Just before Christmas, 1573, London law student Robert Brigges (also spelled Bridges), made the mistake of attending, in his spare time, a theological lecture called The Unforgivable Sin. Brigges was a student of the law, not of the Bible or scripture, which made many of his subsequent pronouncements all the more bizarre.

Brigges must of had something he despised himself for as he was profoundly affected by the lecture. Within days, he began haphazard attempts at taking his own life: clumsy hanging attempts and the like. A doctor diagnosed him as simply depressed but there was weird here, very weird.

Brigges was bled as was the treatment for all afflicted person in Elizabethan times. Then, Easter 1574: all Hell broke loose. Literally.

Brigges drank a mild potion prepared for him; routine medicine. But this time, he reacted violently, vomiting and falling into a coma of sorts.

On April 12, 1574, he began to expound on the Ten Commandments. He - with little learning in theology, and a Protestant - suddenly began to lecture on the Scripture. Observers eventually came to realize that in his ramblings, he appeared to be talking to someone or something .... and it was Satan.

Lawyer DevilFor seven days, Brigges appeared to battle the Devil in long, protracted and heated arguments. At times, Brigges would laugh or weep but always, as if in profound discourse with an unseen and unheard adversary and always on the profound topic of sin, his or those of others.

Observors heard it all as if eavesdropping on one end of a telephone call. They were fascinated and word got out that Satan was in London. His friends and family took turns recording the conversation. One of the episodes: the Devil told Brigges that he had sold his soul but Brigges refused to acknowledge his signature, saying it was a forgery. Satan asked Brigges to murder the Queen Elizabeth's then-prime minister, William Cecil, but Brigges refused.

Theologians still debate the record of what they deem to be transcripts, and dissect them as evidence of communications of the religious creature commonly known as the Devil, aka Satan. One of Brigges' retorts to the Devil was:

"I will never follow thy inventions nor will I go whore-hunting under green trees. I will worship one God in heaven and none else."

Suddenly, on April 20, a Tuesday, an hour into his daily glazed fits, Brigges broke out of it.

Dazed, he dressed and insisted on going to the closest Church. Later that day, he paid a visit to one of England's most famous exorcists, John Foxe (1516-1587), and well-known author of Book of Martyrs.

On the 21st, his tortures of the mind returned and again, he was thrust into a trance, but this time, he could not speak. He was observed writhing as if bound but with tears streaming down his cheeks.

Suddenly, he yelled:

"Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ!

"In spite of the Devil, thou son of the highest, to thee be all glory. But shame and confusion to him that hath stayed my tongue from glorifying you."

On the 22nd and 23rd of April, 1574, he again fought his demons.

Other lawyers came to see him and so, too, did Foxe. Foxe's exorcism commenced on the 25th. According to observers, on April 26th, Satan showed up to Brigges as a beautiful, young and vulptuous female - and naked.

The possession continued through to the 27th of April, all still duly observed and recorded, now with a crowd of spectators including lawyers and law students in attendance, pitying and praying for their colleague -  group prayer was part of the exorcism ritual.

On May 1, the final battle was waged after which, the law student awoke and was never thereafter beleaguered with Satan hallucinations.

REFERENCES:

  • Sands, K., Demon Possession in Elizabethan Times (London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004)