Dark History of Witches
Dark History of Witches is part of the Ancient Mysteries Series and is featured on the History Channel YouTube Page. This documentary looks at the legend of the witch. It is narrated by Leonard Nimoy.
What do we know about the witch? Who were the women that were accused of being witches? Are they a remnant of a long-lost goddess? How did a child’s game go so wrong in Salem? Why are there practicing witches today? This documentary seeks to answer those questions. The historians look at the beginnings of witchcraft and what it meant to be a practicing witch.
For psychologists, the witches represented the dark side of a woman. For others, they are a figment of one’s imagination. Yet for others, witches are a very real thing. In myths and legends, witches took different forms. Some were ugly. Some were beautiful. They could turn men into pigs. They could steal children and men’s seeds. The witch over history has been despised. It was the worse thing you could be accused of doing. Being a witch meant you were a nightmare to society.
However, in early history, witches were not a source of evil. They were kind and powerful beings who helped you. They may have developed from early goddess cults. The goddess was revered for their fertility and the ability to take care of the land. They were all-powerful and divine. The people were appreciative of the goddesses. The goddesses were served by priestesses and they were important members of their community.
The priestesses were known as wise women. They made visits to houses and dealt with everything. The ceremonies they did would eventually be known as witchcraft. Kings relied on them. People would not act without their advice. How did this wise woman transform into the hideous witch? Some would point to the decline of the goddesses and the belief in strong male gods. The goddesses were demoted in the writing of the scribes.
The story of witches and witchcraft eventually shifts to the Witches’ Sabbath. During the 14th Century, Europe was rocked by the Black Death. It decimated villages. It fueled hysteria and that the Black Death was caused by the Devil. The Church established the Inquisition during this time and the Inquisition targeted witches. Witchcraft was the most heinous crime of heresy. It could harm society. Now, witches were believed that they could fly. Some scientists believed that witches used hallucinogenic drugs and they would fly to their Witch's Sabbaths.
The Witch’s Sabbaths were where the witches met face to face with the Devil. It reversed all the norms of society. There was naked dancing. They feasted on the flesh of babies. It shocked the people at the time. During this period the Malleus Maleficarum was published and it was a publishing hit. This book assisted witch hunters in finding and prosecuting witches. The monks that wrote this book believed that the women were vulnerable beings and easy prey for the devil. A precursor to the Malleus linked lust to witchcraft. The most important question of the witch hunter was “when did you become a witch?” It was the second most popular book.
The Malleus targeted the people who were helping the people the most: wise women. It was easy for villagers to suspect the women because they practiced the things most associated with magic. They were midwives. They knew how to use herbs. They were cooks…
To continue to learn more about the Dark History of Witches, continue to watch the rest of this documentary.
This would be a good documentary to mine for lecture clips and research purposes. Leonard Nimoy sets the pace for this documentary and is a good pace. I enjoyed his narration for this documentary and would listen to him in additional documentaries.
This is an older documentary featured on the History Channel about the Salem Witch Trials. It is an older documentary on the Salem Witch Trials. This documentary uses the words from the trials and the people who were on trial for being Witches.
In 1692, witch mania went through Salem, Massachusetts. It began when a girl fell sick with convulsions, visions, contortions, and random outbursts. This triggered the people to hunt out witches. Over 100 supposed witches were imprisoned during this hunt. Cotton Mather writes an account of what went on in Salem. This documentary presents the story he wrote.
Salem is a hotbed of controversy and fighting. Everyone in Salem seems to be angry with each other. Families fight over farmland. The church argues over a Pastor’s salary. The new pastor Samuel Parris shames the congregation for trying to raise his salary. What he does not know is that the town is going to be witch-hunting. The source of the bewitching is at his house. The girls of the household were convulsing, acting like something was biting them. At times they could not speak or see. The doctor concluded that the girls were bewitched.
Witchcraft is the reality in 17th Century America. Witches are as real as rocks and trees. Witches were nasty people who caused mischief and mayhem. If you did not treat a witch right, they may put a curse on your cattle. Being a witch was a crime punishable by death. In Salem, the hunt for witches is on.
