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View Prophecies of Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton’s house in Yorkshire
Mother Shipton, also known as Ursula Sonthiel Shipton, was born in 1488 in Yorkshire, England, and lived until 1561. According to legend, her birth was the result of a union between her mother and the devil. When she was born, she was reportedly hideously ugly.

This is a description of her as a child written by a later biographer:

“Very morose and big boned, her head very long, with very great goggling, but sharp and fiery Eyes, her Nose of an incredible and unproportionate length, having in it many crooks and turnings, adorned with many strange Pimples of diverse colours, as Red, Blew, [sic] and mixt, which like Vapours of Brimstone gave such a lustre of the Night, that one of them confessed several times in my hearing, that her nurse needed no other light to assist her in the performance of her duty.”

As Ursula grew older she began to tell fortunes and predict the future. For instance, she predicted that Cardinal Wolsey would see York, but never go to it. Sure enough, in 1530 Cardinal Wolsey was travelling to York. He climbed to the top of a tower and saw the town in the distance, but just then received a message from King Henry VIII asking him to return to London. He died on the way back to London, thus fulfilling Mother Shipton’s prophecy.

She later made other prophecies, the most famous of which described future technology:

Carriages without horses shall goe,
And accidents fill the world with woe.
Around the world thoughts shall fly
In the twinkling of an eye….
Under water men shall walk,
Shall ride, shall sleep and talk;
In the air men shall be seen,
In white, in black and in green….
Iron in the water shall float,
As easy as a wooden boat.

Her most famous prophecy was this:

The world to an end shall come,
In eighteen hundred and eighty one.

The first known edition of Mother Shipton’s prophecies appeared in print in 1641, eighty years after her death. However, the most important editions of her work appeared in 1684, edited by Richard Head (this edition included the earliest biographical information about her), and in 1862, edited by Charles Hindley.

Mother Shipton’s prophecies are hoaxes, because it now appears that almost all of them were written by others after the events they described had already happened. For instance, the first record of her prophecy about Cardinal Wolsey dates from 1641, long after the man had died. Her prophecies about future technology, and about the world coming to an end in 1881, first appeared in print in the 1862 edition of her sayings, and Charles Hindley, the editor of that edition, later admitted that he had composed them.

The existence of Mother Shipton herself is uncertain. Her 1684 biographer, Richard Head, apparently invented most of the details of her life. In fact, she may never have existed outside of Yorkshire legend.



  • Stein, Gordon. The Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. p.226-227.