The Strange Tale of Britain’s Last Witch

You may have thought that witchcraft trials died out hundreds of years ago, but Scottish medium Helen Duncan was prosecuted for being a with in 1944! She was an accomplished performer who drew believers to her psychic appearances and seances by producing “ectoplasm” from her mouth and foretelling the future. But one forecast was so uncanny that it caused an investigation.

Her psychic “talents” came to the notice of the Royal Navy after Helen claimed she saw an apparition of a dead sailor from the sunk ship HMS Barham, during a seance in Southampton. She said the dead sailor claimed his ship had been sunk with the loss of all life on board. As this was during the Second World War, official announcements about any sunk British vessel were held back so as not to damage morale. Duncan claimed she knew it HMS Barham as she had seen the ship’s name in the band of the dead sailor’s hat.

Duncan was right, but that information was classified. Was she a spy or a witch? Read about Helen Duncan and her legal troubles at Dangerous Minds

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