It was 1629, Hertfordshire, UK when Joan Norkot had died in her bed with her babe in her arms and her throat slashed. On that tragic morning, when the family went to rouse Joan, they found her neck sliced open and a bloody knife protruding from the floorboards. It must have been suicide, they reasoned, since no one had entered the cottage that evening. It was small and they would have noticed. Beside, there was no sign of a struggle.
Crowded around the decomposing, recently exhumed corpse were Judge Harvey, the jury, two clergymen and several neighbors and friends of the deceased. Four family members were prodded to go forward and touch the dead woman. It was considered legally binding evidence if a corpse reacted to the touch of its killer and wounds would bleed anew.
An eyewitness account states that as three of the four murder suspects touched the body its face turned to a ‘lively and fresh color’ while one of its eyes opened and shut again. At the same time her ring finger ‘thrust out …and pulled in, again’. Blood dripped onto the grass below. This happened three times then the body resumed its lifeless state.