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Mary Bateman, also known as the Yorkshire Witch and the British Chicken-Stuffer was a murderess, witch, and con artist.

She was born as Mary Harker in 1768 to a farming family. When she was 13, she became a serving girl in Thrisk, North Yorkshire, but she was fired for stealing. In 1788 or in 1799 (the accounts vary here) she moved to Leeds where she became a dressmaker and told fortunes. By that time, she was an established a petty thief and con-artist whose MO consisted of tricking her marks into believing she had supernatural powers. She also straight up defrauded people in simple charity scams that would have made Gerry Tesch proud; after a disaster, such as a fire, she would go door to door asking for donations for the victims, and then just keep whatever she got.

In 1792, she married the wheelwright John Bateman, and by all accounts made his life a living hell with her crimes, causing them to have to move frequently in order to evade prosecution. One account says that Mary told her husband that his father, who lived in Thrisk, was gravely ill. When John went to see his dad, he found him in good health, and when he returned, Mary had sold all his clothes. In any case, John joined the militia, essentially leaving her, and Mary continued on with her assorted cons.

In 1806, she created my favorite scandal of all time, The Prophet Hen of Leeds. Mary came into possession, she claimed, of a chicken that was predicting the imminent appearance of Christ. She charged onlookers to see as the hen laid eggs with the words "Christ is Coming" on them. However, as foreshadowed by the "Chicken-Stuffer" moniker, you may have already guessed that these eggs were not laid by a mysteriously oracular chicken. Instead, Mary etched the eggs with acid beforehand, then shoved them back into the chicken before calling everyone around to see.

1806 was also the year that she met Rebecca and William Perigio. By this time, Mary had a reputation among the gullible for being a fortune teller with the ability to ward off evil spirits and do protective charms/rituals. Rebecca Perigio believed she and her husband had been cursed with an "evil wish" because Rebecca suffered frequently from what we know now are heart palpitations.

Rather than claiming to be able to cure them herself, Mary convinced the Perigios that she knew of a powerful witch named Ms. Blythe who could cast protective spells and cures at a distance, provided they follow her instructions-- which would be given through Mary. These instructions included things that were clearly scams, such as sending Ms. Blythe fancy petticoats or to sew four guinea notes into the corners of their bed, then send those notes to Blythe. But they also included random, 'vaguely magical' ritual sounding things like hammering a horseshoe above the bed, but not using a hammer to do it. The most common trick was that Blyth would send the Perigios silken bags that were sewed up and that were supposed to contain coins or money notes. These silk bags were to be sewn onto the corners of the bed or placed around the house, and then the Perigios were to compensate Blythe by paying her whatever the value in the bags was. The bags, of course, were full of junk that felt like money, but was not.

Eventually, Mary/Blythe instructed the Perigios to eat a special pudding that was made with poisoned honey. The pudding was to be consumed over a period of time, a little every day, while Mary/Blythe continued to dupe the Perigios out of money and goods (including asking them to buy bed sheets, honey, and other groceries). William found the pudding too disgusting to stomach, and stopped "treatment" early, but Rebecca, tragically, ate it regularly and passed away in May of 1806, only a few months after meeting Mary.

Mary, the ballsiest bitch on the planet, continued sending letters/demands to William, and blamed the death of his wife on her having eaten honey against Blythe's instructions. William continued to follow Mary's instructions for another couple years, but eventually he decided to peek inside one of the silk baggies Blythe had sent him and found that the money was fake. He contacted the authorities and set up a sting; he met Mary under the pretense of buying medicine from her, and she was promptly arrested. When the authorities searched her home, they found arsenic powder, stolen goods, and poisoned honey used for the pudding.

Mary denied everything, and at one point claimed to be pregnant in order to avoid execution, but that claim was debunked. She was hanged March 20, 1809

According to the other wiki, "After her execution, her body was put on public display in Leeds and strips of her skin were tanned into leather and sold as magic charms to ward off evil spirits."

So that's fuckin' gruesome.

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