Part two of the Halloween focus on the rise of witchcraft today is going to be all about England’s most famous witch trial- Pendle Hill. In this episode you can explore the events of the trial and how significant it was as well as some of the paranormal activity that surrounds this location. For anyone interested in Salem and other witch trials this is an episode I hope you enjoy! If you haven’t listened to part one then start there- it’s really useful and helps paint the scene leading into this episode.
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Useful information if you wish to find out more:
Source and recommended book read https://www.amazon.co.uk/Demonology-King-James-Forgotten-Books/dp/1605069426
Source and available to watch https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pendle-Witch-Child-Simon-Armitage/dp/B081NPZ1C8(available to watch on Amazon Prime!)
And Happy Halloween! 🎃
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Welcome everyone and I hope you’re having a spooktacular Halloween filled with lots of chills. On this Halloween special episode of Haunted History Chronicles we are going to be exploring England’s most famous of witch trials and its subsequent hauntings. If you haven’t already listen to the Halloween Part 1 episode I suggest starting there as it’s going to provide a lot of information that will help deepen your understanding for this upcoming segment. Halloween is such a special time of year but we often overlook its origins. Centuries ago, October 31st would have been a pre-Christian Celtic festival to honour the dead. Bonfires, or Bone Fires, would be lit and sacrifices for the dead would be made. Over time the Christian faith would turn October 31st into All Saints Day. Poorer people would travel to wealthier homes and receive soul cakes in exchange for prayers for relatives of the house who had passed away. This was called souling. Later this would become children receiving gifts of food, only and ale. In Scotland and Ireland people would dress up and move from house to house but instead of offering a prayer they would offer a song, poem, do a trick, dance for a treat such as fruit, nuts or coins. In honour of this day let’s get comfortable and honour the stories of the dead men and women executed as witches in Pendle and the many more that would follow their fate.
The Witch Trials of Pendle Hill (1.53)
1612 was a dark year. The area of Pendle did not know what was ahead for them and nor would they understand the evil this would allow to spread far and wide like a dark mist. Spreading across the land beyond Pendle, beyond Lancashire, beyond England itself. Acts of barbarity and torture that follow like falling dominoes with each snap of a human neck. The scars of 1612 would haunt the sleepy hamlets of Pendle for centuries to come. What happened was not the first of its kind in England- witch trials had been occurring since 1566 shortly after Elizabeth I became Queen- but what happened in Pendle in 1612 would make it England’s most notorious. For this was the year of routing out evil and people were watching already so closely. Waiting and ready. Spurned on by a King so fearful that neighbour would turn on neighbour. ‘Thou shall not suffer a witch to Live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any God save unto the Lord only he shall be utterly destroyed. Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him.’ These were the words of the King and this is where our story begins.
A young beggar girl named Alizon Device, sister to James and Jennet, daughter to Elizabeth and granddaughter to Elizabeth Southerns (or Old Demdike as she was known) a woman who was well in to her eighties and had a long history as a wise woman and a healer. The family were amongst the poorest in society, living hand to mouth. So it was usual to see them with what little they had to care for strays and their fondness for cats and dogs. It was also unusual to see the age that Old Demdike had reached. On the 18th March 1612 the shadow of the axe would fall asAlison was walking through the woods. She would happen upon a peddler selling his wears and ask him for a pin. His refusal that day angered this young girl do much that as John Law walked away she would utter words to curse him. Words that would curse herself, her family, neighbours and friends. For John Law would fall to the ground lame and disfigured. Whisperings of what had happened that day would spread amongst this small community until they reached the ears of John Nowell, the local Justice of the Peace, and Alizon would be summoned and questioned. Alizon felt incredibly guilty over what had happened and she would openly admit to cursing him and believed so strongly that she was responsible. Her own words were enough to put her in jail awaiting trial. Alizon that day though went further. She spoke of her grandmother and the powers her grandmother had shown over the years. She spoke of a rival Anne Whittle know as Old Chattox and her daughter Anne Redferne. She would share tales of their curses and the poppets Anne Redferne had been seen to make. She spun a clear picture of these two women and who they had injured and killed over many years. John Nowell was deeply alarmed. This was now a much bigger problem. Pendle clearly had a witch issue. So he continued his investigations and Old Granny Demdike and Chattox, both in the eighties and infirm, would easily talk about some of things they had believed their neighbours and rivals to have done over the years. They would admit to having marks on their bodies, to having a familiar, they would even admit to having powers and to having sold their souls to the Devil. Anne would profess her innocence. The accusations made against her though were enough. All four women would be incarcerated awaiting trial. This sad story could have ended here but there more to come. James and his mother Elizabeth summoned a meeting of friends and neighbours not long afterwards at their home Malkin Towers. Gathering in such large numbers was a grave mistake. Surely they were meeting to cause trouble- to curse the jailers holding their family; surely they were up to no good; surely this was a coven of witches coming together for evil purposes. Or so was believed. John Nowell ordered the arrest if anyone who had attended, round them up and bring them in too. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fear, superstition would bring these people before John Nowell. Young Jennet Device, just 9 years old, would there that night too. She had witnessed this gathering organised by her mother and brother. She knew who was in attendance and she would give the names of those that were there giving evidence against them. Evidence of the incantations made by her brother, incantations that were in fact strange mixtures of prayers and requests. She would speak of the family’s involvement in the dark arts and she would detail how everyone there that night were also guilty. Eight further people would be added to the jail cells - 12 men and women waiting trial. Trials could only occur when judges visited the towns that formed part of their judicial circuit. In the case of Lancaster that was just twice a year so the accused witches languished together in their dungeons for five months before they had their day in court. Finally the trial of the Pendle Witches began on August 18th 1612. Old Demdike would not live to see it such were the condition of the prison cells. The remaining 11 would be brought into the court. Jennet was the star witness. When her mother screamed at her to stop and pleaded with her daughter Jennet would calmly ask for her mother to be removed. Some of the accused would say nothing, probably fearful of giving away that they were not a witch but in fact a Catholic and worried that they may incriminate others who would suffer their same fate. Some would please their innocence and some would plead their guilt. People like Alizon Device would fall to her knees crying when she saw the man she thought to have hurt brought before her- she would take full responsibility. The trial would soon be over. Ten would be found guilty. Only one would be acquitted. These ten were taken to Gallow’s Hill. Here they would be hung. Many think of hanging as a quick death. Back then it really wasn’t always the case and there are many accounts of people having to step forward to have to pull on the feet and ankles to help speed the process and end their suffering. Jennet probably witnessed the hangings of her brother, sister and mother. She would be the only Device to survive. Today you can visit Pendle and follow the ten way markers. Each to represent one of those sentenced to death by hanging. In one family’s case three generations condemned. Follow the stones, each marked with lines from a poem written by Carol Ann Duffy, each line the story of these men and women unfolding leading to their end. The echoes of their story mark this area. Pendle is regarded as one of the most haunted areas in England with many reporting the spirits of the accused men and women haunting the local areas and building. If you are brave enough why not visit and take these journeys for yourself. Maybe you’ll come across Old Granny Demdike and Chattox and have your own tales to tell....
Dive into the history (11.30)
What happened at Pendle was a tragedy. A tragedy brought about by many different circumstances some of which we explored in the previous podcast to this one. We can see how their lack of medical understanding for example really did play a part. They made a connection with an event that they couldn’t explain and a sickness that they couldn’t explain to that of a witch - today we would see a stroke. We can see how their fear of the unknown and illness really helped to drive that forward. We can see how the ill blood between these two families played a part. As the only local wise woman they were direct competitors of each other. It meant that they just didn’t like each other and for that reason they had no problem putting forward the names of the other family but it also might explain why some of them also would confess. Maybe this was to keep their position as a wise woman. To keep their powers known in order to not lose that trade. We can also see how the ambitions of someone like John Nowell also played a part. Pendle came shortly after James I published Daemonologie and John Nowell was an incredibly ambitious man. His work at Pendle would really see him get favour with the King and advancing his position. Such a good job he did at routing out the witches at this particular moment in time. Pendle really was a unique example. Back then if we think about the sheer number of witches accused and standing trial the figures alone were something unusual. But then when we examine those accused six of the members alone were from two neighbouring families- this was quite unusual. It meant it was a trial of real interest and intrigue to find out what happened and there was one other significant factor that would mean that this trial really was quite notorious and that was Jennet herself. This trial was groundbreaking. It was the first trial where a child was used to give evidence never before had this been allowed. For these reasons every part of the trial were recorded meticulously. Thomas Potts was present throughout and he meticulously recorded every detail- all the evidence given and the people involved. His manuscripts later would be published in print and distributed all across the United Kingdom. These manuscripts would be created and used in other books. Books used by magistrates. What’s really quite horrifying is when we consider the events of Salem 80 years later in Massachusetts in America those same publications were evidence throughout every single trial and were used to shape the trials at what happened in Salem where just like at Pendle the evidence of children was very much part of the trial itself. You have to wonder, if Pendle had never happened, would Salem have happened in quite the same way? Given how much the court records from Pendle were used to shape the trials of Salem its an intriguing question to examine. You might be curious to think what happened to young Jennet after the end of the trial. Well sadly, some years later she too would find herself accused of witchcraft alongside many other names from the local community. She too would be found guilty in spookily similar circumstances to the trial of her mother, her brother and her sister. And that was the testimony of a young child. But by then things had moved forward and upon her guilty verdict the magistrate actually refused to carry out the sentence and instead referred it to the King and his Privy Council to review which is exactly what they did and when they spoke to the young boy again he would recant his statement. He would recall how he had used what happened in Pendle all those years ago to help shape a story to help get him out of trouble because he really didn’t want to be told off for coming late and his clothes all in a disarray and muddy. So he’d come up with a story of witchcraft. He’d been held up because he’d been fighting witches and some mysterious figure. Jennet and the others would have had their sentence overturned but sadly we know that Jennet remained in prison and in all likelihood died in there even though she had been found not guilty many of those would have found it difficult to pay the charges accrued by them in the time they had been in prison. If you’ve never been to Pendle or heard of this trial you might want to check out the information in the description box that comes along with this podcast episode. In there you should find links to other key documents and websites which will give you further information. In there you will also find links to the social media pages that I have or the website that will also take you to the social media platforms. On each of those post this podcast going live I’m going to be putting up some photographs of Pendle and the different key locations that I’m going to be mention next. I’ll try and include snippets of information just to help you along, to help picture this, and to see how they fit in with the story earlier. Next we’re going to explore the many different paranormal sightings and events that have been reported over the years. Given how tragic and how horrific the events of what happened are we really can understand the many different sightings that have been had and how atmospheric a place it really is. Again this is where if you can check out those pictures it might help you to capture some of the places that I’m about to talk through. Pendle has many locations it’s spread out over a wide variety of areas. We have some of the homes of the witches themselves, we have Lancaster Castle which was used as the jail and the court itself was held there. We have the church. We have the Gallows themselves. All of these are places where activity has been reported and some of these are what we are going to explore next.
The hauntings of Pendle Hill (19.59)
So let’s start by looking at some of these key locations starting with Lancaster Castle itself. Lancaster Castle had been used a prison and courthouse for centuries. 800 executions took place so it has plenty of history and activity separate from the Pendle event. But, lots of people report feeling suddenly overwhelmed with anger in key locations associated with the Pendle witches and it is known where they had been. Given what happened to them it’s no surprise that their resentment comes through heavily. One area in particular, the cell within the well tower, where Granny Demdike is known to have died is one such key location. It’s here her spirit is be,keyed to firmly frequent and many staff and visitors feel her presence there. For those that aren’t aware of the stone tale theory then let me briefly explain- the 5inking is that when you suddenly die then your energy is transferred to the stonework and the surrounding building. Just like a tale that can be replayed over and over again then the moments and events of that person’s life also replay in the area- trapped in the fabric of the building. Lancaster Castle has other reported events there are many incidents of staff and visitors feeling pushed. Guards at night capturing things on tape or feeling things. One guard reportedly even had their hat knocked from their head. This is definitely a place if interest if you ever get the chance to visit and explore. Another key location is the local church named St Mary’s which can be found in the village of Newchurch. It’s here that is believed to be he location where Anne Redferne would come to desicrate the graves to steal human teeth from the corpses to use for the making of her poppets. Clay poppets were simply dolls. When her home was searched as part of the investigation by Nowell some of these poppets were uncovered with human teeth having been used in them. If you visit the church you’re going to find a couple of things. Firstly, engraved on the side of the church wall itself is something called the Eye of God. This was a symbol used to ward of evil spirits- witches. The fact that it’s there points to two things I believe. Firstly it reinforces just how superstitious and fearful this community really was that they felt the need to put this up there in the first place in order to keep themselves safe. Maybe it also suggests something else- that the men and women executed as witches have spent the last few centuries trying to gain entry and peace in the grounds with their buried loved ones instead of wandering and lost. Witches remember would have been denied burial in consecrated ground but were instead condemned to an u marked grave outside that of the church. The Pendle witches would have been buried somewhere near their execution site on Gallows Hill. Exploring the church you’re also going to notice something else gravestones marked with names familiar to the trial. Alice Nutter, one of the women executed, her family are buried here, it’s around these gravestones that again many have felt the presence of the spirits of the Pendle witches feeling their hopelessness and sadness. Apparitions have been