The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven't Heard Of
The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t Heard Of

Natasha sheldon - November 18, 2017

Say the word ‘witch’, and the picture that comes to mind is usually that of a woman. These women are seen as the victims of a male-dominated society, eagerly seeking scapegoats for the ills of the day amongst the old, deformed or socially marginalized.

The truth is, not all witches were old or living on the margins of society. Nor were they all women. Across Europe and its colonies between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, men, as well as women, were equally at risk from accusations, trials, and executions for witchcraft.

Some of these men did indeed live on the margins of society, falling prey to society’s fear of the ‘other’ and beliefs outside of their cultural sphere. Others were ill or deluded. Some were innocent bystanders caught up in the religious or political wrangling of their day. Others were the victims of greed, malice or vengeance.

A small minority, like some of their female counterparts, honestly did believe they had magical powers. Even if used innocently, these perceived abilities were enough to damn them to the rope or the fire. For by the height of the witch craze, the use of magic of any sort was the mark of the devil’s disciples. Few escaped such a charge. Here are just twelve men tried for witchcraft in the medieval or early modern period.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
A Sami Shaman. Google Images.

Quiwe Baarsenl

The Sami or Laplanders are the indigenous people of Arctic Scandinavia. They are best known as reindeer herders. However, from early times they were also revered and feared for the powers of their shamans, the Noaidi. Old Norse society tried to ban its people from consulting the Sami. However, people still did and continued to do so well into the Christian era.

Quiwe Baarseni was a Noaidi trained Sami, working as a servant in the town of Aaroya in the Finnemark territory of the extreme northeast of Norway. The settlement lay along the Altafjord where fishing was a significant business. So people desiring fair weather at sea often consulted Quiwe. It was this activity that led to him being one of twenty-six Sami accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

On November 1, 1625, Niels Jonsen, a local fisherman from nearby Rognsund, wanted to summon a fair wind for a fishing voyage to the village of Hasvag. So he consulted Quiwe. Quiwe agreed to help him. At his trial, he explained that he took off his shoe and washed his bare right foot in the calm sea waters saying: “wind to land, wind to land.” Satisfied, the Niels Jonsen set off.

Not long afterward, the wife of Oluf Oresen, one of the crew, visited Quiwe. For a keg of beer, she asked the shaman to raise a favorable homeward wind for the fishing boat. This time, Quirwe threw a piglet into the sea, calling “wind to land, wind to land.” However, the piglet squirmed too much, and the noaidi warned his customer that this could have made the wind too strong. “God have mercy on them,” he told her, “I am afraid that they have left prematurely and that the wind will be too strong.”

A storm arose, and Jonsen, Oluf Oresen, and three others crewmen drowned. Two years later on May 9, 1627, Quiwe Baarsenl appeared in Hasvag court charged with causing drowning by witchcraft. Quiwe did not deny his abilities. He explained he had called the winds by shamanism but said that was the limit of his craft. He had, for instance, never cast ‘runic spells” using shamanic drums which called upon totem animals and spirits.

This explanation cut no ice with the court. The court classed Quiwe’s knowledge of spirits as consorting with demons. The fact that five people had drowned after a spell he cast was enough to convict him. The authorities burnt him soon afterwards.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
Dr. John Fian and companions pacing widdershins about the church in North Berwick. Google Images.

Doctor John Fian

Kings James VI of Scotland and future King of England was paranoid about witchcraft. In the autumn of 1589, the King sailed to Oslo to collect Princess Anne of Denmark who he had married by proxy. Dangerous storms had stranded Anne in the Norwegian capital, preventing her from traveling on to Scotland-, and both the Danes and her new husband blamed witches.

The Danish authorities promptly arrested and executed six people for the crime. Once back in Scotland, James became convinced that the devil had marked him as his greatest enemy. So he began his own search for the magical traitors. The name of John Fian as the leader of the conspirators came up from an unlikely source. A David Seaton of Tranent in East Lothian had noticed his maid; Gillis Duncan had begun to behave strangely. Gillis had acquired strange healing abilities and started sneaking out at night. Seaton handed Gillis over to the authorities, and under torture, she confessed to a conspiracy of witchcraft against James.

Dr. John Fian, had, until this point been a respectable schoolmaster. Th epicture painted by Gillis was quite different. Fian was said to preside over Sabbaths held at Auld Kirk Green, North Berwick. There, the witches danced widdershins (counterclockwise) about the church before Fian let them into the building by blowing into the keyhole. There, in the company of the devil, (who was obtrusively disguised as a tall black man with a goatsbeard, rabbits nose, hawks beak, a long tail and dressed in a black robe and skull cap), they had planned James’ death.

