Here’s a story from Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal of arch 1773 showing how easy it was even in the late 18th century, to be accused of witchcraft, and the importance of the often much condened local magistrates.
“A few days ago, at the village of Seend, in Wiltshire, a Report prevailed that a Woman who was dangerously ill of a putrid Fever, was bewitched, and this Report excited the Curiosiy of Numbers of her Neighbours to go and see her. The Fever attending the dying Person was so high, as to render her delerious, and in that State she often cried out, She is pinching me to death. This left it beyond a Doubt to the credulous Vulgar, that an old woman who had long unfortunately been considered by them to be a Witch, ws the Cause of her Torment; and near a Hundred of these wise People went instantly to the suposed Witch’s house, procured a Rope, tied it about her middle, and carried her to the Mill-pond, where they cruelly gave the old accustomed Discipline of ducking. On throwing her twice or three Times headlong into the water, and being unable on Account of her Cloaths to keep her under, they were perfectly convinced of her Power of Witchcraft, and supposing this Discipline might deter her from exercising any further Cruelties to the poor Woman, they suffered her to go Home. The poor woman’s Fever, however, encreasing, they went again the next day to the supposed Witch’s House, determining to give her another Ducking; but were happily prevented by a Magistrate, who was accidentally informed of their intentions; by whose Means it is possible, the poor old Woman escaped falling a Sacrifice to their Resentent.”