A-Z of the Accused: Joan Cason

Name:Joan Cason

Location:Faversham, Kent


Accusations:When Sarah Cooke’s young daughter fell ill, a traveller told her that the girl had been bewitched. To cure her, the worried mother was advised to procure a roof tile from the house of the woman she suspected was responsible: Joan Cason. Sarah was to place the tile in the fire, where it would ‘sparkle and fly round the cradle’ if the child was indeed bewitched. Sarah Cooke duly carried out the ritual using a tile from the roof of Joan’s house, and the result proved positive. To further compound her guilt in the eyes of her neighbours, Joan herself came to the Cooke’s house not long afterwards to see how the child did, with disasterous consequences: four hours after looking Joan in the face, young Jane Cooke was dead. Although Joan denied any culpability it did her little good; seven people vouched for the fact that several years ago a rat-like spirit used to visit Joan’s house to aid her in her mischief. Despite Joan insisting that those who spoke against her did so out of malice, she was arrested and charged.

Outcome: Joan was indicted on the charge of invoking spirits and also of bewitching young Jane Cooke to death. She was acquitted of the murder charge however and only charged with the conjuring of spirits, after she admitted that the rat-like creature had indeed been a frequent visitor to her own house and others in Faversham. This ‘leniency’ was due, according to the account in Holinshed, to the jury being reluctant to convict Joan of a crime punishable by death. It seems, however, that their consideration was actually Joan’s downfall; a lawyer who was present quibbled the matter of conjuring spirits, and Joan was hanged anyway three days later.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *