Methods European Witch Finders Used to Test Their Victims

Over the course of 300 years between the 15th and 18th centuries, more than 200,000 people across Europe, mostly women, lost their lives to outrageous claims of witchcraft. During this time, the witch hunters employed a number of bizarre methods that aided them in determining whether a woman was guilty of witchcraft or not. In fact, they were so outlandish that the accused turned out to be “guilty” just about every single time. Below are five such examples of these insane methods.

1. Touch Test

After being accused of bewitching a couple of young girls who were suffering with fits, two elderly ladies named Rose Cullender and Amy Denny were put on trial. There, they were subjected to the infamous “touch trial” which would reveal a witch based on the victim’s unusual reaction upon physical contact with the spellcaster. So the women were forced to place their hands on the girls who immediately unclenched their fists during a fit. Even after it was proved that the girls were faking their reaction, the women were still found guilty.

2. Weighing The Witch

In Holland, there used to be a very peculiar way to test potential witches. Women from all over Europe travelled there to prove their innocence. The concept was simple: the accused were set on one side of a large scale with cast-iron weights placed on the opposite one. Those who passed received certificates as proof of their innocence. In other regions of Europe, women were weighed against stacks of Bibles. Sometimes extra Bibles would be added to the pile if they weren’t found guilty soon enough.

3. Ducking Stool

The ducking stool involved tying a woman to a chair or with her wrists bound to her ankles. She would then be lowered by a pulley into a body of ice-cold, freezing water. Unable to free themselves, the women would often drown and many would float to the surface. Now this is where the bizarre part comes in. If she floated, they saw this as a sign of her guilt because she rejected God by renouncing their baptism. And if she sunk to the bottom, it proved her innocence instead. They were even pulled around town on a chair attached to wheels to increase their humiliation. 

4. Be Unable To Cry

What’s another way to tell if someone is a witch. Well, they don’t cry, of course. Witch finders believed that these women were unable to shed real tears when put on trial or even subject to torture, no matter how hurt they seemed. While it’s true some of these women who were accused really were unable to cry, especially the older ones, it was because they were suffering from an infection in the tear duct that prevented them from being able to cry. The witch finders took this as proof of their guilt and the poor women lost their lives due to bad health.

5. Pricking

For some reason, pricking a woman all over her body from head to toe was considered to be one of the most accurate ways of testing for witchcraft. This is because the women would often confess guilty in an attempt to put an end to their pain and humiliation. It didn’t help that this was done in front of the court (of mostly men) while they were fully unclothed. Eager to punish someone, the witch finders saw their confession as the truth and not just as a plea to end their suffering.



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