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5 British Witch Trials

Americans are very familiar with the Salem witch trials, but such witch hunts were going on in many places during that time. Illnesses that no one could explain were attributed to evil forces, and it was an easy leap to accuse one's enemies of causing the pain. Many people confessed, under torture, which reinforced belief in witches. An astonishing number of people died because of those beliefs before citizens eventually became sick of the carnage. England had its share of witch trials. One of the cases, in Pendle Hill, Lancashire, eventually led to accusations against a dozen people.

The trials began when a young woman named Alizon Device, from Pendle in Lancashire in northwest England, was accused of cursing a local shopkeeper who soon afterwards suffered a bout of ill health, now believed to have probably been a mild stroke. When news of this reached the authorities, an investigation was started that eventually led to the arrest and trial of several members of Alizon’s family (including her grandmother, Elizabeth Southerns, a notorious practitioner of witchcraft known locally as “Demdike”), as well as members of another local family, the Redfernes, with whom they had reportedly had a long-standing feud. Many of the families’ friends were also implicated in the trial, as were a number of supposed witches from nearby towns who were alleged to have attended a meeting at Elizabeth Southerns’s home on the night of Good Friday 1612.

By the end of the Pendle Hill witch trials, ten people were hanged for their "crimes." Not all of the cases in this list ended so badly for the victims, though. Read about five of England's witch trials at mental_floss.  


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