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Witch Stories   By: (1822-1898)

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Collected by


Author of "Azeth the Egyptian," "Amymone," Etc.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." EXODUS XXII. 18.

London: Chapman and Hall, 193 Piccadilly. 1861.

[ The right of Translation reserved. ]

London: Printed By W. Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street.


In offering the following collection of witch stories to the public, I do not profess to have exhausted the subject, or to have made so complete a summary as I might have done, had I been admitted into certain private libraries, which contain, I believe, many concealed riches. But I had no means of introduction to them, and was obliged to be content with such authorities as I found in the British Museum, and the other public libraries to which I had access. I do not think that I have left much untold; but there must be, scattered about England, old MSS. and unique copies of records concerning which I can find only meagre allusions, or the mere names of the victims, without a distinctive fact to mark their special history. Should this book come to a second edition, any help from the possessors of these hitherto unpublished documents would be a gain to the public, and a privilege which I trust may be afforded me.

Neither have I attempted to enter into the philosophy of the subject. It is far too wide and deep to be discussed in a few hasty words; and to sift such evidence as is left us to determine what was fraud, what self deception, what actual disease, and what the exaggeration of the narrator would have swelled my book into a far more important and bulky work than I intended or wished. As a general rule, I think we may apply all the four conditions to every case reported; in what proportion, each reader must judge for himself. Those who believe in direct and personal intercourse between the spirit world and man, will probably accept every account with the unquestioning belief of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; those who have faith in the calm and uniform operations of nature, will hold chiefly to the doctrine of fraud; those who have seen much of disease and that strange condition called "mesmerism," or "sensitiveness," will allow the presence of absolute nervous derangement, mixed up with a vast amount of conscious deception, which the insane credulity and marvellous ignorance of the time rendered easy to practise; and those who have been accustomed to sift evidence and examine witnesses, will be utterly dissatisfied with the loose statements and wild distortion of every instance on record.


London , 1861.

The Witches of Scotland

Scotland was always foremost in superstition. Her wild hills and lonely fells seemed the fit haunting places for all mysterious powers; and long after spirits had fled, and ghosts had been laid in the level plains of the South, they were to be found lingering about the glens and glades of Scotland. Very little of graceful fancy lighted up the gloom of those popular superstitions. Even Elfame, or Faƫrie, was a place of dread and anguish, where the devil ruled heavy handed and Hell claimed its yearly tithe, rather than the home of fun and beauty and petulant gaiety as with other nations: and the beautiful White Ladies, like the German Elle women, had more of bale than bliss as their portion to scatter among the sons of men. Spirits like the goblin Gilpin Horner, full of malice and unholy cunning, like grewsome brownies, at times unutterably terrific, at times grotesque and rude, but then more satyr like than elfish, like May Moulachs, lean and hairy armed, watching over the fortunes of a family, but prophetic only of woe, not of weal, like the cruel Kelpie, hiding behind the river sedges to rush out on unwary passers by, and strangle them beneath the waters, like the unsained laidly Elf, who came tempting Christian women, to their souls' eternal perdition if they yielded to the desires of their bodies, like the fatal Banshie, harbinger of death and ruin, were the popular forms of the Scottish spirit world; and in none of them do we find either love or gentleness, but only fierceness and crime, enmity to man and rebellion to God... Continue reading book >>

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