As you know I love throwing myself into research. During my recent searches, I came across Saducismus Triumphauis which is a book published in 1681 by Joseph Glanvill. It is where I came across the story of the Drummer of Tedworth. I loved going back in time and diving myself into this tale, so I thought I would write about another that appeared in this book. So sit back and hear the tale of Gilbert Campbell who is thought to of danced with the devil himself. Special, note, these stories can at times be difficult to translate and understand so this is my interpretation of the text.
This story was told by George Sinclair who was a minister and a mathematician. It was first published in 1672, however reached a much bigger audience in his popular book 'Satan's Invisible World Discovered' and published in 1685. While it did also appear in Saducismus Triumphauis, Sinclair writes: "whom nothing but the truth thereof, and usefulness for refuting Atheism could have perswaded to transcribe." No it is not a spelling mistake, this is how text appears in these old books. They can be quite difficult to read at times, but all the more enjoyable! He also alludes that his version to the full story and does not end as abruptly as did in the other text although it still does kind of have an odd ending. It tells the tale of Gilbert Campbell who was a weaver in the town of Galloway. He was married to Grissel Wyllie and had a son called Thomas and a daughter called Jennet. There are mentions of several other children which was common back then, however it seem that Thomas and Jennet were more story worthy as it seems they were being harassed by the Devil himself.
Sinclair claims the story itself was told to him from one of Campbell's children. Alexander Agnew who was a beggar was hung at Drumfries for Blasphemy. If you are a bit like me that has heard the word a million times without really knowing what it means, it is: the action of offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things. One of which was when the Judge asked him if he thought there was a God to which he responded that he knew no God, only Salt, Meal and Water. Just shows you how different times were back then! Agnew had threatened Campbell and his family because he would not give Agnew any food or water etc. As a beggar, Agnew needed these to survive and hence why perhaps he did not believe in god and only in food and water.
One day while heading to local well to get some water, daughter Jennet said she heard a shrill whistling around her ears. She then heard a threatening voice say 'I'll cast thee lennet into the well" A witness also heard this voice and claimed it sounded like a live woman and the whistling noise was the same that children used to make with their glass whistles. What started out as a whistle seemed to turn into something more. Come the middle of November, the foul fiend as it was described in the tale started throwing stones at the doors and windows and also down the Chimney. The family felt they were under God's protection as even though stones were thrown with a lot of force, no one within the family was hurt, however Campbell himself revealed to the local Minister of the Parish and neighbours that he had secretly suffered. He would then find their clothes had been cut with scissors which would not be so strange if it not for the fact that it seemed to happened whilst the family was wearing them. Coats, bonnets, thread, shoes all seemed to be mysteriously cut but again they felt protected that they themselves were not harmed - only their clothes. At night time they found their bedding would pulled off them and also taking off their bedclothes so they would be left naked and cold. Chests and trunks were opened and items hidden around the house - typical poltergeist like account activity. It got so bad that he moved the majority of their belongings to a neighbours house as it would end up cut or hidden. He was convinced to send his children away to different places to see if the trouble followed a particular person.
The local minister heard of this and told him to repent and call his children back home. One by one they came home, and it seemed all was well until Thomas came home. The following day, the house was somehow set on fire and was put out by neighbours coming home from church. A week later after spending time in private prayer and fasting, the house was again set on fire and put our by the help of neighbours. On both occasions there was little damage. Campbell approached the local minister to ask if Thomas could stay with him, being that he was a holy man. The minister agreed and started to experience the same phenomena of clothing being cut and items going missing. Campbell was persuaded to take Thomas back to his house who said that he heard a voice speak to him forbidding him to enter a house or any place where his father's calling was exercised. He went against this voice and went back home where it seems he was abused by an unseen force. He then returned to the minister's house.
After this time the rest of the family began to hear a voice. They had conversations with this voice who they believed was the Devil. Instead of fighting it, they stopped speaking to one another and would only speak with him. After hearing of this, the minister went to the house with some colleagues. The story goes on to tell of the conversations they supposedly had with Satan. The first words the minister heard was 'Quum Literarum' which is not only Latin but the first words they were taught when they went to Grammar School. They basically told the Devil he wasn't welcome and did some praying etc. The Devil made threats against Thomas and said that if he did not leave the house, he would set fire to it. The told the Devil that God would protect the house. His response was that he would convince Thomas to end the world and also predicted the Minister's upcoming death in later months. Wanting to find out where this voice was coming from, they searched the house. It seemed to be becoming from where the children were in their beds. It is thought by some that perhaps it was the children all along.
The story goes on with a lot of discussion between Campbell, the Minister and the Devil. There was also a lot of prayers to rid the Devil and him refusing to go. During the conversation, it seems they got the Devil to admit that there was in fact a God. It seemed the Devil also beat the children in their beds if they refused to speak to him. The Devil wanted them to do his bidding and was very pleased when they did. He would also try to influence their thoughts to do harm. It was decided that when the Devil spoke, no one should answer him. They were to continue with the prayers and not be led in the wrong direction. Campbell apparently suffered a lot of loss due to this and had many sad nights and was assaulted and molested by the Devil himself. The family was also starving as the Devil would hide their meat and all they had to survive was bread and water. Sounds like it is starting to come together now doesn't it? Is it the Devil they are dealing with or was it in fact Alexander Agnew getting his revenge.
This is pretty much where the story ends and where I am tying it up because in my version it sort of comes together nicely. In the book there is no dramatic conclusion or resolution. It is said that after a certain amount of time, they were left to lead peaceful lives and everything stopped. An intriguing story and what historically could be the very first account of poltergeist like activity. It was obviously very heavily influenced by religion, but it was also a very different time. The actual text itself can be quite difficult to understand at times so I again this is my broken down simple 'you get the gist' kind of version. I hope you enjoyed it. Until next time .....
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