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Tags maria marten , premonitions

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Old 13th June 2008, 02:38 PM   #1
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Psychic Evidence in Court UK - 19th century though!

Another thread sparked a vague memory of what I believe to be the only time in "modern" times psychic evidence was ruled admissable in an English Court of Law. I'm writing this entirely from memory, so please do check my facts, but the case is very well documented and someone should be in a position to do so - but apply extra caution to this claim ok?

In 1827 William Corder met to elope with one Maria Marten at Polstead, Suffolk, England. The couple left. Corder was the son of the local squire -- Marten the "innocent maid" (actually far from it but the story of the murder forms the basis for a whole genre of 19th century melodrama played out by theatre troupes in barns, and the term "barnstorming" is said by some to arise from it.)

He moved with Maria to London, and sent several letters informing her family how well they were doing. Some time later he advertised in a paper for a wife, pretty much inventing the Lonely Hearts ad I'm told - anyway meanwhile Maria's mother has a dream that Maria has been killed and is buried in the hayloft of the old Red Barn.

So a group of people go, Maria's body is found, and Corder arrestred, tried at Bury St Edmunds and hanged. The psychic nature of the mothers explanation raised a few eyebrows but was accepted.

Can anyone find more on this? If I can get my other pc to work I have written quite a bit on it in one of my books, but I'm sure some simple fact checking by someone with 5 minutes will confirm or deny my memory?

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Old 13th June 2008, 02:43 PM   #2
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Incidentally my first thought as a teenager on hearing the full story was "the mother was in on it." I read the trial records, as I wondered if Corder was innocent, and decided he was guilty as hell. His confession makes interesting reading. So what was going on? No idea, but I do have a few theories based on my knowledge of Suffolk folklore...

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Old 13th June 2008, 02:57 PM   #3
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Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Barn_Murder don't really see from that account that the "psychic" evidence was the reason she was put on the stand.
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Old 13th June 2008, 04:29 PM   #4
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Yeah, it's not a bad article though. What happens is roughly

1. Mrs Marten has the dreams

2. She sends a party who find the body exactly as described

3. Corder is arrested in London

4. Corder's defence is that Maria killed herself with his pistol, and the other body wounds were made during the discovery.

5. Mrs Marten is cross examined at length about why she thought the body was there, and puts it down to her premonitions

6. Obviously this causes considerable consternation, but is finally accepted as true.

7. Corder is found guilty and sentenced to hang

8. Corder writes a confession and is hanged.

His scalp, the trial record (bound in his skin as it happens after his dissection) and his pistol can be seen at Moyses Hall Musuem, Bury St Edmunds. It's a little creepy to look at the trial record as you might imagine.



Now, the question arises, why did the Judge allow the evidence of the dreams? Simply because there was no other explanation why a year on Mrs Marten was able to tell people where her daughter wa,s in a state of great distress.

Logical possibilities --

1. Corder confessed to her in a letter. Not at all likely - he had "remarried" a woman he met in response to his advert in The Times, claiming he had been abandoned by Maria or she had died, I forget which, and was doing well for himself. Relations between him and Mrs Marten were not good anyway. The correspondence that existed featured heavily in the trial.

2. An accomplice tipped her off - so she had to come up with a reason as to how she knew where her daughters body was. The problem with this is that Corder met Maria that night it seems with every intention of actually eloping - and the murder was by his own confession a sudden violent row, not at all premeditated. He fled immediately to London, his crime covered by Maria's known plan to elope? If someone else did have knowledge, why wait a year to pass it on to the mother? Why not tell the local authorities?

Both were considered. I'm going to go for three -- the dreams were genuine, and entirely explicable.

The clue may be in the name. The Red Barn was not Red at all - it stood on a slight rise to the west, and when the sunset it apparently glowed blood red in the light. Such places were popularly associated with murder and ghosts, and the Red Barn already had an eerie local reputation for hauntings, and was avoided after dark. Peter Haining first noted this, and from what I have seen it is true.

