then remarked that the next imp should be black in colour and that it should come for Master Sterne (the other witness already mentioned), and it appeared as she promised, but presently vanished without leaving a sign.

The last imp of all to come before the spectators was a creature in the shape of a polecat, but the head somewhat bigger. The said Elizabeth then disclosed to the informant that she had five imps of her own. And two other imps with which she had dealings belonged to a certain Beldame Anne West.

The said Matthew Hopkins, when going from the house of a Mr. Edwards of Manningtree, to his own house, one night between nine and ten o’clock, accompanied by his favourite greyhound, noticed the dog give a sudden leap and run off as though in full course after a hare. Hastening to see what the greyhound pursued so eagerly, he espied a white thing about the size of a kitten, and the panting dog was standing aloof from the creature.
By and by the imp or kitten began to dance about and around the said greyhound and, viciously approaching him, bit or tore a piece of flesh off the dog’s shoulder.

Coming later into his own yard, the informant saw a black thing proportioned like a cat, only that it was thrice as big, sitting on a strawberry bed and fixing its luminous eyes on him. But when he went towards it, it leaped suddenly over the palings and ran towards the informant as he thought, but instead, it fled through the yard with his greyhound in hot pursuit after it to a great gate which was ” underset with a pair of tumbrell strings,” and it did throw the said gate wide open and
then vanished. And the said greyhound returned again to the informant shaking and trembling exceedingly.

Sterne gave evidence on the same day, and much to the same effect, but said that the white imp was like a cat but not so big, and when he asked Elizabeth whether she was not afraid of her imps she answered, ” What ! do you think I am afraid of my children ? ” and she called the imp Jarmara as having red spots, and spoke of two more called Sack and Sugar. Four other witnesses confirmed the story practically in its entirety.

Elizabeth Clarke herself gave evidence then, and said Anne West had sent her a ” thing like a little kitlyn,” . which would obtain food for her. Two or three nights after this promise, a white thing came to her in the night, and the night after a grey one spoke to her and said it would do her no hurt and would help her to get a husband. After various charges against the said Elizabeth Clarke and her accomplice, Elizabeth Gooding, Anne Leech, a third woman accused of witchcraft, deposed on April 14th that she and the other two accused sent their respective grey, black and white imps to kill cattle belonging to various neighbours, and that later they had sent them to kill neighbours’ children and she added that her imps spoke to her in a hollow voice which she plainly understood, and that these accused witches had met together at the house of the said Elizabeth Clarke, when a book was read ” wherein she thinks there was no goodness.”

Another woman suspected of witchcraft was Helen Clark who confessed on April nth that the devil had appeared to her in the likeness of a white dog, and that she called her familiar Elimanzer and that she fed him with milk-pottage and that he spoke to her audibly and bade her deny Christ.

With the witch Anne West was implicated her daughter Rebecca West, who, however, was acquitted, and the notorious Matthew Hopkins deposed that she had told him of visiting the house of Clarke with her mother, and that they had found Leech, Gooding, and Helen Clark, and that the devil had appeared in the shape of a dog, afterwards in the shape of two kittens, then in the shape of two dogs, and that the said familiars did homage in the first place to the said Elizabeth Clarke and slipped up into her lap and kissed her, and then went and kissed all that were in the room except the said Rebecca, who ‘ was then made to swear on a book that she would not reveal what she saw or heard — on pain of the torments of hell, and that afterwards the devil came and kissed her and promised to marry her, and she sent him to kill a neighbour’s child, of the name of Hart, who died within a fortnight.

Susan Sparrow, who gave her evidence on the 25th of April, said that the house in which she lived with one Mary Greenleif, was haunted by a leveret which usually came and sat before the door, which, when coursed by a dog, never stirred, ” and just when the dog came at it, he skipped over it and turned about and stood still, and looked on it, and shortly after that the dog languished and died.”

Another of the witches, called Margaret Moone, had a familiar ” in the likeness of a rat for bigness and shape, but of a greyer colour.” She confessed to two of the witnesses that she had twelve imps and called these by such names as Jesus, Jockey, Mounsier, Sandy, Mrs. Elizabeth, and Collyn, etc. Moone was a ” woman of very bad fame,” who confessed to many crimes, especially of causing the death of animals and children.

Rose Hallybread, who died in gaol before execution, was accused of being implicated with Joyce Boanes in sending four familiars to the house of a carpenter, Robert Turner, whose servant was then taken sick and ” crowed perfectly like a cock, sometimes barked like a dog,” sang tunes, groaned, and struggled with such strength that five strong men were needed to hold him. Boanes confessed that her imp made the victim bark like a dog, Hallybread’s imp caused him ” to sing sundry tunes in great extremity of pains,” and Susan Cork compelled him to crow. The torture was inflicted because Turner’s servant had refused to give Susan Cork a sack full of chips.

Human animals (1915) by Frank Hamel