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.
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.
Scotland is where the witch-hunting began. Queen Anne was coming to Scotland. She had just married King James and was sailing from Denmark to make her home in Scotland. However, the journey proved treacherous. One ship sunk and the ship Queen Anne was sailing on nearly capsized. She returned to Denmark. King James decided to go to Denmark to bring her back. Not only did he bring a bride back but he brought back something else.
At the time the Danes were influenced to hunt out witches. The church seemed to back this hunting wish idea. Witches were the devil’s handmaidens and bent on doing destruction. While in Denmark, King James came face to face with that reality. While he was in the Danish Court, two witches were arrested and put on trial. They confessed to causing the sea storm to kill the Scottish King and the new Scottish Queen. This shocked him however he carried on, bringing his new wife back to Scotland. He would have continued to carry on if it was not for David Seaton.
David Seaton was the deputy bailiff in a Scottish town. He caught his servant girl slipping out of his house late at night. Gilles Duncan was the young servant girl. She had suddenly acquired healing powers and had been sneaking out at night. He thought she had made a pact with the devil and was determined to prove it. She promised she was not a witch. However, Seaton tormented her into confessing. Her fingers were crushed. She refused to confess to being a witch even as her fingers were crushed. Seaton pressed further, tying ropes around her head to wrench it. She still did not confess to something she did not do.
She was not broken and Seaton hardened his torture. It was only when he discovered a mark on her neck did Gilles confessed. What about this mark that made her finally confess to witchcraft? Was it shame? No matter what, her confession was the first in Scottish history. She was brought to prison and kept there. She gave up eight names of wishes. One hundred supposed witches were arrested and tortured. Additionally, she confessed that her coven was in league with the Danish witches who wanted to kill King James. This was the case that made King James realize that there were witches in his kingdom and thus kicking off witch-hunting in Scotland. He became involved in the case.
Agnes Sampson was one of the “witches” arrested. She was a midwife. She was tortured. She confessed to witchcraft. She was brought to King James to be interrogated. She repeated the confession to King James. King James seemed skeptical at first. King James was a widely read king and was inspired by rationality and rational examination. He denounced her as a liar. However, she whispered something to King James that made him change his mind. It was enough to convince him to believe that she was a witch. Why did Agnes say this statement to the king? Did she want to scare him? Or was did she want to end her suffering?
King James ordered that her torture be ended as a result of this confession. Agnes Sampson was executed as a witch. Several other witches were executed as well. These were people scared out of their wits, who wanted to end their torture. They were garroted and burned to death. These executions were only the beginning…
Continue to watch Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder to learn more about witch-hunting. Learn how witch-hunting had the King’s stamp of approval. Learn how witch-hunting ended up in England as well.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
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