So the murder site was already considered a place of violence, ghosts and ill omen (I can think of a few more "Red Barns" in Suffolk from my childhood, but never heard this from any local so the belief has died out, but the name not?) It was an isolated spot, and while suited for romantic trysts, that was precisely because of its remote (not in American or modern terms!) location, a mile or two from the village and farm. It is quite likely that Maria and Corder had been seen to meet there previously, and both "hung out" with a dodgy crew of ruffians and ne'er do wells.


Now, why did the dreams start when they did? For the first few months in London Corder kept up a correspondence with the family - I'm pretty sure he then wrote saying Maria had left him - and then broke off contact. No news followed from Maria, and her mother received no letters from her daughter herself. Therefore she may well have been becoming more and more worried and suspicious - especially if she had reason to believe Maria was pregnant when she set off to elope.

We do not know (and nothing int he record leaves us to believe) that
Mrs Marten had previous dreams in which she say asserted Maria was drowned in the pond on which Corders elder brother drowned years before in an ice skating accident, in a local wood, etc, etc. I think if she did the search party would not have been so surprised and would have mentioned her previous failed guesses in the light of the suspicion that came to rest on her. So I think she was probably lucky first time - but given the idea of the Red Barn as a lonely "haunted" spot associated with murder, that is hardly surprising. If it was a known tryst for Corder and maria, even less so.

Only one curious fact remains - someone being buried in a hayloft. I'm not certain that is right, but I seem to recall it that way. I would have thought under the barn, but you'd need to check if my recollection is right.

A final possibility is that Mrs Marten simply smelt decomposition, and unconsciously realized what it meant. However i don't think the barn was in use by anyone a the time - it was semi-derelict.


Anyway a very brief analysis. I'd like to hear more if anyone has the time to look up the case - It is many, many years since i looked in to it. Still hope of interest.

cj x
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Old 15th June 2008, 12:52 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Barn_Murder don't really see from that account that the "psychic" evidence was the reason she was put on the stand.

From that, it looks as if the dreams were just an explanation for the body being looked for in the barn - the dreams don't seem to have mentioned a culprit, and the conviction appears to be based on other evidence. I think I can get hold of some contemporary accounts of the trial. I'll see what they say about this.
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Old 15th June 2008, 07:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
From that, it looks as if the dreams were just an explanation for the body being looked for in the barn - the dreams don't seem to have mentioned a culprit, and the conviction appears to be based on other evidence. I think I can get hold of some contemporary accounts of the trial. I'll see what they say about this.
From my memory that is completely correct. And thanks, that would be great -- I could but I'm on the wrong side of the country at the moment.

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Old 15th June 2008, 08:36 AM   #7
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It doesn't seem to be in the law reports; I can't find it on Westlaw or Butterworths, anyway.

But what Mojo said seems right from leafing through what sources I could find.
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Old 15th June 2008, 08:53 AM   #8
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Yes: the evidence definitely related to the finding of the corpse. Seemy explanation above... Interesting you can't find the record - County Assizes for Suffolk UK are all listed? It certainly exists,as i have read it and the case is extremely well documented.

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Old 15th June 2008, 09:27 AM   #9
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Unlikely to be reported as it wouldn't be binding on any other court, as far as I'm aware (the only ones that are systematically available are the Proceedings of the Old Bailey). At that sort of date people often published accounts of the trials of notorious cases though.

There is an account in The Complete Newgate Calendar. While this says that "the circumstances which eventually led to the discovery of this most atrocious crime are of so extraordinary and romantic a nature as almost to manifest an especial interposition of Providence in marking out the offender", it still seems that the dreams only related to Marten having been murdered and her body hidden in the barn, and didn't identify Corder as the murderer.
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Old 15th June 2008, 08:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Unlikely to be reported as it wouldn't be binding on any other court, as far as I'm aware (the only ones that are systematically available are the Proceedings of the Old Bailey). At that sort of date people often published accounts of the trials of notorious cases though.

