John Randolph of Roanoke and His Satanic Majesty


After my recent post on John Randolph of Roanoke, it occurred to me that some of our readers may not be aware of what I meant when I stated that Randolph was more than a little mad.  Here is one example.

In the winter of 1831-1832, Randolph wrote the following letter:

To the Honorable Waller Holladay, Esquire,
of the county of Spotsylvania,
of the State of Virginia,
of the United States of America,
of the Western Hemisphere,
of the Globe.

I am sure you will he surprised and pained to hear that I was honored last night by a visit from no less a personage than His Satanic Majesty. His Majesty assured me that my only hope of much longer continuance of my mortal existence depended upon my subsisting entirely upon the milk of your fine Medley mare, which would restore health to my worn out hody. Under these melancholy circumstances, I have no choice hut to throw myself upon your friendly mercies and I implore you to let me have the mare without delay which will inevitably bring my life to its end. I will not inquire your price. Draw upon me for whatever you may think proper, but I pray and conjure you by everything you hold sacred, and in the name of humanity, to sell me the mare, that her milk may save the life of your sincere but sullcring friend.

Randolph of Roanoke

On the same day he wrote this missive, Randolph drafted his third will.  After his death, a will contest disputing the validity of this will arose.  The letter he wrote to Holladay was admitted into evidence and convinced the judge hearing the case that Randolph clearly had not been in command of his mental faculties when he drafted the third will, and the will contest succeeded.


Published in: on March 16, 2010 at 5:53 am  Comments (2)  


  1. I think Randolph mistook his visitor. His Satanic Majesty would have surely have ordered Randolph to indulge in riotous dissipation and at least a couple of Black Masses, not boring milk. Mare’s milk sounds like something a run-of-the-mill 19th century sawbones would have recommended – probably healthier by far than other medical remedies of the time.

    Randolph prided himself on being an Virginia aristocrat, so of course, he was convinced he was visited not by an ordinary doctor, or even by one of the lesser demons, but by the Prince of Darkness himself!

  2. Donna, being a Virginia aristocrat and used to fairly strong spirits, he knew that it could only be Satan himself who told him to drink milk!

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