In the 1500s, John Fian was a young man who became a Scottish schoolmaster just outside Edinburgh. He was a bit of a genius, earning a doctorate degree when he was still in his early 20’s. The only problem was that he spent so much time reading books, he didn’t know how to court a lady. He met one of his student’s older sisters, and he was very attracted to her. He bribed the boy to bring him three of his sister’s hairs and tried to cast a love spell on the young woman.
The boy gave him the hair of their family cow, instead. The next morning, the cow burst through the door of the schoolhouse, and jumped into his lap, licking and cuddling up against him. The cow continued to follow him around the town wherever he went. The local authorities spotted this strange behavior and brought Fian in for questioning. They tortured him by twisting his legs and neck with rope until he confessed that he got his magic powers from the Devil.
After getting a confession from Fian, they demanded that he write down the names of other people in the town who were witches, too. He did not write down any names, and fell asleep. When he woke up, he told the guards that the Devil appeared in his dreams and said how displeased he was. If he confessed the other names, he would die. That night, Fian managed to escape out of prison. When he was caught again, he said that he lied about working with the Devil, because they tortured a confession out of him. After this, they tortured him again, breaking all of his limbs, so that he was completely paralyzed. Then, they burned him in a fire.
In the 1800s, a French composer named Philippe Musard lived in London organizing grand balls where people could dance and have a great party. After doing this for a while and making a lot of money, he decided to move back to Paris. He returned home in 1832, right when everyone was terrified of the cholera epidemic. Musard knew that when people are afraid, they want to distract themselves with drinking and partying. So he threw huge balls that winter at the Theatre des Varieties, and became the real-life Great Gatsby. Artist Toulouse-Lautrec attended nearly all of these parties, and some of his paintings are based on them.
Not only did Philippe Musard throw parties for profit, but he also participated in them every single weekend. He invented his own group dances and lyrics for everyone to do together to classic music, like one called the ‘galop infernal’, which was actually hilarious. It is available on YouTube, and hopefully, most people would agree that it would actually be loads of fun to participate in, even today. He was also a musician, and composed his own tunes that his band played for people to dance to, so that the only place they could go to hear those sweet jams was at his party.
Basically, Philippe Musard had the best life ever. He was a professional party-thrower. Even his portrait looks like his face was puffy and his eyes were half-shut as if he was in a permanent state of being wasted or hungover. Musard partied so hard, he probably knew one day, it would kill him. He lived as if every day was his last day, and had a very dark sense of humor. He even had his effigy stamped on a candy bar at a local chocolatier, so that everyone could see it, just in case he died.
Of course, to pious Christian people, though Philippe Musard and his lifestyle was disgusting and sinful. They thought that he must be working with the Devil, because how else could he convince so many “good” people to party like sinners?
In the 1500s, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa was a scholar who devoted his life to writing about the occult. In his books, he mentioned the devil a lot, and breaks down exactly how witches perform magic spells. You may be wondering how, exactly, Agrippa got all of his information.
He claimed that when he was a young man, he gave in to the temptations of the devil, and learned how to perform magic by following around groups of witches. He apparently found Jesus, and managed to save his own soul. He wrote his books in order to teach others who to keep the Devil at bay. During his lifetime, he published 8 huge books about the occult.
Even though he was so public about being friends with the Devil, he was never killed for witchcraft. Perhaps he was seen as publishing such valuable information on how to battle the Devil, they just wanted to keep him alive to learn more. While it would seem that he would have been promoting witch hunts in the Church, he actually pushed for people to be more sympathetic and understanding. He wanted to try to help save them from the devil’s grasp and have God save them through prayer, rather than burning them at the stake.
Father Urbain Grandier was a French Catholic Priest in the 1600s. He began to go to tons of exorcisms in order to cast the devil out of someone who had been possessed. Normally, a priest was alone with the possessed person during the ceremony. We now know that demonic possessions were usually mental and physical diseases. If the exorcism did not work, they thought it was because of a particularly strong demon, and not because of a persistent illness.
According to records, there was a strangely high number of demonic possessions in the town surrounding the St. Pierre Du Marche monastery, and Father Grandier was assigned to take care of them. At the monastery, a nun picked up a bouquet of roses, smelled them, and then collapsed and started convulsing as if she was having a seizure. The mother superior picked them up and did the same exact thing.
Instead of realizing that the roses had been sprinkled with some sort of poison or neurotoxin, the priests believed that the nuns had fallen under a spell. One of the nuns was acting full-on possessed, and a priest named Father Mignon did an exorcism with two helpers at his side as witnesses. He asked the demon for its name, and she said, “Astaroth.” When he asked how it was possible that the demon got into such a holy place, it replied that it was through the roses, and that Father Urbain Grandier let him in.
The truth behind this incredible story was that Urbain Grandier was corrupt, but not with the Devil. He refused to take a vow of celibacy, and he would seduce the nuns into having sex with him. It is very possible that this nun agreed to pretend to be possessed by a demon in order to get revenge on Urbain Grandier for rape, or because her own reputation had been threatened. Grandier was found guilty of witchcraft, and burned at the stake. From then on, the Catholic Church no longer allowed priests to do exorcisms alone, for fear that they were inviting more demons down to Earth, instead of expelling them.