Cotton Mather had written a book previously about a case of four children. It was a popular book. They were being attacked by a witch. Mather wrote about the accused: a woman named Goody Glover. Goody Glover seemed to have been Irish and could only speak Gaelic. At trial, they tried to get her to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Unfortunately, she could not and was eventually hanged as a witch.
Witchcraft had its roots in folk magic. There was a belief these people could heal people and animals and land fertility. However, this image was changed and people believed that witches made deals with the devil for powers. In Europe, witch-hunting was on. Supposed witches were put on trial and burned at the stake. However, as time progressed, governments changed their minds about witchcraft. Government officials wanted additional proof of witchcraft.
In Salem, the young girls are acting like something is bewitching them. This triggers a witch hunt in Salem. A neighbor suggests using witchcraft to find a witch. Tituba, Parris’ servant, confesses to being a witch. She had made a cake to find the witch. She fed the witch cake to a dog, who would help find the witch. Parris is not happy with that suggestion. He fasts and prays for the girls. However, this does not help the girls heal. The fits continued.
There are several theories as to why the girls suffered fits. One is that the girls were undisciplined and were afraid of going to hell. Another theory was poisoning. An additional theory was that it was ergot poisoning that caused the fits. The afflicted in Salem throw fits when there are visitors. Were the girls play-acting? This was a dangerous risk to the girls because they could be accused of witchcraft and be hanged. So were the girls faking their symptoms?
To continue to learn about the Salem Witch Trials, keep watching this documentary.
This would be a good documentary to show in an American History classroom. If you have a sub in the room, then feel free to have the sub show this documentary in the classroom.
Salem's Witch Secrets
Today, we will look at Smithsonian Channel’s America’s Hidden Stories: Salem’s Secrets. This documentary takes a different look at what happened in Salem. The historians use technology and new documents to retell Salem’s story.
The Salem Witch Trials began in 1692, with the hanging of five witches. People traveled from all over to see the witches hanging. There is a huge panic over witchcraft. It began with three young women having severe fits in bed. The people believed that they were being attacked by demons. This belief kicked off the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials.
The Court takes immediate action to protect the town from Witchcraft. They put the witches on trial and the guilty are hanged. The episode kicks off with the hanging of John Proctor. He was the first man accused of being a witch. In the community, he was a strong Puritan and was on good terms with everyone in town. Proctor protested his innocence to the very end. Suddenly, the town goes silent and the trials are stopped. Records of the trial are covered up and disappeared.
The governor of the Massachusetts colony at the time banned publications about the witch trials. Books about the trials were burned. The officials were trying to bury the evidence that innocents were killed. Vital information is still missing to this day in regards to the trial. A group of historians comes together to discusses new documents that have come to light about the Salem Witch Trials. They are trying to solve the mystery of the trial. Most of all they hope to find the long-lost hanging site.
The historians speak about preserving the hanging site as a memorial to the lives lost. One of the historians is a direct descendant of John Proctor. One book about the trials escapes the burnings and it was published in London. It gave more details about the trials and gives the location of the potential graves of the supposed witches. Will this book help solve the mystery location of the hanging site? Will the remains of the witches be found nearby this hanging site?
Despite the fact it was illegal to publish anything about the Salem Witch Trials there are still documents and records available. The historians explore the life and accusations of John Proctor. They turn to the records written by Reverend Parris. The Parris home was where the witch crisis took off. In January 1692, the girls in the Parris household start acting strangely. They convulse violently. They scream. The Reverend believes that his girls were bewitched.
The accusations start centering around a slave woman named Tituba. She admits to being the Devil’s agent. This confession touches off additional accusations. Traditionally, witches were women and lower class. John Proctor was upper-middle class, married, and had 16 children. The team tries to solve the mystery as to why John Proctor was accused. They discuss Proctor’s wealth and success. It becomes clear that wealth and success will not protect anyone. The Proctors watch the events in Salem nervously.
