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THE CAGE ST. OSYTH - HISTORY

Vanessa Mitchell - A Personal Experience

 

 

Moving In Day

 

The day went relatively smoothly and by dark we had got most of our belongings in the house , minus sofas and beds but we did have a mattress to put on the floor for sleeping that night and we could sit on boxes for the evening.

       

That first evening I was in the kitchen looking out of the window  on to the alley at the back of the cage,  it’s called Coffin alley as it was used to bring the dead from the church at one side of the village to the cemetery where they would be laid to rest on the other side of the village via coffin alley and past The cage, I was all of a sudden acutely aware of someone behind me, I turned around and there a saw a tall dark male  figure walking through the Cage room into the front room..it was the first time of many I would see that male figure along with others..women and children in my stay of 3 years in The Cage. 

 

I realised very soon on that the house I had bought, the house I was supposed to start my new happy life in came with some very serious activity of a paranormal nature the which of like I didn’t ever realise or understand could happen. As I recall it pretty much started straight away, with little things at first like taps always running, doors slamming or opening with no wind to push or pull them, footsteps upstairs and women talking or whispering but you could never quite make out what they were saying. The house was alive when it shouldn’t have been, when we were in bed upstairs late at night,  downstairs  you could hear  the house live on, in its very strange disturbing  way.

 

   The  daylight hours in The cage were no less active than the night hours…ornaments  would fly of the mantel piece, the old chain from the original prison building would swing back and forward as if to remind me of the horrific history of my home and the hall stairs door would crash open in a forceful almost violent way, blood splatters appeared in the hall in broad daylight in front of witnesses apart from myself .  The TV  sound would go up and down with no one near the controls to adjust them and you would hear someone pacing back and forth  in the upstairs hall …it didn’t stop it was all the time and there was nothing I could do.

 

      One day in the afternoon to my utter amazement  a ghost lady walked from the prison room into my front room where I was sitting on the floor …she came over and was carrying some kind of oval wooden bowl, she took something out of the bowl that looked like herbs or leaves and sprinkled them over my head in silence…I was totally transfixed and stunned and I dare not breath but she didn’t terrify me..she felt kind and good.  I just sat in shock at what was happening, I knew it was real and that I wasn’t dreaming or seeing things,  she was there in a see through kind of colour , she didn’t say who she was but I felt she was one of those poor women incarcerated in my house for witch craft before her execution many years before

 

I feel the spirits that are still existing in The Cage  or at least some of them became more comfortable with us being there as they became more bold if you like about what they did and the activity in the house, for example  one hot sunny summer day I was sitting in the front room with the back door open which incidentally  was directly opposite me when I saw a handsome young man with jet black long  hair and wild rugged looks floating in the hall staring at me intently through the wooden beams, I saw the lines on his face and thought his skin looked older than he was.  He was there for a good 30 seconds plus, and he was moving very slowly but he saw me and I saw him and we both knew it.

 

As the months rolled on my flatmate Nicole left to move in with her boyfriend  and sadly I was left to face the house alone in the day and the night. One morning I was brushing my teeth getting ready for work when I got hit so hard on my bum as I was bending over the sink, it hurt so much and  was such a shock I screamed chucking the toothbrush in the air with toothpaste flying everywhere…I was totally stunned I lived alone no one was there.  On another occasion I was pushed when I was standing in the top hall way, other times I would be sitting there and witness objects whizz across the room.   Over time i learnt how to live with this Haunting  the best possible way I knew how, I couldn’t leave the house as I was in dept with the mortgage and had to work very long and hard to make the monthly payments because at that time the interest rates had pretty much doubled, so had my mortgage which put me in a position where I was completely trapped by the house and financially.

 

      I would lie in bed at night hearing them  come up the stairs and watching in abject fear as my bedroom door latch rattled as if someone was trying to open the door to come in, but didn’t…the door didn’t open but he/they  was there alright,  the other side of the door making the latch rattle scaring me half to death.

 

    As the time rolled on I met a man and became pregnant with my son Jesse, Jesses dad stayed with me in The Cage for a time but the relationship was no good so he didn’t stay long so I found myself left in the house once again with a baby alone, now it was even harder to escape.  One day I was ironing downstairs this, was rare for me to be downstairs at this point because for many months I had lived in my bedroom upstairs, I would get in from work with jess, walk in the door then straight up the stairs to my bedroom which  looked over to  the pub next door, I liked it because I could see and hear normal life outside and it game me comfort knowing the other side of the window things were ok.   I would stay in that room  all night, In essence I was too scared to sit downstairs or have any contact with the house itself if you know what I mean, I was hiding from what the house was and who was in it with me. Anyway I was ironing when I saw Jesses little toys start moving across the floor and playing their music by themselves as If a little child was playing with them, and I just knew what was happening so I panicked turned off the iron and ran to get upstairs quick.  I opened the stairs door and went to take the first step up when saw a man standing at the top of the landing with modern day cloths on…he wasn’t a burglar he was a ghost of a man and  standing very near my sons cot…...i knew then that no matter what or how hard it was I had to escape from that house for me and my baby son.