There is an account in The Complete Newgate Calendar. While this says that "the circumstances which eventually led to the discovery of this most atrocious crime are of so extraordinary and romantic a nature as almost to manifest an especial interposition of Providence in marking out the offender", it still seems that the dreams only related to Marten having been murdered and her body hidden in the barn, and didn't identify Corder as the murderer.
Thansk mojo. Yes that is so. Did I somehow not make this clear from the beginning??? I thought I did -- maybe not. The dreams led to the discovery of the body, but so unusual were they that suspicion fell upon the mother for obvious reasons!

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Old 16th June 2008, 03:14 PM   #11
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I've had a look at two contemporary (published 1828) accounts of the trial and the surrounding circumstances.

Both include the evidence given in court in some detail, but neither has any mention of the dreams being mentioned in court, although there are accounts of the dreams and their alleged leads to the location of the body in the rest of the books.

I haven't found anything to support the suggestion that "psychic evidence" was even put forward in court, much less admitted.
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Old 16th June 2008, 04:23 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
I've had a look at two contemporary (published 1828) accounts of the trial and the surrounding circumstances.

Both include the evidence given in court in some detail, but neither has any mention of the dreams being mentioned in court, although there are accounts of the dreams and their alleged leads to the location of the body in the rest of the books.

I haven't found anything to support the suggestion that "psychic evidence" was even put forward in court, much less admitted.
Having read the trial record, I can assure you it was. You can check the Bury & Norwich Post for April 23rd 1828 for further details -

Quote:
A dreadful crime has been brought to light at Polstead, in this county and if reports we have are correct, by one of those mysterious circunstances which sometimes surpass what " tis dreamt of in our philosophy" the facts we have heard are these, some such as a young man of respectable family whose name it would be improper to mention, left the village rather suddenly and a young woman with whom he had been acquainted has disappeared at the same time, letters afterwards received from the young man represent that they were living together in a remote part of the Kingdom but bearing a London postmark. A few days ago however in consequence of the dreams of the girl's mother, a search was made in a barn, about 15" underground was found a body who though dressed in a male's attire, is supposed to be that of a young woman. An inquest was held on Sunday last by John Wayman, Gent, Coroner, but proceedings were adjourned till next Friday April 30th 1828. The statement we made in our paper last week was correct. The village of Polstead is a picturesque spot, remarkable for it's growth of wild cherries which mingled with gorse presents a beautiful landscape. Maria Marten, the daughter of a mole catcher had unhappily been lured into the paths of vice, the fruits of which were two illegitimate children, one of which is still living, the other of which is the son of William Corder the younger son of a wealthy farmer, died last year etc etc ---.
See http://www.foxearth.org.uk/1828BuryNorwichPost.html

This of course predates the trial. I have the trial record in Bury, and will next time i return there transcribe the relevant passages thereof.

However you are right the evidence was not admitted, in that the unusual circumstances of the discovery of the body had no direct bearing on the guilt of Corder, which was really beyond reasonable doubt.

cj x

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Old 17th June 2008, 12:51 AM   #13
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What is mentioned in Ann Marten's evidence is that she heard Corder telling Maria to meet him at the Red Barn, which could perhaps have given rise to the dreams.
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Old 17th June 2008, 08:13 AM   #14
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Indeed. In fact there were all kinds of reasons why she might have had these dreams, as I described in a previous post.

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Old 18th June 2008, 12:47 AM   #15
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I've now read a further account of the trial (the one by Curtis), and while this one does manage to include a reference to the dreams, it only does so by means of a footnote to Thomas Marten's evidence rather than as part of the evidence itself.
Quote:
I searched the Red Barn, on the 19th of April, in consequence of what my wife used to say to me1

...

1 Vide page 6, concerning the dream.

There's still no indication that the dreams were mentioned in court, despite all three accounts discussing them in their accounts of the events leading up to the discovery of the body. It would be a little odd if these accounts, which were intended to maximise sales, and to some extent sensationalised in other respects, would omit one of the most potentially sensational aspects of the trial. They include, for example, an argument that broke out in court after the verdict was announced but before sentence was passed, between the officer who had originally apprehended Corder and the prison governer as to who should have possession of Corder's pistols.