Parris finds an alley in the Putnam family. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne are eventually accused of witchcraft. They were poor and unimportant in the town. They were the typical people accused of witchcraft. Then suddenly Rebecca Nurse is drawn into the accusations. Was she a witch? Or did the Putnam’s want to get rid of a rival? Continue to watch the documentary to find out.
This is a surprising look at the Salem Witch Trials. I never really thought it was covered up for generations after the trials happened. This documentary was the first time I heard about a government cover-up in regards to Salem. I would show this in a history classroom as well as an English classroom if the classroom is reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Quick Witch Clips
Today, I will share some short clips about the history of the witch trials and the people involved in the witch trials. I am using the Biographic Channel and the Today I Learned YouTube channel. These would be good to show to a classroom because they are short and give good information.
Matthew Hopkins – Witchfinder General
Simon explores the life of Matthew Hopkins, the witchfinder general. He hunted down more witches in English history. Not much is known about him or his education before 1640. The guesswork finally ends when he moved to Manningtree, England. He would take advantage of the chaos of the First English Civil War. Before, witches were often jailed in England and not executed. However, that changed when King James I came to the throne. King James, I brought his beliefs about witchcraft to England. Now instead of a prison sentence, witches were condemned to death. This is where Matthew Hopkins comes in. For a fee, he would hunt and get confessions out of supposed witches. Hopkins would extract confessions through torture and once he got those confessions the witches were put on trial and then found guilty of their crimes. Eventually, the people would start speaking against him. Hopkins passed away suddenly. This would end his position of Witchfinder.
Gilles de Rais: Serial-Killing Nobleman or Witch Hunt Victim
Gilles de Rais was the richest man in Frances. He fought alongside Joan of Arc. However, in a few years, he was put on trial for summoning a demon and killing over 100 children. Was he history’s first serial killer? Simon explores the life of Gilles de Rais. He was raised by his grandfather. He grew up during the 100 years war, it was a time of constant warfare. He would save the life of the Duke of Brittany. The Duke of Brittany would grant him lands. He would eventually marry an heiress in Brittany. Gilles de Rais soon became the Marshall of France. His court could rival the King’s. He retired from the army and could do what he wanted to with his money. He squandered his money on producing plays. Eventually, his in-laws would financially cut him off. He fought back, and the powers at be needed to stop him. He was accused of murder and that he was a witch. He was hanged after found guilty.
The Last Witch of Britain
Simon explores the life of the last woman who was imprisoned for witchcraft in Britain. He briefly gives a summary of the English witch-hunting. The laws that Parliament created were still on the books during World War II. Then he introduces us to the story of Helen Duncan. Duncan was the last woman imprisoned for witchcraft. She had natural psychic abilities and her husband convinced her to put those skills to good use. When she started practicing her skills, she found an eager audience. With her skills, she and her husband were able to afford a house. It was during World War II, she conjured the spirit of a sailor who had died onboard a ship. This shocked the naval officers who were in the audience. Eventually, the intelligence community got involved and she was charged with vagrancy. Then the authorities discovered the Witchcraft Act and charged her with witchcraft. Duncan was sentenced to 9 months in prison.
Was Anyone Really Burned at the Stake During the Salem Witch Trials?
Simon does a quick video on whether or not anyone was burned at Salem during the Witch Trials. He says no because under English law burning witches was banned. He quickly discusses folk magic and how folk magic made people suspicious around Salem. He also discusses how there was a family feud going on between two families. Tensions were high in Salem and it was the perfect storm for the Salem Witch Trials to explode.
A Very British Witchcraft
I do not know how I can go through October without Ronald Hutton putting his two cents in on the history of witchcraft. Ronald Hutton makes his way into British-produced documentaries. This time he is hosting his documentary on paganism and witchcraft. Hutton specializes in paganism, British folklore, pre-Christian religion, and Early Modern Britain. He is a delightful narrator and storyteller. He is also a humorous presenter.
Modern Pagan witchcraft is a distinctly British religion. Wicca is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. Professor Ronald Hutton examines witchcraft, Wicca, and paganism in this documentary called A very British Witchcraft. Oddly, Wicca was born in the 1940s. Gerald Gardner was a nudist who was known as the “King of Witches.” Who was the man behind the birth of Wicca?
