Most old homes bear normal signs of wear and tear. The strange gouge marks beneath the floorboards of "one of Britain's most important historic houses," however, tell a pretty interesting story, the Independent reports: They were intended to guard King James I from witches and other evil spirits. The marks, found in wooden beams and joists, were dated to 1606, a time when hysteria over witchcraft ran high and the country's nerves were on edge on the heels of the failed Gunpowder Plot of the previous year, which intended to blow up the House of Lords and the king with it. Still, the ritual markings found beneath a bedroom at Knole in Kent were "a complete surprise" when they were spotted during a recent archaeological survey, says archaeologist Nathalie Cohen.
Knole's owner, the Lord Treasurer, constructed a royal suite for King James that was completed in 1608, but the king never made the journey. Archaeologists now restoring the place say the "witchmarks" center on what would have been the bedroom of the king, who himself wrote a book on witchcraft titled Daemonologie. The marks, ostensibly meant to protect him, are "a bit Blair Witch-y," the Independent reports. They include gouges invoking the protection of the Virgin Mary, scorch marks made with a candle, and "demon traps"—tangled markings meant to trap spirits—around a chimney, believed to be a point of access for witches and other evil forces, the Guardian reports. As Cohen puts it, "You can't shut the chimney off, so they created a virtual protective box." (A more baffling archaeological find: huge, ancient stone circles.)