The Holbeach Gamesters

This is a story from the seventeenth century. Due to the rise of religious puritanism, the story was probably used to warn against blasphemy and excessive drunkenness.

There were once three gamesters in the town of Holbeach: Abraham Tegerdine, Mr Slater, Dr Jonathan Watson and Farmer Guymer. They met at the Chequers Inn and gambled and drank until one day the farmer died, and put an end to things.

One night at the Chequers, the three gamesters lamented the death of their friend Guymer and so decided to go to the church where he was interred before his burial and play cards with him. They ordered more beer from the landlord, took a lamp, and staggered to All Saints Church. With true drunkards’ courage they forced the door and, proceeding to the altar, used Guymer’s coffin lid as a card table. After a while, Abraham joked that the corpse would make a good dummy, so the others opened the coffin and helped Guymer to play with them even in death. The corpse was congratulated for playing so well, indeed much better than when alive and kicking!

Suddenly the dead man turned his head and summoned three demons to spirit away the three gamesters. It is said that for many years after, four men could be seen standing by the church, beckoning all drunkards to their fate.

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