reported here and one such reported figure is of a woman wandering around the gravestones. You’ll be able to find this posted along with other images on the Haunted History Chronicles social media sites. Maybe this image is of one of the witches trying to return home. What permeates throughout all the key locations is the echo of this event and the marks that’s it has left behind. The sense of real sadness and anger and how that lingers. This is something that if you take the trail or visit the site that would have been Gallows Hill is something that like many of the other locations visitors really strongly feel. Walking the rout you will understand just how remote and wild this area would have been and even more so in 1612. Given some of the simple and humble homes that these families back then would have had we can understand how over time they would have been buried and hidden by the surrounding landscapes. It’s for this reason that for the last few centuries locating these hidden homesteads has become a real source of interest to uncover and unearth some of the homes of the names participants in the trial. In recent years archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of Malkin Towers- the home of the Demdikes. Now this was a key location in the trial itself- six were accused of witchcraft and five executed simply for attending a meeting at this home. This location is a great discover it reveals things about the family who lived there it’s also just a fascinating site to side of its place in history. Remember here is where plans were believed to be discussed to overthrow the jailers at Lancaster Castle and like the famous Gunpowder Plot to blow it up. It’s here that supposedly these simple, humble people were planning to do something as big and significant as that of the Gunpowder people itself. It’s such a strange connection but it was one that was made. Lancaster had been an area closely watched since Queen Elizabeth’s reign. This was a region known to hold the most papists- those who refused to attend Protestant services. It was an area associated with the Gunpowder Plot too- it was this region that some involved would flee to in order to hide post the Gunpowder Plot failing. All of this makes this truly a remarkable place to come and explore because all of that history is part of that building. During the execution process itself a mummified cat was found. Now, mummified cats were something used as protection against witches. Witches marks have been found in sites across many different locations- they were simply protection symbols. The most common one is something called the Daisy Wheel- it was often carved into mantelpieces. Other items would also be used as protective symbols such as witch bottles, horse skulls and shoes. This site is a really rare find- the atmosphere and wildness really helps provide you with the sense of what life would have been like for them in this part of the world back then. The discovery of that mummified cat is important. It suggests something g about how the family lived back then. It also is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that ties this location to that of the Demdike family. Now, if we examine the court records written by Thomas Potts we know from the evidence given by James Device at trial and by the previous investigation carried out by Nowell that he would actually take the magistrates to Malkin Towers and uncover four human teeth that were used as part of different things that he detailed. So, this set really is intriguing just to understand what was going on there and how they were living and existing. If you ever get the chance to visit it’s a good one to go to and not to pass up. Another location associated with the witches of Pendle is Tyndale Farm and it’s associated land. It was owned by the Nutter family and is actually still owned by them today although they refuse to live there. Alice Nutter was one of the women accused of witchcraft, found guilty and executed. This place over time has become very much rundown and in disrepair. Over the years many have experienced seeing apparitions here. Apparitions of a young woman, hearing footsteps, feeling overwhelmed, hearing screams. It’s here that people have reported the feeling of something strangling them just like the Pendle witches. Something else interesting happened here. This building itself has no electricity. No appliances running and yet outside by the front door is an electrical box. This box is still consuming energy and turning over despite nothing working in the home.
Pendle is beautiful and haunting and it has a story that deserves to be heard and known. It’s a story that deserved to be known because of the people accused and the tragedy that surrounds the events of 1612- the scars that it would leave behind on this area. But also because of how groundbreaking a moment in judicial law it was to allow the testimony of a young girl- a young child- the significance that this would have over all future witch trials including Salem itself. I really hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast and if you’d like to share some of your stories, if you’ve visited other places where witches are known to have frequented and trials taken place, other paranormal activity from England, from around the world I’d really like to hear from you. If you venture to Pendle, if you’ve got photographs or stories to share again please get in touch. The different links to the social platforms are the place to do that. Send in photographs post your comments. I’d love to hear them and I’m sure anyone else listening would too. There’s something else that you can do. In the description box attached to the podcast you should find a link that will allow you to send in direct comments, questions, stories. If that’s something you’d like to do again I’d love to them and maybe I can use them in future podcasts. For now though I’m going to say thank you for listening and I hope to see you next time. Bye everyone.
Ways to help (32.29)
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