I love living in Somerset. Not only does it have some of the most beautiful English countryside, it is also full of history and craziness. Everywhere there are stories of ghosts, black magic and all manner of spookiness. It is also a hotbed of New Age beliefs and religious cults. And of course, as you know from following this blog, Glastonbury is just down the road.
Not too far from Glastonbury is the sleepy village of Spaxton, the centre of the notorious Agapemone – the “Abode of Love,” founded in 1846 by an unfrocked curate, Rev Henry James Prince. Prince who had declared himself to be immortal, was an early example of a messiah cult, similar to David Koresh and his Branch Davidians. One of the perks of the job, apart from living forever, was that he surrounded himself with a harem of women, his ‘soul brides’ whom he fleeced for their fortunes to support his luxurious life style. So much so that they were able to afford to build an extravagant temple, the Ark of the Covenant, at Clapton in London.
The centre of the Somerset community however, was the Spaxton chapel, which also acted as bar, lounge and billiards room. It was here that the ‘Great Manifestation’ took place. In 1856, to the strains of organ music, Prince deflowered a young virgin in front of a congregation, including his own wife– such is the power of a charismatic messiah. The subsequent pregnancy was later attributed to the devil which immediately reminded me of the plots of several later witch movies; most notably “Rosemary’s Baby” or “To the Devil a Daughter.”
The Agapemonites lived well – eating drinking and playing billiards in the company of attractive young ladies, but despite the actions of their beloved leader, the rest of the community, including the married couples lived in chastity. Anyway, the good times could not last forever, and of course, Prince eventually died in 1899.
Prince was buried standing up so as to be ready for his resurrection. He could have benefited from a recent development in grave technology that would have been perfect for this purpose. Californian inventor Donald Scruggs has just been granted a patent for a vertical screw coffin that is designed to bury the dead in the space saving vertical position. It even offers a bonus for those terrified of being buried alive. This was a common concern in the Victorian era which is why some graves came with a rope and pulley attached to a bell on the grave stone so that the undead could raise the alarm. As a resurrected Messiah, Henry James Prince, could have simply popped the lid and jumped out with a triumphant “Ta-da!”
The one problem with the screw design is the amount of force necessary to insert the coffin into the ground. On the other hand, I think that such coffins, once inserted could act as very stable foundations for more municipal purposes such as the base for telegraph poles and such. Now that would make the line of telegraph poles across the countryside much more useful and interesting to view.