The Cage is a reportedly haunted house, in the village of St Osyth in England, which was once used as a jail for accused witches in the 16th Century.
The Cage, St Osyth, Essex, England
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
The Cage was once used as a jail for accused witches in the 16th Century and was separated into two parts. One part of the building was contained the cells for twenty to thirty ‘common’ prisoners and the second part was used for keeping the ‘serious’ criminals such as the accused or convicted witches.
Also in St Osyth, is ‘Coffin Alley’ which passes behind The Cage, the reportedly haunted insane asylum across the street from The Cage and a haunted tavern down the road from the prison where in 2016 a driver lost control of their vehicle and crashed into the front of the tavern injuring several people and killing one person.
In 16th century England the fear of, and threat from, witches was a very real thing in the minds of the majority of people, including those in the church. The persecution of witches began during Elizabeth I’s reign in around 1563 and the large hunts first began in 1609. The use of witchcraft however had been deemed heresy as early as 1484 by Pope Innocent VIII. The witch trials in Europe reached their height between 1560 and 1630 and between 1484 and 1750 roughly 200,000 witches were ‘tortured, burnt, and hung across Western Europe’.
“with witchcraft, a fear and panic for certain Christian theologians seems to grow in lockstep with the embrace of a new doctrinal position that it was actually possible for a person to obtain real supernatural power through a collaboration with the devil”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_trials_in_the_early_modern_period (Wikipedia, 2018)
In the ‘early-modern tradition’ witches were stereotypically women as were most accused of witchcraft however some men were known to be accused of being witches as well. The common belief was that someone became a witch when they signed a pact with evil spirits. Commonly this was the devil and witches would sign their names in his ‘book’ thereby signing over their souls and gaining their power. According to folklore they were also given a ‘devil’s mark’, a mark or brand which the devil to put on them to mark them as his own and from which a witches familiar would suckle (feed).
In St Osyth, fourteen witches were rounded up and imprisoned based on accusations from curses, causing sickness and sending familiars to ‘wreak havoc’. The most well known of these witches, Ursula Kemp, was the first to be arrested. Reportedly, she had previously been ‘fairly popular among her neighbors in the past, and was known for mixing all sorts of herbal concoctions and salves to heal various ailments’ and at the time was known in the village as a healer. She was reportedly even called on to ‘reverse spells and curses cast by witches’ for a price. Ursula was tracked down by witch hunters after rumours grew that she ‘was able to cure and inflict illnesses’.
“a lonely woman mixing her potions and performing such magic, as well as keeping herself surrounded by several cats, it was only a matter of time in this era of rampant superstition and fear of magic before she was accused of being a witch herself, with numerous people coming forward to claim that she had been causing the very sicknesses she had claimed to heal”https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/a-haunted-witches-prison-in-england/ (Mysterious Universe , 2018)
Her trial was held in 1582 in Chelmsford with an ‘overwhelming‘ number of people testifying against her, some complaining of curses, others that she had set her familiars upon them and some that she had used ‘black magic’ to cause deaths. Ursula, who was reportedly a midwife, was accused of causing the deaths of two children after a mother chose to have a neighbour deliver her baby instead of Ursula. When the child died later Ursula was accused of having cursed the family and child causing it’s death.
Among the curses she was accused of casting was one that ‘caused a baby to fall and break her neck’, that she ‘allegedly caused a woman to go lame’, that she had ‘bewitched people who angered her by muttering curses’ and even that she ‘had used her witchcraft to prevent beer from brewing’.
However, shockingly, the most damning evidence against her was given by her eight-year-old son. He told the court that she had four familiars; ‘two cats, a black toad, and a white lamb, which he had seen suckling blood from her’ and claimed that these familiars were ‘two male spirits that killed people and two female spirits that brought sickness to people and destroyed cattle’.
During Ursula Kemp’s trial the other thirteen accused would be ‘implicated in witchcraft as well’ and all were found guilty. The fourteen ‘witches’ were then moved to the local witches’ prison known as ‘The Cage’ where they awaited punishment their which was execution by hanging for most.
In the 16th century accused or suspected witches were imprisoned, tortured, interrogated and executed mercilessly. The methods used were cruel and extremely painful and included thumb screws, leg irons, burning or pricking suspected ‘devil’s marks’ and the ‘ducking stool’. Those being tortured would eventually confess, and implicated others, in order to stop the torture and suffering. This confession was deemed proof of guilt despite the obvious duress. Many others however died in prison, some by suicide, some from torture and some from the horrid conditions, before their execution and some before they even got to a trial.
