Joanna Southcott

1750-1814. Self-styled prophet. Born in Devon, daughter of a farmer, she was naturally religious, albeit eccentric, from an early age. Originally an Anglican, she became a Methodist in 1791. In 1792 she began to write a book of prophecies, the first of over sixty publications all “equally incoherent in thought and grammar.” In 1802, for a charge, she began to issue seals to the faithful, including one to Mary Bateman, the notorious murderess. In 1805 she had a chapel in London, and in 1813 announced that-though unmarried-she was to bear a child called “Shiloh.” She died of unknown causes. She left a box which was to be opened only in the presence of twenty- four bishops. In 1927, when it was opened in the presence of one bishop, it was found to contain only trivia. Rival followers, some still believed extant, claimed that it was the wrong box and that the real one still awaited opening.