The Wise Woman Of Whitechapel

In October, 1868, a young woman from Whitechapel, by the name of Louisa Kingherst, was brought up before Mr. Newton, the Magistrate at Worship Police Court, on charges of having obtained money by deception.

It transpired that Louisa Kingherst was, in fact, a fortune teller, who, as well as conning money out of young girls, also specialised in love spells.

The Derbyshire Advertiser, covered her story on Friday, 9th October, 1868:-


“At the London Worship-street police-court, Saturday, Louisa Kingherst (alias Rebecca Spiller), 20, described as a fortune teller, living at Old Castle-street, Whitechapel, was charged on remand, with having obtained certain goods from one Julia Hurlay, with intent to defraud.

Several persons, mostly young girls, were present to charge her with having obtained money from them: but they were only cases of simple fortune telling, where they had paid 3d. or 4d. to the wise woman for reading the cards for them.


One case of having obtained 16s. and a gold ring from a man was gone into; and the prosecutor, Louis Safees, a tailor, of Tenter-street, Spitalfields, said:- “About six months ago I had the misfortune to go to the prisoner to have my fortune told, for which I paid 16s.


She said that she knew a young man who loved a young woman who did not love him, he came to her, and she, for 10s., turned the young woman’s heart to him.

I told her that was my case, and that I loved and was not loved in return.

She said that she would make the young girl love me for 1s. 6d. I agreed, and paid her one shilling then.

Next day, I went again, and she said the stuff she would have to buy would cost more than 1s. 6d., and I gave her one shilling more.

From time to time she kept sending to me.

In all, I paid her sixteen shillings.


Once she gave me something wrapped up in paper, and said that I was to go home and burn it and say something over it. I did so.

Mr. Newton: “Do you remember what the words were?”

Witness: “No, your worship; but it was about the young woman, and to make her heart turn to love.

Mr. Newton: “And you do not remember what they were?”

Witness: “It was something like:- So sure as this burn, sure this burn, the young girl’s heart will turn, – (laughter)  – and I said the words over the paper, which she told me would make the girl love me and come to me the next day; but the girl did not come, and I went to see the prisoner, who then told me that the girl would come in three days. I waited, but she did not come.


The prisoner then told me that she must have a piece of gold of mine wrapped in linen, and I let her have a gold ring.

She said she would give it me back: but last week I went to her, and said that since she had not got the young girl back for me, I wanted my ring.

She then told me it was in pawn. I neither got my ring nor my 16s. I let her have the money and the ring as she said she would get my young woman back, and I believed her.

The prisoner was then committed for trial on two charges, but remanded on another.”


It transpired that Louis Safees was not the only man whom she had convinced of her unique talent for casting love spells, as is attested to by the following article, which appeared in The East Kent Gazette, on Saturday, 17th October, 1868:-

“Louisa Kingherst alias Rebecka Spiller, aged twenty-six, living at Whitechapel, has been again charged at the Worship-street police-court in London, with having obtained several sums of money, and divers goods with intent to defraud.

Two cases have already been proved against the prisoner, one other case was now gone into, wherein she obtained money and articles of wearing apparel from Alexander Schwartz, a tailor. who deposed that about the commencement of the present year he was passing the prisoner’s house, when she called him in and asked him to have his fortune told.


He consenting, she shuffled a pack of cards counting and muttering, and then said that she had read great things for him, and that a power was placed in her by which she could make him very rich, and make all the girls love him.

He paid her sixpence for telling his fortune, and said that he should like to be rich and loved by the girls.

She then said that if he would give her something to charm with she would do it for him, and he believed it and gave her a woollen shirt, value 10s., which she said she would return next day.


When he went the next day, she said it would not do, that she must have a linen shirt, which he gave her, although she did not return the woollen one.

That shirt, which was worth 5s 6d., she promised she would return in two days, but when he went again she said she could not charm unless she had some money, and, at her request, he gave her 30s. which she was to refund in two days after she had worked the charm.


He went to her house in two days, but, although he heard her speaking, he was told she was not at home.

In the consciousness that he had been “done” he repeatedly called at her house, but she was never at home, nor did he see her till that day, having ceased to call for about three months past.


In answer to the magistrate, the witness said, amidst much laughter, that he believed the prisoner when she said she could make him rich, and make all the girls love him.

In cross-examination by the prisoner, the witness declared that he had never sent a young girl to her with money to get her to charm the heart of a girl named Toby Dingwell, and that he never got either of his shirts, nor his 30s., back again.


Serjeant Kenwood proved that in July, 1860, the prisoner was charged with stealing a pair of boots off a drunken man’s feet while he was lying in the street, and she was sent for 14 days’ imprisonment.

The prisoner said that was all a lie, and, the depositions being completed, she was sent for trial on three charges.”


