The year was 1763 [or 1768 according to some sources], and most people in the quiet Somerset town of Shepton Mallet had not a very high opinion of the aged resident who sat for hours at the door of his cottage and gossiped to all who would pass by and listen about his exploits, or misdeeds would be the better description. The locals were not sure whether all the tales that Owen Parfitt told were true, but if even a fraction of them were, then he had lived a rather bad life, and so when he disappeared, there were those who thought that the Devil had come along to take Owen body and soul into Hell.
Owen was a resident of the Somerset town, in South West England. Once apprenticed to a tailor, he disliked the quiet life of stitching and cutting, and he yearned for adventure and more money than could be gained by honest toil.So one day the young Owen simply did not arrive for work, and later there came a message that he had enlisted with the king's forces. He is not known in Royal Naval records, so a privateer seems to have been his chosen path, and for years he simply disappeared from the town's consciousness. Privateers were pirates licensed to rob only the sovereign's enemies. However, in the 1760s he returned, obviously a sick man, crippled by serious arthritis, announcing that he wanted to live out his life in the town and restart his work as a tailor.
Owen's elder sister, known as Old Susannah, must have been a dutiful sister, as she gave a home to the decrepit old man and tended him,even though she was herself twenty years older than Owen, which places her in her eighties. She and a local woman, Susannah Snook,used to to help the old man to bed at nights and get him up in the mornings.
Owen used to sit at his door in summer, talking to passers by who bothered to listen, and his tales were choice! He had been a pirate, a smuggler and dabbled in black magic in America, Africa, India and the Caribbean, and had enjoyed the attentions of many women, though he had never married. Many people thought that he might be spinning the tales, but he had the physique for a pirate and if only part of his repertoire of tales were true, then his life had not been lived well.
Then one day in June 1763 he had been left at his door, propped up on his great coat, some say wrapped in it, when the women who cared for him went off on their chores. At bed time when Susannah Snook came to help Old Susannah put Owen to bed he had gone. The puzzle is that he was barely able to walk and had no means of transport, had made no noise to speak of and the witnesses, a group of farm workers getting some hayricks ready against a coming storm, had seen and heard nothing. Despite searches Owen was never found and no satisfactory account of his disappearance has ever been given.