A Village Pretending to be Mad

‘Take the village of Gotham in Nottinghamshire, afforded legendary status by the exploits of its inhabitants.

In about 1200 King John proposed building a hunting lodge near the city of Nottinghamshire. The residents of Gotham realised the implications of this – he would pass through the village on the way to his lodge, making it a king’s highway and thus making them liable to new taxes.

So what did they do? The entire village pretended to be mad. It is said that the villagers built a fence around a cuckoo bush to prevent the cuckoo from escaping, tried do drown an eel, set about pulling the moon out of a pond with a rake and rolled cheeses down a hill to make them round. Since madness was considered contagious the idea of a whole village of lunatics was perfectly feasible, and apparently the ploy worked.’

– Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2005. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2004) p. 22