A-Z of the Accused: Alice Gooderidge

Name:Alice Gooderidge


Location:Stapenhill, Burton-Upon-Trent, Staffordshire

Accusations: In February 1596, Alice was accused of bewitching young Thomas Darling after meeting the boy when he got lost in the woods while hunting with his uncle. Shortly afterwards, Thomas suffered from vomiting and hallucinations; when the doctor called to attend him could do nothing to ease his condition, it was noted that the boy became worse when praying or reading the bible, and witchcraft was diagnosed. When Thomas told of his meeting with the old woman, (and her anger when he happened to break wind in front of her) the finger of blame was soon pointed at sixty-year old Alice Gooderidge, although some also believed her mother, Elizabeth Wright, was actually the woman in question. Upon examination, Alice initially admitted she had been in the wood, but not to seeing Thomas there. Upon being unable to say the Lord’s Prayer properly however, the local Justice was called, and Alice and her mother were apprehended by the constable, leading to  Alice finally admitting to having met Thomas Darling. Further evidence was forthcoming: a hole was discovered on Alice’s belly, the site, it was said, where she had desperately tried to remove the evidence of the witch’s mark that would incriminate her, and although she said the injury was caused by a fall from a ladder, this explanation was not believed. Alice was imprisoned and Thomas Darling continued to suffer: the boy was plagued by hallucinations, fits and, incredibly, was said to have been threatened by a spectral bear.

Outcome:After undergoing inducement to confess, including having the shoes on her feet heated to unbearable temperatures before the fire, Alice finally broke. On 2 and 3 May she confessed that she had bewitched Thomas, and sent the Devil after him in the form of a red and white coloured dog named Minny. She was also charged with bewitching a cow belonging to a man named Michael. Thomas Darling was exorcised by the soon to be infamous exorcist John Darrell, after which the boy recovered from his bewitchment. Alice was not so fortunate; it is believed that she was sentenced to a year in gaol, and although there is no further record of her, it is believed she died during her imprisonment. Tragically, three years later, Thomas Darling confessed that he had fabricated the entire story and his subsequent illness. Darrell, after playing a prominent role in several high-profile possession cases, was like-wise discredited as a fraud.

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