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Witchcraft and the Second World War


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Helen Duncan was the last person in the UK to be charged with witchcraft. In April 1944 she was charged with a law that dated back to 1735. At a séance in Portsmouth, in January, 1944, Duncan told the parents of a missing sailor that his ship, HMS Barham, had sunk. It was true, but news of the tragedy had been suppressed to preserve morale. Duncan was charged with revealing state secrets, conspiracy, fraud and witchcraft. The only thing she was found guilty of was witchcraft and she was jailed for nine months.

Winston Churchill actually visited her in prison. Maybe he asked her if we were going to win the war.

In 1951 parliament repealed the 1735 Witchcraft Act. However, they refused to pardon Helen Duncan. Her granddaughter, Mary Martin, is still fighting to have her conviction overturned.

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John, Now that is an interesting and arcane bit o' history! I wonder how it was worded and how or if witchcraft was defined. Maybe we need a similar law now in the USA....I can think of some political figures and even whole agencies I might try to accuse of that...depending on the liberalness of the definition, of course.

I agree that this is an utterly amazing fact.

If it was April 1st, I'd suspect an elaborate hoax at our expense.

However, BBC Scotland appears to confirm the story.

I especially enjoyed this brief extract:

After being sentenced to nine months imprisonment, all she had to say was "I never hee’d so mony lies in a’ my life".

On the prohibition of contemporary witchcraft-type activities... I rather think such laws do exist: laws on the statute books in various jurisdictions against heterodox beliefs and incantations - not to mention laws against unapproved potions.

We also have laws against unlicenced flying.

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