For anyone who has been accused of a crime that they did not commit is beyond any form of explanation. Once the material is out there, defending yourself, clearing your name, fighting suspicion and tolerating disdain is a horrible predicament.
Very often ignorant people with little information or small minds love the drama and form strong opinions. Historically these people may have taken unwarranted retaliatory action from expulsion from the clan to spreading the false word and aim to secure an unsafe conviction. It allows a sense of bullying to put the victim below their own standing. In Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte 1847), the cruel headmaster tells the girls to let ‘no one be her friend, take her hand or comfort her’. You get the sense that this is the worst for Jane, worse than the head blow and the lack of bread.
As stated, if the accusations are not true, the person is in a situation that is similar to being bullied. No one is exempt from this should it ever happen to them, the psychological devastation can be debilitating. If you are not believed, or unable fight back with the truth, you become distrusted and under scrutiny, the sense of vulnerability is overwhelming.
I have previously written about how the bullying of children can have a devastating effect which often lasts a lifetime. I discussed how children who are bullied with words that cause unbearable humiliation sometimes commit suicide. Freud identified this when he stated that ‘the pain of the ego is the worse kind of pain’. It is fair to argue that children who are targeted with words are often more traumatized than those who have been physically abused.
My research has unearthed the fact that people with certain kinds of mental structures are brilliant at looking like victims when they are actually perpetrators. They can ruin the life of an innocent person without a second thought. What is worse is that they will continue to do so and not be able to see the error of their ways.
Making a false accusation is an aggressive act. Sweet faces, soft voices and tears can hide sadistic impulses. Yet we never learn. We are sucked in and manipulated by these false accusers because we, as humans, try to see the best in everyone and are happy to accept the mask of which they have created. The sweetest person must be the victim whereas, the masculine, heavy built short haired tattooed man must be the perpetrator.
From my perspective I consider that my false accuser was brought into this world to tear down others. She knew of no other alternative than to lash out in the only way she knew as she had done this before – twice before in fact.
In 1938, an Oxford historian came across a case (quite by accident) of a case in 1604 of a false accuser.
In the summer of 1604, Anne Gunter, aged about 20 and living at North Moreton, then in Berkshire, now in Oxfordshire, fell ill. Anne Gunter vomited, sneezed pins and was racked by fits. It was initially considered that she was being bewitched by a neighbour. Doctors were called and they advised her father (Brian Gunter) that her sufferings were probably supernatural. By that time Anne was showing all the classic symptoms of demonic control; vomiting and sneezing pins, going into fits alternating with trances, suffering from bodily contortions. In her fits, she accused three women of bewitching her. One, Agnes Pepwell, had a reputation for being a witch and, probably sensing trouble, ran away. The other two, Agnes’s illegitimate daughter Mary and Elizabeth Gregory, by most accounts the most unpopular woman in the village, were tried for witchcraft at Abingdon in March 1605 and was eventually acquitted.
Wouldn’t let go
There the matter should have ended, but Brian Gunter would not let it go. In August 1605 King James I (who incidentally had a keen interest in witchcraft), was paying an official visit to Oxford University.
Gunter took Anne to meet the king, undoubtedly in the hope of having the case reopened. But he miscalculated. King James I, was as willing to demonstrate his expertise in matters of witchcraft by exposing fraudulent cases as well as finding genuine cases. To make matters worse, the upper reaches of the Church of England were extremely sceptical about demonic possession, witchcraft and related issues.
Lied for her father
Within a month Anne was confessing that she had simulated possession at her father’s direction to further a feud against Elizabeth Gregory. Her convincing symptoms were partly thanks to her reading of a tract that described the sufferings of daughters of another family near Huntingdon (three people had been executed for witchcraft in this affair). She also explained that bad feeling between her father and the Gregorys had begun in 1598.
Anne and her father appeared before the Star Chamber early in 1606. In the subsequent investigations roughly 60 witnesses were questioned, and their evidence rans to some 400 pages.
Like so many parishes in the area, North Moreton had no resident lord of the manor but was, in effect, run by about five farming families, the Gregorys among them. Brian Gunter was an interloper, arriving in the village in about 1587, and was clearly a difficult man.
Gunter had managed to get involved in litigation with the lord of the manor. And, a few years before the witchcraft case, he had been the subject of another set of Star Chamber proceedings when the leading village families had united to complain of the violent and troublesome behaviour perpetrated by him, his sons and his servants. Twenty years later Gunter was taken to the Star Chamber again by North Moreton’s vicar, who claimed Gunter had led two riotous assaults.
A liar and an abuser – see the connection?
I can only imagine and therefore assume that being the daughter to such a man was not easy. Anne’s account of what happened stated how her father had forced her to simulate being bewitched and, I would suggest, the relationship at times looked abusive. She was drugged, subjected to physical tests to “prove” her insensibility, threatened, sworn to secrecy and, on one occasion, pulled by her father from a neighbour’s house where she had taken refuge and kicked and sworn at in the street. It is little wonder she lived in fear of this man.
So what happened to Gunter and his daughter?
Well, little is known other than Gunter was imprisoned on the order of the King. Later documentary evidence seems to suggest that Gunter went back to North Moreton, and eventually died at Oxford in 1628. Anne, however, seems to have disappeared from history.
False accusers will use any tactic available.
The Gunter case is interesting. It is clear that Gunter had some form of problem and would set out to destroy his opponents by any means. He used his daughter to try and ‘prove’ an untruth. He fully intended to accuse others of being witches of which held the death penalty should they have been convicted.
Like myself, I have witnessed abusers use their children to give credence to their deceits. This is morally reprehensible in any form. However, unlike Gunter who served a prison sentence for his false accusations it appears to be the opposite of what can be expected in today’s modern society. Although we can be heavily critical of the past, at least they seemed to have got this right.