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.
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