Whipping Tom

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Whipping Tom was the name given to a phantom spanker in 17th century London. This unknown man, dressed in black, would seize a (female) victim in the streets, turn her over, lift her skirt and petticoat, and spank her backside with his hand. Then he would let her go and disappear in the darkness. The name "Whipping Tom" became a generic for this type of assaulter, in analogy to "Peeping Tom" for a voyeur.

The first major mention of a "Whipping Tom" in London is in the pamphlet Whipping Tom brought to light and exposed to view: In an account of several late Adventures of the Pretended Whipping Spirit (1681). Some contemporaries thought that ‘Whipping Tom’ possessed supernatural powers and was possibly not a man but a spirit. Others believed that he was possibly the same man as an earlier, country-based ‘Whipping Tom’ (who is mentioned in John Phillips's Virgil Travesty, 1678), or someone who had been inspired by this earlier ‘Whipping Tom’.

In the mid-18th century, another ‘Whipping Tom’ case made it to the news and a Thomas Wallis was tried on the accuse of whipping and sexually assaulting numerous women, as recorded in The tryal, examination and conviction; of Thomas Wallis, vulgarly called Whipping Tom.

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