Toads, Witches and Murder in Stradbroke Village, Suffolk

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TRACY MONGER recalls some strange “witchcraft” events in Stradbroke Village, Suffolk from 1599

Toads, Witches and Murder in Stradbroke Village, Suffolk 1

We read a lot about the executions of witches in 1645 but other cases are interesting. This particular one was at Stradbroke village in Suffolk.

During June of 1599, Doll Bartham was accused of witchcraft and bewitching Joan Jorden.

Joan Jorden was sent three toads in total, the first was sent to prevent her from sleeping.

The second toad was sent and burnt a few days later.

Joan was advised to burn the third toad herself but she fell down the stairs and became unconscious when carrying the toad down the stairs.

The toad was taken by her employer to be burnt on the fire, as the toad was burning, a flame appeared at the bottom of the stairs, but the fire did not caused any damage.

Many witnessed Joan had fits and to some it seemed like she was possessed.

A lump was seen moving around her body, the size of a man’s fist.

On one occasion while she was bound to a chair during a fit, she struggled and broke it. It took six men to keep her in another chair.

Doll was accused of bewitching Joan.

A spirit called Gyles, which was thought to be Doll’s familiar, was sent to Joan.

Gyles was willing to answer questions asked by others.

Gyles claimed he had come for Joan’s life and that he would also take her soul.

Gyles also claimed to have killed a child in a mother’s womb.

He also claimed to have entered into another body, tearing his heart out, killing him.

A stillborn child and a man’s strange death supported the claim by Gyles.

Another visit by Gyles woke Joan by “a great stroke on the bordes, like the fall of a great stone” and she cried for help.

A shadow is seen going to her bed and then she is thrown out of her bed, against the wall.

Stradbroke Village

Joan was later found under her bed.

Four men pulled her out.

Her eyes were described as sinking into her head, with her head bending backwards, her mouth is shut and she lay as if she was dead.

Another occasion Gyles came in the shape of a cat, he came into her room at about 11pm, scraping on walls, knocking and shuffling.

He tried to wake her by clapping on her cheeks on her face and then kissed her.

He put pressure on her chest by sitting on her, until she could not speak.

He later held her hands so she could not move and he restrained her voice so she could not speak.

Gyles also appeared as a dark thick substance, which was a foot high.

Gyles spoke and a few people witnessed it.

They became convinced it was not faked as they could clearly hear both Gyles and Joan speaking at the same time.

Joan has been heard crying out “Barthram, thou hast killed me” in the middle of a fit and this was witnessed by numerous people including John Sheereman and Symon Fox (Joan’s employer).

While imprisoned, Gyles claimed to have been serving Doll for 10 to 20 years.

Doll appeared before the Lord Chief just of England at St Edmondsbury on the 12th July 1599 and she was executed for bewitching Joan.

TRACY MONGER is a paranormal investigator with Mysteries of Paranormal Research Association (MOPRA), based in Norwich, Norfolk. You can follow her on Facebook here.


  1. This is fascinating.

    I sent you a message on Facebook Messenger about possibly using this article as part of a history/creative writing session I’m running in Stradbroke. If you haven’t received it, perhaps you could email me.


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