Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Came across this in the Standard, March 22 1830.

Seventeen-year-old Betsy Shelley went to the fortune teller Martha Allen ("an old woman of the gipsey tribe") about her love life. As Martha's spells both failed to produce a definitive answer, it appears that Betsy had reported her to the police for obtaining money under false pretence. Betsy's naivety is adorable - after pawning her earrings to find out if she'll ever get a husband, her disappointment is so genuine:

"Anxious to know whether she should soon procure a husband, she [Betsy} one day called upon the prisoner [Martha], at her house in Three Cups-alley, and gave her some money, which she obtained upon pledging her ear-rings. The prisoner then told her that two men – a dark one and a fair one – were desperately in love with her; that the dark one would use every effort to het her into his power, but that the fair one would become her husband. The prisoner then gave her a paper, which she said contained American seeds, and desired her to put it in her bosom at night, and the man she loved would caress her. These directions were compiled with; but, said the complainant, I never saw or dreamt of the dark man or the fair one. In a week after she again visited the prisoner, and received from her a quantity of red powder, which she was desired to sprinkle upon nine pieces of paper cut in the shape of hearts. This she was to do in her bed-room, and then blow out the candle; when the prisoner assured her that the man who was to be her husband would walk into the room and embrace her tenderly in his arms. “Don’t be alarmed,” she added “when you see him, but welcome him to your chamber.” At night, the girl cut out the nine hearts, but she said “just as I was in the act of spreading the red powder upon the first heart, I heard a loud thump at the door, the flame of the candle burnt blue, and the house shook as if it had been threatened by an earthquake.”

Mr Home – Well what did you do next when the house shook about your ears in the way you have described?

Complainant – What did I do sir! Why, I jumped into bed as quickly as I could, and covering my head over with the blankets, lay there afraid to pop it up, in case I should see or hear anything.

Mr Home – They you did not put the experiment to the test?

Complainant – No sir, for in my hurry to get into bed, I upset all the red power.

Martha was sentenced to a month’s hard labour which she appealed against owing to a bad hip.

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