 

    The day I left I felt like the house had won, I looked around one last time  standing by the door,  just about  to step out and leave and  I heard the growl I had heard many times before, a dark hostile noise that didn’t like me and that wanted me gone. The house had won but I didn’t care I just needed to feel safe again in a home, somewhere I can relax watching TV  or not to be too scared to go to the loo in the middle of the night, just those little things people take for granted.

 

That is the very short version of a few of my experiences of  my 3 years living in The Cage  and the subsequent following 6 years of owning it and  unrevealing the History and secrets of The Cage, where some of my questions have been answered., I can assure you it  is a compelling and horrifying story at the same time.     I  am currently writing a book of my experiences  living with this horrific modern day  haunting and the historical facts behind the Haunting  called THE CAGE  A Modern Day Haunting  BY VANESSA MITCHELL so if you are curious to know the whole story you soon can…..if you’re brave enough……..


Ursula Kemp - A Brief Account By John Worland

The most well known prisoner to be held in the cage was Ursula Kemp. Ursula Kemp was a midwife and herbalist living in the fairly normal state of near poverty in the small village of St Osyth, Essex.

 

In the late 16th century this was not an unusual occupation for a widow but it carried fearful risks. Whilst her ministrations were almost certainly achieved by a sound knowledge of plants and their healing properties, she didn’t mind at all if some of her customers attributed her skills to more magical powers. We don’t know her age. Frustratingly, this is omitted in the court documents although ages are given for several others accused. Since she had an 8 year old son and earned money as a “wet nurse”, it’s likely that she was between 25 and 35.

 

All was well and good until she was involved in a protracted dispute with a neighbour, Grace Thurlowe. Despite this squabble, when Grace’s son fell ill with convulsions, Ursula tended him and accompanied her treatment by walking in and out of the door three times. The son recovered. When Grace was later expecting another child, Ursula fully thought that she would be given the job of delivering it and also being paid a small amount to wet nurse it. The neighbours feud blew up again when Grace gave the midwifery job to another woman who successfully delivered Grace’s baby daughter. Grace suffered from occasional “lameness” as did many other St Osyth residents and several weeks after the birth of her daughter, Grace once again allowed Ursula to tend her and cure her lameness, this time on the understanding that she pay her “12 pence”. Ursula did cure the lameness but Grace reneged on her promise to pay. When Ursula said that she would accept cheese instead, Grace said that she had none. Ursula flew into one of her trademark rages; Grace’s lameness returned and a couple of weeks later, Grace's daughter, now nearly three months old, “fell out of its cot” broke its neck and died. Ursula was nowhere near when this happened but naturally suspicion fell on her.

 

Ursula Kemp was accused of witchcraft and was arrested and interrogated on 20th February 1582 by the local landowner and magistrate Brian D’Arcy. In total, Ursula was interrogated on 3 occasions, the last being on 24th February. Ursula was promised favourable treatment by D’Arcy if she confessed. This she did and her 8 year old son, Thomas was also forced to give evidence against her. Her last appearance before D’Arcy was on 9th March when she was made to make a statement against a co-accused. In between these dates, Ursula and others were locked up in the Cage. Food would have been given to her only when family or friends brought it. The allegations snowballed with several women accusing each other until a total of 14 were named. After 9th March, Ursula and 12 other accused women were transferred from the Cage to the gaol at Colchester Castle where she was kept until taken for trial at the Chelmsford Assizes on 29th March 1582 . One of the women, Joan Robinson was released without charge before the trial date. D’Arcy made his secretary keep detailed notes, which were later published and the resulting pamphlet gives us one of the most detailed accounts of the Essex Witch Hunts of the period. She was sentenced to be hanged along with two other St Osyth women – Elizabeth Bennett and Ales (Alice) Newman. Recent evidence has come to light which shows that they were not hanged straight after the trial as was originally thought but brought back to Colchester gaol. Elizabeth Bennett was still alive and in custody 6 months later and Ales Newman had her sentence reduced to life imprisonment. She died in prison 4 years later.

 

When Ursula and Elizabeth were hanged, it would have been normal for their bodies to be immediately buried without ceremony in unconsecrated ground. Since there is evidence to show that they were brought back to Colchester after the trial, they may have been hanged in Colchester or St.Osyth. It was not unheard of for convicted witches to be returned to their own areas for sentence to serve as a warning to others and it certainly happened 80 years later when 4 women accused by Matthew Hopkins, were hanged in Mistley.

To purchase Jon Worlands DVD on Ursula Kemp And the St.Osyth witch trials click here