Carole Compton‘s Italian romance, turned into a paranormal horror in 1982 when she was put on trial after a series of bizarre events that cost Carole her liberty and almost led to the death of a 3-year-old child.
One year earlier, 20-year-old Carole had left rainy Aryshire for the dazzling blue of Mediterranean skies and her Italian-stallion lover, Marco Vitulano.
Carole met the young Italian when he was working as a waiter at the at Turnberry Hotel in Ayre. What started as a summer fling, turned into something more and when Marco had to return to his homeland to complete national service in the Italian military, Carole jettisoned her life in Scotland to be nearer to him.
Demonic Forces In The Heart Of Rome
On arriving in Italy, she was soon hired by the wealthy Ricci family and went to live with them in their lavish Roman apartment, working as nanny for their two young children.
But things got off to a bad start when a religious painting came crashing to the ground in Carole’s presence.
The event was witnessed by the Ricci family’s devoutly-Catholic maid, Rosa, who insisted that the bemused young Scot say a prayer to ward off demonic influences.
Out out politeness Carole complied, but it left a cloud hanging over Carole’s arrival in the household and Rosa made it clear to Carole that she was under suspicion from the get go.
But despite the maid’s continued mistrust of Carole, the matter was allowed to rest and the family set out for their holiday home in the Italian Alps.
Within a couple of days of their arrival in the mountains however, events began to escalate.
A series of small fires broke out, which culminated in a blaze in the bedroom of the Ricci family’s 2-year-old son. Firefighters were fairly certain that it was a fault with the electrical wiring, but with small fires continuing to break out in Carole’s presence suspicion centered on the unlucky Scot and Carole was let go.
Paranormal Activity Follows Compton To Elba
Undaunted, Carole soon found another nanny job, this time with the Cecchini family.
Putting her unfortunate experience with the Ricci family behind her, she moved into the Cecchini family’s grandparents’s house on the Isle of Elba, where the family were spending the summer together.
But the bizarre, paranormal-seeming activity continued and intensified in the weeks that followed. Carole complained that she could hear strange scratching noises coming from the walls at night, while religious objects continued to fly from their place whenever Carole walked past.
In the daytime the household were plagued by the sounds of unexplained thudding and thumping, but this was nothing compared to what was to come.
The Carole Compton Haunting Almost Claims A Life
Early one evening, just after Carole had settled the children for the night, a fire broke out in the bedroom of the Cecchini family’s sleeping three-year-old daughter, Agnese.
Members of the family rushed to rescue Agnese from the flames and fortunately the child was unharmed, but when police arrived all eyes turned to the unfortunate nanny.
Carole was arrested.
When police contacted Carole Compton’s previous employers, the Ricci family told them about the mysterious fires had broken out in their holiday home during the time Carole worked for them.
Police charged the 20-year-old Scottish woman with attempted murder, and for sixteen months Carole Compton languished in jail awaiting trial.
To add insult to injury, as soon he he heard of her arrest Carole’s boyfriend, Marco Vitulano, promptly dumped her.
The Witch Nanny In The Eye Of A Media Storm
The story soon became a media sensation, both in Italy and in Carole’s home country of Scotland.
While the Scottish press tended to be more circumspect, Italian newspapers were quick to brand the young woman as the ‘Witch Nanny’, with many openly accusing Carole of practicing dark magic and sorcery.
From the moment she was arrested, Carole Compton strenuously denied having anything to do with the fires and protested her innocence throughout her time on remand in an Italian jail.
Faith Healer Attempts To Exorcise Caged ‘Witch Nanny’ At Her Own Trial
As might be expected, when the case eventually did go to trial it became a public spectacle.
Carole appeared in court locked in an iron cage and on the third day of proceedings an elderly faith healer, Chiara Lobina, had to be escorted from the courtroom by armed guards, after she attempted to exorcise the defendant.
Ms. Lobina claimed that both Carole and her mother were possessed by the spirit of an eighteenth-century witch, who had taken control of Carole’s body and was using it to murder innocents.
Dressed all in black and bearing her crucifix, the would-be exorcist managed to push her way from the public gallery to the front of the courtroom and had almost reached Carole on the stand, when she was dragged away by court security.
She told reporters after the incident that she only wanted to help the Comptons, who she believed were innocent because Carole was under diabolical forces at the time of the alleged fire setting, claiming “The devil has given Carole fire”.
Supernatural Forces or Smoldering Cigarette Butts?
The evidence given in the trial was strange and contradictory. Although prosecutors were adamant that Carole was a cold-blooded attempted killer, they could produce no motive for her alleged crimes.
Forensic experts admitted that they had been unable to recreate the pattern of fires as started in the way that the prosecution claimed Carole had set them. The causes of the mysterious fires were never properly established and baffled even experienced firefighters.
It’s important to note the science of fire-scene investigation has undergone massive developments since the 1980s. At the time of Carole’s trial fire-scene investigators relied largely on a body of folk wisdom about the way in which fires started and spread, much of which has since been debunked.
But even with a 1980s understanding of how house fires tend to start, the admission by Agnesse Cecchini’s mother that she had repeatedly warned the child’s grandmother not to leave her cigarette butts smoldering near soft furnishings posed problems for the prosecution.
So did the testimony of the family’s former nanny, another young Scottish woman, Theresa Hunter. Theresa alleged that the family had mistreated her and seemed to resent her presence in the house. She left their employment after only fifteen days, but noted that the electric wiring in the family property was always overloaded and often sparked.
Almost a year and a half after she was first arrested, Carole Compton was found not guilty of the attempted murder but was found guilty of arson.
She was sentenced to two years, but because she had spent so long awaiting trial the remainder of her sentence was suspended and she was released.
She subsequently published a book about her ordeal, titled Superstition: The Nanny They Called A Witch.
What’s The Truth Behind The Witch Nanny Hauntings?
Skeptics see the case as an example of mass hysteria and superstition, resulting in a young woman being locked up and put on the stand in what essentially amounted to a thinly-disguised witchcraft trial.
As luridly as the case was reported in the Italian tabloids, many educated Italians found the case to be an international embarrassment.
They felt that accusing a young foreigner of working for the devil and making her answer for her actions in a court of law, in the same year that Return of Jedi was released and Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of the UK, made Italy seem like a superstitious, fanatical backwater.
Meanwhile, ghost lovers and paranormal enthusiasts see the Carole Compton case as a classic example of poltergeist activity.
A poltergeist is said to be a mischievous, sometimes malevolent entity that causes physical disturbances in a location – moving objects, making loud noises and even starting small fires. Often the poltergeist manifests in a household where someone is undergoing puberty or other major emotional and physical changes.
At twenty, Carole was older than the usual locus for this type of supposed paranormal activity, but she was in the first flush of young love which believers claim may have drawn the attention of this type of trickster spirit.
But whether you believe in the force of the law or paranormal forces, the Carole Compton case remains a fascinating story of a young woman a long way from home, caught up in forces far beyond her control.