Matthew Hopkins

Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins
I have been reading quite a bit about the so called Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins and his side kick John Stearne. Together they toured East Anglia exposing men and women as witches, hearing their confessions and handing them over to the authority to be tried and later hanged. Many people believe wrongly that witches were burned at the stake. This was extremely rare, although women were dispatched in this fashion for treason. Killing your husband was considered a treasonable offense and would lead to death by fire.

From 1645 to 1647 unfolds this fascinating story of two men who, although witch hunting had been around before, really started the grisly ball rolling and were responsible for at least a hundred deaths of largely innocent women, although some men were also hanged too.

When one uses the word ‘innocent’ its doesn’t necessary follow that these were pleasant and affable people. Plenty were old hags, disfigured society outcasts, beggars and probably demented, under nourished and irksome members of the community. But for all that, they were not, as we know today from science and greater understanding, sexual partners of the devil, owners of vile and dangerous imps and scheming witches bent on revenge with super powers.

One wonders why the question was never asked or considered by the accusers, judges and prosecutors, that if they were so called friends of Satan and about to blight crops, send plagues and agues to livestock, cause the children of hated neighbours to wither and die, why they could not escape detection or improve their standards of living and escape to far off parts?

For me, this area of English history begs exploring for the Vobes Show and a video documentary would be cool too and although East Anglia is a fair distance from the sunny beaches of Worthing in Sussex, it would be intriguing to learn more and explore it’s murky past.

The Witchfinder General - woodcut

May 5th, 2010 by