Read the real mind-boggling accounts of 17th-century witch trials

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

Life was hard in mid-17th-century England, when the English Civil War was tearing apart the country, and the problems didn't stop with Cromwell—women were frequently accused of witchcraft and tortured into confession.

Nehemiah Wallington, an English Puritan from Manchester, was on hand at his local witch trials and noted them in 50 journals, of which seven remain. And now you can view his journals for yourself.

MSNBC notes some choice excerpts:

Wallington also recounts the experiences of Rebecca West, a suspected witch who confessed to sleeping with the devil when she was tortured because "she found her selfe in such extremity of torture and amazement that she would not enure (endure) it againe for the world." Her confession spared her.

Most women weren't as lucky. Wikipedia estimates anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 people, mostly women. (These horrific numbers are lessened when you realize that they account for all of Europe, across four centuries.)

The journals have been uploaded to the Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care, where readers can view Wallington's account of mid-17th-century unscientific methods.

Just how easy was it to be accused, tortured someone for witchcraft? One hundred people were rounded up and 70 were indicted because of bad weather.

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