In any case, in view of the fact that the body had been discovered, and identified as Maria by other means, it isn't really clear what the dreams would have been evidence of, even if they had been mentioned in court.
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Old 18th June 2008, 01:16 AM   #16
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Have to go with Mojo, it seems as if the press of the day was like the press of today, i.e. sensationalists so made a lot of the "dreams" but it doesn't seem that any "psychic evidence" was ever presented in court.

I am sure today there are court transcripts that include statements like:

Prosecuting QC: "And at what time did you first see what was later identified as the body of Mr G?"

Witness:"I remember that I felt there was something strange going on and I glanced at the clock and it said 11.11 and then I looked out onto the street and saw a short man with a beard dropping what looked like a big-bag of rubbish onto the street".

I certainly wouldn't say that was "psychic evidence" being used as evidence in a court of law.
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Old 22nd June 2008, 04:51 AM   #17
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The sleeve notes of a CD I have have an interesting comment about the stepmother's evidence:
Quote:
Indeed, research now suggests that her mother's 'supernatural dreams' were motivated not so much by psychic phenomena as by her own criminal knowledge and probable association with Corder.

I'll see if I can find out anything more about this. There certainly seem to have been suggestions that Mrs Marten was more involved than she admitted:
Quote:
It has been suggested that Ann Marten may have known about the murder, and possibly had some part in it. Rumour had it that she was involved with Corder, that Maria was causing them problems and was murdered to get rid of her. Some believe that Mrs. Marten invented the story of the dream to ease her guilty conscience without implicating herself. There is no extant evidence to confirm the truth of these allegations.
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Old 22nd June 2008, 05:10 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
The sleeve notes of a CD I have have an interesting comment about the stepmother's evidence:


I'll see if I can find out anything more about this. There certainly seem to have been suggestions that Mrs Marten was more involved than she admitted:

Er, did I not say that in my first post? I certainly did in my second. Yes, that is why the matter was significant and raised - because most people jumped to the common sense assumption she knew something about it, and was criminally complicit in her daughters death. One suggestion was she was having an affair with Corder, and on his marriage to the Lonely Hearts wife broke it off and revealed the crime.

Unfortunately it does not work - there were two dreams, spaced some months apart, and as I think I have already shown every reason for Mrs Marten to have those dreams. However I'm pretty sure the defence raised this -- I do need the book aboiut the trial but my copy is 150 miles away.and is the trial transcript itself - and hard to access these days because of British Laws regarding human remains. Probably another copy around Bury St. Edmunds though not bound in human skin...

Fascinating case isn't it?
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Old 22nd June 2008, 05:58 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
I do need the book aboiut the trial but my copy is 150 miles away.and is the trial transcript itself - and hard to access these days because of British Laws regarding human remains. Probably another copy around Bury St. Edmunds though not bound in human skin...

Fascinating case isn't it?
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The volume bound in Corder's skin is the account of the trial by Curtis, which I referenced in post #15 and which failed to provide any evidence that the dreams were mentioned in court.

It is fairly widely available in non-anthropodermic bindings, as it has been republished several times.
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Old 22nd June 2008, 06:10 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Er, did I not say that in my first post? I certainly did in my second.

No, you said that it was your own personal suspicion on reading the account, not a more widely held belief, contemporary to the events, that may have had some reason behind it:
Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Incidentally my first thought as a teenager on hearing the full story was "the mother was in on it." I read the trial records, as I wondered if Corder was innocent, and decided he was guilty as hell. His confession makes interesting reading. So what was going on? No idea, but I do have a few theories based on my knowledge of Suffolk folklore...

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Old 22nd June 2008, 07:21 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
No, you said that it was your own personal suspicion on reading the account, not a more widely held belief, contemporary to the events, that may have had some reason behind it:
Oh sorry - yes it was a widely held belief at the time. It was what I maant when I wrote in first post

Quote:
So a group of people go, Maria's body is found, and Corder arrested, tried at Bury St Edmunds and hanged. The psychic nature of the mothers explanation raised a few eyebrows but was accepted.
I should have been more explicit. The local press, less constrained by reporting restrictions then than now was full of the story and considerable suspicion rested on the mother.

