The Prophet Hen of Leeds
Although it’s debatable whether the people or groups mentioned in this list genuinely believed that the end of the world was coming and that they had access to prior knowledge of this coming event, there was one ‘prophecy’ that was as nefarious as it was hilarious.
Mary Bateman claimed to possess supernatural powers and in the late 18th century in Leeds, England, she would become a prominent fortuneteller, prescribing potions which she claimed would ward off evil spirits as well as acting as medicine.
However, it wouldn’t be until 1806, where her ‘skills’ would cause a mass panic and gain her the title ‘The Yorkshire Witch’. She claimed to have a domestic hen that was not only just laying eggs but delivering prophetic messages.
To prove this she would invite villagers to witness her hen laying eggs, and when the eggs were produced, much to the astonishment of those present, they would be inscribed with the message “Christ is coming.” This, of course, caused all to believe the end times were upon them.
This apocalyptic prediction ruse would soon be exposed as it was quickly discovered that Bateman had been writing on the eggs in corrosive ink then reinserting them back into the unfortunate and no doubt unwilling hen.
Despite pulling this most panic inducing deception on her neighbors, it was discovered that she had been stealing from them and had poisoned one of their members, Rebecca Perigo, who had asked for Bateman’s help in lifting a curse that Perigo believed Bateman had placed on her.
Instead of lifting the curse she began feeding her and her husband pudding laced with poison, causing Rebecca’s death. William Perigo continued to pay her for more than two years until he discovered one of the “charms” was just a piece of worthless paper.
After the authorities searched her home they discovered the poison and personal belongings of her victims including the Perigo couple. She would be hanged on Monday the 20th March 1809. Disturbingly, she would unwittingly continue her career as a witch when strips of her skin were tanned into leather and sold as magic charms to ward off evil spirits.