Professor Ronald Hutton explores the life of Gerald Gardner and how he created the Wicca religions. He reinvented witchcraft and became a celebrity witch. In modern Britain, you are not that far from a modern witch. They do not wear pointy hats but they do cast spells. Harry Potter readers would not believe they would be face to face with a modern witch. Hutton has studied pagan religions and Wicca for two decades.
Nature lies at the heart of Wicca. Hutton participates in a Wiccan ritual. They have participants but not observers. The nature reverence seems to tie back to the ancient religions. Hutton points out that this is not the case. He then introduces the viewer to Gerald Gardner. Gardner retired to Dorset. He lived in High Cliffe, and it was the typical English community. High Cliffe was a hotspot for naturists. Hutton goes to the house where Gerald Gardner lived.
Gardner was an odd-looking man, with white hair. He practiced naturalism. That was not strange enough about the man. He would eventually become a witch. He claimed that he was given the ancient secrets of witches. He became a practicing witch. He practiced witchcraft for 30 years. He recruited others so the religion would not die. Why did he become a witch? What is the background that made him become a witch?
As a child, Gardner was packed off and sent abroad with his nanny. His family grew wealthy from the timber trade. He was an unwanted child. He never went to school. The family never really reclaimed him. Gardner was self-taught and well-traveled. He sought his fortune in the tea and rubber plantations. Gardner studied the tribal cultures around him. He became intrigued by the rituals and magic. For these people, magic was real and it surprised him. He was fascinated by tribal magic. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an influence on Gardner’s life. Magic was real for him.
By the time he retired, magic was a very real thing for him. He met people who were similarly minded. They were also interested in traditional magic too. This was something that Gardener had spent his life studying. The locals thought he was insane.
There was a long tradition of British magic. Cunning folk helped cure people or bring good luck. Gardner used these old spells in his magic. However, he wanted to use magic on a grand scale. He tried to test his magical powers against Hitler. When he was not practicing magic against Hitler, he was a member of the home guard. One night in 1940, Gardner and his coven came together and created a “cone of power.” They targeted this cone of power against Hitler and the German army. They wanted to stop a potential invasion by the Germans.
To learn more about Gerald Gardner continue to watch this documentary. This would be a good documentary for research purposes.
October and witches continue with Tony Robinson’s When the British were Terrified of Witches. This is a documentary about the witch trials that took place in Britain and Scotland.
In Gods and Monsters, Tony Robinson explores “When the British were Terrified of Witches.” Tony explores the history of witchcraft and witch trials in Britain. He explores how the beliefs were brought into the British Isles and how they transformed British Society. How did they tell that people were witches? Who made people witches? Why was there a belief in witches?
Tony dives deeper into the beliefs in witches and witchcraft. Today, we have stereotypical beliefs of witches: they had warts, they had toads, and they had caldrons. Witches were something that you joked about. They were found in fairy tales. Not so in early Europe. Back when the Stewarts and Tudors ruled, there were no such stereotypes. Everyone feared witches. Witches were a fact of life. More than 40,000 supposed witches were killed. Alongside a team of historians, Tony learns more about Witches and the beliefs that the people had.
Witch trials were well documented in the English records. Tony kicks off with the story of Agnes Sampson. Agnes was a midwife; however, she was potentially the inspiration for the witches in Macbeth. She was accused of trying to kill King James. King James was coming home from Denmark to Scotland when his ships encountered a serious storm. This storm threatened to sink his ship. King James accused her of trying to murder him.
Sampson was swept up in one of Scotland’s biggest witch hunts. Agnes gathered with over 200 witches. In these gatherings, they were accused of plotting to kill King James and his wife Queen Anne. Those who accused her thought she had made a pact with the devil. The devil gave these women supernatural powers. They had the power to destroy. They were feared by the locals. Witches were not born with their terrible powers. They were tempted by the devil.
How did this transformation take place? The devil appeared to these women while they were going about their business. He traveled through the land in the form of smoke and then transformed himself into a person. He was described as an attractive man. The women said that he would sweet-talk them. The devil told the women he could give them power and money. The women would give themselves to the Devil. Then they would become witches.