On Thursday, 22nd of October, 1868, Louisa Kingherst appeared before the Middlesex Sessions and, it has to be said, the case most certainly appeared to have caused a great deal of merriment to the court.

The Leighton Buzzard Observer reported on the case and its outcome in its edition of Tuesday, 27th October, 1868:-

“At the Middlesex Sessions, on Thursday, Louisa Kingherst, a little woman, called “The Wise Woman of the East,” was indicted for stealing two petticoats and other articles and divers moneys, the property and moneys of Julia Hurley; ring and divers moneys, the property and moneys of a young man named Louis Lopez; and two shirts and divers moneys the property and moneys another young man named Alexander Schwartz.

Mr. Harris prosecuted.

The case created a deal amusement, the court being at times convulsed with laughter.


Julia Hurley, a decent looking young woman, 25 years of age, was examined.

She said:- “I live at 20, Newcastle Street, and am a servant.

Some time ago I lost a dress, and met the prisoner and told her, and she said she could “charm” it back again if I gave her something. I gave her a shilling, and then she wanted something I had worn, and I gave her two petticoats.

Soon after that a girl came to me from the prisoner, and I gave her 1s. 6d.

I saw the prisoner afterwards, and she admitted to having received the money from the girl.

I saw her again, and she said the “charm” would not work without more money. I then gave her a shilling and two pairs of drawers, and a few days after she wanted something more to finish the charm, as it was rather obstinate, and I gave her an apron.

After that, she wanted another half-crown.”

Mr. Harris:- “What was that for?”

Witness:- “To buy quicksilver, to set the charm. I gave her a shawl.”

Mr. Harris:- “Did she tell you your fortune, and what was it?”

The witness (after some hesitation):-  “I was to be loved by a young man to whom I spoke, and I was to love him. (laughter) She gave me “the charm” (two pieces of cardboard), which I sewed up in my gown.”

Mr. Harris:- “And did you believe that would bring your lost dress back and make your young man love you truly.” (Great laughter)

Witness:- “l did. I knew the prisoner before as a fortune-teller. When I asked her for my things again she said they were in pawn.”


Alexander Schwartz, a young man living at 11, Preston Street, said:-

“Some time ago I was passing the prisoner, when she called me into her house and said she could do some “charms,” and all the girls would love me.”

Mr Harris:- “And did you believe they would?

The Witness:- “Yes. (Laughter.)

She said I must give her a shirt, which I did. I subsequently gave her another, and she told me to call again.

I saw her again, and she said she must have money, as she could not do the charm without money. I asked her how much, and she said thirty shillings, which I gave her.

I called several days, but could not see her, and never got my shirts or my money back.”

Mr. Harris:- “Did the charm work, and did all the girls love you?”

The Witness:- “I am afraid not.” (Renewed laughter.)


In the third case, Louis Lopez, a German Pole, said:-

I am 26 years age, and went to the prisoner’s house to have my fortune told.

She told me a young man had loved a girl who did not love him, and that for ten shillings she gave him a charm which brought the girl to love him.

I told her that was exactly my case (laughter) – and she said that for 1s. 6d. she would bring the girl to love me; and she said, “Pay me a shilling now, and when it’s done pay the other 6.”

A few days after, I saw the prisoner again, and she said that she would give me the girl’s likeness, and that the stuff to work the charm cost more than 6d. I then gave her two shillings, and she drew money from me again in the same way, altogether 10s.

On one occasion, she gave me something in paper, and told me to burn it.”

Mr. Harris:- “And did you burn it?”

Witness:- “I did.”

Mr. Harris:- “At midnight, when all around was still?” (Laughter.)

Witness:- “I did; when I was quite alone.”

Mr. Harris:- “When everything was grave. Did it raise a blue flame?

Witness:- “Yes.” (Roars of laughter.)

Mr. Harris:- “Did you use any incantation words?”

Witness:- “I believe I said, I don’t wish this to burn, but the young girl’s heart to turn.

I was quite surprised to find it didn’t work, and I went to the prisoner and told her.

She then said she wanted a piece of gold, I gave her a valuable ring. When I asked the prisoner about it, she replied that it would work in three days. I never got my ring or my property back again. I believed the girl would love me, but she did not.” (Renewed laughter).


Constable Rawlings, 116 H, proved to apprehending the prisoner, and the pawnbrokers’ assistants produced the property pawned by the prisoner.


The jury found the prisoner “guilty.”

It was proved that she had been convicted of robbing a drunken man of his boots.


The Court, in sentencing the prisoner, said it was not to be wondered at that persons in the prosecutors’ walk of life were to be found so silly, when others in a higher position were willing to part with large sums of money in order to be made “beautiful forever.”

The sentence on the prisoner was that she be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for twelve months.

The prisoner was removed bitterly lamenting her fate.”