Methods of execution for those found guilty of witchcraft included hanging and, less commonly, being burnt alive at the stake. However, some were offered an escape from execution in return for ‘confessing’ to being a witch and repenting. Some would have taken this option to save themselves from the noose or the stake. Ursula Kemp and six of the other accused were executed by hanging at The Cage and their bodies ‘unceremoniously dumped’ in unmarked graves on ‘unhallowed ground’.
Later, The Cage was used as a quarantine for victims of the plague (the Black Death), with many dying there, before it was used as a prison again. Now, The Cage is well known as being haunted, has been investigated several times and has more than once been referred to as ‘one of the most haunted places in Britain’.
The Cage was kept in operation until 1908 when it was closed down and sold.
Several owners of the building reportedly had ‘very intense’ paranormal experiences in the building and one buyer, who bought it in the 1800’s for £150, sold it only two weeks later for only £50. Another owner reportedly ‘went mad and hung himself there’ after becoming a ‘recluse’, seven months before Vanessa bought the property.
The most well-known case of a haunting in The Cage was experienced and reported by Vanessa Mitchell, who lived in the house for three years and was allegedly left traumatized ‘by a string of bizarre, often violent ghostly encounters on the property’. She claimed that when she bought the property in ‘her childhood village’ and moved in in 2004 she wasn’t told anything about the sinister history of the building or the deaths that had allegedly occurred there but was plagued by poltergeist activity ‘which seemed to be never-ending and would manifest at all hours of the day and night’ from the beginning.
In an interview on This Morning on ITV in the UK Vanessa Mitchell stated that she knew of the properties history and had been told by local realtors that the property was haunted and that she expected it to be haunted as well but did not expect it to be ‘as bad as it was’. But she also said that she ‘loved’ the ‘beautiful little cottage’, liked the ‘old prison door’, and also described it as ‘a little slice of English history’.
“On a typical day you’d be sitting there, things would fly across the room, door latches would go, up and down the stairs, taps turning on all the time…”Vanessa Mitchell, ITV This Morning
She said of the cottage that ‘it was bad, it was very active’ and that she saw the ghosts of two men and a woman while there. Vanessa also reported that her flatmate who lived with her for the first year in The Cage had also ‘seen things’ and that after she moved out ‘it got really bad’. Vanessa also told a story of how one day when she was ironing downstairs in the prison room and her son Jesse, who was only four or five months old, was upstairs and heard his electric toys ‘going off’.
“Sometimes you do get an instant fear. Sometimes in there it was kind of ok cos it comes with a feeling whether it… it’s hard to explain and then it was bit of a… you know I felt quite panicky the toys… anyway I went upstairs with the um with the ironing and I saw a man standing at the top of the stairs right next to Jesse’s cot. And I thought… that was one of the last things to be honest.”Vanessa Mitchell, ITV This Morning
She stated that this was the incident which pushed her to leave the house and that the ghost she saw had been wearing ‘modern day clothes’. Vanessa also claimed that the house ‘makes you depressed’ and that the ‘spare room’ where she also used to stay, was a ‘very very negative, oppressive room’ and that it was ‘horrible’. Visitors to The Cage and investigators have also encountered this sort of feeling in the same room and experienced paranormal phenomena here. According to Vanessa she had one couple move in after she left but they ‘only last longer than three months’ before she decided to open the door of The Cage to visitors and investigators.
Ursula Kemp is reported to be one of the spirits haunting The Cage, her three daughters who are also thought to have been witches, the jailer of the witches prison supposedly named Jacob and the previous owner who hung himself there reportedly named Phillip. A woman named Alice Hawkins is also reported to be one of the spirits haunting The Cage however it was reportedly a woman named Alice Newman who was executed as a witch alongside Ursula Kemp.
One theory as to why the daughters of Ursula Kemp may haunt The Cage as well is because when a woman was accused of witchcraft and imprisoned, any children she may of had would have been imprisoned with her. Some also believe that the previous owner who hung himself in the house was possessed by the jailer and driven by him to kill himself.
Mitchell reported that she saw ‘dark shadowy figures lurking about’ and that she was often pushed or slapped by an unseen entity or force. She also claimed that ornaments would fly of the mantel piece on their own, the hall stairs door would ‘crash open’, the volume of the TV would go up and down on its own, someone or something could be heard pacing backwards and forwards in the upstairs hall when there was no one up there, blood splatters would appear on the floor in the hall in broad daylight and in front of visitors.
She also reported that on one occasion, while pregnant, she was pushed ‘roughly’ to the ground and that she once walked in on a ‘shadowy figure looming over her son as he slept’. Mitchell also claimed that the chain, left behind from the days of the property being a jail, would swing backwards and forwards and even claimed that there was CCTV footage taken of a ‘satanic goat wandering about’.
