Published in 1896 by John Ashton in his book The Devil in Britain and America, this acount of The Case of Mary Hill of Beckington was originally recorded by May Hill, the Minister of Beckington in 1691.
In the Town of Beckington, by Froome in Somersetshire, liveth Mary Hill, a Maid of about Eighteen years of Age, who, having lived very much in the Neglect of her Duty to God, was some time before Michaelmas last past, was Twelve-Month, taken very ill, and, being seized with violent Fits, began to Vomit up about two hundred crooked Pins. This so Stupendous an Accident, drew a numerous Concourse of People to see her: To whom, when in her Fits, she did constantly affirm, that she saw against the Wall of the Room wherein she lay, an old Woman, named Elizabeth Currier, who, thereupon, being Apprehended by a Warrant from a Justice of Peace, and Convicted by the Oaths of two Persons, was committed to the County Goal.
About a Fortnight after, she began to Vomit up Nails, Pieces of Nails, Pieces of Brass, Handles of Spoons, and so continued to do for the space of six Months and upwards. And, in her fits, she said there did appear to her an old Woman, Named Margaret Coombes, and one Ann Moore ; who, also, by a Warrant from two Justices of the Peace, were Apprehended and brought to the Sessions, held at Brewton, for the County ; and, by the Bench, committed to the County Gaol. The former of these dyed as soon as she came into Prison : the other two were tryed at Taunton Assizes, by my Lord Chief Justice Holt, and for want of Evidence, were acquitted by the Jury. The Persons bound over to give Evidence, were Susanna Belton, and Ann Holland, who, upon their Oaths, Deposed, that they hookt out of the Navel of the said Mary Hill, as she lay in a dead fit, crooked Pins, small Nails, and small pieces of Brass, which were produced in Court before the Judge ; and, from him, handed to the Jury to look upon them. Whereupon Mr. Francis Jesse, and Mr. Christopher Brewer declared, that they had seen the said Mary Hill, to Vomit up, at several times, Crooked Pins, Nails, and Pieces of Brass, which they, also, produced in open Court; and to the end, they might be ascertained it was no Imposture, they declared they searched her Mouth with their Fingers before she did Vomit.
Upon which, the Court thought fit to call for me, who am the Minister of the Parish, to testifie the knowledge of the Matter, which I did to this Effect, That I had seen her, at several times, after having given her a little small Beer, Vomit up Crooked Pins, Nails, and Pieces of Brass. That, to prevent the Supposition of a Cheat, I had caused her to be brought to a Window; and, having lookt into her Mouth, I searcht it with my Finger, as I did the Beer before she drank it. This I did, that I might not be wanting in Circumstantial Answers to what my Lord and Court might propose.
I well remember a Gentleman, on a Saturday, came to my House (Incognito) to know of me the truth of the Country Report about this Maid, having seen some of the Nails &c she had Vomited up. I told him it was very true ; and, if he would stay in Town till the Morning, he might see it himself, for his own Satisfaction. Which he did ; and, early in the Morning, was called to see her. But, because Beer was not given her when she wanted it, she lay in a very Deplorable Condition, till past two in the Afternoon ; when, with much Difficulty, she brought up a piece of Brass, which the said Gentleman took away with him. Though, before the said Piece of Brass came up, he told me he was satisfied of the Truth of the thing, because it was impossible for any Mortal to Counterfeit her miserable Condition. She, sometimes, lying in a dead Fit, with her Tongue swelled out of her Head, and then reviving, she would fall to Vomiting, but nothing came up till about two a Clock in the Afternoon.
Nay, so curious was he to Anticipate any Cheat, that he searcht her Mouth himself, gave her the Beer, held her up in his hand, and likewise the Bason into which she Vomited, and continued with her all this time, without eating and drinking, which was about eight hours, that he might be an Eye-Witness of the Truth of it. Nay, further, he found the maid living only with a Brother, and three poor Sisters, all young Persons, and very honest, and the Maid kept at the Charge of the Parish, were sufficient testimonies that they were incapable of making a Cheat of it. The Gentleman I now mentioned, was (as I afterwards learnt) Esquire Player of Castle-Cary.
After the Assizes afore mentioned was ended, and she was turned home, she grew worse than ever, by Vomiting of Nails, pieces of Glass, &c. And, falling, one day, into a Violent Fit, she was swelled to an extraordinary bigness; some Beer being given her, she throws up several Pieces of Bread and Butter, besmeared with a Poysonous matter, which I judged to be white Mercury. This so affrighted the Neighbours, that they would come no more near her, and Compassionating the Deplorableness of her Condition ; I, at last, resolved to take her into my own House; where, in some short time, the Vomiting ceased; though, for some space, her Distorting Fits followed her. But, blessed be God, is now, and has been, for a considerable time last past, in very good health, and fit for Service.
Minister of Beckington in the county of Somerset.
April 4, 1691.