Modern Witchcraft

Here is another excerpt from The Year of the Wombat, describing life in the year 1857:

“At Stafford Assizes,  [24 March], a trial was opened which gave The Times leader-writer a momentary break from politics:

“This is the 24th of March, 1857. Men can go to New York in 10 days, and communicate with Constantinople in 20 minutes. IN the opinion f everybody but the Chinese and the Pope, we pass for a very civilized and enlightened people. …Yet on this very day, … turns up a real trial for witchcraft.”

Witches, however, had been placed beyond legal peril by an Act of 1792, thus exposing Thomas Charlesworth, the owner and occupier of a 40 acre farm near Stafford, to a plague of malevolent problems. The cheese would not “come”, the dairy-maids fell ill, the cows “lamented”, the horses plunged and lamed each other in the stable, the dogs howled all night and a stranger-hound, “all on fire”, was seen to rush through a closed door and vanish. And with all this, the victim of prosecution was the man employed by the farmer to put an end to the nuisance by his special skills. His name was James Tunnicliff, and the case attracted wide attention. It added one more symptom to the anarchic and irrational tendencies which threatened tat one point or another to clog the wheels of progress. ”

For more information on this strange incident, in which Tunnicliff was held responsible for the strange events, here’s a link :

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