Witches were impossible to spot. They looked like ordinary women. Domestic implements were at the heart of the witches' arsenal. They also used shocking ingredients. Tony discovers the origin of the flying broomstick. Agnes was not alone in practicing black magic. She worked together with other witches. Tony learns about the Witches’ Sabbaths. Inversion, everything good would be made foul. A stew could be made into something that could kill. Religious festivals would be turned on their head. They would burn crosses and Bibles during the Sabbaths. Social and religious norms were turned on their head.
Witches were a threat and women were targeted because they were weak. It was a terrifying prospect to everyone. Tony explores why magic was fact rather than fiction. He moves to explore why the belief moved from fantasy to reality. Tony finds a dead chicken, the chicken was perfectly healthy in the morning. He reacts like any other ordinary man would have reacted: someone in the village as a witch. Continue to watch this documentary to find out more about witches.
This is a good episode for researcher purposes for a lecture or independent study students. Tony is a delight when narrating this story. His curiosity is infectious.
Now we will look at a documentary on the Salem Witch Trials to continue with our Witch theme. This is an older documentary about the Salem Witch Trials. However, the information is excellent and gives a different perspective on what triggered the Salem Witch Trials. The answer may surprise you.
This is an older Secrets of the Dead episode about the Salem Witch Trials. Were the girls truly bewitched? One scientist dives into the Salem Witch Trials. The answer she found may surprise the viewer. Using her sleuthing skills and historical records, she discovered what triggered the Salem Witch trials as well as similar trials around Europe. In doing so, she may have solved the mystery of a murder.
For three centuries, witch persecution spiraled out of control. 40,000 men, women, and children were killed in Europe. The Vatican sent out warnings against witchcraft. Witchfinders went up and down England finding suspected witches. One witch hunter brought over 100 people to trial in two years. Witchcraft was punishable by death.
Linda Kaperal worked through the evidence. In carefully working through the evidence, she discovered one consistent clue. The evidence fell into place as she explored the records. She connected the evidence to a modern drug. This modern drug gave people horrifying visions and fevered dreams. How could this modern drug trigger the witch hunts that plagued Europe for three centuries?
In 1589 the most brutal witch persecutions happened. The church leaders, doctors, and magistrates were brought to a manor house where there were five children and seven servants who were struck down by a mystery illness. The illness bore all the hallmarks of witchcraft. There were some skeptics, however, they were convinced that witchcraft was in play.
The girls were plagued by visions. They saw animals that were not there. They had violent fits. The girls blamed a woman: Alice Samuel. She was a local misfit. Samuel was tortured into confessing she was a witch. She was hanged after her confession. They hanged her husband and daughter too. It seemed that it was an open and shut case.
Salem, Massachusetts provides a strong set of evidence that would throw this English trial into doubt. The victims suffered from the same symptoms as the girls in England. They had violent fits. They had horrifying visions. The 19 people who were executed could have saved their lives by confessing to being a witch, but they did not.
Many settlers were struck down by an illness. For a year three girls became the most powerful people in Salem. They held the town spellbound with their fits. They pointed out who bewitched them. 150 people were arrested. The prisoners had a choice: confess or die. If you confessed you were going against God. If you refused to confess, you died.
Kaperal looked at the symptoms presented by the girls in Salem. She initially thought that the girls faked their symptoms and wanted to do it for attention. Something did not feel right about this explanation. There was some faking, however, the descriptions on some of the other symptoms could not be faked. The convulsions described were so horrible the girls could not fake those. Other people in the community experienced the same symptoms too. The evidence was there, all it needed was a new set of eyes to look at it. The explanation came to Kaperal suddenly and it surprised her.
To continue to learn about what happened in Salem and to learn about the modern drug that may have triggered the witch trials, continue to watch the documentary.
Show this documentary to a history and science classroom. You can see how science is applied to history to solve a mystery. A history class covers a historical event.