“It was absolutely terrifying, I just remember feeling the force like something had pushed me and falling on my side. When I was on the floor I just lay there in shock.”https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/a-haunted-witches-prison-in-england/ (Mysterious Universe , 2018)
“I’m selling the house now because the house is getting worse, we’re catching evidence all the time of the tortured spirits inside. I’ve had every medium, psychic and investigator in there to try and get rid of what’s in there. I honestly believe the house is cursed, I have lived there for years but for me seeing a tall dark figure standing between me and my son’s cot was the final straw for me. There’s something evil in there, something demonic, whatever it is that’s keeping the other spirits trapped inside. It’s so haunted I don’t know what more I can do, and it’s time for someone to own it who can do more with it than me.”https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/a-haunted-witches-prison-in-england/ (Mysterious Universe , 2018)
When North London Paranormal Investigations visited The Cage they spoke to another previous resident, John Chapman who told them that he was a skeptic before living in the property before encountering paranormal phenomena ‘every other day’. He described one occasion, in the upstairs bathroom, in the morning, when he was getting ready for work and he saw someone standing behind him. Chapman also described the feeling of someone ‘spraying’ the back of his head while he was brushing his teeth. Reportedly, other ‘experienced’ mediums have attempted to go into that bathroom but have ‘recoiled’ and refused to go into that bathroom and say that it is ‘very very uncomfortable’ and that there is ‘something’, some sort of ‘dark entity’ in there. Outside this bathroom is where a previous resident is reported to have hung himself. He also claimed that he could feel something ‘building up’ every ‘two or three days’ and that he would just leave, ‘go anywhere’ to get out of the house.
Many curious people, paranormal enthusiasts and paranormal investigations have visited the property since and many have had their own paranormal experiences there. Paranormal investigator and author Micky Rawlings decided to try living in The Cage as part of his investigation and claimed that he had been harassed by a ‘malevolent ghostly force’. Rawlings reported books flying off shelves in the upstairs hallway, doors opening on their own, a shadow person, sounds of ‘growling’, hearing ‘of footsteps running around’, the sound of ‘children playing upstairs’ and ‘the disembodied tunes of what sounds like a tiny piano playing’. He stated that he would ‘argue that the place is dangerous – I’m convinced it could end up killing someone one day’.
Rawling also claimed that a female visitor had been sat on the toilet when ‘a cupboard door had opened and hit her in the legs’ and that she then ‘suddenly ran out with the knickers around her ankles, screaming, into the street’.
Brad Mac, another investigator, also stayed the night at The Cage on December 2nd 2017 with his team of volunteers and one other investigator who had experience with The Cage as well as Vanessa Mitchell who joined the team but refused to stay after dark. Mac investigated several of the rooms by himself and joined the volunteers while they tried to ‘provoke the dark spirits into reacting’.
He reported that early during the investigation he heard ‘faint whispers’ behind him while walking around upstairs, heard heavy heavy and light footsteps, was ‘bitten or pinched on the leg’, that they captured ‘numerous lights flickering on both levels of the house’ and even saw ‘two little stick figures cowering from my touch in the motion camera’ and one was ‘covering its face and recoiling as I try to touch it’. Mac also reported that his EMF measurement tool ‘fluctuated like crazy’.
“Through the course of the night, I investigated in a few rooms myself, joined the volunteers as they tried to provoke the dark spirits into reacting, and mainly watched from CCTV to see if we capture anything in the moment. My Mel Meter ( An EMF Measurement tool) fluctuated like crazy, we constantly heard footsteps both light and quick and some heavy but quicker.”https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/a-haunted-witches-prison-in-england/ (Mysterious Universe , 2018)
Later, during the investigation, at around 3AM when the volunteers were upstairs in the ‘pitch black and silent’ master bedroom, supposedly one of the most haunted areas in the house, while Mac and another colleague monitored them on a live video feed, from a hidden camera, sending instructions through a walkie talkie. This reportedly ‘provoked a lot of activity and they saw ‘innumerable inexplicable lights flicker across the room’. They also heard a ‘loud growl coming from the corner’ and three loud bangs ‘smash of the door’ behind the volunteers.
It was also reported that one of the investigators, named Debbie, appeared to ‘undergo a rather unsettling transformation as they were all gathered there, with her nose becoming hooked, her eyes becoming fierce and dark, and her face cracking an evil smile’ which Mac described as ‘Joker-like’.
