In Elizabethan England, it was common for families to have fresh foods delivered to their homes. If you’re in the US, imagine the Milk Man from the 1950s, same deal. Every morning, Elizabethan families could expect to find a parcel of bread for that day’s meals. A popular morning meal was muffins, but these were more like English muffin bread and less like sugary sweet American muffins.
The Muffin Man would make his deliveries just like other bakers, but he would lure children away from their homes by playfully tying a string it a muffin and pulling it away from the steps where the parcel lay. The kids, likely thinking this was a fun game, would chase the muffins, which led to The Muffin Man’s bakery, where he would kill the children. But not before torturing them.
The Muffin Man’s real name was Frederic Thomas Lynwood, and he did not appreciate the fierce competition in his surrounding neighborhoods. So he murdered seven other bakers.
The life of a baker in Victorian England was not lucrative or pleasant. For starters, everyone wanted bread delivered. The middle class could afford to have fresh foods delivered to their homes, and during various times of the year, bread deliveries would skyrocket. However, the bakers did not have giant electric mixers, and most could not afford to hire a staff. So, bakers did all of the work themselves, which meant that their daily shift would begin around ten or eleven at night, leaving the only time for sleep during the moments when the dough was rising. Working under such strenuous circumstances commonly meant that the quality of bread was a crapshoot. For example, some bakers had to double-time to keep up with their orders and knead the dough with their feet.
The Muffin Man seemed to have taken pleasure in taunting and torturing children before he killed them. According to lore, he used wooden spoons to knock children out. However, experts have long cast doubt that a wooden spoon would be enough to render a person unconscious. Still, the stories persist.
Between the years 1589 and 1598, Lynwood murdered 15 children. His shop was a popular spot for kids to visit, where they would run and cause havoc. What unsupervised kid wouldn’t run around a bakery? Supposedly, Lynwood wanted them to stay away from his shop, so he devised a vicious plan. He lured children intentionally to his shop by pulling a muffin on a string. Once inside, he would knock them out and then kill them.
Children came up with a catchy sing-song rhyme to sing that supposedly was a way to warn other children to stay away from Lynwood’s bakery and to be wary of those around them. It goes like this:
Do you know the muffin man?
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man
Who lives in Drury Lane?
No one knows if this story is true. It has been told (and retold) so many times that the story’s true origins are forever lost.