In November 1682, Francis Fey was a 20-year-old servant in the service of Philip Furze, a landowner who lived in the little English village of Spreyton. One day, while in a field near his employer’s house, Francis was puzzled to see Philip’s father outside. The elder Furze was walking with his staff, and like the many moles he’d once whacked, had long been dead.
Fortunately, Old Furze’s ghost had no intention of whacking Francis. Instead, Furze had returned from the dead to sort out some problems with his will. He explained that two beneficiaries were each owed ten shillings, and a sister in the near-by town of Totnes was owed twenty. So long as all three beneficiaries got their money, Furze promised not to haunt Francis.
Francis ran to the first two beneficiaries without any problems. Furze’s sister in Totnes was a bit more difficult; she refused to take her share, suspecting it’d been sent by the Devil. That night, Furze appeared to Francis again, telling him to buy a ring worth twenty shillings. Furze’s sister had no qualms with the ring, so Francis figured he was free and headed back home.
As part of their agreement, Furze should have left Francis alone. But as Francis rode into Spreyton, Furze materialized yet again. Unfortunately, this time, the ghost did have the intention of beating Francis. It appeared behind Francis as he rode his horse, clinging to his waist and then throwing him to the ground. The fun didn’t stop there either. Once Francis got back to Philip’s farm, his horse jumped and landed twenty-five feet away.
Things only got worse for Francis from here. The elder Furze never showed up again, but a second ghost, that of Furze’s equally dead wife, began to haunt the poor young man. This specter, nicknamed “The Demon of Spreyton,” delighted in all sorts of bizarre cruelty. Her harassment of Francis, who thought she was a good person while she was alive, is a long list of baffling tortures.
Normally, the Demon looked as she did when she was alive. Sometimes, however, she appeared as a fire-breathing dog. On another occasion, she became a horse and jumped through a window, shattering only a single pane of the glass. She’d also rip the clothes off Francis and another servant, and took pleasure in grabbing wigs off people’s heads.
The Demon could be pretty violent too. In one incident, invisible hands seized Francis and bashed his head against the wall. The attack was so bad that a doctor examined Francis, and for reasons of 17th century medicine, decided to bleed him. After the doctor was done, the ligatures on Francis flew off, wrapped around his waist, and nearly suffocated him.
In another incident, Francis’s shoelaces came undone by themselves. (Horror of horrors!) One of the laces flew out of Francis’s shoe, traveled to the other side of the room, and then tried crawling back to the other shoelace. When a maid who saw everything grabbed the free-wheeling lace, it curled around her hand like an eel.
The day before Easter, the Demon grabbed Francis outside and carried him into the air upside down. When the other servants of the house realized Francis was missing, they searched for a half hour until he was found delirious in a bog. He sang and whistled in a strange trance, and his wig was found on the top branch of a tree.
Francis recovered a little from his adventure, but his limbs still felt really numb from being in the bog. For reasons of 17th century medicine, he was moved to Crediton, where he received what must have been the most cutting-edge bloodletting available.
After Francis was properly bled, his friends visited and noticed that his forehead was swollen and bleeding. This turned out not to be a cut from the doctor. According to Francis, a bird carrying a rock in its beak flew into the room and bashed his head in. His friends searched the room for the rock, but only ended up finding a brass weight.
Sadly, the ultimate fate of Francis Fey is lost to history. The only source for his story comes from a letter written by an anonymous “Person of Quality” to a man in London. The letter, dated May 11, 1683, was published as a pamphlet sometime that same year. Of Francis, it concludes that “The young man will be 21 if he lives to August next.” We can only hope that the bird with the rock never came back to finish what it started.
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