James I: Witch Hunting
War on Witches is about one king’s hunt witches. This continues our witch theme for October. It is 1590: England is ruled by Queen Elizabeth and Scotland is ruled by King James I. King James I had a vendetta. He had a vendetta against witches. In May 1590, King James I was returning to Scotland from Denmark. Storms were stirred up in the North Sea. King James was in danger of sinking. Winds and waves slammed the ship. The passengers thought the storm was caused unnaturally.
Was the storm caused by witches? The King had powerful enemies. He had been abandoned by his mother and his father was dead. He was brought up by four men and these men were driven into exile or murdered. There were several assassinations and kidnapping attempts over his reign in Scotland. It was enough to make any man paranoid. The storm that struck in the North Sea just fed his paranoia.
This storm convinced King James that it was another attempt on his life and it was an attempt by witches to kill him. During his time in the Danish court, he observed that the culture that went after witches. Denmark was one of the intellectual centers for Witch Hunting. He was able to exchange information and learning with the leading minds of the Danish Court. King James would bring these beliefs back to Scotland.
Witch-hunting flared up when there were periods of fighting between Catholics and Protestants. Witches made deals with the devil in exchange for supernatural powers. The people wanted to get rid of evil. They targeted each other, and thousands of people were killed as a result of the witch trials. 130 women were burned to death in one village in Germany. In 1590, witch-hunting did not reach the English or Scottish shores.
When King James came home from his honeymoon, he brought this belief to the Scottish shores. The storm convinced him that witches were after him. Among the common people, there was a belief in natural magic and folk magic. This was good magic that healed people and animals. The people who practiced this were called wise or cunning folk. Unfortunately, this belief was challenged when King James came back.
Historian Joyce Froome shows off a book of spells that was written by a cunning man. This book had recipes and herbal remedies to help the people. Folk magic was important because doctors were expensive. The cunning people were essential members of the community. Agnes Sampson was one of these cunning people. She served both the rich and the poor. She had a reputation for healing. Unfortunately, she would be swept up in the witch trials.
On the opposite of the good magic the cunning people practiced, some people practiced dark magic. The spellbook Froome shows off also included spells to harm people, such as making a thief confess to theft. Historian Ronald Hutton shows off a display of objects that could be used for dark magic. Hutton discusses how both good and bad magic were lumped together in the eyes of the Church.
To continue to learn more about James I and his desire to hunt witches watch the rest of this documentary.
Ronald Hutton, one of my favorite historians, takes part in this documentary. I enjoyed his discussion on witch-hunting increased when the fighting between Protestants and Catholics increased. There was also fascinating archaeology shown in this documentary that demonstrated the common beliefs of the people. I would show this documentary in the classroom or for independent study students. You are limited by your imagination when it comes to using YouTube in the classroom!
The Blitz Witch
Today we are continuing with our Witch Theme for October. This time, I will present a documentary about the last woman who was tried as a witch in Britain. When did this happen? Well, it happened during World War II!
Tony Robinson investigates the case of Helen Duncan, the last person in Britain to be jailed as a witch. It was before D-Day and she was predicting the invasion. She was tried as a witch during World War II. Duncan was uncannily accurate in her predictions during World War II. She was a threat to British National Security. MI-5 got involved with her case. Was she talking with the spirits of the dead soldiers? Where they telling her secrets she should not have known? Becky McCall and Tony Robinson find out more about Helen Duncan.
Britain was on a war footing and everyone was on edge. D-Day was coming and the military did not want the Nazis to know what they were planning. This woman was such a threat to national security that the military decided to put her on trial and lock her up. She was the last person in Britain to be put on trial for witchcraft. She was arrested as a spy. Helen Duncan was a psychic medium. She spoke with the dead.
Robinson heads to Portsmouth to investigate Helen and what happened. He goes to a place where Helen held her seances. People flocked to her séances because they wanted to speak to their relatives. They sought comfort from Helen. One particular night, she announced that the HMS Barham had sunk. It shocked the people in the room. The Barham’s sinking was a state secret. MI-5 sent officers to Portsmouth to investigate Helen’s claims. The Barham’s sinking was announced three months after it happened.
