What flesh eatest thou? A missing child and a suspicious meat pie in 1645

the many-headed monster

Brodie Waddell

On 26 June 1645, as the war between the King and Parliament raged, John Coleman sat down at his lodgings in London to eat a meat pie. As he ate it, a strange thought occurred to him: ‘What flesh eatest thou’?

At that moment, even as he chewed, a flood of doubts and suspicions swept into Coleman’s mind. Why had his landlady made meat pies on a fast day? Why had the girl who delivered it to his room been acting so oddly? What had happened to the child who had been missing the previous evening?

The answers must have struck him like a blow, because suddenly ‘hee could eate noe moore’, verily believing ‘the Pye was made of a Childs flesh’. Pieter Claesz (c1630) Still Life with Pewter Pitcher, Mince Pie, and AlmanacAccording to his later testimony, Coleman then went out into the neighbourhood to try to learn more. Here he heard from several women that…

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