Drummer of Tedworth

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Drummer of Tedworth

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The story of the Drummer of Tedworth is an early account of poltergeist phenomena. It was first detailed in Joseph Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus of 1668, the phantom drummer manifesting in the home of magistrate John Mompesson in April, 1661.

The occurrence took place in the town of Tedworth, Wiltshire, England, and began as a simple case of vagrancy. William Drury—described as an itinerant magician and drummer—was caught in some shady dealings, charged, found guilty, and had his drum confiscated. He was made to leave the district and his drum was not returned to him. Instead, it was placed in the home of the magistrate John Mompesson.

Mompesson had to travel away from home for a few days. On his return, he was greeted with stories of strange disturbances and noises issuing from his house, especially at night. There were the sounds of drums being played, plus banging on the roof and rapping on furniture and walls. A drum could be clearly heard playing roundheads, cuckolds, and tattoos at all hours of the night and even in the daytime. Mompesson acted at once. He had William Drury’s drum destroyed by breaking it into pieces. But the noises continued.

The Reverend Joseph Glanvill, chaplain to King Charles II, went to investigate. He stated that when he went upstairs in Mompesson’s house he found two young girls, aged seven and eleven, sitting up in their bed, very fightened. There were scratching noises coming from the head of the bed and from the wall panels. The girls’ hands were in full view on top of the bed covers, so Glanville knew it was not them causing the sounds. Glanville noticed a linen bag, similar to a laundry bag, hanging from the bedpost of another bed in the room. It was swinging back and forth even though no one was anywhere near it. Glanville grabbed the bag and emptied it. There was nothing unusual to be found. He searched thoroughly but could find no satisfactory explanation. It was a situation that was to be repeated more than 200 years later with the Fox Family in New York State.

Eventually everything quieted down. Magistrate Mompesson learned that William Drury, the drummer, had been arrested for theft in the city of Gloucester, and had been transported out of the country and to the colonies. With his leaving, things seemed to settle down and quietness returned.

But eventually the noises started up again. Somehow Drury had managed to return to England and, whatever the connection, the drumming was worse than ever. Other poltergeist phenomena now added to the drumming. Shoes levitated and flew through the air, chamberpots were emptied onto the beds, windows shook, and terrible sulfurous smells permeated the house. Some of the noises were so loud that they could be heard by the rest of the village.

No explanation could be found for any of the occurrences. They continued unabated for almost a year. Then, suddenly, they stopped. There is no record of what ultimately became of William Drury, and what connection he had with the noises or with their termination, but his drum was heard no more.


Buckland, Raymond: Ray Buckland’s Magic Cauldron. St. Paul: Galde Press, 1995
Glanvill, Joseph: Saducismus Triumphatus: Or, Full and Plain Evidence concerning Witches and Apparitions. (1689) Gainesville: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1966
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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