Robinson and McCall do a catch-up on what they discovered. They go to the primary sources that surrounded the Barham’s sinking and the sailors who died on that ship. Who did Helen speak for when she made this announcement? She spoke with a sailor named Sid, and the people in the room recognized him immediately. They find the sailor’s name on a memorial in Portsmouth. They discovered that he lived on the street where Duncan held her séance. McCall and Robinson part to do further investigating. Then Robinson goes to a modern-day spiritualist church and observes a service. McCall investigates how mediums work.
McCall discovers that the family who had sailors on board the Barham received a letter from the government telling them about the sinking. They were also instructed to keep the sinking a secret from the public. So perhaps Duncan guessed that one of the witnesses had a sailor in the family that had died and guessed that it was the Barham.
To learn more about the Helen Duncan case continue to watch the documentary.
Tony Robinson is an excellent presenter. He approaches this strange story with skepticism. He does an excellent job balancing his skepticism with the evidence presented. He takes his time as he reflects on the evidence before him. Becky McCall is also excellent at bringing in a scientific eye to this investigation.
This is an interesting look at something that happened in World War II. It was fascinating to find out that the last person in Britain to be tried as a witch happened during World War II. I do not think anyone could have guessed that. This would be a good documentary to share for research purposes for an independent study student. If you need something interesting to show to the students during October.
To continue with the Halloween/Witches theme for October, I will be sharing Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder. This program is presented by Suzannah Lipscomb narrates program. There are scenes of violence and torture in this documentary. This documentary should be shown to older students.
King Charles I had ended witch-hunting in Britain when he became king. However, the witch trials started up again as his power waned. Today’s episode features the story of Matthew Hopkins: Witch Finder General.
Manningtree, England was the site of a fresh episode of witch-hunting. A sick woman was in bed. Her husband went before the magistrate to bring the witch to justice. Elizabeth Clarke was accused of being a witch. She was poor, cantankerous, a widow, and had one leg. The husband wanted Elizabeth Clarke arrested and executed. A landowner brought forward evidence against Elizabeth.
The evidence was that Elizabeth had denied being a witch, but knew plenty of other witches. A warrant was issued to investigate the charges. The warrant forbade torture. Matthew Hopkins was the man who would carry out the warrant.
King Charles I had put so many conditions on what evidence could be provided that witch-hunting had stopped. Unfortunately, his power was slipping away. The English Civil War was about to start. This allowed witch-hunting to begin again.
A group of women went to Elizabeth Clarke’s cottage. She was stripped of her clothing to search for a devil’s mark. They were looking for moles, birthmarks, any unusual marks on the body. However, this was not enough evidence. They needed a confession. The group of women kept her awake for three days. Sleep deprivation was not considered torture at the time. Hopkins then showed up and questioned Elizabeth. She finally confessed to being a witch and named other witches. She was fed up with the way they were treating her.
Matthew Hopkins made a new career for himself. He became known as a Witch Finder. He went after the people Elizabeth named. When the trial happened, Hopkins made sure that there would be convictions. In the past, many convictions were thrown out for lack of evidence. That would change when Hopkins took to the stand. He gave his evidence and told the spectators that Elizabeth had confessed to being a witch.
He also had another card up his sleeve: Rebecca West. Hopkins offered West freedom if she would implicate the others. She accepted the deal and gave evidence at trial. If she did not testify, she could have been tried and hanged with the rest of the women. She gave evidence that led to the conviction of 15 supposed witches. The witches were hanged.
Hopkins would then go around towns and was the Witch Finder General. He would find supposed witches. He became one of the most feared men in England. He sent 15 women to the gallows in a single day, wherein the previous year there were only two women hanged in East Anglia. After the 15 women were hanged, Hopkins collected his fee and moved onto the next town. He had no legal right to do so. There was no one to stop him amid the English Civil War.
Hopkins's next victim was a clergyman. He had been a vicar for 40 years and was so disliked his parishioners accused him of being a witch. It was the first time that a serving clergyman had been accused of being a witch…
Continue to watch Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder to learn more about witch-hunting. To see what happened to the clergyman continue to watch. Could Hopkins be stopped? If so, who could stop him?
You can access the YouTube Video here.
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