For all the evil attributed to the Devil, his personal kill count is remarkably low. According to a count on the skeptical blog Dwindling In Unbelief, Old Nick is estimated to have killed only 60 or so people in the Bible. It’s a pretty embarrassing number for the Prince of Darkness, but based on a story from an old English pamphlet, we could bump this number to 61.
In 1662, a pamphlet was published in London entitled “A Strange and True Relation of One Mr. John Leech.” One morning, Leech- a farmer from the village of Raveley-set off to go drinking at a fair in the town of Whittlesey. Walking two miles away from his house, Leech bumped into one of his neighbors, and demanded the man take part in his merrymaking. Since you should never decline a morning drink with your neighbor, Leech and his friend stopped at a near-by house for some fermented refreshments.
After Leech began to get “very merry,” his neighbor asked the members of the household what time it was. They answered that it was almost 11, but Leech wasn’t apparently done yet. He replied, “Let the Devil take him who goeth out of this house today.” More drinking and sitting followed until Leech suddenly remembered the fair, and decided to stick to his original plan. Though his friend reminded Leech of his earlier words, Leech scoffed that he was too heavy for the Devil to carry. He then called for his horse and left.
On his way to the fair, Leech began to have second doubts. His mind was plagued with anxiety, and he rode back and forth in a daze until dark, never reaching his destination. At one or two morning, Leech encountered a pair of monsters that looked like griffins. The sight scared the bejesus out of him, and then he heard a voice repeat”Remember thy sins and the Oath thou hast broken this day” three times. At the sound of these words, Leech fell from his horse and was seized by the griffins, who carried him twelve miles into the air. The monsters tore off his clothes and dumped him, bloody and gory, in a farmyard.
In the morning, some servants starting their day found Leech laying incoherent on a set of harrows. They asked him a bunch of questions, but Leech could only sigh and groan. The servants’ master took pity on Leech, and ordered him to be moved to a bed in the house. When Leech recovered his strength, he explained what happened, and the master allowed him to rest there for another day or two.
Meanwhile, a few of the servants doing their chores found torn-up clothes two miles away from the farm. They showed the rags to Leech, who quickly “grew into a Frenzy so desperate, that they were afraid to stay in his Chamber.” The master offered to call Leech a minister, but Leech refused, saying it was too late to save him. The master called for a minister anyway, and when the man went into Leech’s room, Leech jumped out of bed and threw the minister so violently that he nearly killed him.
The master and his servants heard the commotion and rushed to the bedroom. Inside, Leech was trying to beat the minister to death, so they grabbed and bounded Leech onto the bed. Leech immediately broke loose, and everybody was so terrified at this point that they opted to just lock Leech inside the room. (Because why waste money on an exorcism when you can just lock the door?) For the rest of the day, nobody dared to enter Leech’s room.
When morning came, the members of the household went to check on their demented guest by listening at his door. They didn’t hear a single screech or bit of glossolalia, and when they unlocked the room, discovered why. Leech was found dead on the bed, with “his neck broke, his tongue out of his mouth, and his body as black as a shoe, all swelled, and every bone in his body out of joint.” Most of the people of the town saw Leech’s body, and his corpse was eventually buried after the smell got too unbearable.
For anybody who thinks the poor farmer simply had too much to drink, the author of the pamphlet takes care to note that the account had been verified by six “Persons of unquestionable Credit.” At any rate, I hope you’ll all think twice the next time you invoke the Devil during a morning drink with your neighbor.
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