Friday, February 8, 2013

Ann Moore, the fasting-woman of Tutbury

In some ways things haven't changed much in two hundred years. There were then, as now, con artists waiting everywhere to prey on the gullible. In many ways it was easier in the 1800s to run a scam--there was no news or social media to blow the whistle on the perpetrators, and science was in its infancy and unable to easily disprove certain claims.

Ann Moore was one of the best-known scammers of the era. She was known in her town of Tutbury, Staffordshire as an improvident, immoral woman of large family and dubious income. Her poverty, by about 1805, led her to a minimal food intake, and she survived so successfully on so little food that at some point in the next year, she decided to turn her necessity into a money-spinner.

She permanently took to her bed about April 1807, at age 46, and it was given out that she ate nothing after this time. By August she was drinking very little and pamphlets were being produced about her. Even Joanna Southcott, a questionable character herself whom I discussed in an earlier blog, was aware of Moore's existence and using it for her own purposes of prophesy. 

In September 1808, a flawed investigation took place which declared Moore's claims to be true, and she began to make money from her deception. For four years she attracted visitors, some of them devout Christians, who believed her claims of piety, devotion to God and dependence upon the Bible and her religion. Some of them made substantial donations to support her, and in 1812 she possessed some £400 -- a fortune for a woman of her standing.

On April 21, 1813 another investigation--a scrupulous watch on Ann Moore--began. This time it was strictly enforced and no food or liquid was taken by the woman. She rapidly lost weight and sickened. By the 30th of April her case was so bad that it was feared she would die, and the fraud was exposed. The watch was ended and, with careful nursing, Moore recovered but her claims were revealed as false, and her faith as no more than a sham.
Impoverished once more, and having gained nothing but ephemeral notoriety by her scam, Ann Moore died a few months later.

There are others recorded in history having undertaken similar confidence tricks. A young woman in Germany, one Anna Kinker, in 1800 had made the same sort of claims. And as far back as the 1600s the 'Derbyshire Damsel', Martha Taylor, had claimed to live 'without meat or drink'. As Ann Moore is believed have been born and lived her early life in Derbyshire she may have heard stories about 'the Damsel', and patterned her scam on that tale.

Google Books has several of the pamphlets about Ann Moore; a search on her name will make them available to you. out for scams; they are all around us...

'Til next time,


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