March 20, 1809
York, North Yorkshire, England
Mary Bateman, the “Yorkshire Witch,” is hanged for murder
Bateman, looking to bolster her husband’s modest income, began to tell fortunes in 1799 but soon offered her services as a “screwer-down,” claiming to use phantoms to immobilize her clients’ enemies, and sold various other supposed spells and charms. To give herself credibility as a witch, Bateman went so far as to write the phrase “Crist is coming” onto an egg which she “stocked” into her hen by pushing them inside the bird to allow it to lay the eggs in front of witnesses.
Eventually, Bateman’s reputation as a witch grew enough for the niece of Rebecca and William Perigo to suggest they contact Bateman for the heart palpitations and nightmares Rebecca had. The Perigos believed a neighbor had hexed Rebecca and Bateman was called to cast healing and other protective spells. After the couple had spent a considerable amount of money, Bateman offered the pair a treatment which turned out to be sublimate of mercury mixed into honey and pudding. The Perigos were under strict orders not to share the mixture with anyone and to destroy any not consumed. Rebecca ingested a larger quantity than her husband and fell deathly ill, and Bateman offered an antidote, which was simply arsenic. Rebecca died soon after.
Doctors suspected poisoning after examining Rebecca’s body, which had developed black spots over her body, especially her neck and stomach. Bateman was arrested and convicted of Rebecca’s murder, and given the sentence of death. She was hanged on March 20, 1809, professing her innocence on the scaffold.
After the execution, Bateman’s body was flayed and dissected, a common practice at the time to dissuade murder (the belief of the time held that “intact burial was a prerequisite for posthumous grace,” as noted by Rachel E. Bennett of the University of Warwick, essentially meaning the soul of a a desecrated corpse could not ascend to heaven). Bateman’s skin was taken to create a folding cup (pictured), her tongue was removed and pickled, and part of her skeleton was articulated and displayed (pictured). Wyrd England Gazetteer attempted to track down the pickled tongue and contacted the Bolling Hall museum which had held the specimen as late as the 1950s, but was informed it had been destroyed for being “too macabre.”
“Mary Bateman “The Yorkshire Witch”.” Capital Punishment UK. Accessed: March 20, 2020. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/bateman.html
Bennett, Rachel E. “Capital Punishment and the Criminal Corpse in Scotland, 1740–1834.” University of Warwick, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK481731/?report=reader
Schwarcz, Joe. “Mercury has fascinated us for centuries.” Montreal Gazette. January 5, 2019
Elmhirst, Edward. Murderer’s Leather. 1954. Transcribed by Wyrd England Gazetteer. http://wyrduk.blogspot.com/2013/02/mary-batemans-skin.html?m=1
Extraordinary Life and Character of Mary Bateman the Yorkshire Witch. Leeds: Davies and Co., 1811 (available on Google Books for free: https://books.google.com/books/about/Extraordinary_Life_and_Character_of_Mary.html?id=5CswAAAAYAAJ)