The Demon Drummer of Tedworth

Those people who unnecessarily bully other human beings should take caution, because messing with the wrong person could lead to disaster. John Mompesson of Wiltshire, England, learned this the hard way when he seized the prized possession of a drifter and fell under the vicious attacks of a relentless, unseen force.

In 1661, Wiltshire, England found itself under the sonic attack of a truly terrible musician. Day and night, a drifter would stand on a street corner wailing away on his drum, annoying those who lived and worked in the area. Strange as it may seem, the homeless drummer was feared by all he came into contact with, sneering and spitting on his unwilling audience. One courageous citizen, local businessman John Mompesson, simply had had enough of the drumming and vagrancy of the wretched man. So, he assembled the local police and had him arrested. The vagrant was thrown in prison, and Mompesson kept a souvenir for himself, the vagrant’s drum. Little did he know, this would be the worst mistake of his life.

While he was on a business trip to London, mysterious activity broke out in his home; it was frightening activity that almost drove those who worked and lived in the house mad with terror. Upon receiving word of the bizarre goings-on in his home, John Mompesson rushed home. His wife, children and servants filled him in on what was happening in his absence. A deafening drumming sound that came from nowhere filled the house all hours of the day. John Mompesson, ever the pragmatist, would have none of this nonsense he was hearing. There had to be a reason for the loud drumming and that reason had nothing to do with ghosts or demons.

For nearly two years, a long time for poltergeist activity to last, the family of John Mompesson suffered at the whim of an unseen and unforgiving force. Whatever this was would stop at nothing to tear this terrified family apart. The loud drumming filled the house, sometimes keeping the anguished family awake for days. Servants reported witnessing plates and candlesticks float around the house as if guided by some supernatural hand. John’s wife and children who suffered the most, reported hearing loud footsteps stomping up and down the stairs at night. And the sound of heavy breathing in their ears as they attempted to sleep.

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This may seem terrifying enough, but the poltergeist didn’t just stop at bangs and other loud noises. In full view of witnesses, John Mompesson’s children would suddenly lift into the air as if a strong person were holding them aloft. Mompesson, could take no more of this spectral insanity and sought out a way to rid his family and home of the invisible interloper. Then unexpectedly, he was summoned to the local jail. The sinister drummer he had imprisoned two years earlier wanted to speak with him.

When John Mompesson arrived, the jailer filled him in on some rather bizarre details. According to the jailer, the drifter knew of the travails he had his family were dealing with. Mompesson could not understand how this man could have learned of his troubles from a jail cell. He would soon find out just how much the drummer knew.

When Mompesson entered the cell, the drummer looked at him with a sneer and a devious glint to his eye. The drummer studied Mompesson for a moment and asked, “So my friend, how do you like what is being done to you and your household?” John Mompesson demanded to know what the man meant. The drifter informed him, he was a witch and unleashed the powers of hell on John Mompesson and his family. Mompesson was understandably shocked.

Now, admitting to something like this in a time of irrational fears of witchcraft was everywhere, such a confession might be considered foolish. The man’s confession of using dark powers could easily get him a one-way ticket to the executioner. But then, the unexpected happened.

The supposed witch went on to tell John Mompesson, the only way he and his family could be spared from the horror that plagued them was quite simple. The drifter wanted his drum back and to be released from prison immediately. Rather than giving into the demands of the devilish drummer, Mompesson, had the man deported to the North American colonies and as for the drum, it was burned.

With the drum destroyed and the drifter thousands of miles away across the Atlantic, the devilish activity came to an abrupt halt. After two years of dealing with the horror of unexplained activity, Mompesson’s household was quiet.

Assuming this story is real, and it could very well be, considering it is well documented historically, it is one I struggle with. Was this man truly a witch who possessed the ability to curse John Mompesson and his family. Or, did John Mompesson feel guilty for imprisoning the drifter, causing an outbreak of recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis to deal with it? This is one of those cases where the cause is not clear. In the end, we may never know.

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About Rick Hale 106 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at

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