Ursula Kemp and the St. Osyth Witches

Ursula Kemp, acused of Witchcraft, was hanged in 1582.


In 1582, Ursula Kemp was accused of witchcraft along with thirteen other females. This event took place in a quiet coastal area of Essex, England, known as St. Osyth. Ursula was a poor woman, and the first accused of being a witch. She claimed that she would “unwitch”, or break evil spells that were cast against people.

The Accusations

Her neighbor and friend, Grace Thurlow had a son named Davy who became very sick. She asked Kemp for her help, Kemp came over and put a spell on him. A few days went by and he became better, Thurlow believed that Kemp cured her son. Thurlow and Kemp got into an argument over the care of Thurlow’s baby girl Joan. When Joan was a few months old she fell from her cradle, broke her neck, and died. Thurlow was upset and sick then turned around and asked for Kemp’s help again. Kemp told her she would for 12 pence and when Thurlow felt better she refused to pay Kemp. She told Kemp she couldn’t afford it. Kemp was upset and got into an argument with Thurlow who then became ill agian. She then blamed Kemp for her and her son’s illness and even her own baby’s death.

Later Thurlow believed that Kemp had something to do with her intolerable pain and brought the incident to Judge Bryan Darcy. Darcy then took the investigation into his own hands and began interrogating those who knew Kemp. He questioned Thomas, her eight-year-old son, who told the judge about his mother having four familiars who would suck blood from his mother’s arm. He described the animals as a grey cat named Tyffin, a black cat named Jacke, a black toad named Pygine, and a white lamb named Tyttey. He also interviewed a man claiming that Kemp put a spell on his wife and died as a result.

Darcy confronted Kemp who denied everything, that is until the judge tricked her and told her if she confessed then he would be lenient on her. She confessed about her familiars and told on the other thirteen witches.

All of the women were charged with crimes of bewitching people to death, putting spells on animals, butter churning, and making people sick with spells. Not all of the women went on trial, four pleaded not guilty, four more were convicted and then let go. One was charged with having an evil eye and was sent to prison for one year. Two women were hanged, Kemp was one of the unlucky two, both were charged with murdering three people to death with spells between the years of 1580-1582.

Displaying Her Body

Way after her death, in the mid-1900′s, her body was dug up by Cecil Williamson, an occultist, and was put on display in a museum in an open coffin lined with dark purple satin. This whole event was televised. Williamson noticed Kemp’s body had a few iron spikes in the chest, which meant people feared that she would come back to haunt or vampirize them. Williamson sold the museum in 1996 to Graham King, who then moved it to Boscastle, Cornwall. Williamson kept the remains of Kemp for his collection until his death in 2000, then the remains went to King. Today, the witches are often referred to as the “St. Osyth Witches.”

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One Response to Ursula Kemp and the St. Osyth Witches

  1. I wondered if you would be interested in reading this Ursula Kemp story?

    If you would like more information please let me know. Thanks, Kate

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