You can see more pictures and read The Ghost Hunk’s personal account here.
“Both me and Dave gasped, she was unrecognizable and what I saw shook me to my core. After a moment that seemed a lifetime, I knew I had to film this. I whipped out my iPhone, fully charged – thank God. [Her] nose… it has changed shape completely. Almost like a witch’s, with a sharp arch in the bridge of her nose. That nose… is not a prop.”https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/a-haunted-witches-prison-in-england/ (Mysterious Universe , 2018)
After seeing this Mac and his colleague instructed Debbie to leave the room and come back downstairs believing that ‘whatever else was in that room was trying to [take] over’. Debbie reportedly ‘stumbled’ out of the room and went downstairs ‘in a panic’ where she started ‘clawing at her back’ and complained that ‘something was burning on her back’. When her jumper was lifted up the team saw ‘what looked like four long burn marks splayed out like fingers and another going straight up her back into her neck’.
Brad Mac claimed to believe that a spirit of one of the witches had attempted to possess her and had ‘briefly succeeded’. On his blog The Ghost Hunk Mac pointed out that in pictures of Debbie from earlier in the night show that she is wearing ‘numerous layers with her hood up’ which made it ‘impossible to have reached that part of her back herself’. Mac reported that Debbie ‘suffered for many nights following this investigation with nightmares and strange occurrences at her home’ but that she is fine now.
Brad Mac and his team decided to not go ahead with their plan to stay the whole night after the events of the evening left ‘some of the frightened volunteers even fearing for their very lives if they stayed’.
The bedroom that they were in, as well as the other bedroom in the house are reportedly the most haunted in the house with ‘the most negative energy’ but the main bedroom, called the ‘Flower Room’ reportedly has more negative than the bedroom at the front of the cottage.
When North London Paranormal Investigations visited The Cage they conducted EMF experiments and seemed to receive intelligent responses to the questions they asked (starts at the 5:20 time mark in the video). One of the mediums visiting The Cage with the team, Gemma Louise Pugh claimed to feel the ‘strong presence of a girl in agony’ which forced her to go outside (6:52). The same medium also reportedly ‘envisioned something down the alley’ behind the property, Coffin Alley, and went outside to investigate (7:36). She claimed to have the impression of someone carrying or dragging someone else down the alley and asked if bodies were taken out The Cage through that alley. Pugh is reportedly not a local of St Osyth and had never been there before, and did not know of the alleys local names of Coffin Walk and Coffin Alley.
Additionally, when Gemma Pugh attempted to go into the bathroom which John Chapman reportedly felt someone standing behind him, and where other mediums have had strong adverse reactions, but only opened the door a few inches before shutting it again and refusing to go in (11:33). The team also found that when they returned to the children’s bedroom, after filming in their earlier, a small table in the room had been moved to in front of the door blocking in from inside, preventing them from being able to get in (12:20).
Reportedly, other visitors to The Cage and even those just passing by have reported ‘all manner of strangeness from this place’ as well photographic evidence showing ‘mysterious lights of orbs’ and ‘shadow figures.
The street known as ‘Coffin Walk’ or ‘Coffin Alley’ also passes by the property and was said to have been used to remove the bodies of the witches who died in the jail. A photograph was taken here by Chris Halton, a former policeman, who claimed to see ‘a hooded figure carrying a stretcher, followed by two others’. Halton reported that he left The Cage around midnight and walked down Coffin Alley which was ‘dark and completely empty’ where he took some pictures with his camera witch the flash on.
“I was shocked. I have seen a lot of ghost pictures but it is very rare that anything significant is caught on camera. This was quite extraordinary. There was definitely no one there when I took the picture. I think they are residual apparitions, replays of an event that happened a long time ago, which is why they didn’t see or interact with me.”https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3395475/Does-photo-four-ghosts-carrying-body-witch-Retired-policeman-claims-picture-shows-spirits-500-year-old-burial-party.html (Daily Mail, 2016)
THEORIES AND EXPLANATIONS
There may be negative or malevolent in the area, as mentioned above, the alley behind The Cage, a nearby tavern and nearby asylum all of which are also reported to be haunted.
“Could it be that perhaps the reason this place is so infused with such strangeness is because of all of the suffering, death, and negative energy that permeate its dark history like a disease? Could this residual energy then be merely a symptom of this sickness, emanating out to cause these phenomena? Of course we are nowhere near knowing the answer to this, but it does seem that such macabre locales seem to hold to them a striking intensity of paranormal phenomena, and The Cage must certainly rank high up there among them.”https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/a-haunted-witches-prison-in-england/ (Mysterious Universe, 2018)