The authorities arrested Fian, who managed to escape- perhaps lending credence to his trick with the church lock. However, he was recaptured and tortured, losing his fingernails, having the bones crushed in his feet, pins stuck in his tongue and the turcas applied. He then confessed, only to recant after the torture claiming: “what he had done and said before was only done and said for fear of pains which he had endured.”

However, Fian had been convicted- on the King’s unambiguous orders, so that was enough. In January 1591, he was placed in a cart and taken to Castle Hill in Edinburgh where he and his fellow ‘witches’ were strangled and then burnt.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
Thomas Weir’s House, Bow Street, Edinburgh. Google Images.

Major Thomas Weir

Major Thomas Weir was a highly respected member of seventeenth-century Edinburgh society. A former military man and captain of the Edinburgh town guard, he was a profoundly religious Presbyterian, held in reverence by his congregation, always soberly dressed and of ‘grim countenance.’ He shared his rented house on Bow Street with his spinster sister Jean or ‘Grizel.’ There was nothing untoward and suspect about Major Weir’s life at all.

Then, one day in 1670, the major broke down at a religious service. Entirely out of the blue, he confessed to having been long in the service of the devil. He admitted to knowing his sister and several cows and mares carnally. The congregation was dumbfounded. As the Major was raving and practically incoherent, the gathering summoned a doctor who declared that Major Weir was mentally ill.

However, Major Weir insisted his ravings were true. So the authorities had no choice but to arrest the major and his sister and investigate further. Soon charges of bestiality and incest were the least of Weir’s worries. Grizel, with a similar wild abandon to her brother, readily admitted their unnatural relationship and declared she and her brother were both witches. Grizel had sold her soul while a schoolteacher in return for the ability to spin “extraordinary quantities of yarn.” Thomas meanwhile, had a magic coach, which in 1648 had transported the couple between Edinburgh and Musselburgh in record time.

Thomas Weir was famous for his Thornwood walking stick, an impressive item decorated with carved heads. This staff, Grizel announced was his wand, gifted him by the devil. People had often observed the Major leaning upon his stick in what was assumed to be prayer. Now, it became clear that he must have been conversing with his real master, the devil. When confronted with Grizel’s outpourings, Weir denied nothing. So, the court condemned both Weir and his sister to death

Weir was strangled and then burnt between Leith and Edinburgh shortly afterward. When asked to beg for God’s mercy, he refused. “Let me alone-I will not-” he declared before the executioner strangled him,” I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast.” His staff was thrown into the flames with him and said by witnesses to leap and twist in the fire. Grizel Weir went to her end in a similarly crazy fashion in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket the next day, unrepentant and attempting to tear off her clothes.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
Witch trials featured many witnesses who claimed to have seen dealings with the Devil himself. Wikimedia.

Thomas Looten

Thomas Looten was a respectable farmer who settled in the town of Meteren in Gelderland on his marriage. However, in 1659, a series of unpleasant stories began to circulate about 60-year-old Looten that unsettled him. People were whispering that he had been bewitching plums to kill local children. So on September 21, 1659, the farmer approached Meteren’s bailiff, Jaques Vanderwalle, asked him to investigate the matter to clear his name.

Things did not quite work out the way Looten had hoped. Vanderwalle did launch an investigation. While it was ongoing, however, he jailed Looten. Within two days, twelve witnesses had come forward to testify against Looten, and an order was issued to search his house for magical implements.

After three weeks, Vanderwalle had examined all the witnesses and told the court he had enough evidence to prove sorcery. The judges visited the hapless Looten and asked if he could offer any evidence to clear himself. Looten claimed he was ” not guilty either in word or deed, ” but he could not prove his innocence.

As luck would have it, the official torturer of Dunkirk just happened to be passing through Meteren. He examined Looten’s body and found a “devil’s mark” which he could pierce with “ a pin as far as its head” without Looten bleeding or feeling pain. The torturer, a veteran witchfinder, with between 500-600 positive ID’s under his belt, declared the witch’s mark to be the real thing.

So Looten was put to the torture. An iron collar was fastened around his neck and slowly tightened to extract his confession. Initially, he held out, explaining he had just wanted to stop the slander and so had come to the authorities. His refusal to submit just showed he had a strong constitution, the torturer told the judges. A little extra ‘persuasion’ could be safely applied. So after a blessing from a priest to ‘exorcise’ him, the torture began again with renewed vigor. This time Looten broke. He confessed he had been a witch for eight years and that the devil had supplied him with money to buy cows and horses for his farm. Crucially, he admitted he had killed the children as accused, by spitting on the plums to bewitch them.

The court did not publicly execute Looten. He died that night in his cell from a broken neck, undoubtedly caused by the torture used to gain his confession- although his jailors said the devil strangled him. His body, however, was taken out and burned publicly on a scaffold. Looten’s estate was confiscated to pay for the whole investigation, including searches of his own home, the jailors- and forty days worth of daily fees for Vanderwalle and the judges. The town of Meteren ended up doing very well out of Thomas Looten’s fall from grace.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
The Queen of Elphame. Google Images

Andrew Man

In 1597, Andrew Man, an old man from Aberdeen was put on trial when his reputation as a healer put him in the spotlight with the authorities. Man damned himself when he admitted that his abilities came from an entity he called ‘The Queen of Elphame’ and her husband, Christonday.

Mr. Man claimed that he first met his fairy Queen when he was a boy. She appeared at his mother’s house suddenly “where she was delivered of a bairn.” Man was kind to her and brought her water. In return, the fairy promised him “he should know all things and should be able to cure all sorts of sickness.”

Man did not meet the fairy queen again for another 28 years. He came across her for the second time when he found her bewitching his cattle on a piece of land called “Elf Hillock.” When she realized who Man was, the Queen apologized. The two became lovers, and the Queen gave Man the power to steal milk from cows, divine the future and increased his ability to heal.

From that time onwards, Man developed a reputation as a healer and cunning man amongst his neighbors. He practiced a kind of sympathetic magic to affect his cures. One involved passing a patient through a hasp of unwashed wool nine times. A cat then followed nine times through the same hasp (presumably, so it could pick up the ailment). This creature was then killed, destroying the disease and so curing the patient.

Meanwhile, the cuckolded Christonday did not seem to bear any grudges. Indeed, he came to Man whenever he summoned him with the word “Benedicite.” The Queen may have been Man’s lover, but Christonday was his master. According to Man, this was because: “the queen has a grip of all the craft, but Christonday is the gudeman [husband] and so has all power under God.”

Man’s activities were innocent and had harmed no one. However, his descriptions of the fairies had the whiff of brimstone about them in the court’s opinion. His descriptions of feasting and cavorting with beings with the “shapes and claithes like men” who could never the less appear “out of the straw in the likeness of a staig” (a young male horse) smacked of a witch’s Sabbath. Consequently, it duly convicted Man of witchcraft and ordered him burnt.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
The last letter of Johannes Junis. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. Google Images

Johannes Junis

Between 1624 and 1631, the town of Bamberg in Germany was seized by witchcraft fever. No one was a safe – even senior city official, as the fifty-five-year-old Mayer of Bamburg, Johannes Junis found to his cost. In 1628, based on the evidence of other local dignitaries he was arrested and taken to the Bamburg witch prison where he was tried and condemned.

The trial began on June 28, 1628. According to the evidence presented, the mayor initially swore his innocence. Then the torture started. At first, Junis held up well, resisting the agonies of the leg screws and thumbscrews that wrecked his hands so badly he could not use them for a month. He even had the wit to quip that ” if he were such a wretch [a witch] he would not let himself be so tortured.”

The torturer found a “bluish mark, like a cloverleaf” located on the right side of Junis’s body, which, when pricked it three times, did not bleed or cause him any pain. This mark was taken to be proof he was the devil’s disciple. But still, the former Mayor did not confess. So the torture continued.

However, eventually, the pain became so severe that Junis “thought heaven and earth were at an end.” He finally realized no one wanted the truth- just a story, any story, so long as it fitted their agenda. “Whoever comes into the witch prison must become a witch, or be tortured until he invents something out of his head, “ he later wrote. Junis’s concilatory tale was of a demonic woman who bullied and coerced him into renouncing god and becoming a witch.

Finally satisfied, on August 6 the court condemned Junis to burn. He was left in prison for some weeks before the sentence was carried out. While he waited, he wrote his final letter, which a sympathetic guard smuggled out to his daughter Veronica. “Innocent have I come into prison, innocent have I been tortured, innocent I must die, “ he wrote, explaining how the pain coerced him into a false confession.

Junis’s final letter reveals something more. For he tells Veronica how, once he had confessed, his tormentors forced him to name others. This process was the same one applied to those who had named Junis. His tormentors took him through the streets of Bamburg, demanding a certain number of names from every location. Junis, broken by the pain could only comply. Having walked the same path as the witnesses against him, he found it was easy to forgive them.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
Guardian Angel. Google Images.

Chonrad Stoecklin

A drunken night’s philosophical discussion marked the beginning of Chonrad Stoecklin’s journey to the stake. Stoecklin was born in Oberstdorf, Germany in 1549, taking over as the town’s horse wrangler or chief herder on his father’s death. He married, and although all but two of his seven children died in infancy, Stoecklin and his family had their own house and cow. It was a prosperous if unremarkable life.

One night in 1578, Stoecklin was out drinking with a friend, Jacob Walch, an oxherd. The pair became drunk and began discussing death and the afterlife. The evening ended with the couple making a pact that whoever died first would return to the other and show him the next world. Eight days later, Jacob died. As promised, he returned to visit Stoecklin. However, it was not to reveal any significant secrets. Instead, the shade of Jacob Walch told his friend to repent his sins.

Stoecklin obeyed, and after a year of penance, he received another visitation- this time from a being that professed to be his guardian angel. Stoecklin and the angel began to take nocturnal journeys together to a “strange and distant place.” These trips occurred several times a year, in the company of other nebulous beings known as die Nachtschar or the night phantoms.

As a result of his widening of spiritual horizons, Stoecklin developed powerful healing abilities. Because his healing was so remarkable, his fellow villagers began to believe that he could also identify those who caused illness by magic. And so the horse wrangler became an inadvertent witchfinder.

In spring 1586, a neighbor consulted Stoecklin about a string of injuries supposedly inflicted by witchcraft. Stoecklin identified the perpetrator as 60-year-old Anna Enzensbergerin. He asked her to reverse the spell, but Enzensbergerin instead fled town. She later returned and was arrested based on Sroecklin’s accusations. However, the would-be witch finder’s admission that he had learned of Enzensbergerin’s witchcraft from the night phantoms alarmed the authorities. In July 1586, Stoecklin found himself under arrest.

Stoecklin was taken to Fluhenstein castle where he appeared in court, charged with consorting with demons. His guardian angel sounded suspiciously like a devil and the rides out with night phantoms more like a witches’ Sabbath. Enzensbergerin and the stepsister of Stoecklin’s mother, Barbara Luzin only made things worse for the hapless herder by agreeing they were witches and everything they knew the deceased Frau Stoecklin had taught them. Stoecklin was put to the torture and confessed. In January 1587, he was executed as a witch.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
Ingarsby Grange. Google Images.

Abbot Sadyngton

On December 3, 1440, William Alnwick, Bishop of Lincoln arrived at Leicester’s Augustine Abbey of St Mary de Pratis, England to investigate charges of witchcraft laid against its Abbot, William Sadyngton by one of the abbey’s Canons. The indictment against the abbot read as follows:

“whether as one wavering in faith or straying from the faith…..did practice in his own person, contrary to such faith and fixed judgment, divinations or incantations after this manner.”

Apparently, Abbot Sadyngton had discovered a sum of money missing from the Abbey. He had called upon the culprit to confess, but when no one did, he turned to sorcery to supply the answer. His accuser, Thomas Ashby, said on September 21, 1440, the Abbot took a young boy called Maurice to one of the abbey’s properties, Ingarsby Grange. There, he had anointed his thumbnail with oil, uttered strange evocations and made Maurice scry his nail for the culprit.

The culprit, according to Maurice just happened to be Thomas Ashby-, which probably explains why he issued his own, more severe counter-accusation. The Bishop’s investigations revealed that Sadyngton’s brethren did not love him much. The Abbot, who had been in post since 1420 was said to have ‘secular’ rather than spiritual tastes. He had already been tried for “incontinence” with a local lady called Euphemia Bor and also dealt in horses and wool as he wanted to ‘get rich quick.’ Worse still, Sadyngton was said to be a devotee of the magic arts, receiving instruction from an alchemist called Robert who lived nearby.

Fortunately for Sadyngton, pre-reformation England held a more relaxed view towards magic. Sadyngton was also able to counter the charge by claiming that his motives justified his actions. The Augustine order allowed that ” divination is not anything to do with evil, but a human concern with the doubtful and a means of indicating divine will. ” (De Divinationibus est Incantationibus, c.1100 AD), which meant Sadyngton had done nothing unlawful.

So, with so many extenuating and mitigating circumstances, Bishop Alnwick did not pursue the matter, merely ordering Abbot Sadyngton to ‘purge’ himself. Whether the abbot mended his ways is another matter. But he did not live long enough to cause any further trouble for his self or the Abbey as he died just two years later.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
Ruins of Gardar, Greenland. Google Images.

Kolgrim

The Norse settlements of Greenland were in their dying days in the early fifteenth century as the climate change, and social unrest saw them decline. By the late fourteenth century, people had deserted the island’s Western Settlement. However, its Eastern Settlement limped on, with ships still arriving from and leaving for Norway and Denmark.

One of the last reports of activities in Norse Greenland was recorded in the Logmannsannall of 1408. Amongst the events it documents is the case of Kolgrim, a local man tried for sorcery. In 1406, a Norwegian merchant ship had arrived at the eastern settlement. Amongst the passengers were a merchant, Torgrim Solvesson and his wife, Steinunn Ravnsdotter. Not long after landing, the Steinunn met Kolgrim and fell in love with him. However, she did not just sleep with him; she left her husband. Torgrim, humiliated by this very public and personal rejection charged Kolgrim with seducing his wife -by sorcery.

This indictment may have been a case of sour grapes. However, for a wife to leave a husband for another man was no small matter in the fifteenth century. So the issue went to the Thing, a community assembly. There, a jury of twelve heard the case against Kolgrim. Torgrim made a compelling case, citing the ancient Norwegian laws of magic. He claimed that “Kolgrim brought [Steinunn] to him by use of magic.” That magic included reciting chants and ‘galdr’- a type of rhythmic, singing spell to her.

The charge suggests Kolgrim sang to Steinunn. If so, this would have given extra credence to the charges. Ancient Norse society had long been suspicious of the effect of love songs on women. They believed they had the power to seduce the person they were directed at. In fact, neighboring Iceland had forbidden the composition of love songs known as ‘maiden songs’ on pain of death for this very reason.

What made the matter worse was Steinunn hadn’t just developed a passing fancy for Kolgrim, something that she indulged and forgot. She loved him. She had abandoned her marriage. This fact implied that Kolgrim had not just stolen her body from her husband: he had stolen her love; her very soul. Torgrim had been clever. He was manipulating pagan and Christian views of love magic to gain revenge against the man who stole his wife.

His ruse worked. The Thing found Kolgrim guilty and ordered him burned at the stake. As for Steinunn, if Kolgrim did bewitch her, the spell was not broken by his death. Instead, she lost her mind, presumably from grief and never recovered, dying not long after her lover.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
The torture of Urbain Grandier. Google Images.

Urbain Grandier

Urbain Grandier was the priest of the Church of Sainte Croix, in Loudun, Western France. A brilliant speaker, he was popular with his congregation. However, his words were not much admired by more powerful people. For Grandier managed to alienate the King of France, Louis XIII and his Chief Minister, Cardinal Richelieu.

He made an enemy of the King by supporting the regional governor’s authority in Louden. Louis, however, wanted all regional power centralized in Paris. By helping the governor, Grandier was setting himself against the King. However, his antagonism of Richelieu was blatant, as he attacked the cardinal publicly. It was an insult Richelieu never forgot.

Grandier had one major weakness that was open to exploitation: his love of the ladies. He treated his vow of celibacy lightly, indulged in various sexual liaisons. He even wrote a book attacking the imposition of clerical celibacy. His lascivious reputation was to prove his undoing.

In 1632, Grandier was asked to become the spiritual director of the local Ursuline convent. He refused. Shortly afterward, the nuns began to go into hysterical convulsions. They accused Grandier of bewitching them and sending a demon to commit indecent acts with them. Various explanations for the so-called possession of the nuns of Loudun have been suggested. Some believe it was mass hysteria, provoked by the Mother Superior who lusted after Grandier. Others, however, think the whole affair was set up by Richelieu to discredit the priest. If so, it worked.

Grandier was arrested, tried and acquitted by an ecclesiastical court. However, Richelieu, still smarting from Grandier’s attacks ordered a retrial. He sent his envoy, Jean de Laubardemont to see matters to a satisfactory conclusion. Although the nuns did not reappear to repeat their initial accusations, Grandier was tortured to extract a confession. When this was not forthcoming, a document appeared, a supposed ‘pact’ between Grandier and several demons:

“We, the influential Lucifer, the young Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Elimi, and Astaroth, together with others, have today accepted the covenant pact of Urbain Grandier, who is ours,” began the document, ” And him do we promise the love of women, the flower of virgins, the respect of monarchs, honors, lusts, and powers.”

This ‘pact’ was enough to convict. However, the court still needed to break Grandier and obtain a confession. So the doomed priest was put to ‘The Extraordinary Question”, a form of torture only used on the condemned. The bones in his lower legs were crushed and shattered, so he was unable to walk, but still, he did not break. On August 18, 1634, Grandier was burnt alive publicly in Loudun.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
George Burroughs.Google Images.

George Burroughs

Out of the twenty-one witches put to death during the Salem witch trials, eight were men. One of those was George Burroughs, a former minister of Salem, who seems to have been accused because he did not quite fit into the community, which he only served for a year and a half.

Burroughs was born in Suffolk, England and immigrated to Massachusetts with his mother when he was a small boy. After attending Harvard, he graduated in 1670 and became a minister in Falmouth, Maine in 1674. Burroughs married but his life did not remain settled for long as Wabanaki Indians destroyed the town in 1676. Burroughs and the remaining survivors- including a small girl called Mercy Lewis managed to escape, and in 1680, Burroughs’s became the minister for Salem, with Lewis joining his family as a servant.

Burroughs’s tenure in Salem was not a success. As an outsider, he automatically became an object of scrutiny. People looked for differences- and found them. Burroughs was too ‘secretive.’ He was suspected of religious dissent and may have been a secret Baptist. Perhaps because of this, he became alienated from supporters of the former minister, Mr. Bayley. Parishioners began to refuse to pay his wages, and when his wife died, Burroughs was forced to borrow money from Thomas Putman. Finally, as it became apparent life in Salem wasn’t working out, Burroughs returned to a rebuilt Falmouth.

Meanwhile, in Salem, the witch trials began, and Burroughs was implicated in absentia. He was accused by several of the afflicted girl’s of being the leader of the witches, sent by the devil to find recruits in Salem. Two of the accused witches, Abigail Hobbs and Mary Warren even claimed him as their ringleader. These testimonies, plus Burroughs unpopularity and strange habits were enough. On April 30, 1692, Burroughs was arrested in Maine when Captain Jonathan Walcott and Thomas Putman filed a complaint of witchcraft against him. He was taken to the jail at Salem to await trial.

At the trial on August 5, 1692, Burrough’s extraordinary strength and private nature were exploited as suspect, as was the fact he survived the Wabanaki raid- a fact supplied by Lewis and attributed to magic. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. However, the crowd nearly halted his execution on August 19 when they became briefly convinced of Burrough’s innocence. The former minister gave a heartfelt speech and then recited the Lord’s Prayer flawlessly- supposedly impossible for a condemned witch. However, Cotton Mather, who loathed Burroughs managed to silence any dissent. Burroughs hanged and was buried without ceremony in an unmarked grave.

The Devil’s Disciples: Twelve Male Witch Trials You Haven’t  Heard Of
House haunted by demons. Google Images.

William Godfrey

By the early seventeenth century, the former Cinque Port of New Romney may have lost its access to the sea, but the silting up of its harbor increased the richness of the land for farming. One of the area’s residents, William Godfrey made a profit not just from agriculture but renting out properties. In 1609, he leased a house to John and Susan Barber, a carpenter and his wife. However, the rental did not entirely go to plan.

The Barber’s were plagued by inexplicable knockings and drippings from the house and began to believe it was haunted. During their stay there, Mrs. Barber had a baby and began to think that someone was trying to steal it away. She eventually accused her landlord of sending three familiars to spirit the child away.

The Barbers moved out. However, their bad luck followed them to their new home, which they again laid at Godfrey’s door. In the meantime, their former landlord had rented the house out again, this time to a farming couple, the Holton’s. However, history repeated itself, and they too were plagued by the eerie goings-on. In 1614, their son fell sick in the house- only to die just after Godfrey paid a visit. Convinced now of their landlord’s ill intent, corroborated by the Barber’s stories, the Holton reported Godfrey for witchcraft, and in 1617 he was taken to court.

The trial went on for months, with various other witnesses supporting the Barber’s and Holton’s in their claims. One William Clarke even claimed that Godfrey had bewitched his ducks. None of this, however, seemed to worry Godfrey and he even managed to provoke Clarke into a brawl by making a joke to him about also bewitching his mare. Despite the tensions surrounding witchcraft during the period, the court acquitted Godfrey. William Clarke, on the other hand, was found guilty- of assault on the farmer/landlord.

Perhaps common sense prevailed in the case of William Godfrey. Or maybe, unlike many other supposed male witches, he really was blessed with the devil’s own luck.

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