It however does not hold water as far as most researchers can make out. The Corder trial has interested historians for 150 years, and various conspiracy theories have appeared over the years in mainly local history books. Peter Haining wrote the best modern account, a few decades back now but I strongly recommend his book. He dissects all the claims and theories with a critical eye, and shows why they fail.

I do not have my books with me - as you may have gathered the relevant ones are in Suffolk, where I grew up. I have sent a request to a relative who by occupation has access to the documents in question to check for me the appropriate details, and may try to get my books sent over by my parents.

Surprisingly, in a story where myth has become far more potent than the reality, certain bizarre aspects like the dream are absolutely genuine. Why discount the mothers involvement?

Well as I keep pointing out, there was little reason for her not to have dreams as she was growing concerned about her daughters whereabouts with good cause, the barn had an ominous reputation anyway and it was where she was last headed. However the important thing is that Corder was hanging around with a "bad crowd" from London, and so was Maria. The mother was far from pleased -- and if she was involved her subsequent actions are a bit bizarre! After all, bringing Corder to trial would not be in her interest if she was guilty in any way -- as he might well implicate her, especially if he had as the "affair" suggestion has it abandoned her. Secondly she was living with her husband in Polstead, 80 miles from London and Corder, who did not return to Suffolk, nor she to London, after Maria's death, till the trial. Before that time in the voluminous correspondence in the papers, village gossip as recorded in the local press and memoirs (of which many exist) and the witness statements there is not a single hint of an allegation of a liaison between the mother and Corder.

Finally, all the signs are that it was a crime of passion, carried out in a heated row on the spur of the moment, by a man who then fled in terror and clumsily tried to cover his tracks. (Corder was not of the brightest, and may well have been educationally subnormal.) The dispute was largely over how Maria died, and a forensic issue, but I don't think there is anyone today who would seriously doubt his guilt - not least in the face of his well circulated confession.

Anyway, still fascinates me. The case entered Suffolk folklore, much like the Peasinghall Murder of 1904, and like Peasinghall soon gained supernatural elements relating to Corder's remains, which I have not discussed here.

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Old 2nd December 2008, 06:13 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
I do not have my books with me - as you may have gathered the relevant ones are in Suffolk, where I grew up. I have sent a request to a relative who by occupation has access to the documents in question to check for me the appropriate details, and may try to get my books sent over by my parents.



Have you managed to get hold of them yet?
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Old 2nd December 2008, 06:16 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post


Have you managed to get hold of them yet?
No, I had forgotten all about it! I actually found a few more 19th century "psychic" interludes in court cases last week -- so I'm glad you revived the thread. I'll have to try and do that - if i forget pm me to prompt me, or do this - always good!

Incidentally I have come across one celebrated 19th century "psychic" type case that I strongly suspect is absolute nonsense, despite being repeated a great deal in books. Anyone in the Birmingham UK region up for a little research to help establish the truth?

cj x
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Old 30th December 2008, 07:14 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
No, I had forgotten all about it! I actually found a few more 19th century "psychic" interludes in court cases last week -- so I'm glad you revived the thread. I'll have to try and do that - if i forget pm me to prompt me, or do this - always good!

Incidentally I have come across one celebrated 19th century "psychic" type case that I strongly suspect is absolute nonsense, despite being repeated a great deal in books. Anyone in the Birmingham UK region up for a little research to help establish the truth?

Give us some details (names etc.) of these, and I can probably find some information.
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Old 2nd December 2009, 02:55 AM   #25
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***Bump***

Have you managed to get hold of your books yet?

Or found any details of the Birmingham case?
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Old 2nd December 2009, 03:23 AM   #26
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The Wiki description is fascinating - I thought I knew the basic story of the Red Barn murder, but I never knew the victim's mother was actually her stepmother and only a year older than the victim herself. Nor that she only started having her "dreams" after the killer married someone else. Very suspicious.

