Kempe, Ursula

Kempe, Ursula (d. 1582) English witch brought to trial and executed for harming others. Her CORPSE was staked like a VAMPIRE.

Ursula Kempe was accused of crime in a witch hysteria that swept through St. Osyth in a remote coastal area of Essex, England, in 1582. Fourteen women were indicted. The first to be accused of malevolent witchcraft was Kempe of St. Osyth, a poor woman who made a meager living by midwifery, harlotry, and “unwitching,” or removing bad spells that people believed had been cast against them. Kempe had a falling-out with a woman named Grace Thurlowe and threatened her with lameness. Soon, Thurlowe was severely crippled with arthritis.

Thurlowe complained to the county session judge, Bryan Darcy, who started an investigation against Kempe. Her illegitimate eight-year-old son, Thomas, was forced to confess to incredible stories about his mother, among them that she had four FAMILIARS who sucked blood from Kempe’s arm at night. In addition, a man claimed Kempe had bewitched his wife to death.

Kempe denied these stories, but Darcy tricked her by falsely promising her leniency if she confessed. Fearful for her life, Kempe confessed to having familiars and consorting with other St. Osyth witches, whom she named. These accused women in turn named others, hoping for mercy from the court. They falsified evidence against one another.

The women were charged with crimes of bewitching animals, bewitching brewing, baking, and butter churning, striking people with wasting sickness, and bewitching people to death. Not all went to trial. Of those who did, four of them pleaded not guilty and were acquitted. Four others pleaded not guilty, but were convicted and then reprieved. One who was charged with bewitchment through the EVIL EYE was sentenced to a year in prison. Two—including Kempe—were convicted and hanged. Kempe was charged with bewitching three people to death between 1580 and 1582. She confessed to the crimes.

In the mid-20th century, the remains of Kempe were exhumed by occultist Cecil Williamson and placed on display in an open elm COFFIN lined with purple satin in Williamson’s Museum of Witchcraft. The exhumation was televised. Williamson discovered that Kempe’s body had been driven through with IRON spikes, suggesting that people had feared she would return from the grave to haunt or vampirize them. Williamson sold the museum in 1996 to Graham King and others, who moved it to Boscastle, Cornwall. Williamson kept Kempe’s remains for his personal collection. After his death in 2000, the remains went to King.

See Also:

Further Reading:

  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2d ed. New York: Checkmark Books/Facts On File, 1999.


Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley-Copyright © 2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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