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June 9, 2010 / Weird and bizarre / 1 comment

In the period from about 1450 to 1750, somewhere around 40,000 to 60,000 individuals were tried as witches and condemned to death in central Europe. Of that number, as high as three-quarters of the victims were women. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused who were not formally pursued by the authorities. The two courts convicted twenty-nine people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, fourteen women and five men, were hanged. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so. At least five more of the accused died in prison. Confessions of witchcraft, extracted under torture or threat of torture, commonly came attached to denouncements of other possible witches, keeping the Inquisitors in business. In Spain, church records tell the story of Maria of Ituren admitting under torture that she and sister witches turned themselves into horses and galloped through the sky. In a district of France, 600 women admitted to copulating with demons. Some entire villages in Europe were may have been exterminated. Interrogations of witches followed many standard Inquisition procedures, but with some added bonuses. Accused witches were all stripped naked, had all of their body hair shaved of, and then “pricked.”

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