Dancing Swords And Other Hazards of 17th-Century London Silkweaving


            I'm sorry I'm late commenting on this, but I only just learned about the 1645 haunting of the house of one Paul Fox, a silkweaver in Plaisto, a spot that's totally a part of London and not someone awkwardly bluffing a location.  It's an intriguing case, starting, according to the anonymous chapbook <cite>Strange and Fearful News from Plaiso In The Parish Of Westham</cite>, with a sword that began dancing around Fox's house.  Fox locked it up in another room.  I admire his presence of mind, because I'm fairly sure a dancing sword in my silkweaving operations would make me sit, despairing, in the breakfast nook all day. 


            But the sword came back through the door --- I wonder if Fox hated himself for putting in that sword-slot the year before --- and was soon joined by a cane that also danced around, though the objects eventually settled down.  I like to think they were friends and got to chatting about old times and various long objects they never see anymore or never liked in the first place.  Fox doesn't seem to have done anything about them.  Maybe he was disheartened by the failure of the ``put the sword in the other room'' plan.


            When the boulder weighing ``half a hundred weight'' --- a hundredweight is an old English unit of measure for things that do not weigh a hundred pounds --- leapt out of the garden and climbed the stairs to settle in the room, Fox had recovered hit wits, apparently.  He had someone take it out to the yard that had been good enough for it for decades.  Granted, the boulder just jumped back out of the garden and returned to the room, but Fox had an idea what to do and someone else to do it. 


            Finally we get to the spirit.  Fox heard something banging on the door, and a hollow voice beyond demanding, ``I must dwell here''.  I imagine that was actually a relief.  It's terrifying, yes, but at least it's a specific, concrete demand, that can be answered with a yes or a no or a whimper.  I guess the boulder might be a concrete demand too, depending what the rock's made of, but it's hard to tell what was demanded (better gardening?), unlike ``I must dwell here''.  Fox refused the demand, and the next day the spirit hurled through the window bricks, tiles, oyster shells, pieces of bread, and ``other things''.  The bricks and tiles and oyster shells are all right, but pieces of bread?  It sounds like the spirit didn't know how ``hurling things through the window'' works. 


            Of course we only have Fox's side of this.  The spirit surely had reasons for wanting to dwell there.  Maybe it rented the cellar on the promise that sure, humans might be upstairs but they're not going to open silkweaveries or anything in their home and now the deal was broken.  It's always hard to be fair when you read of bread-throwing quarrels like this.