Turn of the Century Witch Wars

A War on Witches played out in newspaper headlines across Ohio and around the world for hundreds of years, though today the extraordinary events have nearly all been forgotten.


Woman Says She Was Accused of Witchcraft and Threatened With Death.

(The Dayton Herald, June 14 1901)

Jasper, Ind., June 14--Catherine Ferry, an intelligent German woman, came here yesterday afternoon badly bruised. She alleges that neighbors charged her with witchcraft, and she is held responsible whenever a death occurs in the neighborhood, whether man or beast.

Yesterday a horse owned by a neighbor became unmanageable. He charged the animal with being bewitched, and assaulted Mrs. Ferry with a black snake whip, knocking her down and beating and kicking her. She says he threatened to kill her, and fired three shots at her home. The authorities are investigating.



Twin sisters in Siberia Declared to Be Possessed of Evil Powers

Suffer Awful Tortures.

(Butler County Democrat, February 2 1905)

Moscow.--A horrible story comes from the village of Kashirovka, Siberia. "In this village," runs the report, "for three years past all the cattle have died from the Siberian plague.

"A witch doctor announced that the village was cursed by the presence of a family of witches. He singled out a young girl named Soldatenko. The villagers seized her and her twin sister. The sisters were solemnly tried and condemned to be burned. They were bound to a rude wooden cross, round which was built a high pile of faggots and logs.

"Liefen (the witch doctor) declared that the most innocent child in the village must light the torture fire, and a little girl of three was given the torch and told to thrust it among the faggots.

"The flames burst up. The wretched girls screamed frantically, but in vain, while their frenzied mother tried to rush into the fire and rescue them. The villagers, convinced that they were at a pious work, sang hymns and prayed. As the girls sank back into the flames their father, who had been absent from the village, returned. Hearing the news, he dashed among the crowd with a hatchet and clove the witch doctor's skull to the chin."


Accused Witch Stoned to Death

(The News-Herald, December 13 1906)

So-Called Witch Stoned.

Phoenix, Ariz., Dec 7.--

A letter received here reports the stoning to death of an Apache squaw by the tribesmen, one mile from Ft. Apache.

The natives had charged her with being a witch.



Is Polish Woman.

So Think Her Countrymen and Badly Beat Her With Pails

(The Piqua Daily Call, July 31 1905)

Hotel Victory, Put-in-Bay, Ohio, July 31. --Anna Kruppaka, a Polish woman employed at Hotel Victory, was attacked by a group of fellow workmen and beaten with pails and brushes and kicked.

The assailants allege she is a witch and has cast a spell over them. Dr. Charles Wolf dressed her wounds, and later the woman disappeared.

Scouring the woods with lanterns, a watch party located the woman. As her fellow Poles cannot be convinced she is not a witch, and to avoid further trouble to her, she was today sent to her home in Chicago.



(The Dayton Herald, May 24 1907)

Cleveland, O., May 23--Mrs. Minnie Bartz was accused in the police court of practicing witchcraft. She had appeared as prosecuting witness against Mrs. Carrie Bierman, whom she charged with hitting her. Both are aged women. Mrs. Bierman hit Mrs. Bartz, she said, because Mrs. Bartz was a witch. By her craft, the witness said, Mrs. Bartz had made her hearing and eyesight fail, and kept her from sleeping nights.

Mrs. Bartz indignantly denied that she practiced witchcraft or had anything to do with Mrs. Bierman's inability to hear well.

Judge Whelan continued the case for further testimony.


In 1897, the Lima, Ohio Times-Democrat featured a lecture given by Professor John Fiske entitled "Witchcraft at Salem and Elsewhere."

"Belief in witchcraft," said the lecturer, "was shared by the whole human race from the earliest times down to the seventeenth century."

The professor lists historical events, persecution, and ends with a conclusion based on the Salem witch trials of the 17th century:

"With this period the belief in witchcraft vanished. It marks the gulf which separates our time of civilization from the dark days of superstition. It gives us some dim idea of what the terrors must have been when this superstition was at its prime, when hundreds of victims were burned at the stake, and causes us to be thankful that the grim spector has forever disappeared."

Well, professor...not exactly.

Not. Even. Close.


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