Gilles de Rais was a knight who fought alongside Joan of Arc to help fight against the English and win a battle for France. The two became good friends, and Gilles de Rais was rewarded for his work by being given the title of “Marshal of France”. However, Joan of Arc was kidnapped and brought to the English. They called her a witch, and burned her at the stake.
Gilles de Rais was so upset by the injustice, that some say he began to dabble in alchemy in order to find the key to eternal life. At this point, he was the richest man in France, and the Catholic Church wanted a piece of the pie. Instead of giving his money to the church, he decided to put on an elaborate play, unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. He paid local actors, costume designers, and set builders to reenact his glory days of battle.
The church officials were so appalled by how he was throwing good money down the drain, so they decided to accuse him of being a serial killer who practiced alchemy and worshiped Satan. He was put to death, and when he died, the Catholic Church took custody of all of his money, castles, and land.
Giuseppe Tartini was an Italian violinist and composer. In the 1700s, He composed a song called “The Devil’s Trill Sonata“. He claimed that he woke up one night to find Satan himself sitting at the edge of his bed, playing the violin. After this visit from the Devil, he was able to play complicated trills that are usually impossible for most violinists to achieve. Even today, many modern musicians are not talented enough to play “The Devil’s Trill Sonata”. Some people speculated that Tartini may have had 6 fingers on one hand, and that is how he could play those complicated notes.
As the legend goes, Doctor Johann Georg Faust was an alchemist and astrologer who lived in Germany during the early 1500s. He wanted to be the smartest man in the world, and enjoy as many earthly pleasures as he possibly could while he was still alive. He made a deal with a demon called Mephistopheles.
According to records, he sodomized some of his male students, and was generally abusive and mean towards everyone. As a professor, he looked down on everyone else, because he believed that he was far superior. Local priests believed that he was in cahoots with the devil and that his pet dog was actually a demon who could transform in and out of canine form and into a human man servant. It would seem that he truly did believe in magic, because during his lifetime, he published several grimoires, or spell books. In 1540, he was conducting an alchemic experiment, and his laboratory exploded.
Jonathan Moulton was the early colonial settler in the New World who would earn the nickname “Yankee Faust”. As a young man, he was a poor apprentice to a cabinet maker but ended up completely switching careers, which was uncommon at the time. He became a professional silversmith and making a lot of money trading to England from the colonies. He also served as the Bridigire General for New Hampshire, and lead a battle to victory in King George’s War.
One legend says that Jonathan Moulton was able to afford his silversmith business by making a deal with the Devil. Moulton sat down and drank shots of rum with the Devil, and tried to get him drunk. Moulton said he would sell his soul in exchange for filling up the boots with gold coins on the first day of each month. They shook hands, and went their separate ways. Moulton found the biggest pair of boots in the entire state, where the leather went all the way up to the thighs. On the first of the month, the Devil took notice of how huge these boots were, and he laughed it off. A deal is a deal, after all, and he never specified the size of the boots. He filled them with gold coins.
The next month, Moulton was thrilled that the boots were filled all the way to the brim, but he was greedy. He got the brilliant idea to cut the soles out of the bottom of the shoes, and cut holes under the boots that would go down to his basement. The next month, the boots did not fill until the entire basement was flooded with gold coins. When the Devil realized he had been tricked, he got so angry, he set Moulton’s house on fire. This story was passed down for generations, and eventually written down roughly 100 years later.
In reality, Jonathan Moulton would have earned a veteran’s pension after serving in King George’s War. He would have also made a lot of money selling silverware to rich English families. He became rich so quickly, his neighbors felt as though it happened overnight, and they wondered how Moulton could have possibly made so much money, unless he did a deal with the Devil. He would have also been the kind of person who would have been loyal to the crown even during the Revolutionary War. It’s no surprise that he was unpopular, and that someone set his house on fire, blaming the entire ordeal on the Devil.
In 1677, an artist named Christoph Haizmann from Bavaria was working at a castle in Austria. He was so talented at painting, that he had been invited to completed commissioned work from his noble patrons. When he began have seizures, everyone believed that these were physical symptoms of being possessed by the Devil. People assumed that he must have sold his soul in order to gain all of his talents.
Christoph Haizmann confessed that he did, in fact, make a deal with the Devil 9 years earlier, at the start of his art career. But now, he regretted it very much, and wanted an exorcism. They demanded to know if he was a practicing witch, but the local authorities decided that he was not, but that the Devil had a hold of him. The local Catholic priest felt sorry for him when he saw Haizmann’s sick and weakened physical state. He began performing exorcisms on him. During these exorcisms, Haizmann claims that he had a vision that he came face-to-face with the Devil, who was in the form of a dragon. He was holding the contract to his soul, and he ripped it out of its talons. When he woke up, he was cured. After this, Christoph Haizmann began to paint pictures of the Devil. He painted a story with multiple panels, telling the story of how he sold his soul, and how the Catholic Church helped him get it back.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff, it almost goes without saying that the famous so-called witches of Salem, Massachusetts were accused of being in cahoots with the Devil. The citizens of Salem believed that the Devil gave those people supernatural powers and that they performed Satanic rituals in the woods. Of course, it was later discovered that the confession that started it all was a lie, and innocent people were killed.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: