26. Piety and Mental Instability Combined in This Headmistress
Antoinette Bourignon was a pious but mentally unstable seventeenth-century Frenchwoman, who founded an all-girls boarding school in Lille, France. One day in 1639 when she entered the classroom, Madam Bourignon imagined that she saw a swarm of little black imps flying around the heads of the schoolgirls. Alarmed at the apparitions, she told the children to beware the devil, whose little black demons were buzzing all around them. Bourignon became obsessed with the little black imps that hovered around her wards’ heads and warned the schoolgirls every day to watch out for the Devil. Soon, the impressionable children came to believe that there were, indeed, little black demons flying all around them. Before long, Satan, satanic possession, demons, witches, and witchcraft became almost the sole topic of conversation in the school.