The Second Coming

I found this story at @HistoryWeird's blog here. The original sources were Joanna Southcott's Conception Communication, conveyed to George Turner, February 25th, 1814 and Dr. Peter Mathias's The Case of Johanna [sic] Southcott, 1815.

This post is about Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), a lady's maid from Dorset. Around her 42nd birthday, she pulled a Joan of Arc and began hearing heavenly voices and having holy visions. When some of the events the voices told her about started coming true, she took her savings and used it to self-publish a book of prophecy that angels had apparently commissioned. The book gained some traction amongst small Christian sects and she became a minor celebrity for the next twenty years.

"I am in no way completely mad."

In 1814, when she was 64 (and still an unmarried virgin), she "shocked her followers by announcing that she was pregnant with the Second Messiah. She described her immaculate conception to a follower, George Turner:

'"It is now four months since I felt the powerful visitation working upon my body… to my astonishment, I not only felt a power to shake my whole body, but I felt a sensation that is impossible for me to describe upon my womb… This alarmed me greatly, yet I kept it to myself.”

"The news was greeted with comedic interest by the London press [no kidding], which followed Southcott’s prophecies closely. She certainly developed some of the symptoms of pregnancy, growing “great in size”. But when no baby had appeared by the start of November – the 14th month of Southcott’s ‘pregnancy’ – the sceptics were in uproar. Southcott blamed the child’s non-appearance on her spinsterhood and recruited one of her followers as a token ‘Joseph’, marrying him on November 12th – but even this could not coax out the reluctant Messiah.

"Southcott, by now very ill, disappeared from sight and died two days after Christmas. Followers kept her body for four days, believing that Southcott might rise again [Their motto better have been "The South will rise again!"]. Instead, they were greatly disappointed when her corpse started to putrefy and stink. An autopsy was conducted on Southcott's body to find causes for the symptoms of pregnancy, including her greatly swollen belly. One attending doctor put this down to her abdomen, which was:

"'…the largest I ever saw, being nearly four times the usual size, and appeared [to be] one lump of fat… this preternatural enlargement, the thickness of fat [and] the flatus of the intestines… satisfactorily accounts for the extraordinary size of the deceased.'"

Virgin Mary? Nope. You're just fat.

I really hope there was a newspaper headline that read something like, "Instead of the Baby Jesus, She Ate Too Many Cheeses".

In other news, I'm a horrible person.

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