The Mysterious 17th Century Whipping Tom

Grace Higgins | August 21st, 2020

If you were a lone woman roaming the streets of London in 1681, then you may have been on the lookout for Whipping Tom. This infamous pervert would leap out of the shadows and spank a woman sharply across the buttocks. He would then cry out Spanko! and disappear into the night. It sounds like something that you would see on a comedy sketch from Monty Python. But alas, this was a real fear of woman walking around alone during these times. And the attacks are not the world of fiction, there is various evidence in newspapers of the time, naming the pervert Whipping Tom.

He roamed the streets spanking so many buttocks that the newspapers gave him his own nickname. But even with all the extra attention Whipping Tom remained a mystery. It got to the point where men would dress up as women and walk around his known areas. Hoping he would jump up on them and they could catch him. In fact, some people started to wonder if Whipping Tom was a supernatural being – as he ran off so fast.

Always preying on lone women, he was reported to jump out and span them with his hands or a rod. It got so bad that women started to carry weapons around such as penknives or scissors. And the public was in outcry, at the time these attacks were taking very seriously. People wrote that the police were not policing the streets very effectively if he could attack them so easily.

As a result, several sting operations took place in the areas of Strand, Fleet Street, and Holborn where he was known to roam. In the end, a man and an accomplice were caught, but unfortunately, the records of Whipping Tom’s trial have been lost. So we can’t really know what happened to him. We can only guess what sort of justice they decided to lay on this strange attacker.

Strangely around nine years later in 1672, stories kept out again of a second man roaming the streets and spanking buttocks. Perhaps a copycat? Historians do not believe it is the same person, but given the similarity of the attacks, it seems sure that the two attackers knew each other in some way.

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