I cetainly had no idea the record of the trial was bound in the guilty man's tanned skin! I'd never have imagined something so gruesome was happening in the 1800s.
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Old 2nd December 2009, 09:25 AM   #27
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I'd totally forgotten about this thread. Right I need to find that case for Mojo, and I will do the Red Barn details over the Christmas holiday.

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Old 24th October 2012, 03:46 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Stray Cat View Post
Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Of courtse its confusing. I chose it because it is, because you can make a case.

A case for what?
A judge would have thrown it out of court...

Speaking of courts, cj, have you managed to track down your copy of the record of Corder's trial which, you assured us, shows that psychic evidence was put forward in court?
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Old 24th October 2012, 03:48 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Speaking of courts, cj, have you managed to track down your copy of the record of Corder's trial which, you assured us, shows that psychic evidence was put forward in court?
A dream, which proved true. Nope, but I shall. I can now do something I could not do before, and I believe call upon the records without having to return to Bury. Let me have a look and i'll be right back.

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Old 24th October 2012, 03:50 AM   #30
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Bumped for cj.

Got any details of the Birmingham case yet? Or any of the rest of the "19th century "psychic" interludes in court cases" that you found back in 2008?
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Old 24th October 2012, 03:51 AM   #31
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Hey Mojo, that proved MUCH easier than expected. The trial record has now been published. I have ordered a copy -- http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1...ls_o00_s00_i00

I should have it within 3 days.

cj x
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Old 24th October 2012, 04:01 AM   #32
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I have just read the account in Hay (1847) which cites extensively from the trial, and no reference is made to the mother's alleged dreams. That does not prove it is not in the trial record, but it certainly does make it to my mind less likely. Luckily we shall have a copy as soon as my book is delivered and I will be able to definitively say if i was right or wrong

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Old 24th October 2012, 08:49 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Hey Mojo, that proved MUCH easier than expected. The trial record has now been published. I have ordered a copy -- http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1...ls_o00_s00_i00

I should have it within 3 days.

That appears to be a reprint of one of the contemporary accounts (published in 1828) I mentioned in post #11. As with the other contemporary accounts, it's a journalistic report than an official record of the trial. It gives accounts of the evidence given to both the coroner's inquest and the trial, but in neither, as far as I could see, did either Mrs. Marten or her husband mention the dreams. In her evidence to both, though, Mrs Marten mentioned a conversation with Maria and Corder on the day Maria disappeared, in which Corder arranged to meet Maria at the red barn and then leave the village with her.
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Old 24th October 2012, 09:23 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
That appears to be a reprint of one of the contemporary accounts (published in 1828) I mentioned in post #11. As with the other contemporary accounts, it's a journalistic report than an official record of the trial. It gives accounts of the evidence given to both the coroner's inquest and the trial, but in neither, as far as I could see, did either Mrs. Marten or her husband mention the dreams. In her evidence to both, though, Mrs Marten mentioned a conversation with Maria and Corder on the day Maria disappeared, in which Corder arranged to meet Maria at the red barn and then leave the village with her.
Curtis? Drat, I have read that; oh well nice to have a copy. Right, I'll try Raingate Street archives then. Cheers for reminding me Mojo!

cj x
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Old 24th October 2012, 11:48 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Curtis?

No, I don't think so. It's a briefer version. The Curtis version I've seen has a more detailed account of the evidence given by the witnesses.

If you have a look on Copac or Google Books, there are several accounts of the trial published in 1828 by different publishers. They may well all be based on the same original account, though.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 06:13 PM   #36
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Mojo,

Having finally found time to do the work I'm glad for my hesitancy in the early part of this thread. You are completely correct, no version of the trial i can find has any information on the dream being cited at the Trial. It was a topic of discussion at the Inquest -- however there is an important caveat here, in that the Coroner refused to allow the gentlemen of the press to take notes of what passed, so the press accounts thereof are based upon memory, and possibly sensationalised. THanks for your patience while i looked this up, and my brief account of the whole affair can be found here -- http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2013/0...-suffolk-1828/

Always a pleasure to be proven wrong - well partially wrong, as the Coroner's Court did give the "supernatural" evidence.

cj x
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