Many are familiar with the witch hysteria of the 17th century because of the witch trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts. While the events that occurred in Salem left a dark stain on New England's past, the witch hunt began earlier than that, across the pond in England during the early 1600s. Throughout the country, mass hysteria followed the orders of King James I of England, formerly King James IV of Scotland.
The paranoia surrounding the book written by King James, Daemonologie, helped to play a role in the citizen-fueled witch hunt. To this day, visitors to the U.K can still learn about the events that sparked nearly worldwide terror and can visit one of the most notorious witch trial locations in the country.
Lancaster, England: Walk The Trials Of The Pendle Witches
Those who are well-versed in their witch trial history will likely have heard of the Pendle Witch Trials. These were some of the most infamous in England's history and involved the execution of an entire family who was all presumed to be practicing witchcraft. Not unlike the witch trials that occurred in Salem, the primary witness in the Pendle Trials was a young girl by the name of Jennet Device.
She was only nine years old at the time she made her accusations. These trials were documented by a man named Thomas Potts, who wrote the book The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, which is how so much information is known about them to this day.
How The Pendle Witch Trials Began
A claim was made that one member of the Device family, Alizon Device, was accused of cursing a man who fell ill. The nail in the coffin - so to speak - was the fact that the Device family was full of healers, and the line became blurred between healing and the occult. In her panic, Alizon began to think that she was truly responsible for the ill man's fate. It was this paranoia that caused her to give forth the names of two other women, describing them as 'cunning' according to Wandering Crystal, and claiming they healed people with spells and charms. Four out of the ten people hanged were from the Device family, and the others were believed to be accomplices to those presumed to be witches. Today, visitors can follow the Walking with Witches Trial through Lancaster, taking people through the most pivotal, and tragic, moments of the trial.
Start The Trail Walk In Trawden Forest
It was in this location that Alizon Device was said to have met John Law, the man many accused her of cursing. Alizon had been on her way to Trawden Forest when she met Law for the first time, and, shortly after, he had what many now believe to have been a stroke.
When he fell ill shortly after, residents drew the conclusion that it must have been Alizon who cursed him. Visitors can begin their walk here while knowing that this was the beginning of the end for the Device family, and for the reputation that Alizon had prior to Law's illness.
Malkin Tower, The Home Of The Suspected Coven
It was believed that this stone tower was the location of the Pendle Witches' coven, and also goes by the name of Demdike Coven, a name that was shared with Alizon's grandmother. While the tower is no longer standing today, there have been archeological efforts to find it, and many believe that the ruins in Barley, near Lower Black Moss reservoir, may have been the spot where it once stood.
Lancaster Castle, Where The Trials Unfolded
Those suspected of witchcraft were held in the dungeons of Lancaster Castle, giving visitors an idea of what they went through as they awaited a decision on their fates.
The trials were also held in the original court located within the castle, which has since been demolished - but the castle itself can still be visited.
Pendle Hill & Gallows Hill, The Final Moments
Both Pendle Hill and Gallows Hill carry tremendous significance in regard to the Pendle Witch Trials. Pendle Hill was known as a hotbed of witch activity during the 17th century, and the hill itself is said to be associated with the supernatural. It's a popular destination for those who celebrate Halloween each year; aside from its historical significance, it also offers sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.
Gallows Hill, more tragically, was the location where those accused in the Pendle Trials were hanged. It's located in Williamson Park, and visitors will find the exact location near the Ashton Memorial.
The Official Pendle Witches Walking Trail
Those who visit Lancaster and prefer to take a tour that's guided might be interested in the city's official Pendle Witch Trial tour. The four or so mile trek takes visitors past locations that have known affiliations with the Pendle Trials with additional sites associated with other trials, ending at Pendle Hill.