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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